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Chapter 12:


While the organization of the army into divisions was being effected, General Beauregard, from close scrutiny of the Northern journals, had come to the conclusion that an early attack was meditated against his lines. To avoid all possibility of surprise, and deceive the enemy about his real strength, he caused rockets to be distributed to his command, with minute instructions as to their use. Very shortly afterwards, as night had just set in, Captain E. P. Alexander, whose zeal and activity were untiring, came to headquarters and reported that rockets were being thrown up, in a very strange manner, from the lines of the forces opposing us. General Beauregard at once ordered the discharge of the appropriate signals; and, in a few moments a counter-blaze of rockets swept the sky along the entire line of the Confederate pickets, which extended about ten miles from the Occoquan, on the right, to the vicinity of the Potomac, north of Falls Church, on the left. The consequence was a most extraordinary illumination, which produced an excitement in Washington, where charges soon became rife that officers of the War Department had given information of an intended advance by McClellan, in the night, which the Confederates had shown their readiness to meet. [153]

Through the same officer (Captain Alexander), General Beauregard had also succeeded in establishing a signal telegraph between Mason's and Munson's Hills and Washington. A piece of new tin, made to perform certain turns in the sunlight, by a friendly hand, from the window of an elevated mansion in the Federal capital, informed him of McClellan's movements. True, the information was only of a general character, and, uncorroborated, could not have been of much assistance. But it served to arouse his attention, and what with the secret service of his underground railroad and the news culled from Northern journals, which were regularly procured, he arrived at a fairly correct knowledge of the enemy's intentions. To render this communication more efficient, an alphabet was afterwards established and messages were sent by moving the shades on the several windows of the mansion alluded to, which, at night, was well lighted up, to make the signs visible. From Mason's and Munson's Hills answers were given by the usual system, that is to say, flags in the daytime, and lanterns as soon as it grew dark. From Washington, lights were resorted to for night signals, and, for the day, the shifting of window curtains, right and left of an imaginary central line. As to General Beauregard's headquarters and his different outposts, they were put in communication by means of wire telegraph.

The inability of the President to aid in the execution of the aggressive campaign so urgently pressed upon him had left no other course open but to take a defensive position and ‘await the winter and its results.’ We were to take no initiatory steps, and fight only if attacked. Believing that a period of enforced inactivity would now ensue, General Beauregard's thoughts were turned to the dangers which might threaten the Southern ports—especially New Orleans; and on the 5th of October, in a letter addressed to the Secretary of War, he expressed his desire to be sent there during the probable suspension of hostilities in Virginia. He gave it as his opinion that New Orleans, Mobile, Galveston, and Berwick Bay, along the Gulf of Mexico, would undoubtedly be assailed, and should be protected by field defences proper to withstand attack, until reinforcements could come to the rescue. He also called attention to the exposure of Port Royal, South Carolina, as a harbor of safety on the Atlantic, for the Federals, and as leading directly to the railroad communication between Charleston and Savannah. [154]

On the 6th, Major-General Mansfield Lovell, who had joined the Southern cause, and had just been commissioned in the Provisional Army, came to Fairfax Court-House, requesting General Beauregard's counsel with regard to the defense of New Orleans, whither he had been ordered by the War Department. This counsel General Beauregard gave him with great care and much minuteness. It is proper here to state, that, during the recent visit of President Davis to Fairfax Court-House, the subject of the unprotected condition of New Orleans having arisen, General Beauregard, expressing his regret that the Military Board of Louisiana had taken no action as to the suggestions he had made to them, in February, 1861, again strongly urged his views about constructing floating booms between Forts Jackson and St. Philip, to obstruct the passage of a Federal fleet, should such be attempted. The President gave but little weight to these suggestions, and appeared to have no apprehension as to the safety of that city.

In his interview with General Lovell, General Beauregard emphasized, both orally and in writing, the absolute necessity of such an obstruction, and hoped that General Lovell, who had approved of his system, would lose no time in putting it into operation. Later events showed, however, that the work was not constructed as planned and advised by General Beauregard, both in his conference with General Lovell and in his memoir to the Louisiana Military Board.1

A few days later, General Johnston, apprehending the approaching cold weather, proposed that the forces should now fall back and establish their winter quarters at Manassas. General Beauregard, whose arrangements for signal communication with Washington had been perfected, was reluctant to retire without a trial of their present opportunity against the enemy. But there was no way of avoiding the movement. General Beauregard, fearing the bad effect upon the army and the people of a retreat to the point held by us before our late victory, proposed Centreville instead of Manassas; and, to overcome the objection that the former place was somewhat commanded by a succession of heights too distant to be embraced within the Confederate line, he undertook himself to prepare its defences. The order to [155] withdraw his army, however, was so abrupt as to be impracticable without giving the movement the appearance of flight, and involving the loss of valuable property; it was not executed, therefore, until the 18th or 19th.

Inwithdrawing from Mason's and Munson's Hills, the Confederates took their last view of the Federal capital, and bade farewell to a post where soldierly enjoyment, under the exhilaration of successful daring, had been at its highest during days still pleasantly remembered as the festive period of the army life. The positions we abandoned were excellent points of observation, from which the tents of General McClellan's army might be counted; and the fact of our being so near the enemy confused him as to our plan of operations, for our position seemed to promise offensive measures on our part, and denoted both confidence and strength. Under a bolder direction, the two hills would have been fortified and made central strategic and tactical points. They were scarcely more than seven miles, in an air line, from Washington, whence the Confederate flag was clearly visible, and acted as a red capa on the impetuous and imprudent politicians, provoking them to insist upon a premature attack. Had the two hills been fortified and supplied with artillery, and the adjacent ground arranged for a pitched battle, into which the enemy might have been drawn in an attempt to seize them, the result to General McClellan might have been made destructive, as, on his side, the ground was very bad, and unfavorable to the movements of troops.2 Such an attack was intended by him about the time the positions were abandoned.

The Confederate forces now took up a line of triangular shape, with Centreville as the salient, one side running to Union Mills and the other to the stone bridge, with outposts of regiments three or four miles forward in all directions, and cavalry pickets as far in advance as Fairfax Court-House. The Federals followed with a corresponding advance of their outposts. Afterwards, upon the closer approach of the enemy, in order to supply the deficiency of cannon, General Beauregard devised a substitute in wooden logs, so shaped and blackened as to present the appearance of guns. They were covered with a shed of brush and leaves, so as to escape balloon observations, and made quite an imposing array, [156] the peaceful character of which very much surprised the Federal forces when they occupied these works, after their evacuation in the spring.

On the 19th, General McClellan having ordered McCall's division to Drainsville, about sixteen miles west of Alexandria, to cover reconnoissances in that quarter, and procure supplies, directed Brigadier-General Stone to feign a crossing of the Potomac from Poolsville, Maryland, and threaten Leesburg, held by one of General Beauregard's brigades, under Colonel Evans. He hoped by these movements to induce the evacuation of the place. On the 21st, while General McCall was returning to his camp at Langley, General Stone began crossing his division at Edwards's Ferry, and one of his subordinates, General Baker, engaged Colonel Evans in the forenoon. During the day General Stone threw over his entire division, and the battle continued until night, when the Federal forces were completely routed, and many of them, driven over the steep banks at Ball's Bluff, lost their lives in the river.3

Upon receiving from Evans immediate news of the conflict, General Beauregard proposed to General Johnston to march at once, with sufficient force, and cut off General Stone's retreat, as the Potomac, swollen by rains, was then difficult to cross. General Johnston did not agree to this, fearing that some occurrence might take place requiring the presence of all our forces with the main army. While Banks's division, from Darnestown, Maryland, moved to his support, General Stone intrenched on the Virginia shore, but did not succeed in recrossing until the night of the 23d and 24th.

Just at this time transports had been observed descending the Potomac, laden with a heavy armament, reported to be intended for use against General Magruder, who commanded at Yorktown, on the Peninsula below Richmond, and a heavy force had, meanwhile, gathered north of the Potomac, opposite to Evans. Seizing the opportunity, General Beauregard proposed a resolute attack against McClellan's extreme right, exposed by its salience in the quarter of Drainsville, in order to relieve Evans and break through the enemy's plans; but the proposition was not assented to by General Johnston,

Evans's loss at Ball's Bluff was forty men. He captured fourteen [157] officers and seven hundred men. The entire loss of the enemy, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was between one thousand and twelve hundred. Among the slain was General Baker, whose body was returned to the Federal lines. When, at a later date, General Stone was arrested and put on trial for his conduct of that expedition, Colonel Jordan, General Beauregard's Chief of Staff, noticed in a Northern journal that one of the charges against General Stone was his failure to give certain orders to General Baker. Written orders, however, had been found on General Baker's body, which would aid in vindicating General Stone; and Colonel Jordan, having mentioned the fact to General Beauregard, the latter caused the papers to be immediately sent North, under a flag of truce; an act of chivalry to the imperilled honor of a foe.

Until early October, the personal relations of General Beauregard with the government officials—except in the case of Colonel Northrop's violent eccentricities—had been those of unstudied friendship, although serious obstructions had also been encountered from the Quartermaster's Department at Richmond. Having now occasion to recommend the appointment of Mr. T. B. Ferguson, as Chief of Ordnance of the ‘First Corps,’ in the place of Captain E. P. Alexander, whose services had been transferred to General Johnston, on account of his needs as General-in-Chief, General Beauregard received from a subordinate in the War Department4 the brief reply that the President did not approve the division of the army into two corps, and preferred that there should be but one Chief of Ordnance to the Army of the Potomac.

General Beauregard was more than disappointed at this abrupt, unceremonious way of rejecting his demand. Though not always successful in his applications, he had been accustomed to more courteous treatment from the War Department. He thought that, apart from the question of giving him an ordnance officer, of the need of whose services he was no doubt the better judge, the President ought not arbitrarily to interfere with measures of usefulness and efficiency, which generals actually in the field could more accurately appreciate and more wisely manage. In the antagonism of Mr. Davis to a system of organization which had [158] been working with remarkable success for several weeks, he saw a fixed purpose to thwart not only his own views, but more particularly those of General Johnston, whose relations with Richmond were already growing to be of a delicate and uneasy character. He therefore expressed his dissatisfaction to the Secretary of War, and went so far as to say, that if he was to understand, by such a letter, that he was no longer in command of an army corps, he requested to be relieved at once from his false position; otherwise, he desired the services of a Chief of Ordnance. He urged that the more imperfect the elements of an army in the field, the greater should be its subdivisions under competent officers, in order that commanders might spare, for their most important duties, the time and attention unprofitably lost in devotion to minor details; and that Mr. Ferguson's appointment was to provide a Chief of Ordnance to attend to the duties of that important department. He also addressed the President on the same subject.

In the month of August, Adjutant-General Cooper had earnestly approved General Beauregard's proposition to introduce a rocket battery in his command. The object of such a battery has already been explained. The Chief of Ordnance, having procured the manufacture of the rockets, General Beauregard intrusted Captain E. P. Alexander with the organization of the battery, and in the latter end of September, upon his recommendation, had authorized Lieutenant Edmund Cummins to enlist a rocket company of fifty volunteers. Being now in Richmond on this duty, Lieutenant Cummins, on application to the Post Quartermaster and Commissary, found his authority questioned, and no attention given to his requisitions. Referred ultimately for recognition to the Secretary of War, Mr. Benjamin, the latter told him to wait until the President should decide the matter. He then finally informed him that his orders were invalid, and remanded him to the army. There followed a letter from the Secretary of War to General Beauregard, expressing his ‘no small surprise’ that he should have committed an act ‘without warrant in law,’ and informing him that he could be excused and ‘go unpunished,’ only on account of his motive and his defect of judgment. This uncalled — for and altogether unwarrantable language, on the part of the Secretary of War, staggered General Beauregard, as it seemed improbable that Mr. Benjamin had ventured it on his own responsibility. Viewed as an extreme expedient to provoke a [159] predetermined quarrel, it corroborated warnings already received from high quarters, warnings too authentic to be wholly disregarded, to which, however, General Beauregard had been unwilling to yield entire credence. Overlooking Mr. Benjamin, he referred his letter to the President, to whom he exposed the Secretary's ignorance upon the subject, and protested against his ill-timed obstructions and arguments. The following is an extract from the letter, written to Mr. Davis, under date of October 20th, 1861.

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I have felt it due to your Excellency and the country, at this juncture, as well as to myself, to invoke your notice of this matter, so that guard may be placed against a recurrence of this character of correspondence. . . . I am utterly at a loss to understand wherein my course, in connection with the subjectmatter of the Secretary's letter, can be pronounced “without warrant in law,” and be the source of “ so much surprise.” The Secretary seems to be unaware, evidently, that a rocket company is but a field artillery company, nothing more, and not, by any means, a special corps or arm of the service, like that, for example, of sappers, miners, or pontoniers—as I apprehend he supposes— requiring congressional enactments for its organization, in addition to existing laws. An acquaintance with the history of the military establishment and organization of the late United States would have protected the Acting Secretary from this misapprehension, as he would have then known in what way, during the war with Mexico, a rocket battery was organized for the field, with the army under General Scott. . . .

But in this very matter, it so happens I did not act without consultation with all proper authorities. Assured of the difficulties in getting field guns in any adequate number for the exigency, and convinced of the value of war rockets against such troops as our adversaries have, I despatched an officer of my staff—Captain E. P. Alexander—last August, to Richmond, to consult and arrange measures with the proper departments. He saw the Adjutant-General of the army on the subject, and received, I am happy to say, the most ample, cordial approval of the plan; and the Chief of Ordnance took immediate steps for manufacturing the rockets with the utmost celerity.

On the return of Captain Alexander from his mission, so satisfactorily concluded in all respects, it became proper to secure men to be ready for the rocket battery, so that no time should be lost. It so happened that a valuable officer, by circumstances thrown out of employment, was available, and thought to be particularly fitted for the command of a rocket battery; while it was believed that he could readily recruit a company without subtracting from our already too weak army. Under these circumstances, I need not say to your Excellency, I did not hesitate to direct him to recruit such a company as soon as possible. . . . God knows, in all I do at this time, I have no other end in view than the good and success of our cause and the interests of our country, now sorely pressed; and I can and do confidently deny the allegation of the Acting Secretary, that my conduct has been wanting in judgment in this [160] connection. I am quite willing, indeed, that you shall decide whose “judgment” has been most at fault—that of your general, who has simply done what was essential to provide men to handle the rockets as soon as ready for use, and thus materially increase his means of defence and ability to maintain our imperilled cause; or that of the functionary at his desk, who deems it a fit time to weave technical pleas of obstruction, to debate about the prerogative of his office and of your Excellency's, and to write lectures on law while the enemy is mustering in our front, with at least three times our force in infantry, and four times as much artillery.

In the interest of the country, you have been graciously pleased to delegate to myself and other generals in command of the armies of the Confederate States, ample powers—which could be readily adduced — under which I could show full “warrant” for what I have done. Strange, indeed, were it not so; passing strange that a general officer, intrusted with such an army as I command, and the solemn, momentous duties imposed “upon him at this time,” should be left utterly without power to add to his forces a single company, in the simple manner proposed in Special Orders No. 353; and that the attempt to do so should fill a high public functionary with so much surprise that I can only be excused and “go unpunished” in view of my motives and defect of judgment.

* * * * * * * * *

Excuse me for the length of this letter, the subject-matter of which I now hope to dismiss, and about which I can have no controversy whatever with the Secretary at this time.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

As General Beauregard wrote the foregoing communication, another letter came from the Secretary on the subject of the appointment of a Chief of Ordnance, and the question of treating the armies of the Potomac and of the Shenandoah as two corps of one army, characterized, likewise, by an unjustified and offensive license of expression. This, also, General Beauregard felt bound to refer to the President, with the request that he might be shielded from a repetition of such personal attacks. He said:

I am willing that, in the future, my countrymen shall adjudge whether or not I have “studied” aright the legislation of Congress in relation to army organizations; whether, as the honorable Secretary courteously advises, I have taken the ‘pains’ to read the laws of Congress, made to “provide for the public defence;” or whether, in my ignorance of that legislation, I require enlightenment after the manner of the communication enclosed.

Meantime I am here, as the soldier of the cause, ready, to the best of my ability, to execute the orders of the government, either with regard to the organization of this army or its operations, asking only for definite orders from [161] the proper source, and expressed in proper terms. I am ready to act in any capacity demanded of me.

With this, I shall leave it to your Excellency, an educated soldier, keenly alive to all the sensibilities which our profession and associations engender, to shield me, for the present, from these ill-timed, unaccountable annoyances.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Though, as between General Beauregard and the Secretary of War personally, these letters were well answered by a significant silence on the part of the former, yet they produced on his mind a painful impression. In close proximity to an enemy far superior in number to our forces, and who, at any moment, might make an attack upon us—every hour of his life, apart from brief rest, being devoted to the hard task before him—he felt keenly this absence of support, and the refusal of such an easy increase to his scant resources; all the more strange, as it had been previously approved of by the heads of two high department bureaus, to whom it had been submitted, and whose sanction had clothed it with all sufficient authority.

Notwithstanding—and immediately following—this correspondence, General Beauregard, ever forgetful of self, and thinking only of the interests of the cause, exchanged views with the President respecting this important point of army organization. It was done in the same spirit of friendliness and kindness of tone that had hitherto prevailed between them. The Army of the Potomac (General Beauregard's) and that of the Shenandoah (General Johnston's) had never been merged by any order of the War Department, but had been designated by both generals, since the battle of Manassas, the First and Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac, for convenience and abbreviation; and, though separate in administration, had been considered as acting together under the chief command of General Johnston, as senior officer present; General Beauregard retaining command of his own troops, and Major-General G. W. Smith taking charge of General Johnston's forces proper. That the War Department, as we have already alleged, was fully cognizant of this fact, is further shown by the very letter informing General Beauregard of the President's disapproval of such a division. A. T. Bledsoe, ‘Chief Bureau of War’—as he signs himself in that letter dated ‘War Department, Richmond, October 8th, 1861’—says: ‘The letter of Captain E. P. Alexander, [162] recommending T. B. Ferguson for the post of Chief of Ordnance for the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac, with your endorsement, has been referred,’ etc. Besides, all the official papers sent by Generals Johnston and Beauregard for months past to the War Department, or to the President, had been headed ‘First’ or ‘Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac.’ It is natural to suppose, therefore, that the change in the President's mind, which induced him to disapprove, at this late hour, of what he had tacitly—if not otherwise—consented to, had been brought about by reasons and influences having very little to do with the real question at issue.

The War Department acted on the theory that General Beauregard was in command of the whole united army; but, that there being another officer present of equal grade and anterior commission, the latter was first in command of the whole, and General Beauregard second in command of the whole. The General represented to Mr. Davis the evil consequences of this theory, as virtually throwing out of position several officers of the highest grades, upon the junction of their forces for some great object, and at the very time when their services, in command of their proper corps, were most needed; as in the event of General Lee's army, in Northwestern Virginia, and General Holmes's, at Aquia Creek, uniting with Generals Johnston's and Beauregard's. There would thus be a second and third commander of the whole army, which would result in all the generals, excepting the senior one— General Lee—being out of service. He brought forward and dwelt upon another reason, which was that, with such an organization, separate inferior commanders would not be so prompt to execute a junction at a critical moment.

This theory of the War Department was without precedent in military administration, and one of its many evils, depending on the possible deductions of the department, was the present withdrawal, from an entire army corps, of the services of a Chief of Ordnance, on the ground that the army of the junior officer was absorbed, and there existed no such legal organization as a ‘corps.’ The President also desired that divisions, as well as brigades, should be composed of troops from the same State. General Beauregard had already thus organized his brigades on the 25th of July, but declared his judgment against extending the rule to divisions, because, in case a division thus organized were cut to [163] pieces or captured in battle, the loss would fall too heavily on a single State; and in this Mr. Davis seemed to agree, as that form of organization was not further urged.

President Davis also wrote strongly, assuring General Beauregard that the Acting Secretary of War had intended no offense, asking him to overlook the language of the technical lawyer, and stating his conviction of the latter's regard and admiration for the General; though, meanwhile, Mr. Benjamin, certain of impunity, was writing, upon other matters, letters of like impropriety, under cover of the forms of conventional courtesy.

General Beauregard's attention was now drawn to a controversy, raised in the press, about that portion of a published synopsis of his Manassas report which revealed to the public his plan of campaign, as proposed to the President through Colonel Chestnut, for the occupation of Maryland and the capture of Washington,5 which had been, at that time, the 14th of July, 1861, discarded by Mr. Davis and pronounced impracticable. This publication, and the discussion arising from it, were subjects of much concern to General Beauregard, who, deploring all division among our leaders, refused to take any part whatever in the controversy. Finally, however, but only with a view to allay public feeling, he wrote to the Richmond Whig a letter, which called forth the warm praise of his numerous friends, who were anxious, as he was himself, that the cause of public defence should not be embarrassed by personal contests. We deem it proper to lay this whole letter before the reader.

Centreville, Va. (within hearing of the enemy's guns), Nov. 3d, 1861.
To the Editors of the Richmond Whig:
Gentlemen,—My attention has just been called to an unfortunate controversy now going on, relative to the publication of the synopsis of my report of the battle of Manassas. None can regret more than I do this publication, which was made without my knowledge or authority.

The President is the sole judge of when and what parts of the report of a commanding officer should be made public. I, individually, do not object to delaying its publication as long as the War Department shall think it necessary and proper for the success of our cause.

Meanwhile, I entreat my friends not to trouble themselves about refuting the slanders and calumnies aimed at me. Alcibiades, on a certain occasion, resorted to a singular method to occupy the minds of his traducers; let, then. ‘that synopsis’ answer the same purpose for me in this instance, [164]

If certain minds cannot understand the difference between patriotism, the highest civic virtue, and office-seeking, the lowest civic occupation, I pity them from the bottom of my heart. Suffice it to say, that I prefer the respect and esteem of my countrymen to the admiration and envy of the world. I hope, for the sake of our cause and country, to be able, with the assistance of a kind Providence, to answer my calumniators with new victories over our national enemies; but I have nothing to ask of the country, the government, or my friends, except to afford me all the aid they can, in the great struggle we are now engaged upon. I am not, and never expect or desire to be, a candidate for any civil office in the gift of the people or of the executive. The acme of my ambition is, after having cast my mite in the defense of our sacred cause, and assisted, to the best of my ability, in securing our rights and independence as a nation, to retire into private life (my means then permitting never to leave my home, unless to fight again the battles of my country.

Respectfully, your most obedient servant,

The circumstances attending the publication of this letter are described with graphic precision by Mr. Pollard, in his book entitled ‘Lee and his Lieutenants,’ pp. 246-248. Our only surprise, after reading what the author there asserts of the causes leading to the unfriendly relations which, from that time, existed between the President and General Beauregard, is that he should have deemed General Beauregard's letter unnecessary, and its ‘publication ill-advised.’ Had he not disclaimed all idea of rivalry with the President and openly declared that he was no aspirant to political honors, the animosity displayed by President Davis would have been still greater against him, to the manifest injury of the public service. Mr. Pollard says: ‘Whatever the merits of that controversy, it is not to be denied that from this time there commenced to be evident that jealousy or dislike on the part of the administration towards General Beauregard which, through the war, tended to cripple his energies and neutralized his best plans of campaign.’ Such being the case, what might not have been the result, had General Beauregard, by his silence, confirmed Mr. Davis in his avowed suppositions concerning him? The following letter testifies to the feelings which appear to have been suddenly aroused in Mr. Davis's mind. It explains the hostile attitude of his administration towards General Beauregard, and fully justifies the latter in his endeavor to set himself right before the country. The importance and the significant bearing of this letter render necessary its publication entire. [165]

Sir,—Yesterday my attention was called to various newspaper publications purporting to have been sent from Manassas, and to a synopsis of your report of the battle of the 21st of July past, and in which it is represented that you had been overruled by me in your plan for a battle with the enemy south of the Potomac, for the capture of Baltimore and Washington, and the liberation of Maryland.

I inquired for your long-expected report, and it has to-day been submitted to my inspection; it appears by official endorsement to have been received by the Adjutant-General on the 15th of October, though it is dated August 26th, 1861.6

With much surprise I found that the newspaper statements were sustained by the text of your report.

I was surprised, because, if we did differ in opinion as to the measures and purposes of contemplated campaigns, such fact could have no appropriate place in the report of a battle; further, because it seemed to be an attempt to exalt yourself at my expense; and especially because no such plan as that described was submitted to me.7 It is true that some time before it was ordered you expressed a desire for the junction of General Johnston's army with your own. The movement was postponed until the operations of the enemy rendered it necessary, and until it became thereby practicable to make it with safety to the valley of Virginia. Hence, I believe, was secured the success by which it was attended.

If you have retained a copy of the plan of campaign which you say was submitted to me through Colonel Chestnut, allow me to request that you will furnish me with a duplicate of it.

Very respectfully yours, etc.,

The tenor of this letter, the assertions it contains, and the expressions made use of by President Davis are so extraordinary, and denote such a state of mental irritation, that, though reluctant, we are compelled to fix public attention upon it. The pressure [166] of official business may have contributed to weaken the President's memory of many an event that occurred between the beginning of the war and the period we now write of; but that the proposition of so momentous a campaign, urged and presented to his consideration through the medium of such a man as Colonel Chestnut, could have altogether disappeared from his memory, is an assertion which we regret that Mr. Davis ever made. Still more to be deplored is the further assertion that the junction of General Johnston's army with General Beauregard's was purposely postponed by him (the President) until that junction became opportune and thus ‘secured the success by which it was attended.’ While writing these words, Mr. Davis had evidently lost sight of the telegram sent by General Cooper—it is needless to say by whose authority—which is given in full in the Appendix to Chapter VIII. of this work. For convenience, we copy it again, as follows:

We have no intelligence from General Johnston. If the enemy in front of you has abandoned an immediate attack, and General Johnston has not moved, you had better withdraw the call upon him, so that he may be left to his full discretion.8 All the troops arriving at Lynchburg are ordered to join you. From this place we will send as fast as transportation permits. The enemy is advised at Washington of the projected movement of Generals Johnston and Holmes, and may vary his plans in conformity thereto.

S. Cooper, Adjutant-General.

Had General Beauregard obeyed the instructions there given by the War Department, and ‘withdrawn’ his call upon General Johnston, need we say that no ‘junction’ would have taken place at all, and that the ‘success by which it was attended’ would never have caused Mr. Davis the gratification he expressed?

Here are glaring facts which cannot be gainsaid. It was only when the War Department had been informed, on the 17th of July, that the enemy, in force, had driven in General Bonham's pickets, at Fairfax Court-House, not more than twelve miles from Manassas, that General Beauregard was allowed to call upon General Johnston, then at Winchester, more than sixty miles away on his left, and upon General Holmes, then at Aquia Creek, about [167] thirty miles distant on his right, to form a junction with him at Manassas. And it must be remembered, that General Beauregard's forces at that moment numbered about eighteen thousand men, while those of General McDowell, at and advancing on Fairfax Court-House, amounted to some forty thousand. And it was only because General Beauregard's sagacious strategy forced the enemy to follow General Bonham in his preconcerted retreat to Mitchell's Ford, the only strong point of General Beauregard's defensive line, that he was enabled to defeat McDowell on the 18th, and hold him in check until the 20th, when General Holmes joined his forces with General Beauregard's, and General Johnston arrived with part of his own, the other and larger portion of which only reached the point of concentration about 3 P. M. on the 21st, while the battle was in fierce progress and we were near being overpowered. Procrastination and hesitation are always fatal to military success. It is through waiting for the enemy to develop his plans that great battles and great opportunities in war are lost. Two days after forwarding his letter to the Richmond Whig— to wit, on November the 5th—General Beauregard addressed a communication to the President, accepting his assurance that the Secretary of War had meant no offence by his previous communications, but protesting that the latter should not call his motives into question, and, when seeking to point out errors, should do it in a more becoming tone and style. Alluding to the reference made by Mr. Davis to the ‘technical lawyer,’ He expressed his concern lest Mr. Benjamin, following the professional bent of his mind, would view only the legal aspect of things, and insensibly put both the army and himself into the ‘strait jackets’ of the law.

Mr. Davis, with the tenacity which characterized his whole career as President, would not admit that the Secretary whom he had selected could, under any circumstances, commit an error or impropriety. And the injudicious support he had given, before, to Colonel Northrop, he now, but more directly, bestowed upon Mr. Benjamin, careless of the wide-spread evils which might result from such an act. If he did not prompt the course of Mr. Benjamin,9 he openly interposed himself to soothe the exaggerated susceptibilities [168] of his Secretary of War, and sacrificed the feelings and pride of a general who enjoyed, as he well knew, the full confidence of both army and people.

We extract the following passages from his answer to General Beauregard:

Richmond, Va., November 10th, 1861.
General G. T. Beauregard:
Sir,—When I addressed you in relation to your complaint because of the letters written to you by Mr. Benjamin, Acting Secretary of War, it was hoped that you would see that you had misrepresented his expressions, and would be content.

* * * * * * * * *

I do not feel competent to instruct Mr. Benjamin in the matter of style; there are few whom the public would, probably, believe fit for that task. But the other point quoted from your letter presents matters for graver consideration, and it is that which induces me to reply. It cannot be peculiar to Mr. Benjamin to look at every exercise of official power in its legal aspect, and you surely did not intend to inform me that your army and yourself are outside of the limits of the law.

It is my duty to see that the laws are faithfully executed, and I cannot recognize the pretension of any one that their restraint is too narrow for him.

Very respectfully,

It was a polemic turn of words to give such meaning to General Beauregard's language as applied to the facts and to Mr. Davis's own suggestion about the ‘technical lawyer.’ Mr. Benjamin's possible merits as to ‘style’ were, then, of little moment to the public; the graver matter being that it was ‘peculiar’ to the Administrator of the War Department to be ‘a poor civilian who knows nothing about war,’ as he had regarded himself until clothed with the pretensions of office;10 and to make up for his lack of usefulness in that important seat, he was pleased to indulge in abstract and futile disquisitions. The least, though still great, harm of this peculiarity was the loss of time it occasioned, the weight it became upon the service, when pushed to the extent of [169] harassing a general in the field, with sensitive personal cares, at a time when his headquarters were ‘within sound of the enemy's guns.’

As soon as he could, General Beauregard replied to the President's letter respecting the Manassas report, but made it a point to take no notice whatever of its personal imputations. It was impossible, of course, to comply literally with the request for a duplicate of the copy of the plan said to have been submitted, as the plan was not written, but presented to Mr. Davis himself, through Colonel Chestnut, who carried a written memorandum of its main features, and full verbal instructions. General Beauregard's answer read as follows:

Headquarters 1ST corps army of the Potomac, Centreville, Va., Nov. 22d, 1861.
Sir,--In compliance with your request, I have the honor to enclose you herewith, at the earliest moment practicable, a copy of the following papers relating to the strategic part of my report of the battle of Manassas, to wit:

1st. Report of the Hon. James Chestnut of his visit to Richmond, July 14th, 1861, to submit to you my plan of operations for the defeat of the enemy. The original of this report has just been received from New Orleans, where it had been sent for safe-keeping, with other important papers.11

2d. Abstract of my report, containing only the strategic portion of it.12

3d. Letter of Brigadier-General Sam. Jones, giving his recollection of the memorandum dictated to him by me, at about 11 o'clock P. M., on the 13th of July last, for the use of Colonel James Chestnut, one of my volunteer aids. The memorandum was never returned to me, and I kept no copy of it.13

4th. Nine telegrams received or sent by me, from the 15th to the 19th July, 1861.14

I remain, Sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

‘To his Excellency President Jefferson Davis, Richmond, Va.

1 See Chapter I., page 17, about obstructions and floating boom between Forts Jackson and St. Philip.

2 General McClellan so describes it in his report.

3 From General McClellan's Report.

4 A. T. Bledsoe, Assistant Secretary of War.

5 Chapter VIII:, page 85.

6 General Beauregard's report of the battle of Manassas had been written and was about to be forwarded to the War Department, when the Federal reports began to appear in the Northern papers. Taking advantage of many facts and incidents thus divulged, and of important admissions on the part of the enemy, General Beauregard determined to transform his report into a full ‘history’ of the battle—which was accordingly done—thereby considerably adding to its length and value. The first portion of the report, containing what was termed the ‘strategy’ of the campaign, remained unchanged, and, by an oversight, the date was left as originally written. A letter from General Beauregard to General Cooper showed distinctly, however, when the ‘history’ of the battle was prepared and sent in to Richmond.

7 The italics are ours.

8 The italics are ours.

9 The Hon. L. P. Walker, of Alabama, being a civilian, without knowledge of army matters, accepted the position of Secretary of War, with the express understanding that President Davis, who had been Secretary of War under President Pierce, should direct the affairs of the office. Doubtless, Mr. Benjamin filled the post in the same way.

10 See letter of Mr. Benjamin to General Beauregard after the fall of Sumter, Chapter V.

11 See Colonel Chestnut's report to General Beauregard, given in full in Chapter VIII.

12 The abstract alluded to is the first part of the Manassas Report, to be found in Appendix to Chapter IX.

13 Brigadier-General Sam. Jones's letter appears in full in Appendix to Chapter VIII.

14 Most of the telegrams referred to are given in Chapter VIII. One of them appears in full in this Chapter.

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