That such instructions, so vague as a whole, and yet so minute in some respects, should have embarrassed Brigadier-General Bonham
, as was asserted, is not, we submit, to be much wondered at. To obey them implicitly was clearly an impossibility under the circumstances.
They were calculated to destroy every vestige of discretion on the part of the commanding general
, without lessening, in any way, the weight of his responsibility.
That General Lee
meant well in adopting such a programme of operations, no one who knew him will for a moment question; but that it must have puzzled, to no inconsiderable degree, the minds of most of those who were to be guided by it, to us appears no less evident.
And how, more than a month after the withdrawal of Virginia
from the Union
, a State Major-General
(for such was General Lee
at the time), and not the Confederate
War Department, could have given instructions and issued orders to Confederate generals and to Confederate troops, is more than we can well understand.
True, the Secretary of War
, with a view to avoid confusion, had, on May 10th, authorized Major-General Lee
, of the Virginia
troops, ‘to assume the control of the forces of the Confederate States
, and assign them to such duties as he might indicate;’ but that authority emanated from Montgomery
, while the Confederate government was still there, and while no Confederate general officer
had, as yet, been sent to Virginia
This was far from being the case at the time to which we now allude, to wit, the 31st of May. Brigadier-General Joseph E. Johnston
, Confederate States
Army, had, then, already been assigned to duty in Virginia
, and, furthermore, the Confederate government itself was at that date transferred to Richmond
Even the President
was there in person, and could have acted with all authority had he chosen to do so.
The measures of extreme caution suggested in General Lee
's instructions, and the solicitude manifested to soothe the ire of the North
, would have been admirably proper if the orders had been issued before the first gun was fired at Sumter
, and while negotiations for a peaceful solution of our difficulties were still pending.
But in May, 1861, war already existed.
was threatened by three Northern armies, the immediate advance of one of which was then almost daily expected.
Why were we to avoid ‘appearing’ even to threaten the enemy's positions, when the invasion of our soil was openly declared to be the prime object actuating