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[86] on both lines, and that it was most probable the enemy would threaten our camps at Manassas with about ten thousand men, while with the main body, twenty thousand or more, would advance towards Vienna, Frying-pans, and Pleasant Valley to Hay Market, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, with a view to cut off our communications with General Johnston. To accomplish this, possession would be taken of passes of the Blue Ridge at Manassas, Ashby's, and Snicker's Gaps. He would then endeavor to cut off your communication with Richmond by the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, and force you either to fight in open field, with greatly inferior numbers, or to retire towards Fredericksburg by way of Brentsville to join forces with General Holmes, or to withdraw from the intrenched camp and retire by the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, before the enemy could reach it.

Under these circumstances, I stated, you would propose, and did propose, that General Johnston should, with the bulk of his forces, say twenty thousand, unite with you, leaving from three to five thousand men to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge and to hold Patterson in check. Then, with the combined forces of General Johnston and yourself, you would move rapidly forward on Fairfax Court-House, establish yourself between the two lines of the enemy, attack them separately with larger masses, and thus exterminate them or drive them into the Potomac. This being done, General Johnston, with ten thousand of your forces in addition to his own, and rallying, as he went, those left to guard the passes, would return at once to the [valley with] superior numbers, say thirty-five thousand, to attack and destroy Patterson, at Winchester, or wherever he might be. One week from the time of leaving Winchester would be sufficient to accomplish all this. You would then either occupy the enemy's works, in front of Washington, if he should abandon them, or fall back on your present position, according to circumstances. General Johnston having disposed of Patterson, would detach a sufficient number from his force to reinforce Garnett, and make him superior to McClellan. Having defeated McClellan, General Garnett could then unite with Johnston, and the two cross the Potomac, at the nearest point, for Maryland, and, arousing the people as they proceeded, march to the rear of Washington, while you would attack it in front.

To these propositions, respectful and earnest consideration was given by the President and the generals I have mentioned. The scheme was considered brilliant and comprehensive, but, to its adoption at this time, two leading objections were urged by the President and by General Lee. One was that General Johnston's force was not now sufficiently strong to allow of the withdrawal of numbers sufficient to effect your object, and, at the same time, leave enough to keep Patterson in check and keep him from coming down upon your left; and the other and main objection was, that the enemy was as yet too close to their cover to allow the reasonable expectation of the accomplishment of your object; that they would immediately fall back upon their intrenchments, or, being so close to their large reserves, would be quickly reinforced in numbers sufficient to regain the superiority of numbers, and thus defeat your purpose. That the combination might be made at a later period, when these objections would be removed by a sufficient increase of your armies,

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Joseph E. Johnston (7)
Patterson (4)
McClellan (2)
R. S. Garnett (2)
R. E. Lee (1)
T. H. Holmes (1)
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