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[175] to obey it? What difference is there between the words ‘Make the movement should you, in your judgment, deem it advisable—’ which are the words objected to, and denied to have been used in the order—and the following: ‘If practicable, make the movement’ —which, it is contended, were the real terms employed in the telegram to General Johnston? Was not the latter fully authorized, ‘in all arrangements’ relative to the suggested movement, to ‘exercise his own discretion’? Who was to judge of the advisability or practicability of the junction sought to be made for the purpose of ‘striking a decisive blow on the enemy?’ Was it the War Department, who issued the order, or General Johnston, who received it? It is clear that, under the order as given, General Johnston could have moved, or not, as he thought best in the circumstances; and that the making or not making of the junction was left entirely to his own decision.

That such is the only correct conclusion to be arrived at after reading that order, is shown by the following passage in the endorsement of Mr. Davis:

The words “if practicable” had reference to letters of General Johnston of 12th and 15th of July, which made it extremely doubtful if he had the power to make the movement, in view of the relative strength and position of Patterson's forces as compared with his own.

Hence the uncertainty, hence the want of authoritativeness, so perceptible in the governmental despatch alluded to. That the War Department construed it as entirely contingent, and as depending upon General Johnston's judgment, is further shown by the telegram already mentioned in Chapter VIII. of this book, but which we again offer to the reader:

Richmond, July 17th, 1861.
General Beauregard:

You are authorized to appropriate the North Carolina regiment on its route to General Johnston. If possible, send to General Johnston to say he has been informed, via Staunton, that you were attacked, and that he will join you, if practicable, with his effective force, sending his sick and baggage to Culpepper Court-House, by rail or through Warrenton.

S. Cooper, Adjutant-General.

General Johnston's telegram to General Beauregard, of the same date, corroborates our conclusion. It read as follows:

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