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Chapter 14:

  • The part taken by General Johnston in the battle of Manassas.
  • -- he assumes no direct responsibility, and, though superior in rank, desires General Beauregard to exercise full command. -- President Davis did not plan the campaign; ordered concentration at the last moment; arrived on the battle-field after the enemy had been routed. -- pursuit ordered and begun, but checked in consequence of false alarm. -- advance on Washington made impossible by want of transportation and subsistence.

Various are the comments and animadversions that have been made upon the conduct of the Manassas campaign, and the Confederate victory resulting from it. The clearest and most satisfactory evidence exists with regard to what then occurred. The public, informed of the truth, would have naturally accepted it; but public opinion has been studiously kept in a state of uncertainty by the propounding of many insidious questions which may not here be passed without being set at rest.

What has been said, and is yet persisted in, by those who, through error or otherwise, have drawn false conclusions from the contradictory accounts of these events, may be classified and condensed under three heads:

1. Was it not General Johnston, the superior in rank of General Beauregard, who planned and fought the battle of Manassas? Did not the latter merely act as one of the former's subordinates, and in obedience to orders received?

2. Was not President Davis the originator of the concentration of our forces at and around Manassas? Was it not his timely presence on the battle-field, and his inspiriting influence over the troops, that secured victory to our arms?

3. Why was not the pursuit of the enemy continued after the battle of Manassas? Admitting the impossibility of doing so on the evening of the 21st of July, why was it not attempted afterwards?

It is due to the distinguished services of General Beauregard, no less than to the truth, that each of the points enumerated above [192] shall be carefully and impartially examined, with the declared object not to argue, but simply to demonstrate.

I. It must be borne in mind that General Johnston arrived at Manassas on the 20th of July, at noon; that is to say, only half a day, and one night, before the battle of the 21st. He would certainly have arrived too late, had not the result of the action of Bull Run, on the 18th, deterred General McDowell from sooner making his contemplated attack. And it must also be borne in mind that General Johnston marched to the assistance of General Beauregard, not of his own free will, or to prepare for a battle he had already planned, but in compliance with a tardy telegram from Richmond, issued at the urgent request of General Beauregard, who, from the early part of June until that day, had never ceased to counsel concentration and an aggressive campaign. Such a junction had at last become an imperative necessity. General Johnston was forced to acknowledge it. Left free to use his discretion as to the ‘practicability’ of the ‘movement,’ he lost no time in putting his troops in motion.

Now, what did General Johnston do upon reaching General Beauregard's headquarters at Camp Pickens? Upon assuming command, did he immediately instruct General Beauregard as to what should be done in view of the coming conflict? Did he draw up a plan of operations? Did he issue orders for the distribution and location of the forces already at Manassas, and of those that had just arrived, or might come in afterwards? Not at all. In his own words we have it (Johnston's ‘Narrative of Military Operations,’ p. 39) ‘that the position occupied by the Confederate army was too extensive, and the ground, much of it, too broken, thickly wooded, and intricate, to be studied to any purpose in the brief space of time at my disposal; for I had come impressed with the opinion that it was necessary to attack the enemy next morning, to decide the event before the arrival of General Patterson's forces.’ And here we might properly remark, that General Patterson never arrived, nor has it been shown that he ever intended to do so. Long before writing his book, General Johnston, in his official report, had said: ‘I found General Beauregard's position too extensive, and the ground too densely wooded and intricate, to be learned in the brief time at my disposal, and therefore determined to rely on his knowledge of it and of the enemy's positions. This I did readily, from full confidence in his [193] capacity.’ And well may General Johnston have been impressed with the opinion that it was necessary to attack the enemy the next morning; for General Beauregard, in several letters to him, in messages delivered by special aids (Colonel Chisolm among them), and by his telegram dated July 17th, had clearly announced his determination, if reinforced, to attack and crush the enemy. Before proceeding further, we think it our duty to add that General Johnston is certainly mistaken when he asserts that General Beauregard's telegram asking—we might almost say imploring—him to move on immediately, was only received on the 18th, when his answer to it is dated July 17th, and reads as follows:

Winchester, Va., July 17th, 1861.
General Beauregard, Manassas:

Is the enemy upon you in force?

This shows conclusively how little General Johnston had thought of leaving Winchester, and how utterly improbable it is that he had planned a battle to be fought at Manassas, through a junction of his forces with those of General Beauregard. Does it not show, besides, how unwilling he was to move at all, unless assured that there was no exaggeration in General Beauregard's anticipation of a powerful impending attack? It was necessary to telegraph to him again before he finally agreed to put his troops in motion. Hence their late arrival, some of them not coming up until the latter part of the battle. General Johnston had, evidently, no plan of his own when he reached Manassas. That he drew up no plan after his arrival there is quite as evident. He had no time in which to do so. The circumstances were too pressing. He knew nothing of the position of our own forces, and still less of that of the enemy. He was obliged to rely on the knowledge which General Beauregard had of the whole country at and around Manassas, and, though the superior in rank, he very wisely declined to assume the responsibility of a battle in the preparaations for which he had had no share. In his report General Beauregard says: ‘Made acquainted with my plan of operations and dispositions to meet the enemy, he (General Johnston) gave them his entire approval, and generously directed their execution under my command.’ This passage of General Beauregard's report corroborates and completes the passage quoted above from General Johnston's report. Had not such an understanding existed [194] between the two generals, how can it be supposed, first, that General Beauregard would have asserted it, and, next, that General Johnston would have allowed the assertion to pass uncontradicted, when we consider that the language used in General Beauregard's report would have virtually deprived General Johnston of his rightful claim to the command of our united forces.

We quote again from General Johnston's ‘Narrative of Military Operations,’ pp. 40, 41: ‘General Beauregard pointed out, on his map, five roads converging to Centreville from different points of his front, and proposed an order of march on these roads, by which the army should be concentrated near the Federal camps. It was accepted without hesitation; and, having had no opportunity to sleep in either of the three nights immediately preceding, I requested him to draw up this order of march, and have the number of copies necessary written by our staff officers and brought to me for distribution that evening, while I was preparing, by rest, for the impending battle.’

The order of march—that is, the plan of battle—is proposed by General Beauregard; ‘accepted without hesitation,’ by General Johnston, and ‘drawn up’ by the former, while the latter is ‘preparing, by rest, for the impending battle.’ General Johnston sleeps quietly, undisturbed by any direct responsibility for what is to ensue in the morning. He comes to assist General Beauregard, not to interfere with his plans. This fight is not his own, but General Beauregard's, and he so expresses himself in declining to direct the operations against the enemy. And while he thus tranquilly takes his rest, General Beauregard, who has no leisure to do the same, and has hardly had any sleep at all since the 17th, the day preceding the engagement of Bull Run, goes on with the active preparations needed at the hour; issues and distributes the order of march and other orders; locates troops—his own and General Johnston's—as if reinforcements alone had been sent him, unaccompanied by an officer of superior rank.

We admit, say those critics to whom this chapter is specially addressed, that the idea of concentration was General Beauregard's; that the first plan of battle was his, likewise; but it was not carried out; the enemy's movements rendered it unavailing, and another plan was substituted in its stead. General Johnston, the superior in rank, being then on the field, who suggested it?

Our answer is, that a modification of the original plan had to [195] be resorted to, but was suggested—as had been the plan itself—by General Beauregard, and by no other. In his ‘Narrative of Military Operations,’ page 42, General Johnston says: ‘The plan of operations adopted the day before was now, apparently, made impracticable by the enemy's advance against our left. It was abandoned, therefore, and another adopted, suggested by General Beauregard. . . . The orders for this, like those preceding them, were distributed by General Beauregard's staff officers, because they were addressed to his troops, and my staff knew neither the positions of the different brigades nor the paths leading to them.’ It matters very little whether ‘the enemy's advance against our left’ had necessitated ‘another’ plan, as General Johnston affirms, or merely a ‘modification’ of the first, as he expresses it in his report, and as was really the case; the essential fact that it was General Beauregard-and not General Johnston--who again suggested it, remains the same, and is beyond dispute. And, here, truth compels us to add that the allegation that such orders ‘and those preceding them were distributed by General Beauregard's staff officers because they were addressed to his troops’ is altogether erroneous; for almost all orders, from the afternoon of the day previous to that time, had been forwarded through General Beauregard's staff; the palpable reason being, that the officers of General Johnston's staff were in complete ignorance of the location of our various troops, as much so of General Johnston's as of General Beauregard's. Nor must we forget that General Johnston was ‘preparing, by rest, for the impending battle,’ while all our forces—those already arrived or arriving—at Manassas, were being placed in position, by General Beauregard's orders.

Be this as it may, the fact is not the less plain that the new plan, or the modification of the original one, was conceived and offered by General Beauregard, and merely adopted by General Johnston. This forms an essential feature in our line of evidence, and in no inconsiderable degree adds to its weight. What we consider ambiguous and incomprehensible are the following words, to be found in General Johnston's ‘Narrative of Military Operations,’ at the close of the paragraph we have given above: ‘Want of promptness in the delivery of these orders frustrated this plan —perhaps fortunately.’

It is true that circumstances occurred which made necessary a second modification in the details of General Beauregard's plan, [196] and this, we submit, should surprise no one; but what can be the meaning and intent of the words ‘perhaps fortunately,’ as applied to the change General Johnston alludes to? If the plan was unwise, why had he approved it? If it was judicious—as he must have thought it—why does he afterwards cast a shadow of censure over it? It may have been because, having declined to assume command, he was unwilling to appear to oppose General Beauregard's views. Then, why should he lead the readers of his report and of his book to the erroneous belief that his was the controlling spirit directing each and every incident of the battle? We can imagine only one set of conditions under which the frustration of the modified plan might have been a fortunate occurrence, and that is, that General Johnston, who was ignorant, as he admits, of the surrounding country, and had but superficially examined that plan, should himself have undertaken to carry it into operation. Such could not have been the case with General Beauregard, who knew every inch of ground covered by our united forces, and certainly understood what he had himself conceived. In truth, though it seems idle to speculate upon the possible results of events that never occurred, General Beauregard thinks—and so do many officers of merit, well acquainted with the matter—that, if the plan alluded to by General Johnston had been executed in time, the rout of the enemy would have occurred early in the day, instead of late in the afternoon, and the whole of General McDowell's army— not a small portion of it only—would have been captured or annihilated. The use of the phrase ‘perhaps fortunately’ is, therefore, logically and truthfully speaking, without any justification whatever. Towards the end of his report, alluding to the fact of his orders having failed to reach the brigade commanders to whom they were forwarded, General Beauregard says: ‘In connection with the miscarriage of the orders sent by courier to Generals Holmes and Ewell, to attack the enemy in flank and reverse at Centreville, through which the triumph of our arms was prevented from being still more decisive, I regard it in place to say,’ etc. And he here recommends a ‘divisional organization,’ which, he thinks, ‘would greatly reduce the risk of such mis. haps’ in the future.

All things considered, we feel justified in saying that the phrase ‘perhaps fortunately,’ though necessarily void of any effect, would mean more if applied to what might have happened to [197] the enemy, than it does in connection with the modified plan of General Beauregard. ‘Fortunately’ for General McDowell's army, not ‘fortunately’ for ours, the miscarriage occurred.

Referring, in his report, to the movements of the enemy in the early morning of the 21st, and the non-arrival of the expected troops (some five thousand of his own) General Johnston says: ‘General Beauregard afterwards proposed’ (Beauregard always proposing, Johnston always accepting) ‘a modification of the abandoned plan—to attack with our right, while the left stood on the defensive. This, too, became impracticable, and a battle ensued, different in place and circumstances from any previous plan on our side.’ On the other hand, his ‘Narrative of Military Operations,’ pp. 47, 48, has the following passage: ‘It was now evident that a battle was to be fought, entirely different, in place and circumstances, from either of the two plans previously adopted. . . . Instead of taking the initiative and operating in front of our line, we were now compelled to fight on the defensive, a mile and a half behind that line, and at right angles to it, on a new and unsurveyed field, with no other plans than those suggested by the changing events of battle.’

The conclusion we are to draw from this is, that, as first agreed, we were to fight according to plans prepared and proposed by General Beauregard and accepted by General Johnston; and that now—strange as the assertion may appear—we are about to fight according to no plan at all. We submit that the fact—if fact it were—of our fighting ‘with no other plans than those suggested by the changing events of battle,’ does not show, in the least, that General Johnston, either at that moment, or before or afterwards, ever assumed the responsibility of planning or directing the operations of the day.

We thus dwell upon General Johnston's assertions, made in his report and in his book, because we take it that no better evidence than his own can be adduced in matters where he is so directly concerned. More conclusive still does such evidence become, when corroborated, explained—though at times corrected—by passages of General Beauregard's report on the same subject-matter.

Before quoting again from General Johnston's work, let us briefly review the situation, as defined by its author. We are now fighting with no preconcerted plan whatever. We know nothing of the ground we stand upon. This, however, clearly applies to [198] General Johnston alone, for he admits the knowledge General Beauregard had of our own and of the enemy's positions. All our forces already on the field are being concentrated, as rapidly as possible, on the ground where the enemy compels us to give him battle. The weight against us is terrible. Our troops display the greatest gallantry, but are about to give way. Generals Johnston and Beauregard are among them. They rally on their colors. The battle is re-established.

And now, at this critical moment of the day, ‘the aspect of affairs being not encouraging,’ as General Johnston says, a circumstance occurred, which, better than any other, will serve to define the real position of the two generals, and finally determine to which of them unmistakably belong the success and glory of the battle of Manassas

We quote from the ‘Narrative of Military Operations,’ p. 48: ‘After assigning General Beauregard to the command of the troops immediately engaged, which he properly suggested belonged to the second in rank, not to the commander of the army, I returned to the whole field.’ The language of the report is as follows: ‘Then, in a brief and rapid conference, General Beauregard was assigned to the command of the left, which, as the younger officer, he claimed, while I returned to that of the whole field.’

The question naturally occurring to the reader's mind is, where, at that momentous juncture, was ‘the whole field?’ We must not forget what General Johnston tells us, to wit, that the ‘field’ is a new one; that the battle is being fought according to nobody's plan; that all our forces are either now engaged on, or being sent to, the ground where the enemy forced us to fight him, and where ‘the aspect of affairs is not encouraging.’ To what ‘whole field’ is General Johnston, the ‘commander of the army,’ now about to ‘return?’ The word ‘return’ implies the act of going back to a place—in this instance to a ‘field’—where one had been before. Where was the ‘whole field,’ before Where was it at this time? The evidence General Johnston furnishes shuts out all other conclusion than this, that by ‘returning’ to what he terms ‘the whole field,’ he was actually leaving the immediate field of battle. For here, on the ground where General Beauregard is now fighting, where all our forces—except reinforcements not yet arrived—are being massed, is unquestionably the ‘field.’ [199]

With the passages just quoted from General Johnston's book and from his report, let us now connect what General Beauregard, in his report, says of this period of the day: ‘As soon as we had just rallied and disposed our forces, I urged General Johnston to leave the immediate command of the field to me’ (the ‘field’—not the ‘left’ )—‘while he, repairing to Portici-the Lewis House—should urge reinforcements forward. At first he was unwilling, but, reminded that one of us must do so, and that, properly, it was his place, he reluctantly, but fortunately, complied; fortunately, because, from that position, by his energy and sagacity, his keen perception, and anticipation of my needs, he so directed the reserves as to insure the success of the day.’

This passage of General Beauregard's report, explaining the part General Johnston took in the battle, is marked by a hightoned courtesy and disinterestedness reflecting honor upon the spirit actuating it. He there speaks of his superior in rank, of one who, in published orders, had ostensibly assumed command of the army, but, wisely declining to exercise his rights as such, had ‘generously permitted the carrying out of his (Beauregard's) plans.’ Feeling sure that if untrammelled in the command, he could achieve a victory, and fully appreciating the opportunity left in his hands by General Johnston's withdrawal from the field, he finds no words too eulogistic to express his gratification at the assistance General Johnston gives him—how? by sending forward reinforcements in anticipation of his needs.

General Beauregard's considerateness of feeling is all the more striking because what he says is in decided contrast with what General Johnston does not say, but clearly insinuates, both in his report and in his book.

The truth is, that the presence of the two generals on the field was worse than useless, under the circumstances. So long as General Johnston remained there, General Beauregard, in obedience to military etiquette, had to refer to him, before issuing any of his orders. Hence unavoidable delays must have occurred in their execution, which might have imperilled the result of the day.

General Beauregard had strenously exerted himself to procure the concentration of our forces at Manassas. He had suggested the plan which was now being carried out, though modified, so as to meet the inevitable changes and chances of a battle-field. To him, the immediate position of our troops and all the surrounding [200] country were ‘as familiar as a nursery tale,’ whereas they were wholly unknown to General Johnston. It was, therefore, both natural and just that General Beauregard should have the actual command of the army, as he certainly had the responsibility for the issue of the contest. General Beauregard was in command, not of the ‘left’ only, but of our whole line, including the left, the centre, and the right. He issued orders to all our united forces then gathered on the field, the ‘new field,’ which, General Johnson says, had been substituted for the first. On that ‘field’ did he command, fight, and win the battle, while General Johnston, at his request, had gone to the rear to assist him by sending forward reinforcements. Not once during the whole battle did General Johnston give him a single order. All orders on the evening previous, as well as on that day, were, as we have seen, suggested and issued by General Beauregard, and acquiesced in by General Johnston. From the moment the latter withdrew from the field, at 11.30 A. M., or about that time, until 4.30 P. M., when General Beauregard joined him at the Lewis House, he communicated only once with General Beauregard, and then, only to send him an unimportant message, through Colonel Lay, one of his aids. So might have done, and so did, Colonel Jordan, General Beauregard's Chief of Staff, and other subordinate officers, whose duty it was to inform the commanding general of all that occurred in their front, with a view to receiving further instructions from him.

Suppose General Beauregard, yielding to General Johnston's reluctance to take the position he had indicated for him at the Lewis House, had gone thither himself, would that have put General Beauregard in command of the ‘whole field’? Yet that is the very position General Johnston would have wished General Beauregard to take, had not the latter ‘claimed’ the command, which, for the reasons so often alluded to, had been given him by General Johnston himself. If the position taken by General Johnston, at the request of General Beauregard, was the proper one to be taken by the commander of the army, he should have gone thither of his own free will, as soon as ‘order was restored and the battle re-established.’ But he insisted upon remaining with the troops immediately engaged, and upon doing what General Beauregard actually did. Was it because he was the commander of the army? If the Lewis House was not the position [201] for the responsible commander, then such, most undoubtedly, was General Beauregard's on the field.

Much more could be said. Letters and documents could be quoted to corroborate the truth of every assertion here made about the point under examination. But it is deemed unnecessary, as it would only multiply—not strengthen—our evidence. The reader is referred simply to the two following letters—the first, an official one, from the Secretary of War, and the other from General Lee —which show conclusively to whom the honors of the victory of Manassas were accorded.

C. S. A. War Department, Richmond, July 24th, 1861.
My dear General,—Accept my congratulations for the glorious and most brilliant victory achieved by you.

The country will bless you and honor you for it,

Believe me, dear general, truly your friend,

Richmond, July 24th, 1861.
My dear General,—I cannot express the joy I feel, at the beautiful victory of the 21st. The skill, courage, and endurance displayed by yourself excite my highest admiration. You and your troops have the gratitude of the whole country, and I offer to all my heartfelt congratulations at their success.

The glorious dead are at peace. I grieve for their loss, and sympathize with the living.

May your subsequent course be attended with like success.

The War Department and General Lee no doubt knew that such letters would have been altogether irrelevant had the hero of Manassas been General Johnston, and not General Beauregard, to whom they were addressed.

Ask the survivors of that first battle of the war—be they Virginians, Carolinians, Georgians, Alabamians, Mississippians, Tennesseeans, or Louisianians—who led them, on the 21st of July, 1861; ask them, when, broken down by exhaustion and overwhelmed by numbers, they wavered and had all but lost the sense of their soldierly duties, who sprang before them, radiant with inspiriting valor, and, ordering their colors planted in their front, rallied them to these sacred emblems of country, honor, and liberty? We have written and reasoned in vain; we know not what [202] sounds and what echoes move most the hearts of those ‘who wore the gray,’ if one name—Beauregard's—is not the name they will one and all couple with that great victory.

II. A retrospective glance over the preceding chapters will convince the reader that President Davis had nothing whatever to do with the plan according to which was effected the concentration of our forces at Manassas. General Beauregard's letter to him, written as early as June 12th, and the President's answer, are in existence to testify that General Beauregard, ten days after assuming command at Manassas, and as soon as he had familiarized himself with our own and the enemy's positions, began urging concentration upon the Confederate government, in which he was steadily opposed by Mr. Davis. Failing in this, General Beauregard asked for a junction of General Holmes's forces with his own, showing—General Holmes agreeing—the uselessness of that command in the position it then occupied. This, too, was refused. Grieved, though not discouraged, at his want of success in securing compliance with suggestions which he knew were not only wise but of the utmost importance, General Beauregard did all he could to prepare himself for the imminent conflict approaching. On the 8th of July he wrote to Senator Wigfall the letter already placed before the reader (Chapter VII.), wherein is depicted the critical strait he was in, owing to slowness, want of forethought, and general inefficiency in the management of military affairs at the seat of government. With fifteen thousand men of all arms, he was threatened and would soon be attacked by forty thousand of the enemy's forces. He was determined to give battle, however, no matter what odds there might be against him; for the Federal advance must be checked even at the heaviest cost. He was evidently anxious that the President should be approached on the subject, so as to put a stop, at once, to the improvidence spoken of.

On the next day he forwarded the following telegram:

Manassas, July 9th, 1861.
President Davis:
Enemy's force increasing and advancing daily this side of Potomac. He will soon attack with very superior numbers. No time should be lost in reinforcing me here, with at least ten thousand men, volunteers or militia. I write to-day.

He did not write on that day, but did so on the 11th of July, [203] setting forth the disparity of numbers between his forces and those of the enemy, and alluding to the apprehension of his left flank being turned and his communication with Richmond eventually destroyed. ‘In view of the odds against; me’—he wrote in that letter—‘and of the vital importance, at this juncture, of avoiding the hazard of defeat, which would open to the enemy the way to Richmond, I shall act with extreme caution. If forced to retire before an overwhelming force, . . . my line of retreat can be taken, through Brentsville, to a junction with BrigadierGen-eral Holmes, at or near Fredericksburg, whence we could operate on the line of communication of the enemy, . . . so as to retard him by the way.’ He wished it clearly understood, however, that should the enemy offer battle on the line of Bull Run, he would accept it for his command, against whatever odds he (the enemy) might array in his front.

Hardly had this communication been forwarded to Richmond, before he despatched thither Colonel Preston, and, immediately afterwards, Colonel Chestnut, with another and more extensive plan of concentration and aggression. It is given in full in Colonel Chestnut's report of his mission, to which we refer the reader.1 The result was, that, after consultation with Generals Cooper and Lee, the President once more refused to accede to the plan of concentration offered him by General Beauregard. The enemy were yet too near their cover to allow any reasonable hope of the accomplishment of this proposed scheme, which was declared to be a very brilliant and comprehensive one, but, withal, pronounced impracticable. Such, in substance, was the decision against the wisest—as it was undoubtedly the boldest—concentrated, aggressive campaign attempted during the war. Before sending to Richmond, General Beauregard, in a letter dated July 13th, had also communicated the outlines of this plan to General Johnston, whose influence in its support he was anxious to secure. He was as unfortunate there as he was with the President. An expectant and defensive policy was, at that moment, the one absorbing thought of President Davis and of Generals Cooper, Lee, and Johnston.

At last the crisis came upon us. On the 16th of July General Beauregard was informed, by a secret message from Washington, [204] that General McDowell had been ordered to advance, and would do so that very night. He forwarded this news to Richmond, and, undaunted by his former fruitless attempts, urged the absolute necessity of ordering Generals Johnston and Holmes to join their forces to his.

Then it was—but only then—that President Davis consented to the long-suggested, long-prayed — for concentration, so repeatedly and vainly demanded. An order—not an imperative one, however—was sent to General Johnston, to move on to General Beauregard's assistance, ‘if practicable.’ It was dated July 17th, and has already been transcribed in these pages. Too late, thought General Beauregard, and he so expressed himself in his telegram to General Cooper, advising him that ‘the enemy will attack in force’ the next morning. And the enemy did. The engagement of Bull Run was fought and won; and General McDowell, frustrated in this his attempt to carry our lines, fortunately for us, delayed his onward movement towards Richmond. Our success was announced to the War Department; what answer came back? The despatch has already been given, but it is necessary to lay it again before the reader.

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. 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.

Even at this critical juncture, when no further doubt could exist of the enemy's intention to rush upon our lines in overwhelming force—the inevitable result of our defeat being the capture of RichmondPresident Davis, so far from having projected concentrating our forces at Manassas, was desirous of countermanding his order to General Johnston, on the 19th of July, and so caused General Beauregard to be advised.

No more need be said to show that the concentration of our forces at Manassas was due to the energy and untiring efforts of General Beauregard alone, and in nowise to any prevision or plan of President Davis, who agreed to the proposed movement [205] only at the very last hour, sorely against his wishes, and only when he was forced to realize that an overpowering foe threatened us with annihilation.

All this is written after a careful perusal of Mr. Davis's book. Nowhere in it does he assert, in so many words, that it was he, and not General Beauregard, who first thought of and first suggested the junction of our armies at Manassas; but, by using such expressions as, ‘the great question of uniting the two armies had been decided at Richmond,’ he creates a false impression on the reader's mind. That it was Mr. Davis who finally signed the contingent order for the junction, and, to that extent, decided the question of uniting the two armies, is not contended. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy, and, as such, it was necessary that his consent should be obtained before a military movement of so great importance could be carried out. It is clear that General Beauregard had no right to order General Johnston to make a junction with him. But that the suggestion came from General Beauregard, and that Mr. Davis, at the last hour only, issued the necessary order, is none the less an undeniable fact.

And now, that many idle rumors of the first period of the war have died out, and plain historical facts have rightfully taken their place, is it possible that even the nearest of President Davis's friends can still seriously claim that the victory of Manassas was, in any way, due to his presence upon the battle-field? So contrary to truth is any assertion of the kind, so plainly obvious is the fact that President Davis saw nothing of the battle, and, therefore, took no part whatever in it, that we are at a loss for means of meeting the efforts of some of his admirers, who wish to give him the meed of praise exclusively belonging to another.

That President Davis came to Manassas on the 21st of July, with the probable intention of taking an active part in the battle, should circumstances justify his doing so, none who know anything of the events of that memorable epoch are disposed to doubt or gainsay. But that, if such were his intention, he was disappointed, is no less historically true.

In Johnston's ‘Narrative of Military Operations,’ p. 53, we read as follows: ‘Some half-hour after the termination of the battle, the President rode upon the field, conducted from Manassas Station by Lieutenant-Colonel Jordan. He had arrived there from Richmond [206] when the struggle had just closed, and had, doubtless, hurried out to take part in it. The crowd of fugitives he had seen from his railway car, before reaching the station, had so strongly impressed upon his mind the idea that we were defeated, that it was not immediately removed by the appearance of the field. I judged so, at least, from his first words, while we were shaking hands: “How has the battle gone?” ’

In Alfriend's ‘Life of Jefferson Davis’ it is asserted (p. 305) that the President reached ‘the battle-field while the struggle was still in progress;’ that ‘to the troops his name and bearing were the symbols of victory;’ that ‘while the victory was assured, but by no means complete, he urged that the enemy, still on the field (Heintzelman's troops, as subsequently appeared), be warmly pursued, as was successfully done’ (p. 313).

‘These are fancies,’ says General Johnston. ‘He arrived upon the field after the last-armed enemy had left it, when none were within cannon-shot, or south of Bull Run, when the victory was “complete” as well as assured, and no opportunity left for the influence of his name and bearing.’

General Beauregard, in his report, also alludes to the arrival of Mr. Davis on the battle-field of Manassas, just after the enemy had ‘given way and fled, in wild disorder, in every direction—a scene the President of the Confederacy had the high satisfaction of witnessing, as he arrived upon the field at that exultant moment.’

True, President Davis, on his return to Richmond, was serenaded in honor of the great Confederate victory, and was even extolled as ‘the hero’ of that memorable day. But nowhere has it appeared, so far, that he ever laid claim to this honor, though he is said never to have had sufficient moral courage openly to refuse it. Be this as it may, neither the efforts of his friends, nor the insinuations in his published work, will succeed in altering the facts of the case. History, in its wonted impartiality, will never accord him the honors of the plan of campaign, or of the concentration of the troops, or of the victory won on the hardfought field of Manassas. On those points the true verdict of the country has already been rendered.

In a letter to General Beauregard, dated Richmond, August 25th, 1861, Colonel Chestnut, of South Carolina, so aptly and forcibly expresses this opinion, that we feel impelled to transcribe his words. He wrote: [207]

The country owes you an immense debt of gratitude, and the world has already paid you the tribute of just and unqualified admiration. The more the consequences of the victory at Manassas are understood, the greater and the more glorious will it seem.

The unbecoming pruriency of some, and the voracious appetite of many for even a fleeting notoriety, which have prompted undue and untimely claims to all the honors of the fight, are to be regretted, but do not amount to any serious grievance. After a little time truth will assign each his proper place.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

With great respect,

Your friend and obedient servant,

III. A few words will suffice to explain why our victory was not pushed after the battle of Manassas.

It has already been shown—and a repetition here would be useless—how it happened that the pursuit of the enemy, though ordered and in course of execution, was checked and finally abandoned on the night of the 21st of July; and it has also been shown how ‘an unusually heavy and unintermitting fall of rain,’ the next day, made ‘an efficient pursuit,’ at that time, ‘a military impossibility.’2

The reasons why the pursuit was not taken up later have also been given in detail in Chapter X.

An army deprived of transportation and subsistence is utterly powerless. This is a self-evident proposition, that needs no argument in its support. That our army was in that position, despite the unceasing efforts and remonstrances of General Beauregard, is incontrovertibly true; that there was no necessity for such destitution is clear. At the opening of the war provisions were plentiful all over the land. The rich agricultural districts of Virginia, in close proximity to the army—not to speak of the entire South, so willing to contribute in every way to the success of a cause dear to all hearts—were stocked with food, wagons, and teams. It would have required but the most ordinary administrative capacity, and but a small amount of enterprise, to furnish the army with the ‘twenty days rations’ in advance, so earnestly and repeatedly called for by General Beauregard, and with transportation [208] enough to carry our combined forces into the city of Washington.

We do not say that President Davis was opposed to the advance of our forces on Washington, or that he purposely prevented such an advance, and the investment and consequent capitulation of the Federal capital which must have resulted from it; but we do say that, had he not persistently overlooked the just demands of General Beauregard for transportation and subsistence, not only after but before the battle of Manassas, and had he not as persistently approved the narrowness of views and improvident methods of notoriously incompetent officials, whose shortcomings were so often brought to his knowledge, the Federal capital could have been captured by our victorious forces as early as the 24th of July. General Beauregard stated this as his conviction, in letters to Representative Miles, and to Mr. Davis himself, when the latter called him to account for having been the cause of a congressional investigation on the deplorable condition of our army, and its inability either to advance or retreat.

From New Orleans, March, 1876, in answer to the Hon. John C. Ferriss, of Tennessee, who wished to be informed upon this point, General Beauregard explained how it was that no advance was made on Washington. We commend to the serious attention of the reader the following passage from his letter: ‘Our only proper operation was to pass the Potomac above, into Maryland, at or about Edwards's Ferry, and march upon the rear of Washington. With the hope of undertaking such a movement, I had caused a reconnoisance of the country and shore (south of the Potomac) in that quarter to be made in the month of June; but the necessary transportation even for the ammunition essential to such a movement had not been provided for my forces, notwithstanding my application for it during more than a month beforehand; nor was there twenty-four hours food at Manassas, for the troops brought together for that battle.’3 The fact is, that some commands were without food for forty hours after the battle.

It is unnecessary to dwell further upon these events. The thought of what could have been accomplished, but was not, and of the reasons for our failure, will continue to be for us the subject of lasting regret. Our army did not follow up the victory of Manassas, [209] and march upon the rear of Washington, as already said, for want of transportation and subsistence. Transportation and subsistence were lacking because the Commissary and Quartermaster Departments, which could have procured both, and had ample time to see to it, failed to do so through sheer improvidence and incapacity.

1 To be found at the beginning of Chapter VIII.

2 See Chapter IX. See also the latter part of General Beauregard's report.

3 The italics are ours.

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