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Chapter 10:


Towards 11 P. M., on the day of the battle, while President Davis, at General Beauregard's headquarters, was engaged in writing the despatch to General Cooper given in the preceding chapter, information was received, through Captain Hill, of General Johnston's forces, that the enemy, at Centreville, was in a complete state of demoralization, and in full flight towards Washington. Upon learning this, President Davis, with great animation, urged the necessity of an immediate pursuit by General Bonham's forces, which, with General Longstreet's brigade, were then in the closest proximity to Centreville. After a brief discussion of the matter between the President and Generals Johnston and Beauregard, it was agreed that, as Captain Hill's informal report was not sufficiently authenticated, and the troops were fatigued and without rations, the suggestion made should not be acted upon; no order, therefore, was issued for its execution. [115]

Mr. Davis's memory, that such an order was actually dictated by him, and modified as to the hour of its execution, is clearly at fault. This is shown by Colonel (afterwards General) Jordan's letter, referred to by Mr. Davis himself, as the authority for his assertion to that effect. That Generals Johnston and Beauregard kept no copy of an order that fell still-born from the lips of the President, is not to be wondered at; and Colonel Jordan, no doubt —and very naturally—destroyed it as soon as it was penned, there having been, as he says, ‘a unanimous decision against it.’ From this expression we infer that Mr. Davis, no less than the two generals, acknowledged the uselessness of the order.

There was no other order for pursuit given, or spoken of, that night. So says General Beauregard; so says Colonel Jordan, his chief of staff; so would undoubtedly say General Johnston, who was opposed to any further immediate advance of our troops after the battle. The order dictated substantially to Colonel Jordan, and condemned and abandoned without being ‘despatched,’ is the only order with which Mr. Davis had anything to do on the night of the 21st of July. Colonel Jordan, in the letter quoted by Mr. Davis, says: ‘This was the only instance during Mr. Davis's stay at Manassas in which he exercised any voice as to the movement of the troops. Profoundly pleased with the results achieved, . . . his bearing towards the generals who commanded them was eminently proper, as I have testified on a former occasion; and I repeat, he certainly expressed or manifested no opposition to a forward movement, nor did he display the least disposition to interfere, by opinion or authority, touching what the Confederate forces should or should not do.’1

An ‘order to the same effect,’ says Mr. Davis (that is, an order for pursuit, modified by him, and by him deferred till the next day, at early dawn), ‘was sent’ by General Beauregard, ‘on the night of the 21st of July, . . . for a copy of which’ Mr. Davis is ‘indebted to the kindness of that chivalrous gentleman, soldier, and patriot, General Bonham.’2

This is another error.

The order sent to General Bonham by General Beauregard, and given in full in Mr. Davis's book,3 was not for the pursuit of the [116] enemy, but for the purpose of making a reconnoissance—of affording assistance to our wounded, and of collecting ‘all the arms, ammunition, and abandoned stores, subsistence, and baggage,’ that could be found ‘on the road in our front towards Centreville,’ and on other roads by which the enemy had retreated towards the stone bridge and Sudley's Mills.

Whoever reads the order here referred to cannot fail to see, from its very phraseology, that it conveys no such meaning as Mr. Davis is pleased to ascribe to it. For the order required that General Bonham should take with him ‘a vast amount of transportation,’ which, of itself, would have impeded the pursuit. And Mr. Davis acknowledges that ‘the 22d, the day after the battle, was spent in following up the line of the retreating foe, and collecting the large supplies of arms, of ammunition, and other military stores.’4 Nor must it be forgotten that, at the time mentioned by Mr. Davis, General Johnston was already in actual command of our united forces, and that General Beauregard had, therefore, no authority to issue any such orders. Strange, indeed, would it have been that the general second in command should have sent his troops, or part of his troops, in pursuit of the enemy, when he knew that his superior in rank had expressed strong opposition to any immediate advance on our part, and had declared it utterly impracticable.

Just then, General Johnston was correct in his judgment. Our troops—even those that had taken no part in the battle—were more or less exhausted by marches and countermarches, and our cavalry was evidently too insignificant in number to admit of any serious hope of an effectual pursuit that night, or even the next morning. Another obstacle, of no minor importance, intervened, which was sufficient of itself to cut short all idea of then following the routed Federal army. On the evening of the 21st, at about nine o'clock, the heavens began to assume a threatening appearance, and, a few hours later, a heavy rain fell, which lasted unremittingly throughout the whole of the succeeding day. Meanwhile, our troops were without provisions, and had no means of transportation. The railroad bridge across Bull Run had been destroyed, too, and its reconstruction was indispensable to open the way for a farther advance, which, thus deferred, could no longer [117] be called a pursuit. The fact is, the pursuit ordered by General Beauregard, at the close of the battle,5 having been stopped at about 6.30 P. M., in consequence of the false alarm referred to in the preceding chapter, no movement that night could have met with a successful result. It should have been instantly and vigorously made, ‘on the very heels of the flying enemy;’ and, even then, it could not have been kept up long under the circumstances.

At pages 359, 360, of the first volume of his work, Mr. Davis says: ‘On the night of the 22d I held a second conference with Generals Johnston and Beauregard, . . . and propounded to them the inquiry as to what more it was practicable to do. They concurred as to their inability to cross the Potomac; and to the further inquiry as to an advance to the south side of the Potomac, General Beauregard promptly stated that there were strong fortifications there, occupied by garrisons which had not been in the battle, and were therefore not affected by the panic which had seized the defeated army. He declared those fortifications as having wide, deep ditches, with palisades, which would prevent the escalade of the works. Turning to General Johnston, he said, “They have spared no expense.” ’

Here, truth compels us to state that, in all this matter, Mr. Davis's memory is again unqualifiedly at fault. General Beauregard could not have spoken as he is represented to have done, for the simple reason that all the information then in his possession, whether received by means of his underground railroad or otherwise, led him to the strong belief that Washington was, at that time, entirely unprotected; that the works on the south side of the Potomac were barely commenced, except Fort Runnyon, which was still incomplete, and armed with but a few guns; as appeared by a sketch of it, received in the usual mysterious way from within the enemy's lines. Mrs. G—, to whose tact and intelligence was due most of the secret knowledge of the condition of affairs at and around the Federal capital, had assured General Beauregard, many a time, that no obstacle existed to prevent a successful advance on our part, and that nothing was dreaded more by those high in authority at Washington. More than once, after the battle of Manassas, Mrs. G—ended [118] her despatches in these words: ‘Come on! why do you not come?’ We could, in this connection, were it not necessary to resume the thread of our narrative, tell of some very interesting occurrences, showing the manner in which news was brought to General Beauregard from Washington. We mention a single instance. About the middle of July, on a bright, sultry morning, a young lady of much refinement, and possessing both youth and beauty, rode into General Bonham's lines, at Fairfax Court-House, and delivered to him a despatch of great importance, for General Beauregard, ‘from our friends in Washington.’ She had incurred great fatigue and danger in the accomplishment of her mission. This despatch she carried carefully concealed in her hair, which, when enrolled in the presence of the Confederate general, appeared to him—to use his own language—‘the most beautiful he had ever seen on human head.’6 The young lady in question was a resident of the Federal capital, and had passed out of it in a small farm wagon, disguised as a plain countrywoman coming from market. Farther on her way, at the residence of a relative, well known and wealthy, she obtained the horse she was riding and the habit she then wore. We refrain from giving her name, but it will never be forgotten either by General Beauregard or by General Bonham, and is, no doubt, as deeply graven upon the memory of the several staff officers who had the pleasure of escorting her through our lines. We wish, nevertheless—and look upon it as a duty—to place upon record her patriotic deed, so fearlessly and successfully accomplished.

Irregular and unofficial as were the secret communications here spoken of, General Beauregard, who knew their importance and trustworthiness, never failed to forward their contents to the War Department. Mr. Davis, therefore, was aware—or should have been—of what General Beauregard thought of the readiness of Washington to resist an advance of our forces at that time. It is not here pretended that no one spoke to Mr. Davis, on that occasion, as he asserts that General Beauregard did; but it is now stated, emphatically, and on the direct authority of General Beauregard, that he did not make use of any such language to Mr. Davis. In support of the position here so positively assumed the reader is referred, first, to the fact, afterwards so thoroughly [119] verified, that no fortifications existed then at or around Washington; none, at any rate, that could have seriously obstructed the march of our army; second, to General Beauregard's letter to Colonels Chestnut and Miles, bearing date July 29th, 1861, and to his answer to President Davis (August 10th of the same year), wherein is considered this very question of an advance upon Washington, and its feasibility, as late as the 24th of July. These letters appear in full further on in the present chapter. The fact is, that General Beauregard's whole correspondence, official and private, touching these events, confirms, in every respect, what is stated in the two letters above mentioned.

Our object is not, at present, to dwell upon the causes—whatever they may have been—of our failure to reap the fruits of that first great victory of the war. We wish merely to state that General Beauregard exonerates Mr. Davis from all responsibility for the failure to pursue the enemy on the night of the 21st of July. Mr. Davis did not object to such a pursuit; on the contrary, he desired it. But it was declared inexpedient, and, after discussion, Mr. Davis himself acknowledged it to be so. This, however, does not relieve him from the responsibility of preventing, a few days or weeks later, the advance of our army, in an aggressive campaign against Washington.

On the morning after the battle an order was issued by General Beauregard, recalling his troops to their organization, and assigning them new positions, with the advance—Bonham's brigade— at Centreville. Holmes's brigade, by direction of President Davis, was ordered back to ‘its former position.’7

At the breakfast-table, on the same morning, the President handed General Beauregard the following graceful letter:

Manassas, Va., July 21st, 1861.
Sir,—Appreciating your services in the battle of Manassas and on several other occasions during the existing war, as affording the highest evidence of your skill as a commander, your gallantry as a soldier, and your zeal as a patriot, you are appointed to be “General” in the army of the Confederate States of America, and, with the consent of the Congress, will be duly commissioned accordingly.

Yours, etc.,

On the 23d, Hunton's 8th Virginia, with three companies of [120] cavalry, was ordered to re-occupy Leesburg, and Bonham's brigade, with Delaware Kemper's and Shields's batteries and a force of cavalry, were ordered to advance to Vienna Station, and Longstreet to Centreville. As the leading column was approaching Fairfax Court-House, Captain Terry, of Texas, a noted marksman, lowered the Federal flag by cutting the halliards with a rifle ball. This flag was sent, through General Longstreet, as a present to General Beauregard, but was placed among the stock of trophies where it belonged, as well as a larger flag, offered to Mr. Davis, who had already left Manassas for Richmond. Many spoils were gathered during and after the battle; and the line of march of our troops, on their way to the new positions assigned them, was rich in abandoned arms and other military property. A great deal was carried off by the people, and was recovered with much trouble.

On the 25th, Generals Johnston and Beauregard issued an address to their troops, awarding to them the praises they deserved for their patriotic courage on the battle-fields of the 18th and 21st. The concluding words were as follows: ‘Soldiers, we congratulate you on a glorious, triumphant, and complete victory. We thank you for doing your whole duty in the service of your country.’

On that day, also, General Beauregard, in anticipation, it might be said, of the future orders of the government, organized his army, as now increased into eight brigades, each of which was made up of regiments coming from a single State. But no military movement of importance could be undertaken, on account of additional embarrassments from the want of transportation and subsistence. Only one wagon and four horses were assigned to every hundred men. Each brigade staff and each hospital were limited to the same insufficient transportation. The army was living from hand to mouth, and actually suffering from want of food. Colonel R. B. Lee, the efficient Chief Commissary of the army in the field, had not been long in finding out that the ways of the Commissary-General, Colonel Northrop, were altogether impracticable; and, in order to keep our forces properly supplied, he was compelled to resort, in a measure, to the system formerly pursued by Captain Fowle, under General Beauregard's instructions, and without which the army would have fallen to pieces, even before the battle of Manassas. Colonel Northrop, thereupon, [121] became very much irritated against the energetic Colonel Lee, and, without consulting or informing the general of either army, superseded him, as he had lately done Captain Fowle, for a similar reason, appointing another Chief Commissary, namely, Major William B. Blair.

With regard to this all-important question of provisioning the army and supplying it with transportation, we put before the reader the following letters, which speak for themselves, and show General Beauregard's sagacity and intense anxiety upon these points. They also hold up to public view the appalling mismanagement of all army affairs at Richmond, in relation to the Quartermaster and Commissary Departments.

camp Pickens, July 23d, 1861.
To His Excellency the President of the Confederate States:
Sir,—I am commanded by General Beauregard to inform your Excellency that the stock of provisions has become alarmingly reduced, in consequence of the non-fulfilment of requisitions of the Commissary-General.

The general directs me to say, that unless immediate supplies are forwarded, in conformity with these requisitions, most serious consequences are inevitable.

With much respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, Lieut.-Col. C. S. A., and Chief Commissary of Army of Potomac.

On the 29th of July, no satisfactory change having resulted from the foregoing communication to the President, General Beauregard wrote the following letter to Colonels Wm. P. Miles and James Chestnut, both members of the Confederate Congress, at that time, and both of whom had acted as his volunteer aids in South Carolina and in Virginia.

Manassas, Virginia, July 29th, 1861.
My dear Colonels,—I send you, herewith, some important suggestions relative to the best mode of providing for the wants of this army, furnished me by Colonel L. M. Hatch, whose experience in such matters entitles his views and opinions to considerable weight. Unless the requirements of our army in the field are provided for beforehand, we shall be in a perfect state of destitution very shortly.

I will remark here, that we have been out of subsistence for several days, some of my regiments not having had anything to eat for more than twentyfour hours. They have stood it, though, nobly; but, if it happens again, I shall join one of their camps and share their wants with them; for I will never allow them to suppose that I feast while they suffer.

The want of food and transportation has made us lose all the fruits of our [122] victory. We ought at this moment to be in or about Washington, but we are perfectly anchored here, and God only knows when we will be able to advance; without these means we can neither advance nor retreat. The mobility of an army, which constitutes the great strength of modern armies, does not certainly form an element of ours, for we seem to be rooted to this spot.

Cannot something be done towards furnishing us more expeditiously and regularly with food and transportation?

It seems to me that if the States had been called upon to furnish their quota of wagons per regiment in the field, one of these evils could have been obviated.

From all accounts, Washington could have been taken up to the 24th instant, by twenty thousand men! Only think of the brilliant results we have lost by the two causes referred to!

Again, we must have a few more field-officers from the old service, otherwise our regiments will get worsted sooner or later.

In haste, yours truly,

On the 1st of August he forwarded the following telegram to Colonel A. C. Myers, Assistant Quartermaster-General:

Several of my brigades are entirely destitute of transportation; no advance can be made until procured. Can you not send me about one hundred wagons?

Congress becoming alarmed—and justly so—at such a state of affairs, upon information communicated to it by members of the Military Committee, instituted an investigation, which, besides very much incensing the heads of the two departments implicated, also aroused the displeasure of the President, who gave expression to his irritation in the following letter:

My dear Sir,—Enclosed I transmit copies of a resolution of inquiry and the reply to it. You will perceive that the answer was made in view of the telegram which I enclosed to you, that being the only information then before me. Since that time it has been communicated to me that your letter to Hon. Mr. Miles, on the wants of your army, and the consequences thereof, was read to the Congress, and hence the inquiry instituted. Permit me to request that you will return the telegram to me, which I enclosed to show you the form in which the matter came before me.

Some excitement has been created by your letter; the Quartermaster and the Commissary General both feel that they have been unjustly arraigned. As for myself, I can only say that I have endeavored to anticipate wants, and any failure which has occurred from imperfect knowledge might have been best avoided by timely requisitions and estimates. [123]

I think you are unjust to yourself in putting your failure to pursue the enemy to Washington to the account of short supplies of subsistence and transportation. Under the circumstances of our army, and in the absence of the knowledge since acquired, if, indeed, the statements be true, it would have been extremely hazardous to have done more than was performed. You will not fail to remember that, so far from knowing that the enemy was routed, a large part of our forces was moved by you, in the night of the 21st, to repel a supposed attack on our right, and that the next day's operations did not fully reveal what has since been reported of the enemy's panic.

Enough was done for glory, and the measure of duty was full; let us rather show the untaught that their desires are unreasonable, than, by dwelling on possibilities recently developed, give form and substance to the criticisms always easy to those who judge after the event.

With sincere esteem, I am, your friend,

The foregoing letter shows, among other things, how completely the reiterated suggestions and remonstrances and requisitions of General Beauregard concerning the necessity of supplies and transportation, had slipped President Davis's memory. We refrain from fatiguing the attention of the reader, by again placing before him the evidence and correspondence given on this subject in a preceding chapter (Chapter VI.). It is enough to say that, from the 3d of June, just after his arrival at Manassas, to the time when President Davis penned the letter given above, General Beauregard had never ceased calling his attention and that of the War Department to the vital importance of these two matters. How President Davis could possibly plead ‘imperfect knowledge,’ and complain of want ‘of timely requisitions and estimates,’ is more than we can understand; and we have sought in vain, in his book, for any satisfactory explanation of the matter. But General Beauregard's answer to the President dispenses with the necessity for further comment:

Manassas, Va., August 10th, 1861.
Dear Sir,—Your letter of the 4th instant has been received, but my endless occupations have prevented me from acknowledging it immediately, as I should have done.

I regret exceedingly to hear that Colonel Miles read my letter of the 29th to Congress. It was written only for the purpose of expediting matters, if possible, and immediately after having been informed that one brigade and two or more regiments were without food, and had been so for twenty-four hours. I had before been informed that we were short of provisions; but I never supposed it would be permitted to go to the extent referred to. Some time before the battle of the 21st ultimo I had endeavored to remedy the impending [124] evil by ordering Major Fowle, the acting Commissary-General here, to provide a certain number of rations, by purchasing in the surrounding counties, which drew from the Commissary-General of the army a letter so discourteous to me that the want of time alone prevented me from enclosing it to you for your consideration.

With regard to making timely requisitions on the Quartermaster and Commissary Department, not knowing what number of troops the War Department intended at any time to concentrate here, it was impossible to make proper requisitions until after the arrival of those troops.

I will here remark, that troops arriving at this place have often been a day or more without food in the cars, and I have had several times to order issues of provisions here to troops on their way to Winchester, for the same cause. I accuse no one, I state facts.

I am fully aware that you have done more than could be expected of you for this army, and that it is utterly impossible you should be able to direct each one of the bureaus of the War Department, but the facts referred to show a deficiency somewhere, which ought to be remedied, otherwise we will, sooner or later, be liable to the same unfortunate results.

My experience here teaches me that, after issuing an order, I have to inquire whether it has been carried into effect; this is especially the case with the newly arrived troops.

With regard to my remarks about marching on to Washington, you must have misunderstood them, for I never stated that we could have pursued the enemy on the evening of the 21st, or even on the 22d. I wrote: “The want of food and transportation has made us lose all the fruits of our victory. We ought at this time, the 29th of July, to be in or about Washington, and, from all accounts, Washington could have been taken up to the 24th inst. (July), by twenty thousand men.”

Every news from there confirms me still more in that opinion. For several days (about one week) after the battle, I could not put my new regiments in position for want of transportation. I do not say this to injure my friend Colonel Myers, but to benefit the service. We have, no doubt, by our success here, achieved “glory” for our country, but I am fighting for something more real and tangible, i. e., to save our homes and firesides from our Northern invaders, and to maintain our freedom and independence as a nation. After that task shall have been accomplished, as I feel that I am only fit for private life, I shall retire to my home, if my means will permit, never again to leave it, unless called upon to repel again the same or another foe.

With much respect, I remain,

Sincerely your friend,

The same surprise and want of knowledge expressed by President Davis, concerning the deficiency of these two departments, was also manifested—strange to say—by the QuartermasterGen-eral himself. His communication to General Beauregard, dated [125] August 1st, establishes the almost incredible fact that the head of one of the most important of our departments did not know the state of its affairs. This was but additional evidence of improvidence and mismanagement. There was this difference, however, between Colonel Myers and Colonel Northrop; the former was ever ready to correct an error when in his power to do so, the latter would not allow his errors to be pointed out, and, still less, discussed. In Colonel Myers's letter to General Beauregard, above referred to, he writes: ‘I never, until day before yesterday, have heard one word of this deficiency; then, the knowledge came to me through a despatch from General J. E. Johnston, to the Adjutant-General. I took immediate steps to collect, at Manassas, as much transportation as I suppose you will require. . . . The military operations and manoeuvres of your army are never divulged, and it is utterly impossible for me to know how to anticipate your wants. . . . We have had, so far, too many heads, which I can say to you, and which means, we have had no head at all. You should write me often, if only a line, when anything is required, and you shall be provided if possible.’

The only conclusion to be drawn from this is, that General Beauregard's demands and requisitions made to the War Department were totally disregarded, and never reached the office of the Quartermaster-General. We now give General Beauregard's answer to Colonel Myers:

Manassas, Va., August 5th, 1861.
Dear Colonel,—Your favor of the 1st has been received. My surprise was as great as yours to find that you had not been informed of our want of transportation, which has so crippled us, together with the want of provisions, that we have been anchored here since the battle, not being able to send a few regiments three or four miles from their former positions. Major Cabell says that, “Knowing your inability to comply with his former requisitions for wagons, etc., he thought it was useless to make new ones upon you, hence he was trying to get them from around here.” Be that as it may, the result was, that about fifteen thousand men were sent me by the War Department, without one solitary wagon. Before the arrival of these troops, we had, per regiment, only about twelve wagons of the meanest description, being country wagons, that break down whenever they come to a bad part of the road. General Johnston's command had only about seven wagons per regiment on arriving here. This state of things cannot and ought not to last longer.

I am perfectly willing to fight, but my troops must be provided with all the means necessary to constitute an army. I must be prepared to advance [126] or retreat according to circumstances, otherwise disasters will overtake us in every direction.

For a long time I could not get more than twenty rounds of ammunition per man, when within a few miles (not over ten) from an enemy three times our strength.

I have applied for Colonel J. L. Kemper, 7th Virginia regiment, to be made Provisional Quartermaster-General of this and Johnston's army. I wish you would aid in the matter. I should like, also, to have General McGowan, of South Carolina, appointed in that department. He would be very useful. The best man for each position must be looked for and appointed forthwith, without regard to other considerations; otherwise we will never succeed in defeating the enemy, who is more numerous than we, and has more resources at hand.

In haste, yours truly,

Upon calm reflection, an impartial mind is forced to acknowledge that the failure of this campaign, during what were so appropriately called ‘the golden days of the Confederacy,’ was the unmistakable result of short-sighted and inefficient management, the responsibility for which rests upon him who, though clearly unable to give personal supervision to and direct each detail of the wheels of government, yet would allow no latitude either to the heads of the various bureaus of the War Department, or to the generals in the field.

The unceasing efforts of General Beauregard finally succeeded in stirring up the authorities at Richmond, and brought about some effort to produce a favorable change in the administration of the Quartermaster's and Commissary's Departments. This is testified to by the following letter of Hon. W. P. Miles, of South Carolina, then chairman of the Military Committee of Congress, addressed to General Beauregard, under date of August 8th, 1861:

Dear General,—Your despatch has just been received, and I hasten to send you copy of your letter, as you desire.

Whatever “the powers that be” may think of it, or however much they may fail to relish it, I have no doubt it has had, and will continue to have, a very salutary and stimulating effect. You may rely upon it, Congress and the country sympathize with you, although there may be and are differences of opinion as to the immediate advance upon Washington.

Very truly yours,

But the improvement alluded to—a spasmodic one, it would seem, and one which had been altogether compulsory—was only of very short duration. Colonel Myers, it is fair to say, seriously [127] exerted himself, and, in a reasonable measure, satisfied many of the exigencies of the hour. But Colonel Northrop was less open to conviction. This officer, whose want of administrative capacity was obvious to all—the President alone excepted—could not be induced to pursue any other than the inefficient, improvident course he had, thus far, so persistently followed. This fact is again brought to notice by the following extract from another communication from General Beauregard to President Davis:

Headquarters 1ST corps army of the Potomac, Manassas, Va., August 23d, 1861.
To His Excellency, President Jefferson Davis, etc., etc.:
Dear Sir,—I have the honor to enclose you herewith a copy of the statement of provisions, etc., remaining on hand at this point and available, on the 21st instant, for the army of the Potomac, by which it will be seen that little improvement has taken place in that respect, since I last had the honor of addressing your Excellency on the subject, on the 10th instant; and that we are still as unprepared to advance or retreat, in consequence thereof, as at that period. A serious accident to the railroads, from here to Richmond, would place this army in quite a critical condition, so far as its subsistence is concerned.

For the active operations that we may be called upon shortly to make in this vicinity, with Camp Pickens as a pivot d'action (centre of movement), it ought to be provided with at least fifteen or twenty days provisions on hand; otherwise, to prevent the enemy from taking possession of our lines of communication, we would have to abandon this place and fall back, as our forces could not be provided with means of subsistence. I regret to say that we could not now march from here with even three days rations. I earnestly and solicitously call your attention to this important subject. Without an ample supply of provisions we will be perfectly powerless.

I hope you will do me the justice to believe that these facts are brought to your Excellency's attention, without regard whatsoever to individuals. I look only to the success of our cause, regardless of friends or foes.

* * * * * * * * *

I remain, dear Sir, respectfully,

Your obedient servant and friend,

The most effective mode of remedying these evils was, as General Beauregard and many other leading men of the country had pointed out and suggested, forthwith to remove Colonel Northrop from a position he was so inadequate to fill. But this the administration would not do. In spite of the pressure of public opinion, brought to bear against the Commissary-General, whose honesty none doubted, but whose incapacity all knew, the President persistently [128] upheld him, as he was wont to do all personal friends of his. This is corroborated by the following extract from a significant letter of the Hon. Wm. P. Miles to General Beauregard, bearing date of Richmond, August 6th, 1861.

Dear General,—I received your despatch to-day, suggesting Colonel R. B. Lee as the “best man for Commissary-General, and Colonel J. L. Kemper as Assistant Quartermaster-General.” The President has not the remotest idea of removing Colonel Northrop. On the contrary, he is under the impression that he has done everything in his power in his department. You can readily see that there is, therefore, no possibility of the radical reform you suggest in this department. In the other case it would require a reorganization of the general staff, so far as the Quartermaster Department is concerned.

* * * * * * * * *

Very sincerely yours,

Colonel Miles's opinion was more than confirmed by events. Not only was the Commissary-General maintained in his position, but his influence with the administration appeared to increase, as did, most undoubtedly, his well-known and already proverbial inefficiency. Mr. Davis's book is replete with words of praise and commendation for him. Mr. Davis has not, even to this day, forgiven those who complained, not of the motives of Colonel Northrop—who was known to be a man of character and education—but of his fearful shortcomings, so detrimental to the good of the service.

Mr. Davis says that it affords him the greatest pleasure to speak as he does of Colonel Northrop, ‘because those less informed of all he did, and skilfully tried to do, have been profuse of criticism, and sparing indeed of the meed justly his due.’8 In another part of his book he uses the following language: ‘To direct the production, preservation, collection, and distribution of food for the army, required a man of rare capacity and character at the head of the subsistence department. It was our good fortune to have such a one in Colonel L. B. Northrop, who was appointed Commissary-General at the organization of the bureaus of the executive department of the Confederate government.’9 These remarks of Mr. Davis are made in defiance of the opinion of the whole South, as entertained and openly expressed throughout the war. The disposition to defend a friend and to protect his [129] reputation is a commendable trait, which should ever be admired among men; but the First Magistrate of a free people, and Commander-in-Chief of their armies, is not a man, in the ordinary sense of the word: he must be more guarded in his encomiums of a friend; he cannot be allowed to give rein to his likes or dislikes; his eye, ever keen and watchful, must be directed to the general good of those who chose him as their leader; otherwise he betrays the trust reposed in him; he is recreant to his duty; he derides public opinion, becomes the accomplice of inefficiency, if not unworthiness, and deserves as great—perhaps greaterblame, than those he so unwisely sustains.

Mr. Davis's efforts to shield Colonel Northrop can only result in shaking the confidence heretofore felt by many persons in the judgment and sagacity of the ex-President of the Confederacy, without doing the slightest good to his former CommissaryGen-eral. It would have been kinder, on the part of Mr. Davis, to have adopted towards him the course he never hesitates to follow towards those whose merits he cannot deny, but will not admit— pass him by in silence, as though he had never been an actor in the great drama wherein were lost most of the fondest hopes of the South.

The supply of fifteen or twenty days rations, at Manassas, suggested in the foregoing communication to the President, as a necessary preparation for probable movements of the army, had long been the subject of General Beauregard's anxious thought. As we have already seen (Chapter VI.), he had endeavored, as early as June, to collect many of the wagons he needed, and ‘twentyfive days' rations for about twenty thousand men.’ Again, a little later, he caused the following order to be given to his Chief Commissary:

Headquarters army of the Potomac, Manassas Junction, July 7th, 1861.
Captain W. H. Fowle, Camp Pickens:
Captain,—The general commanding directs that you take prompt and effective measures to provide forthwith, at your depot near these headquarters, ample provisions—including fat cattle—for twenty-five thousand men for two weeks, and that amount, at least, must be constantly maintained on land, subject to requisition, until otherwise ordered.

Thomas Jordan, A. A. G.

That this had not been done, at the time referred to, or at any [130] subsequent period, General Beauregard's earnest appeal to the President for such supplies very conclusively demonstrates. It is almost unnecessary to add, that no action was taken by the War Department to carry out these all-important suggestions; and that, far from any advance on the enemy being made practicable for us, we were saved from the calamities foreseen and dreaded by General Beauregard, not through efforts of the administration, but by the simple fact that the enemy was so crippled and demoralized as to preclude any forward movement on his part.

1 ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,’ vol. i. p. 354.

2 Ibid. vol. i. p. 355.

3 I Ibid. vol. i. pp. 355, 356.

4 ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,’ vol. i. p. 359.

5 See report of battle, in Chapter IX.

6 From a letter of General Bonham to General Beauregard.

7 See Appendix to this chapter.

8 ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,’ vol. i. p. 315.

9 Ibid. vol. i. p. 303.

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