JCCW – Maj. Abner Doubleday

11 06 2009

Testimony of Maj. Abner Doubleday

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 67-73

WASHINGTON, January 3, 1862

Major ABNER DOUBLEDAY called and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. What is your position in the army, your rank, &c?

Answer. I am a major of the 17th infantry, one of the new regiments that has not yet been raised. I was promoted from the 1st artillery. ‘

Question. Were you in Fort Sumter with the then Major Anderson?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. I wish to direct your attention to the time that you joined General Patterson. Will you please state how long you were with him, and what took place there? State it in your own way.

Answer. I started from New York harbor, and went to Chambersburg shortly after General Patterson went there. I suppose we were there a week or ten days.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. What force did you take with you?

Answer. I took two companies of artillery without their guns, armed only as infantry.

By the chairman :

Question. And joined General Patterson at Chambersburg?

Answer. Yes, sir; and he placed me in command of two more companies. Captain Dodge’s company of regulars were ordered to join me, and McMullin’s company of Philadelphia detectives were placed under my command also. We marched from Chambersburg to Hagerstown, and from there to Williamsport. We remained at Williamsport, I think, from two to three weeks. I was, during that time, ordered back to Washington with my command. I should state, first, that they sent for some heavy guns for me. They concluded they would send siege artillery to break down some of the intrenchments of the enemy, and they directed me to send an officer to New York for a heavy battery; and just before the battery joined me—when it was on its way, say at Harrisburg—I was ordered to proceed without delay to Washington with my command. I got as far as Little York, near Baltimore, when I received a despatch directing me to return with all possible haste and to mount the guns for action. This was while the army of General Patterson was lying at Hagerstown. I hired special trains and returned and resumed my encampment. When I got again to Hagerstown, I found that it was a false alarm. Shortly afterwards we marched to Williamsport, where our heavy guns were put in position on a high hill to command the ford. In the meantime, while I was absent, the troops had crossed into Virginia, had proceeded a few miles, and then been ordered precipitately to return to Williamsport. We entered Virginia a second time, by order of General Scott, I think, and marched to Martinsburg. Our advance encountered the enemy at a place called Falling Waters, or Hoge’s Run. A smart little action took place there, resulting in the success of our troops.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Just there. How did our troops behave themselves in that action?

Answer. They behaved very well, so far as I could see. I heard no charges made against them of misbehavior at that place.

The enemy retreated before us and encamped outside of Martinsburg, and we followed and took possession of Martinsburg. We remained there, it seems to me, some ten days. During this time it was reported that the enemy were in line of battle, seven miles from us, with a force nearly equal to our own. It was reported to us that they had 2,000 less than we had.

Question. At what point were they?

Answer. Seven miles from us on the road to Winchester; I think it was in front of Dorcasville. They remained there, I think, three or four days—it was so reported to me; referred to by our staff officers, &c. I think it had then been determined to make a depot at Martinsburg, and the orders had been given to that effect; but the orders were countermanded, and the army ordered to advance, some six days after the enemy had fallen back towards Winchester. In the interim I was ordered to send two guns back to Williamsport to guard the ford there in case of retreat or disaster. But the guns were ordered to return again, after they had been about an hour in position. When we advanced it was determined not to have a depot at Martinsburg, but to break it up and send the stores back to Williamsport, and around by the canal to Harper’s Ferry. We advanced to a place called Bunker Hill, about half-way to Winchester, I think. We stayed there for a day—perhaps two days, I have forgotten which— and then we retrograded to Charlestown, some seven miles, I think, from Harper’s Ferry.

By the chairman:

Question. What number of troops had you, and what number had the enemy while you were at Bunker Hill, before you went to Charlestown?

Answer. Well, I thought we had about 20,000. They did not give their numbers to me; the information all goes to the general, and the exact number of troops we have is not always known. But I heard them estimated at 20,000.

Question. What was the condition of the troops at that time?

Answer. They seemed as eager for action as men could be; excited in the highest degree at the idea of getting a fight.

Question. Where were the enemy at the time you were at Bunker Hill?

Answer. It was reported that they had fallen back to a place called Stevenson’s Station, on the railroad, four miles from Winchester, and that they had fortified Winchester.

Question. How far was this Bunker Hill from Winchester?

Answer. I think it is about fifteen miles; from twelve to fifteen miles.

Question. Have you any knowledge of the force of the enemy; what were their numbers and strength?

Answer. We had various reports of them. The enemy were reported to have had some irregular levies in Winchester; to have sent and obtained some raw militia, badly armed, and almost all new men; so I understood. Most of our men were full of enthusiasm when we turned back to Charlestown, for they thought all the time that we were marching, that we were going to Winchester.

Question. Were you with General Sanford?

Answer. I was not under his command, but I saw a great deal of him. He was with us.

Question. He commanded the left of your army at that time, did he not?

Answer. Yes, sir; I think he did. But I do not know certain about that.

Question. Did he cut a road from this Bunker Hill, or near there, down some three or four miles to a creek?

Answer. I do not remember of his doing that. There was an old road there. We marched along an old road.

Question. He repaired it?

Answer. Yes, sir; he repaired it, I imagine.

Question. Was this before the battle of Bull Run, as it is called?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. How long before, as near as you can recollect?

Answer. But two or three days before. I think the enemy was said to have left Winchester the moment their scouts told them we had retrograded.

Question. General Johnston was commanding the army before you?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was the purpose of General Patterson there? What were the orders to him, or do you know?

Answer. I did not know what his object was. At one time, I suppose, it was to defend the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.

Question. Did you know at the time that he was acting in concert with General McDowell; he to prevent Johnston’s going down to Manassas while McDowell was to encounter the enemy there?

Answer. I did not know it at the time. But I was satisfied, on hearing that the enemy had gone in that direction, that they were going to Manassas. When we were going to Charlestown it seemed to be the impression of our generals that the enemy was coming in our rear.

Question. Can you tell any object General Patterson had, or intended to accomplish, by going to Charlestown at that time?

Answer. Well, I do not know. I was not called into his council of war. I do not know what his object was.

Question. I will ask you if he, in your judgment, had the power, while at Bunker Hill, to pursue, encounter, and prevent Johnston from getting down to Manassas on that railroad, judging from the position that each occupied there?

Answer. I should think that his light troops could have engaged him. But I believe there was a difference of some twelve miles between them; and if Johnston had made a rush quickly, General Patterson might not have been able to stop him.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. To have overtaken him?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Do you mean that if General Johnston had started off for Manassas quickly, General Patterson might not have been able to overtake him?

Answer. Yes, sir; that was what I meant. There were twelve miles between them.

Question. He might have reached Manassas ?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By the chairman:

Question. Do you recollect the orders of General Patterson while waiting at Bunker Hill that night?

Answer. No, sir; but I thought that if we had had the time that we waited at Williamsport and Martinsburg we might have done very well.

Question. I will put a hypothetical case: Had General Patterson received orders to engage Johnston, and prevent his going down on that road, could he have accomplished it if he had directed his energies to accomplishing that purpose?

Answer. [Looking at the map.] I think I have got the distance between the two armies too far. I think he could have done that. I think if there had been a desire to do it, it could have been done.

Question. In turning off from Bunker Hill to Charlestown he must have abandoned the idea of intercepting Johnston?

Answer. Of course.

Question. And left him a free passage to go down to Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. That must have been known to the commanding general, of course?

Answer. Of course.

Question. Did you hear any reason given why that was not done; such as that the time of the troops were out, and they would not consent to remain and encounter Johnston?

Answer. I heard that their time was out, and that he could not induce them to stay unless he could assure them that he would attack the enemy.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. They would stay for a fight?

Answer. They would stay if he would guarantee them a fight.

By the chairman:

Question. They did not object that their time was out to prevent a fight?

Answer. He wanted them to stay, whether or no. But they were indignant about it, and did not feel like remaining there without a fight.

Question. Were there complaints among the troops that General Patterson had turned off, so as not to engage the enemy?

Answer. There was a great deal of surprise. But I was so busy with my own command that I did notice that much. It had been supposed that Harper’s Ferry was a much better base of operations than Williamsport. It is nearer to Winchester, and nearer to our forces. It would have been a better point in every respect for us to occupy and move from. But in occupying it we found one objection, that it is almost impossible to retreat from it. There is but a little pathway along the canal, and one wagon could block an army.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. You say that Johnston might perhaps have moved down towards Manassas so rapidly that Patterson would not have overtaken him. Suppose that he had done so, and Patterson had followed him down to Manassas, what would have been the effect upon the enemy?

Answer. Johnston would have gone by rail. General Patterson might have come up with him at the cars before they got their men and the munitions of war with him all on board.

Question. Were you not sufficiently near him to have intercepted him and engage him before he could have sent off his forces by rail?

Answer. I should think that by a forced march we could have done it.

Question. What is the distance from Winchester to Manassas?

Answer. I do not know. They marched by the Millwood road, and got on the cars at Oak Hill. That would seem to be about twenty-four miles from Winchester. Our movements indicated that we did not seem to know what Johnston had gone for. We were taking precautions to prevent him attacking us at Charlestown, where we had retrograded. It was supposed he was going in behind the mountain chain, and get in behind us there. I think an officer, one of the general’s engineers, remarked that—gave that impression to me; indicating by our measures of self-defence against Johnston that the general did not know what his object was in going to the railroad.

By the chairman:

Question. Was it believed in the army that Johnston’s forces were superior to those of Patterson?

Answer. Up to the time he occupied Winchester it was thought they were inferior. At that time it was said he had rallied some militia.

Question. That would not tend to strengthen him much, would it?

Answer. No, sir; I think not. It was represented that they were nearly all Union men. Berkley county gave some eight hundred majority for Union, even under secession bayonets.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Did you hear anything about the condition of Johnston’s army?

Answer. Spies came in occasionally. It was stated that he had fortified Winchester.

By the chairman:

Question. If Patterson had received orders to encounter Johnston, and prevent him going to Manassas on the day of the battle there, could he, in your judgment, have prevented his going down there?

Answer. Well, I think it is a little doubtful. . The enemy had a larger force of cavalry than we had. We could only have overtaken him with cavalry, with the start he had. If he had twelve miles the start he could have kept that much in advance. The only way to have compromised that was to have encountered him with our light troops and kept him engaged until the rest of our forces came up.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. You have corrected that statement, have you not, about the twelve miles distance?

Answer. Yes, sir; he was nearer than twelve miles if he was at Stevenson’s Station. He was about eight miles from us. I think the main body was about eight miles from us. The main bodies of the two armies were about eight miles apart, as near as I can judge.

Question. And the advance was nearer?

Answer. The advance might have been nearer.

Question. Within about how near do you suppose the advance was, that is, Sanford’s column?

Answer. I do not know that he was far in advance of the army at that time. His advance party might have been nearer. Under those orders, if those were the orders, a battle ought to have been attempted certainly.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Johnston was fortified at Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir; it was said he was fortified there.

Question. Do you know whether or not he made any forward movement from Winchester until after you had made a retrograde movement towards Charlestown ?

Answer. I only heard at the time from deserters that the moment he found that we had retrograded—that his light cavalry sent him word to that effect—he immediately left in all haste for Millwood.

Question. Was it not your opinion as a military man, from all you learned, that Johnston intended to remain at Winchester within his fortifications until after your army had moved towards Charlestown ?

Answer. Well, I do not know what his intentions were. He was at Stevenson’s Station.

Question. From what was done, what do you infer he intended to do?

Answer. I understood he had orders to prevent us at all hazards from joining McDowell. That is what I heard from some deserter, or a report of what some deserter had stated.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. That is, you were both engaged in the same business, each to prevent the other from joining the main army?

Answer. Yes, sir. If necessary for that purpose he would take up a station until he was certain he could get on the railroad. He could afford to leave us rambling around through Virginia there, if in that brief period he could have gained the battle here. He could afford to let us make an inroad into the country for a brief period if he could have gained that.

Question. If you could have got in advance of Johnston, between his position and the railroad, could he have reached Manassas?

Answer. No, sir; I think we could have prevented it. I think that General Stone, while at Point of Rocks, wanted to make a dash at the railroad and destroy it.

By the chairman:

Question. What was the difficulty in the way of breaking up that road?

Answer. Where we were, we were some distance from it. General Stone had been in command of a force at Point of Rocks. He told me he could very easily have made a forced march and destroyed the bridges, and he wanted to do it, but he received the most pressing orders to join Patterson at once. The Point of Rocks is where the railroad comes down to the Potomac. That is about half-way between Washington and Williamsport. By making a secret march half-way with his infantry, and then making a dash with his cavalry. General Stone told me he was very desirous of breaking up that road, and could have done it; but he received the most peremptory orders to join General Patterson without a moment’s delay—a most urgent demand.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. From whom did he receive those orders?

Answer. From General Patterson.

Question. Did you remain in the army after General Banks took command! of that division of the army?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Where were you when General Banks took the command?

Answer. At Harper’s Ferry.

Question. Why did you retire from Harper’s Ferry? Why did you leave it?

Answer. The reason given was that while there we were in a cul-de-sac. In case of an attack and a disaster the force could not retreat from Harper’s Ferry; it would have had to stay there; there was no way to leave. And it was thought better to go on the other side and occupy Maryland Heights, which commanded Harper’s Ferry, so that we could have crossed any time we chose. It was still an occupation of Harper’s Ferry, but a change of position and of encampment.

Question. In your judgment, as a military man, was that a judicious movement—a wise movement?

Answer. I thought it was a discouraging movement; but I did not see any better way of occupying and holding Harper’s Ferry than that—holding it from the Maryland side, rather than on the other side.

Question. So that you do approve the movement?

Answer. Yes, sir; I thought we could hold it from the Maryland side, and have all the advantages of it.

Question. How long did you remain at Charlestown before going to Harper’s Ferry?

Answer. Some four or five days, I think.

Question. The army moved to Harper’s Ferry under General Patterson?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was the number of that division at the time General Banks took command?

Answer. I think about 15,000. However, I do not know as to that. I think the number was greatly reduced by many being sent off. I think the loss of those two or three weeks at Williamsport, and eight or ten days at Martinsburg, had a very decided effect upon us. We should have marched on Winchester, I think. We would have had three weeks longer time with these three-months’ men.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was your force there a well-appointed one?

Answer. I think we had all the necessaries. They complained of a deficiency of transportation from Williamsport, I think.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Was there such a deficiency as to prevent a movement of the army?

Answer. I do not know how much the deficiency was, or how far it extended. But I heard complaints that there was not a sufficient number of wagons. The whole country seemed to be full of them, if we had the power of purchasing, or of pressing them into service.

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17 07 2009
JCCW Pets « Bull Runnings

[...] become repeat witnesses before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War (JCCW): Abner Doubleday (left) and David Birney (right).  One can speculate as to the reasons the committee called these [...]

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