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[137] The manner in which General Johnston on other occasions requested me to visit the army under his command was so different from that represented in this paraphrase that I wish a copy of the letter had been given, which was probably not longer than the statement made of its contents.

If the purpose was to discuss the reinforcement of his army by the transfer of troops from other commands, as the recital of the paper indicates, General Johnston would have known that in Richmond, where all the returns were to be found, that question could be best considered and decided. As his army was not engaged in active operations, it would seem to have been probable and proper that he should have gone to the War Office, rather than have asked that ‘the President, or the Secretary of the War, or some one representing them,’ should go to his headquarters to solve so grave a problem, not by the best attainable data, but on such speculative views as the paper exhibits.

Very little experience, or a fair amount of modesty without any experience, would prevent one from announcing his conclusion that troops should be withdrawn from a place, or places, without knowing how many were there, what were the terms or conditions of their enlistment, and what was the necessity for their continuance in that service.

I went to the headquarters of the army, in compliance with the request of General Johnston; on the day after my arrival reviewed the troops on the plain above Fairfax Courthouse; after which I proposed to General Johnston that we should have the desired conference, and readily assented to his wish that the two generals next in rank to himself, Generals Beauregard and G. W. Smith, should be present. I was there by invitation, and the confidence I felt in those officers, and in the purpose for which the consultation was desired, is shown by the fact that I met them unattended, and did not require minutes to be kept of the proceedings, conditions which would not have existed if the use to which the meeting has been put had been anticipated.

In view of previous correspondence, the question for consideration, so far as I knew, was what course should be adopted for the Army of the Potomac in the immediate future. Therefore, I made the preliminary inquiry as to the number of troops there present for duty.

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J. E. Johnston (4)
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