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[139] and aggressive campaign urged upon Mr. Davis, could have been used to fill the place of the seasoned troops withdrawn to reinforce the Army of Virginia.

In vain was it urged upon the President that the army was now in splendid fighting condition, and eager again to meet its recently defeated foe; while, if left inactive, it was liable to deteriorate during the winter, and lose greatly in numbers by the expiration of the enlistment term of the twelve months men. It was further urged that, with the army raised to sixty thousand men, the movement could be undertaken, with the prospect of success to follow at every other point along the frontier; whereas, should disaster result from the loss of present opportunity, the entire Confederacy might be endangered at a later date, with but inferior hope of recuperation. Mr. Davis, however, could not be influenced, and declared that the utmost he could do would be to furnish recruits, to be armed with the surplus stands of arms then at Manassas, amounting to about two thousand five hundred.

Thus was abandoned a plan which, had it been carried out, would have borne mighty results to the Confederacy. That it was a bold one is undoubted. But boldness in our movements, while the prestige of victory yet animated our troops, was clearly the wisest policy to be adopted. It was of the utmost importance for us to follow up our victory, and the surest way of doing so was by making an aggressive campaign. It would have compelled the enemy, demoralized and unprepared as he still was, to put himself on the defensive to repel invasion on his own soil, instead of attempting it on ours.

In lieu of the unaccepted movement favored by the generals in command, Mr. Davis suggested that a column be crossed to the eastern shore of the Potomac, opposite Aquia Creek, to capture a Federal division posted there under General Sickles. As the river, at that point more than a mile wide, was held by United States war vessels, and there would hardly have been an opportunity for the troops, even if successful, to return to Virginia, this proposition met the approval of none of the three generals, and was therefore courteously discarded. We shall have to recur to this subject later in the present chapter.

Mr. Davis devotes five pages of his book to the ‘Fairfax Court-House Conference,’ as it was called, and most unjustifiably arraigns Generals J. E. Johnston, Beauregard, and G. W. Smith, not for

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