- Position of troops in Northern Virginia. -- General Beauregard advocates concentration, June 12th. -- letter to that effect to President Davis. -- answer declining. -- General Beauregard suggests a junction with General Holmes. -- again refused. -- division of General Beauregard's forces into brigades, 20th June. -- begins forward movement. -- instructions to brigade commanders. -- reconnoissances made at the end of June. -- McDowell's strength. -- General Beauregard's anxieties. -- his letter to Senator Wigfall. -- Submits another plan of operations to the President, July 11th.
The Confederate troops in northern Virginia, east of the grand chain of the Alleghanies, now formed a series of detached commands, stretching from northwest to southeast respectively, under General Joseph E. Johnston, at Harper's Ferry, General Beauregard, at Manassas, and General Holmes, at Aquia Creek; each outnumbered by confronting forces, excepting General Holmes's command, whose position on the lower Potomac was taken only to prevent a possible landing of the enemy at that point. The forces in front of General Johnston and those in front of Colonel Eppa Hunton, commanding a battalion at Leesburg, the western extremity of the Manassas line, were still on the north bank of the Potomac. General Beauregard, appreciating the necessity of an immediate concerted system between these independent commands, particularly between his own and the considerable forces at Harper's Ferry, and viewing Manassas as the most important strategic point for both belligerents, and the one most likely to attract the main effort of the enemy, which, according to reports, might be made at any moment, had determined if possible to reform the Confederate military situation, in accordance with his views of sound policy. His plan, as the following letter shows, was marked, as were all his military plans, by the leading ideas of concentration and aggression. 
The President made the following reply:
Still persisting, however, in his effort to make use of all possible resources in meeting the imminent crisis, General Beauregard, in his official and semi-official correspondence at the time, suggested that the troops under General Holmes, at Aquia Creek, at least two thousand five hundred men, with two batteries, should be so posted as to be available for a timely junction with his own forces. General Holmes fully concurred, asserting that his command, as then disposed, was not likely to be of any military use; but the suggestion met with no favor at Richmond.  On the 18th, having begun to receive from Norfolk the naval guns for which he had called, to arm the works at Manassas, General Beauregard made a requisition for naval officers to command those batteries and drill the recruits. They came with a number of sailors, bringing their gun-ropes, blocks, and tackles, and in their exercises the terms ‘port’ and ‘starboard,’ novel in the field, were used as familiarly as on board a man-of-war. Officers and men were noticeable for their zeal, efficiency, and discipline. Meanwhile, vigilant observation of the opposite banks of the Potomac was kept up at Leesburg, an important place, which the enemy might strike in order to sever the communications between Generals Beauregard and Johnston; and such small reinforcements as could be spared from Manassas were sent thither, but without artillery, of which none was available. From information collected in his front, General Johnston was apprehensive that General Patterson would move to attack him, and he soon abandoned the untenable salient position of Harper's Ferry, held by him unwillingly, and to which General Patterson afterwards crossed on the 2d of July. General Beauregard's views, based partly on reports from Washington, were that General Patterson's movements merely simulated the offensive, to hold General Johnston in check. About the 20th of June, General Beauregard, having organized his forces into six brigades, began a forward movement, in order to protect his advanced positions at Centreville, Fairfax Court-House, and Sangster's Cross-roads, ‘so as to be able’—as he wrote to Colonel Eppa Hunton—‘to strike a blow upon the enemy, at a moment's notice, which he hoped they would long remember.’ His advanced forces, three brigades of three regiments each, occupied a triangle as follows: at Mitchell's Ford, on Bull Run, one regiment; at Centreville and another point half-way to Germantown, one brigade; at Germantown and Fairfax Court-House, one brigade, with a light battery; at the crossing of Braddock's old road with the Fairfax Court-House and Fairfax Station roads, one regiment; and at Sangster's Cross-roads, one battalion: all in easy and short communication with each other and with headquarters. Most of his small body of cavalry was with the advance, scouting and reconnoitring. In view of coming events, General Beauregard now assembled his brigade commanders, and, after general directions to all of  them, gave detailed instructions to those who had charge of the advanced positions (at Fairfax Court-House and Fairfax Station) touching their respective lines of retreat on Bull Run, in case they should be menaced by a combined serious movement of the enemy with largely superior forces. The substance of those instructions was embodied, with minute details, in a Special Order, No. 100, from the Adjutant-General's office, which was the order literally executed on the 17th of July. This is one of the most remarkable instances in military history, of an order providing fully and precisely, nearly a month in advance, for all the exigencies of a strategic movement, remotely contingent upon the operations of an enemy. General Bonham, upon the near approach of the forces confronting him, was to retire slowly on Centreville, by the turnpike, then to Mitchell's Ford, drawing the enemy after him to that point, which was the only portion of General Beauregard's line yet fortified. General Ewell, from Sangster's Crossroads and vicinity, was to follow the line of the railroad over a rather rough and difficult country road to Union Mills Ford, where the position was naturally strong and offered good cover to his men. The intermediate fords, McLean's and Blackburn's, were at that time occupied by Jones's and Longstreet's brigades. Early's brigade, which had been watching the fords of the Occoquan and the approaches on the right, was now held in reserve, a short distance in rear of Union Mills Ford, to act according to circumstances. A small force of infantry guarded the stone bridge, on the extreme left, where the turnpike from Alexandria, through Fairfax Court-House and Centreville, crosses Bull Run, on its way to Warrenton. The works, armed with naval guns, were manned by the seamen already alluded to, and also by a force of the State militia, which Governor Letcher had called out, at General Beauregard's request. During the latter days of June and the first fortnight of July, thorough reconnoissances were made of the whole region of country likely to become the theatre of war in that quarter, either for a defensive or offensive campaign. In these General Beauregard had the effective aid of Colonel Williamson and Captains D. B. Harris and Walter H. Stevens, of the Engineers. And it may be of interest to mention here, that the reconnoissances we speak of included the surroundings of Leesburg and the passes westward, as well as the entire square between Difficult Run, the  Potomac, Goose Creek, and Gum Spring. The object was to facilitate the movement of troops in that direction, to cross the Potomac, and be prepared to oppose the enemy, should he attempt to advance by that way so as to reach the Manassas Gap Railroad, on the left of General Beauregard's position. In one of these reconnoissances, made in force—Colonel Maxey Gregg, at the head of a South Carolina regiment, casually encountered a Federal command, under General Schenck, coming into Vienna Station, on a train of cars. A shot from a section of Kemper's light battery brought them to a halt, and, after a few exchanges, the Federals retired, and the locomotive escaped, leaving the cars, which were burned. This was the first hostile meeting, excepting the brilliant midnight dash of Lieutenant Tompkins against the Confederate outposts at Fairfax Court-House. On the 4th of July the Confederate pickets, well in advance of Fairfax Court-House, captured a sergeant and a private—the latter a Scotchman, who chanced to be a clerk in McDowell's Adjutant-General's office, and whose duty as such was to assist in making up the army returns. They were taking a ride for pleasure, and, having come a little too far, were picked up by the watchful cavalry. The Scotchman at once stated his position, and, being sent to headquarters, was there subjected to a close examination, in which he spoke freely, and appeared, from his statements on matters already known, to be telling the truth. Thus was Mc-Dowell's strength, at that date, pretty accurately ascertained; and events verified the correctness of the information thus obtained. The increasing forces of McDowell, the clamor of the Northern press for an advance, and the private reports from Washington, all now indicated an early attack by an army more than twice the strength of ours in numbers. And General Beauregard, in the midst of his various solicitudes, balked in his endeavors to procure the needed reinforcements, and grieved also at his unsuccessful attempts to induce the government to adopt his views, wrote the following letter to his friend, Senator Wigfall. It shows General Beauregard's unrelieved anxiety, and his determination, while wishing and laboring for a better state of things, to make the most of his limited means:
The following letter, written a few days later, is also of particular interest: