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The advance on Washington in 1864.

Letter from General J. A. Early.

To the Editor of the Republican:
That writers on the Federal or Union side in the late war between the States, should continue to magnify the numbers in the Confederate armies on all occasions is perhaps natural, as in this they but follow the example of their commanding generals. They cannot conceive how it was possible that Confederate leaders should have undertaken to confront the immense numbers of the United States armies with such slender forces as they in fact commanded, and it may be observed that the very highest eulogies on the prowess of our armies are to be found in these persistent exaggerations of our strength by our adversaries. It is not surprising, therefore, that a writer in The National Republican, whose article has been specially brought to my notice with the request that I furnish my version of the facts, should very greatly exaggerate the strength of the force with which I made the advance on Washington in July, 1864. The wild state of alarm and consternation into which my advance threw the authorities, civil and military, at the Federal Capital, as well as the whole population of Washington, as depicted by this writer and given in contemporaneous accounts, was such as to utterly disqualify any of them for forming anything like a correct estimate of my strength; but it is a little strange that at this late day one who has undertaken to publish in a journal printed at the seat of Government an account of my demonstration in front of the defenses of Washington, should not have deemed it proper to consult any authentic document from the Federal authorities as to the condition of things in those defenses when that demonstration was made. [298]

In 1871 the report of General J. G. Barnard “On the defenses of Washington” was published at the Government Printing Office, and in it he gives a full account of the condition of those defenses and of the armament and troops within them from the beginning of the war, including the period of my advance upon and presence in front of them. General Barnard was the engineer officer who had the principal control of the construction of those defenses, and was present in them when my advance was made; and it is to be presumed that he has given an accurate statement as to their condition and the forces within them at the time, though he seems to have so far shared the general panic as not to be able to form a correct estimate of the strength of the force threatening the Federal City. An accurate account of my advance upon and operations in front of Washington is given in a publication made by me in 1867, entitled “A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America,” the operations in front of Washington being described on pages 56-62. Those operations are also the subject of two articles published by me in the Southern Magazine (Baltimore, Md.), June, 1871, and June, 1872, the first being in reply to some criticisms by John Esten Cooke, and the last in reference to General Barnard's report. Those publications give fully and accurately the facts in regard to my operations in front of Washington, as well as my strength, and I could add nothing of interest to them. The writer in The Republican begins his article by saying: “Toward the latter part of June, 1864, General Lee finding that he was being steadily and surely hemmed in by the Union army, under General Grant, resorted to an expedient which, when tried two years earlier, had resulted in relieving him from a state of siege. Early was sent up through the Shenandoah Valley to threaten the National Capital.” It is a little singular that it did not occur to this writer that if General Lee was being so steadily and surely hemmed in as he supposes, he could have spared from his army so large a detachment as I am represented to have carried across the Potomac to the front of Washington.

This writer further says: “As already stated, the enemy appeared in force in close proximity to the northern defenses of Washington upon the morning of July 11; but small bodies of the invaders had been observed as early as the morning of the day previous” --that is, on the morning of the 10th. My advance, a small body of cavalry, arrived for the first time in front of the defenses about noon of the 11th, and I followed this advance in person, arriving in sight of the defenses a little after noon. The main body of my command did not get up until [299] some two or three hours later. If any of my men were observed in front of the defenses on the morning of the 10th, it was only in the imagination of men whose vision was distorted by fright. On the morning of that day I moved from the Monocacy, the scene of the fight of the day before, and had then to march thirty-five miles to reach Washington. My cavalry advance reached Rockville on the afternoon of that day, and there encountered a body of United States cavalry, which it drove away encamping for the night at that place, some twelve or fifteen miles from Washington. My infantry encamped about four miles from Rockville, toward the Monocacy. General Barnard in his report says: “About eleven A. M., July 11, 1864, the signal officer at Fort Reno observed clouds of dust and army wagons moving from the direction of Rockville toward Blair's farm, on the Seventh street road. Notice was promptly given General McCook, and all available troops were concentrated in the rifle trenches on either side of Fort De Russey.” He also says: “A short time before noon Captain Berry, commanding his company, Eighth Illinois cavalry, sent a messenger to General McCook, notifying him that the enemy was moving with artillery, cavalry, and infantry from Rockville in the direction of Silver Spring. About noon a strong line of the enemy's skirmishers came in sight, advancing upon Fort Stevens, where General McCook was in command in person.” (Pages 114, 115). This body of skirmishers consisted of the cavalry advance, which dismounted and drove the enemy's skirmishers into the works. The writer in The Republican says: “It had been pretty accurately ascertained that Early and Breckinridge had with them in the vicinity of at least 30,000 veteran soldiers, and some estimated the number as high as 45,000. Opposed to them Generals McCook and Augur (the latter military governor of Washington) were unable to to array over five thousand men of all arms, many of whom were little better than raw recruits, having no knowledge of warfare, and not a few of the remainder (belonging to the Veteran Reserve Corps) so badly crippled by wounds or disease as to be unfitted for active service in the field.”

I was in command of the whole force, and my command consisted of what was left of the Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, with two battalions of artillery, of three batteries each, attached to it; Breckinridge's divison of infantry of three small brigades, four small brigades of cavalry, and a small battalion of artillery attached to Breckinridge's command. According to the field-returns of the Army of Northern Virginia of April 20, 1864, the latest before the commencement of the campaign, from the Wilderness to James River, the [300] Second Corps (Ewell's) had present for duty 1,374 officers and 15,705 enlisted men, making an aggregate of 17,079, as shown by a statement copied from the returns in the Archive Office at Washington by Col. Walter H. Taylor, and given in his “Four years with Gen. Lee,” page 176. That corps had been engaged in the heaviest of the fighting from the Wilderness to James river, and on the 12th of May nearly one entire division (Johnson's) had been captured. The other divisions had suffered very heavy losses, and there had been no accessions to the corps, except in the return of a small brigade of my own division and two regiments of Rodes's, which had been detached. When I was detached from General Lee's army the whole corps did not amount to 9,000 effectives. At Lynchburg I found Breckinridge with his small division of infantry, with which was serving a small part of a brigade of cavalry which had been dismounted. There were also with him four small brigades of cavalry and a battalion of artillery. The greater part of the cavalry had been with W. E. Jones in his defeat by Hunter at Piedmont, in the Valley, and was very much disorganized and demoralized. None of it belonged to the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia, but it had been for the most part on service in Western Virginia and East Tennessee. It was not armed as cavalry proper, but had for its armament almost exclusively Enfield rifles. It was, in fact, nothing more than mounted infantry. My very rapid march from Lynchburg in pursuit of Hunter, and then down the Valley and across the Potomac, had caused a considerable number of the infantry to be left behind from inability to keep up, as my men were very badly shod. I had left an officer with a small command at Winchester to collect the stragglers, and on my return to the Valley, after the advance on Washington, I found that something over fifteen hundred stragglers had been collected at Winchester. Moreover, I had sustained a loss of some seven or eight hundred men in killed and wounded in some slight actions in the Valley before crossing the Potomac, and in the fight at the Monocacy. The force of infantry with which I moved on Washington did not, therefore, exceed eight thousand muskets, if it reached that number. In the three battalions of artillery I had nine batteries, neither of which had more than four field-pieces, and some of them not that many. Besides these there were one or two batteries of horse artillery, with the cavalry, the entire number of field-pieces in all the artillery not exceeding forty. Much the largest brigade of cavalry had been detached at Frederick on the expedition that threatened Baltimore and cut the railroads and telegraph between that city and Washington and Philadelphia. Some idea of my strength at the time of the advance on [301] Washington may be formed from the return for the 31st of August, 1864, given by Colonel Taylor in his book, page 178. This, I presume, is the earliest return on file in the Archive Office after I was detached, and is as follows:

Breckinridge's division (total effective)2,104
Rodes's division (total effective)3,013
Gordon's division (total effective)2,544
Ramseur's division (total effective)1,909

The strength of the cavalry and artillery is not given, but both could not have exceeded 3,000. By this time all the stragglers had rejoined me, and some of those wounded in the campaign from the Wilderness had returned to their regiments. General Barnard, in his report, page 121, has made an estimate of my strength on what he calls “circumstantial evidence,” by which he makes my force amount to 22,420 in front of Washington. In order to ascertain this number he assumes my regiments of infantry at ninety-nine, and then assumes that each regiment numbered 180 men and officers. I have before me a printed roster of our armies, compiled at the Archive Office at Washington, which gives the number of my infantry regiments and battalions at seventy-four, and in this I am credited with some commands that were not with me.

In Gordon's division, which was formed by taking two of the brigades from my division and uniting them with the remnant of Johnson's division, after the disaster of the 12th of May, to form a division for Gordon, there were thirty regiments. Giving 180 to each regiment would make an aggregate of 5,400 for the division. In one of the brigades in his division there were the remnants of thirteen regiments, being all that was left of the Virginia regiments in Johnson's division. An average of 180 for those regiments would give 2,340 for the brigade, and yet Gordon's whole division numbered, on the 31st of August, 1864, only 2,544, as shown by the returns of that date. On the same “circumstantial evidence” he gives me thirty-six regiments of cavalry, for which he assumes one hundred men and officers as the average, making my cavalry force 3,600; yet the number of cavalry regiments with me, including the dismounted brigade and the one that was detached, did not exceed twenty-two. On the same kind of evidence he gives me sixty pieces of artillery, and in a note says that this number was actually counted in passing the South Mountain. As my forces passed through two gaps in the South Mountain, a part of the artillery accompanying each column, I should like to know who. [302] made the count. If it was a citizen, he was not unlikely to count a caisson as a piece of artillery. As General Barnard says that the name, rank, and regiment of the prisoners captured from my command between the 3d and 18th of July were carefully ascertained and recorded, and thus it was ascertained that I had ninety-nine regiments of infantry and thirty-six of cavalry, I defy the production of any such record. If such record exists, then it shows at least twenty-five more regiments of infantry, and twelve of cavalry, than I had. It is possible that men claiming to belong to so many regiments, may have been captured, as I afterward ascertained that there were a very large number of deserters from our army who had taken refuge in the mountains between the counties of Loudoun and Fauquier, and the Valley, who claimed to belong to Mosby's command whenever questioned by any of our officers. I have thus noticed especially the estimate of my force given by General Barnard, or rather the officer from whom he quotes, because that is the only one professing to be based on any data, the others being mere conjectural estimates, without any foundation to rest upon. It is a little singular that writers on the other side will persist in estimating our numbers upon the crude conjectures made during the war, when the returns showing our strength during the various campaigns are on file in the Archive Office, and have been for such a long period accessible to them. There was no reason why Confederate officers should have made inaccurate returns to their government, and they have certainly not had the opportunity of altering them since the close of the war. General Barnard's statement of the forces available for the defense of Washington at the time of my advance, is not based on conjecture or “circumstantial evidence,” but is derived from actual knowledge. He thus gives his statement of the forces within the defenses of Washington, and in adjacent camps on the 10th of July, 1864: “The effective forces were 1,819 infantry, 1,834 artillery, and sixty-three cavalry, north of the Potomac, and 4,064 infantry, 1,772 artillery, and fifty-one cavalry, south thereof. There were besides in Washington and Alexandria about 3,900 effectives (First and Second District of Columbia volunteers, ‘Veteran Reserves,’ and detachments), under Generals Wisewell and Hough, doing duty as guards, &c., &c., and about 4,400 (six regiments) of ‘Veteran Reserves.’ At the artillery camp of instruction (Camp Barry) were five field batteries (627 men). A ‘brigade’ of cavalry consisting of the Second Massachusetts, Thirteenth and Sixteenth New York regiments, numbering a little over 800 effectives, was posted in the neighborhood of Falls Church and Annandale, and commanded by the lamented Colonel C. R. Lowell (subsequently [303] killed at Cedar Creek) who handled it with great ability, resisting to the utmost Early's progress from Rockville and never hesitating to attack when it was desired to develop the enemy's forces.” (Page 107.) He adds in a note on same page: “Besides the cavalry brigade of Colonel Lowell, there was a nominal cavalry division of dismounted men, awaiting equipment and organization, at Camp Stoneman, under Colonel W. Gamble (Eighth Illinois Cavalry), amounting in all to about 1,200 effectives. Portions of the Eighth Illinois, armed and mounted, were sent during the 10th and 11th in the direction of Rockville, Laurel, Bladensburg, and Fort Mahan to observe the enemy. The rest (dismounted) were sent, with their cavalry arms, to General McCook for service in the lines.” By “effectives,” it must be understood, are meant only enlisted men for duty who bear arms, and the term does not include commissioned officers. The foregoing statement shows that there were within the defenses and in adjacent camps 20,530 effectives on the 10th of July, while I was on the march from Monocacy, the authorities in Washington being fully apprised of my approach. Besides these troops there was a force of quartermaster's men organized into a brigade by Quartermaster-General Meigs, over 6,000 strong, and reported for duty on Sunday (the 10th). (See same report, pp. 115-116). That, with all these troops at hand, and with full knowledge of my advance, there should have been assembled only five thousand men of the character described by the writer in The Republican to meet that advance is a proposition too absurd to deserve serious consideration. According to General Barnard's report, besides the 3,716 men on duty in the defenses north of the Potomac on the 10th, the 4,400 veteran reserves were moved to the trenches on that day; the 800 cavalry, under Lowell, were sent to the front before day on the 11th, the 1,200 dismounted cavalry were also sent to the front, and to report to McCook on the 10th and 11th. Quartermaster-General Meigs reported with 2,000 men on the night of the 10th, and Colonel Rice, with 2,800 convalescents and artillerymen reported to the same officer on Monday, thus giving a force of 14,916 effectives for duty on the front against which my advance was made, to which should be added several commands the strength of which is not given, as the Second District of Columbia Volunteers, Captains Gibbs's and Bradley's batteries, and Snyder's battalion of the Ninth New York Heavy Artillery. (See pages 113-116). There were, then, over fifteen thousand men available for duty in the trenches and in connection therewith on the front against which my advance was made before I got within reach of the works. The character of those works is thus described by General Barnard:

Thus [304] from a few isolated works, covering bridges or commanding a few especially important points, was developed a connected system of fortification by which every prominent point, at intervals of eight hundred to one thousand yards, was occupied by an inclosed field-fort, every important approach or depression of ground unseen from the forts swept by a battery for field-guns, and the whole connected by rifletrenches, which were in fact lines of infantry parapet, furnishing emplacement for two ranks of men and affording covered communication along the line, while roads were opened wherever necessary, so that troops and artillery could be moved rapidly from one point of the immense periphery to another, or under cover from point to point along the line.

The woods which prevailed along many parts of the line were cleared for a mile or two in front of the works, the counterscarps of which were surrounded by abattis. Bomb-proofs were provided in nearly all the forts; all guns not solely intended for distant fire placed in embrasure and well traversed; secure and well ventilated magazines, ample to contain one hundred rounds per gun, constructed; the original crude structures, built after designs given in text-books for “field fortification,” replaced by others on plans experience developed, or which the increased powers of modern artillery made necessary. All commanding points on which an enemy would be likely to concentrate artillery to overpower that of one or more of our forts or batteries were subjected not only to the fires, direct and cross, of many points along the line, but also from heavy rifled guns from distant points unattainable by the enemy's field-guns. With all these developments the lines certainly approximated to the maximum degree of strength which can be attained from unrevetted earth-works. They would probably realize in some degree the qualities attributed to fortified lines by Napoleon, though, being but unrevetted earth-works, they were scarcely what his dictum contemplated. When, in July, 1864, Early appeared before Washington all the artillery regiments which had constituted the garrisons of the works, and who were experienced in the use of the artillery, had been withdrawn and their places mainly filled by a few regiments of “one hundred days men” just mustered into service. The advantage, under these circumstances, of established lines of infantry parapet and prepared emplacements for fieldguns can be hardly overestimated. Bodies of hastily-organized men, such as teamsters, quartermasters' men, citizen volunteers, &c., sent out to the lines could hardly go amiss. “It may be observed here that as the object of revetments in fortifications is to render them [305] impregnable against the fire of heavy artillery, their absence in this case did not detract from the strength of the Washington defenses as against my force, as I had none but light field-guns with me. As against me, therefore, these defenses may be said to have fully reached the maximum degree of strength of which earth-works are susceptible. With such works, defended by 14,000 or 15,000 men, already on the front threatened, and with the facilities for moving other troops with rapidity, and under cover, to any point that might be assailed, the proposition that I could have carried them by an assault immediately on my arrival in their front, if my strength had been double what it was, would argue a degree of panic and demoralization on the part of the defenders of the “National Capital” not at all traceable to the fact of their being” raw troops “or” veteran reserves, “disabled by wounds from active field duty. With such works to protect them even” hundred days men, “who knew how to load and fire a gun, ought to have been capable of rendering very efficient service; and I can conceive of no reason why” quartermaster's men, “” teamsters, “and” citizen volunteers “should not have been capable of resisting an assault made by an attacking force that had to move over abattis, across ditches, and over infantry parapets, when they were so effectually shielded by the works behind which they were ensconced, unless, indeed, they were as thoroughly demoralized as the intensely loyal athlete of whom the writer in The Republican speaks, and who excused himself first because he had lost his front teeth, and then had heart disease, and finally got off by taking medicine to make himself sick. All this pretense about” hundred days men, “” raw and inexperienced troops, “&c., can but recall to our recollection the excuses made at the time for the defeat at first Manassas, or Bull Run, as our opponents called it, founded upon the fancied existence of innumerable” masked batteries “and legions of” Black Horse Cavalry “which the invaders encountered — in imagination — in an army nearly all of which had not had the advantage of so much as the half of a” hundred days “service. As to the” veteran reserves, “they were merely disabled from active service in the field by their wounds, and were, or ought to have been, as capable of efficient service in the trenches as any troops whatever, as they must be supposed to have been thoroughly trained. The idea, therefore, that I could have entered Washington by a vigorous assault on the works on my arrival is without any well-grounded foundation. It took several hours to bring my infantry into line, as it was moving by flank on a narrow road, with the trains and artillery interspersed at intervals on the line of march for the purposes of protection, one division being in [306] rear of the whole. Before even the first brigade of the leading division was brought into line, I saw a cloud of dust from the direction of Washington, showing that troops were moving up, and a portion of them having filed into the trenches, a large body of skirmishers was sent to the front, which drove back my cavalry skirmishers, about two hundred strong, and burned a number of houses in front of the works. This affair is thus given by General Barnard:” Upon the arrival of dismounted men of the second division cavalry corps, Army of the Potomac, 600 of them, under command of Major G. Briggs, advanced at half-past 1 P. M., and drove the enemy's skirmishers back about a thousand yards, and thus restored in some degree confidence to the defenders. “I witnessed this affair, and at that time the leading brigade of my command had not come up, but soon after came up, formed line, and sent forward skirmishers,who drove those of the enemy back to the cover of his works. It took some time to get the remainder of the leading division into line, and it was much later when the rest of my command was brought up. The whole command had then marched fully fifteen miles in very hot, dry weather and over exceedingly dusty roads, and was, of course, very much exhausted, many of the men having fallen by the way from heat and sheer exhaustion. I may here remark, in reference to alleged statements by my men as to my strength and purposes; that it was a very poor Confederate soldier who would acknowledge to citizens of the enemy's country through which he was marching the weakness of the army to which he belonged or any doubt of the success of the expedition. I recollect very well an incident which occurred with myself on that morning. As I was riding in rear of my cavalry advance I got some distance ahead of my column, and, seeing a shady grove by the roadside, with a neat house in it, I halted to rest under the shade of the trees while waiting for my infantry. The gentleman of the house came out to speak to me, and I soon found a sympathizer with our cause in him. Finding this, I asked him about the the character and strength of the works around Washington, and he said that they were not very strong, as they were nothing but” earth-works. “I then asked him about the strength of the troops inside of those works, and he stated that there was not a large force in them — not more, he thought, than 20,000 men. Knowing that earthworks in the then state of the science of war were regarded as the strongest that could be made, and that such works, defended by 20,000 men, would be impregnable as against my force, and not feeling very much encouraged by the information given me, I nevertheless replied to my informant that if that was all they had to oppose us we would [307] not mind that. I have no doubt that some of my men, even after they were made prisoners, did what is called some” very tall talking “about my strength and purposes, and doubtless such boasting on their part contributed in no small degree to the state of bewilderment of my opponent in the subsequent campaign as to my strength and the success of my efforts to baffle him for so long a period. Washington was indebted for its safety not alone to the strength of its defenses and the troops that were in them before my arrival, but two divisions of the Sixth Corps from Grant's army and a portion of the Nineteenth Corps arrived before or simultaneously with my arrival in front of the works. When I speak here of my arrival I mean, of course, the arrival of the main body of my force. As the writer in The Republican has made a statement in regard to the arrival of the Sixth Corps I will here give it infull, as illustrative of the entire want of knowledge of the facts which characterizes his production. After describing an imaginary state of things existing on the afternoon of the 12th, when Washington is represented as being in extreme danger, he says:” Meanwhile a certain quiet individual, while smoking his cigar in the trenches before Petersburg, had received news of what was going on about Washington. Throttling Lee with his strong right hand, the silent man Grant took up the Sixth Corps with his left, stretched his arm northward, and the Capital was saved. General Wright with his gallant men arrived from the front of Petersburg and went to the front of Washington just in the nick of time — none too soon, but not a minute too late. Up the street they marched as only veterans can march, beyond the line of defenses, and as the heads of columns began to deploy into line of battle and throw out skirmishers cheer after cheer went up from those who had for nearly two days and nights formed a feeble but fortunately effectual barrier to the rebel advance. Early's men heard the cheering, and in the darkness fast closing in upon the 12th of July felt its cause as the reinforcements opened fire.

This is quite graphic, and it is a pity that it is but “the baseless fabric of a vision” as it represents “the Silent Man” “smoking his cigar” in a very interesting posture. It may also be observed that the perverse Lee, notwithstanding he was thus throttled, continued to breathe with considerable vigor for some time thereafter. Here is what the “Silent man” himself says in his report dated the 22d of July, 1865: “Immediately upon the enemy's ascertaining that General Hunter was retreating from Lynchburg by the way of Kanawha river, thus laying the Shenandoah Valley open for raids into Maryland and Pennsylvania, he returned [turned?] northward and moved down that valley. [308] As soon as this movement of the enemy was ascertained General Hunter, who had reached the Kanawha river, was directed to move his troops without delay, by river and railroad, to Harper's Ferry; but owing to the difficulty of navigation, by reason of low water and breaks in the railroad, great delay was experienced in getting there. It became necessary, therefore, to find other troops to check this movement of the enemy. For this purpose the Sixth Corps was taken from the armies operating against Richmond, to which was added the Nineteenth Corps, then fortunately beginning to arrive in Hampton Roads from the the Gulf Department under orders issued immediately after the ascertainment of the result of the Red River Expedition.” After describing the garrisons in Baltimore and Washington and my movement across the Potomac, he proceeds: “On the 6th the enemy occupied Hagerstown, moving a strong column toward Frederick City. General Wallace, with Ricketts's division and his own command, the latter mostly new and undisciplined troops, pushed out from Baltimore with great promptness and met the enemy in force on the Monocacy, near the crossing of the railroad bridge. His force was not sufficient to insure success, but he fought the enemy nevertheless, and although it resulted in a defeat to our arms, yet it detained the enemy, and thereby served to enable General Wright to reach Washington with two divisions of the Sixth Corps and the advance of the Nineteenth Corps before him.” The italics in the last part of this quotation are mine, and are given to call attention to the statement that General Wright was enabled to reach Washington before I did. General Barnard, after stating the inability of Hunter to move up the Ohio and over the Baltimore and Ohio railroad in time to oppose me, says:

Hence it became necessary to find other troops to oppose Early. One division (Ricketts's) was, as has been seen, detached on the 5th of July from the lines before Petersburg and sent to Baltimore, where it arrived in time to bear the brunt of the battle at the Monocacy.

The other two divisions did not receive their orders till the 9th, and did not reach Washington till two P. M. the 11th, barely in time. A part of the Nineteenth Corps, just arrived at Fort Monroe from Louisiana, were likewise dispatched to Washington and arrived at the same time. (Page 113.)

He further says, on page 116: “Major-General H. G. Wright, United States Volunteers, commanding Sixth Corps, reported at three P. M., and his troops came up about four P. M. A force of about nine hundred of this battle-tried corps was placed on the skirmish line for the night.” That is, the night of the 11th. My troops did not all get up and into line before four o'clock, and my [309] leading brigade was not in line before two o'clock; so that, in addition to the troops already in Washington before my arrival, I would have had to encounter the two divisions of the Sixth Corps and the part of the Nineteenth Corps that had arrived, if I had attempted to enter Washington. The proposition, therefore, that I could have successfully made an attempt at any time after my arrival is simply preposterous. If I had been able to reach Washington sooner, Grant would have sent troops to its rescue sooner, and hence there never was any prospect of my capturing that city. It was not General Lee's orders or expectation that I should take Washington. His order was that I should threaten that city; and when I suggested to him the probability of my being able to capture it he said that would be impossible. It was my own conception, that of undertaking the capture, but the feasibility of that depended upon my finding the city very insufficiently defended. On the night of the 11th, being unwilling to surrender the idea of capturing the Federal Capital, I gave an order for the assault at dawn on the 12th; but a dispatch received during the night, stating the arrival of two corps from Grant's army, caused me to examine the works at the earliest dawn of the 12th, when I found them so strongly manned as to preclude all hope of carrying them, and I therefore countermanded the order for the assault. I remained in front of the works, however, during the 12th, with the purpose of retiring at night, and gave orders accordingly. All my movements during the day were mere demonstrations to amuse the enemy until the time for withdrawal arrived. I had ascertained that Hunter had arrived at Harper's Ferry with his forces, which I knew to be much larger than my own, and my position was therefore exceedingly critical, as there was but one way for escaping across the Potomac, and that was by a ford above Leesburg, in Loudoun county, over which I did retire successfully. If the Federal commanders in Washington and General Hunter had been possessed of the requisite enterprise and daring it would have been impossible for me to have escaped the capture of my entire command. All my movements were based on the presumed want of enterprise on the part of the enemy, and it seems that Federal commanders cannot understand the audacity that caused their Capital to be threatened by so small a force. The article of the writer in The Republican contains a number of statements on subjects of minor interest which are wholly without foundation in fact. Among them is the statement that Francis P. Blair, Sr., was driven from his residence by my troops. Mr. Blair was not at home at the time, but was, as I was informed, absent with his family in Pennsylvania, leaving his house in charge of some woman [310] who fled on our approach. If Mr. Blair had been at home his property and his privacy would have been respected, as was that of all citizens who remained in their houses. When I found that his house was abandoned, and had been plundered of some valuables, I placed a guard over it with orders that no one should enter it without permission, and that the property should be protected. Most, if not all, the valuables that had been taken were recovered and placed in the charge of some neighbor for the purpose of being restored to Mr. Blair on his return. His cattle, which were fit for beeves, were taken by my orders, as were the cattle of other citizens, it being necessary that my troops should be supplied with provisions from the country. His house was not used for a hospital, and if any wounded men were found in it they were men who had been wounded in the affair which occurred late in the afternoon of the 12th, between some troops sent out from the works and a portion of the troops on my front line, who could not be transported, and found their way to the house after I retired. If the writer is to be understood as intimating that Montgomery Blair's house was burned by my orders, then the statement is incorrect. I had placed a guard over that house also, and it was not burned by my orders, but was fired after my guard had been withdrawn. I have never been able to ascertain who did the burning.

General Rodes, whose division occupied my front line, and furnished the guard for the house, was of opinion that it was burned by some resident of the neighborhood, who took advantage of our presence to commit the act. It is not impossible that the burning was by some of my men, but it was without my authority. It was my policy to prohibit everything like marauding on the part of my troops, and I was especially determined to prevent the destruction of the property of the Blairs, for it was understood that both the father and the son were opposed to the policy pursued by some Federal commanders in the South in the destruction of private property and the imprisonment of non-combatant citizens. In fact, it was understood by us that Montgomery Blair had lost caste with the extreme Radicals of the party to which he was attached at that time, and it was not a great while before he retired from the Cabinet. There is a citizen of one of the upper counties of the Valley, who is still living, who had followed my command into Maryland, and who came to me while I was in front of Washington with the request that I would permit him to burn the house of Montgomery Blair, in retaliation for the burning of many houses in the Valley by General Hunter's orders. This permission I refused, with a statement of my reasons therefor. Judge Blair, however, [311] as I understand, has never been able to believe that I did not have his house burned, and he bases his conviction on a conversation I had with some gentlemen from Hagerstown, in which I stated that if the house had been burned by some of my men, the act would have been fully justified by the burning in their own counties of many private residences by General Hunter, whose ruins they had seen when marching down the Valley. This expression seems to have been misconstrued into an admission that the act was my own. I have no disposition to evade the responsibility for any of my acts during the war, and I certainly did have the iron works of Mr. Thaddeus Stevens burned in 1863, and the town of Chambersburg was burned by my orders in 1864 as an act of retaliation, after a refusal to comply with a demand upon the town for compensation for some burning that General Hunter had done within the limits of my command.

I also levied contributions on the towns of York, Pa., in 1863, and Frederick, Md., in 1864. All these acts were in accordance with the laws of war, and if I had ordered the burning of Blair's house I would not now seek to evade the responsibility. To give some idea of the odds I had against me when I was in front of Washington in July, 1864, I here give an abstract of the return of General Sheridan's force in the Valley in August, 1864. This is taken from the Adjutant General's Office in Washington, and it is either for the 20th or 31st of August, as to which I am not informed. It is as follows: Return of Middle Military Department, General P. H. Sheridan commanding: The latest August return, 1864, shows in the field--

General Crook's command, present for duty21,006
General Wright's command, present for duty11,956
General Emory's command, present for duty12,504
General Torbert's cavalry, present for duty8,502

General Crook's command was that which Hunter had concentrated at Harper's Ferry when I was in front of Washington; General Wright's was the Sixth Corps, two-thirds of which (two divisions) would amount to 7,970; General Emory's was the Nineteenth Corps, one-half of which would be over 6,000; so that there arrived in Washington at or before the time of my arrival in front of it at least 14,000 men from Grant's army, while a force of over 20,000 men was in my rear at Harper's Ferry. I may say here that I endeavored to get the returns of Sheridan's forces for September and October, when occurred the principal engagements between our forces, but was informed that there were no returns of his on file in the Adjutant-General's office for either [312] month. I, however, obtained an abstract of the returns for the 10th of November, which is as follows:

First return for November, 1864. in the field.

General Crook, present for duty18,036
General Wright, present for duty12,336
General Emory, present for duty9,701
General Torbert, present for duty8,307

These statements are given to show the immense odds against which I had to contend, not only when I was in front of Washington, but in the subsequent campaign in the Valley. General Sheridan in his report says that his loss in that campaign was in killed, 1,938; wounded, 11,893; missing, 3,121; total, 16,952. This, added to the return for November 10, would show a force of more than 65,000; but perhaps some 5,000 of the wounded may have returned to duty, leaving about 60,000 as his available force in the beginning of the campaign or during its progress. In reference to the absence of all returns of his force for September and October I will state that several years since I saw a statement in some newspaper that General Badeau had taken about a cartload of papers from the Adjutant-General's office when he undertook to write the biography of General Grant which had never been returned. If that was the fact it may be that the missing returns of Sheridan's forces were among them; and as Grant's biography has now been completed it is not improbable that all the missing documents may be returned. However that may be, there is still in existence, and accessible, documentary evidence enough, to enable candid searchers for the truth to ascertain the relative strength of the opposing forces at all important periods. And when intelligent men of the North shall so far discard the passions and prejudices of the past as to be able to give a careful and dispassionate consideration to the facts it is not improbable that the scales will fall from the eyes of many of them, and they will discover that they have magnified into heroes of the highest order some whose statues will dwindle into very insignificant proportions before the light of truth. To such a test I am willing to submit the conduct of my advance upon and operations around Washington and my subsequent campaign in the Valley with full confidence in the result. It may be, however, that an appeal “to foreign nations and to the next ages” will be necessary before the truth of history is fully vindicated in regard to the operations of the war; and, be that as it may, I have no apprehension as to the final Verdict.

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