JCCW Testimony

24 07 2009

I need to get around to writing up a description of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, commonly referred to as the JCCW.  For now, I guess you can check out this Wikipedia entry.  If you’re more daring, check out Bruce Tap’s Over Lincoln’s Shoulder.

I hope you’ve been reading the testimony as I post it.  If you read everything sequentially, you see how the committee members are striving to make their points, attempting to back the witnesses into corners, favoring certain testimonies over others, looking to get their man.  Gradually, you become proud of some witnesses for sticking to their guns and are repulsed by others for pandering to the committee.  And you begin to realize that this had less to do with finding the truth than with establishing a truth.

JCCW – Col. Craig Biddle

24 07 2009

Testimony of Col. Craig Biddle

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 194-198

WASHINGTON, January 18, 1862.

Colonel CRAIG BIDDLE sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Did you serve under General Patterson in his campaign into Virginia?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was his aide-de-camp.

Question. We desire a statement, in as brief yet comprehensive a manner as occurs to you, of the military incidents of that campaign, beginning with your movement from Martinsburg to Charlestown. That probably is the most of the military part that we care to inquire into. What number of men did you have at Martinsburg?

Answer. I do not recollect precisely the number. I would not like to state that except from the documents.

Question. About how many do you suppose?

Answer. I suppose we had about 18,000 men; that is, after Colonel Stone came up with his command.

Question. You marched from Martinsburg with about that number?

Answer. I think so.

Question. Where did you go?

Answer. To a place called Bunker Hill, and then diverged to Charlestown.

Question. What was your object in going to Bunker Hill?

Answer. To make a demonstration against Johnston, who was supposed to be at Winchester, and to create the impression that we were going to Winchester.

Question. Was he at Winchester while you were at Martinsburg?

Answer. We supposed so; or rather he remained at Bunker Hill a day, and then fell back on Winchester.

Question. You advanced to Bunker Hill with the intention of giving him battle?

Answer. If he was there, that was the idea. The idea was either to attack him there—it was estimated that the column was not strong enough to attack him, and therefore we meant by demonstration to hold him there as long as we could.

Question. Was not the object of your army to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester until after the battle at Manassas?

Answer. We hoped to do so. I understood that was the object.

Question. You went to Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. That was on the road from Martinsburg to Winchester, was it?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question How long did you remain at Bunker Hill?

Answer. I think we were there only a day.

Question. One day?

Answer. I think so; we went on the 16th, which was Tuesday, and stayed there until Thursday or Friday, I think. No, sir; we got to Charlestown on Sunday morning, and we must have left Bunker Hill on Saturday.

Question. From Bunker Hill you made a reconnoissance still further towards Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. With a view of advancing the army still further?

Answer. Yes, sir. I ought to say to you that I am not a military man. This was my first experience in military matters. I voted for Mr. Lincoln, and I thought it my duty to set an example and go in the field, if necessary, and I joined General Patterson’s staff; but upon questions relating to the military conduct of the campaign I do not feel my judgment sufficiently good for the committee to take.

Question. You came here at the instance of General Patterson to give us, I suppose, such information as he desires to have stated. I do not know precisely what he wants. We have a pretty full account of that transaction. But he wanted us to examine you. I do not know exactly to what points, and therefore I wish you to testify to anything material which occurs to you.

Answer. Anything I should say would, of course, be very much like the observations of any other person who was not a military man.

Answer. Very well; state any facts that may occur to you as material to General Patterson or to the government.

Answer. The point I have always understood to be in controversy was the propriety of General Patterson’s going on to Winchester.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. We are not discussing or examining any controversy here; we merely want the facts.

Answer. I do not speak of what is said or thought here, but of what is said by others.

By the chairman:

Question. If we had summoned you I should know what it was for; but I do not know. I want General Patterson to have a fair hearing, and to let his witnesses who were with him state what they may know in relation to the matter.

Answer. I was present, of course, at all the discussions. The discussion at Martinsburg was as to whether or not General Patterson should go on to Winchester. General Patterson was very full of that himself. He was determined to go to Winchester; but the opinions of all the regular officers who were with him were against it. The opinions of all the men in whose judgment I had any confidence were against it. They seemed to have the notion that General Patterson had got his Irish blood up by the fight we had had at Falling Waters, and was bound to go ahead. He decided upon going ahead against the remonstrances of General Porter, who advised against it. He told me he considered he had done his duty, and said no more. The movement was delayed in consequence of General Stone’s command not being able to move right away. It was then evident that there was so much opposition to it that the general was induced to call a council of the general officers in his command, at which I was present. They were unanimously opposed to the advance. That was at Martinsburg.

Question. You did advance to Bunker Hill?

Answer. The order of General Scott was, that if he thought he was not strong enough to attack Johnston he was to make a demonstration and endeavor to hold him there as long as he could. General Scott had fixed Tuesday, the 16th, as the day on which this was to be done. Those despatches I saw. General Patterson advanced on Tuesday, and held him there until Thursday afternoon; and we were all as confident as possible that the battle at Manassas had been fought, and that General Patterson had succeeded in doing all he could; and the flank movement down to Charlestown was considered judicious by everybody, especially as we considered that our utility there was at an end.

Question. You say that before that, at Martinsburg, it was not thought best to attack Johnston?

Answer. It was thought by all the officers there that a forward movement was not advisable; that our troops were entirely undisciplined. Although it was thought perfectly proper to attack in the open field, as General Patterson had been trying to do ever since he started, yet it was perfectly idle to attack the intrenchments at Winchester. Everybody represented the force of General Johnston as from 30,000 to 40,000.

Question. Where were you when you heard that he had been re-enforced ?

Answer. At Martinsburg, I think.

Question. Was it not at Bunker Hill that you first heard that?

Answer. No, sir; I do not think so.

Question. Do you think it was before the council of war was held at Martinsburg?

Answer. I think so.

Question. It is your opinion, then, that General Patterson could not have prevented General Johnston from going to Manassas?

Answer. I do not think he could possibly have done anymore than he did. As I say, my opinion is founded upon the opinions of all those gentlemen in whom I have the utmost confidence. I consider General Porter one of the most accomplished officers I ever had the pleasure to meet with.

Question. When did you first hear any complaints there that the regiments wanted to go home?

Answer. I think there was no question about their going until they got to Charlestown. The time of none of them expired until then. They all expected to go home at the end of their three months. There was no appeal made to them until we got to Charlestown.

Question. They manifested no dissatisfaction before that time?

Answer. No, sir; I do not know as they did until at Charlestown, when they expected to go home. I recollect perfectly the discussions that took place in regard to those troops. The regular officers said the troops would not stay a day after their time had expired. The general said: “Well, you will see.” They said: “We know, because we saw it in Mexico.” I said: “This is entirely a different matter; this is a fight for the existence of our government, and the men will not dare go home, I think.” General Patterson took it up and went out and made a direct appeal to the men. The general speaks very well under all circumstances, and he made remarkably good speeches then, as I thought, and as all thought. The general went to his son’s regiment, which was a very fine regiment, and which we understood was willing to remain. The general made a speech to them, but to our surprise a considerable number of them refused to put up their muskets when the question was put to them. The officers were very much mortified at this, and spoke to the men, and finally they got them, with few exceptions, to put up their muskets. But still it was a sort of touch-and-go with them. That was the first time the fear crossed my mind that there would be trouble. The general then went to the other regiments, but found that it was not feasible at all; from one-half to two-thirds refused to go. He finally got to an Irish regiment and made a very powerful appeal to them, knowing the Irish character very well. He carried them with a sort of shout, and they all said they would remain. They all lifted up their mnskets. But he had hardly turned his back when they hallooed out, “Shoes and pants!” “Shoes and pants!”

Question. And it was evident, then, that you could do no more?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You did not expect after you turned off to Charlestown that there would be any fighting?

Answer. It was supposed that if it were necessary to advance we could advance better from Charlestown than from Bunker Hill. We had not such a long line to protect; Bunker Hill was clear in the enemy’s country, where it was not possible to do anything with the supplies we had.

Question. Then you knew very well it was no longer possible to hold Johnston from going to Manassas?

Answer. We thought he had gone.

Question. And if he had gone you supposed you could not have prevented his going?

Answer. We thought we could do it better if we should advance from Charlestown than from the other place, because we could get supplies. It was the opinion of the quartermaster, commissary, and engineers, that we were on a false line at Bunker Hill, and that the enemy would get in our rear.

Question. Of course you did not know whether he had gone or not?

Answer. We heard he had gone on Thursday afternoon.

Question. That was the first you heard of it?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. If he had gone why did you not go to Winchester?

Answer. We thought we should do no good, for if we went there we would have to come back again; we could not hold it.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Where did General Sanford join you; was he with you at Martinsburg with his re-enforcements?

Answer. I think he joined us at Martinsburg.

Question. Did you include his men in the 18,000 you said you had there?

Answer. Yes, sir; I think we did.

Question. The understanding among your officers, I think you said, was to fight or to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?

Answer. We understood that that was what was desired; to fight him if we could, or, if not, to hold him there as long as we could; that is, for this fixed time; to hold him there on the 16th, which was the day that General Patterson was directed to hold him there.

Question. Was that all that he was directed to do; to hold him there one day?

Answer. That was the day on which he was to make an advance, to pretend to attack him, or rally to attack him, in order to hold him there. General Scott was to let General Patterson know on what day he wanted him to advance, or to make an attack, whichever he was able to do; and General Scott intimated to him, or telegraphed him directly, that it was on the 16th that he wanted him to do so; and having held the enemy there until Thursday afternoon, he conceived that he had done all that General Scott desired him to do. It was impossible to hold him any longer time there, for the time of the men was expiring then. There is an impression abroad in regard to General Patterson’s popularity among the men. I believe General Patterson was always an extremely popular commander, and that all this dissatisfaction with him was got up afterwards; it was entirely an afterthought.

Question. While at Bunker Hill, the night before you left there, were any orders issued to march on the enemy?

Answer. I think there were such orders.

Question. Did not General Patterson issue orders at Bunker Hill, the night before you marched to Charlestown, for an attack on the enemy?

Answer. I think such orders were written. I do not think they were issued. I think General Patterson was again persuaded not to make an advance. General Patterson was extremely popular with the army until after those men got home. They all expected to be received at home with great homage; but General Patterson having asked them to stay, and they having refused, the first question asked of them after they got home was, “Why did you not stay? why did you refuse to remain?” And in order to answer that question they had to get up some excuse, and it took the form very often of abuse of General Patterson.

Question. Were not the men in good spirits and ready to fight while at Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir; the men were ready to fight at any time. I always conceived that the spirit of the men was broken when they were ordered back across the Potomac. They had been hanging on week after week, and had got the impression that there was to be no fight at all; and they did not want to be kept there on the borders for no purpose at all. And the men had got the idea that their time was out, and there would be no fight at all. When this order was given everybody was in the highest possible spirits. They dashed across the river, and the whole army was aroused to go forward. We got two orders from Washington. The general did not mind the first order; then there was another one which said, “I have twice ordered you to send on all the regular troops.” And the men came back from over the river, and became greatly disheartened.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did you not believe all the time, up to the time when you turned back to Charlestown, that the men would remain over their time if they could have been led forward against the enemy?

Answer. I think, if the thing had been put through in a spirited way from the first, after they had got into it, they would not have backed out. There were various reasons which justified the men. The force had been raised in a great hurry—in a month or two—and a great many of their officers were totally inefficient. They had a perfect dread of going into battle with their officers, and they wanted to go back and enter into new organizations the next day after they got back.

Fredonia’s Cushings & Westfield’s Lincoln-Bedell Statues

22 07 2009

I spent a week-long vacation with my family at Van Buren Point, outside Fredonia, New York, on Lake Erie.  Next door to my in-laws’ cottage is a lot that until a couple of years ago was home to “Cushing Cottage”, once owned by the Fredonia family that included Gettysburg martyr Alonzo and naval hero William B. Cushing.  In fact, we have an old photo of William’s daughters Marie and Katharine frolicking in the surf in their mid-calf length bathing suits right there off my wife’s family’s beach – though somewhat eroded, it is unmistakable.  Click the thumb for a larger image.


About 15 miles from Van Buren Point and pretty much on our way home is Westfield, home to Welch’s of grape juice and jelly fame – this area of western NY is known for grapes.  Westfield was the home of Grace Bedell, the little girl who encouraged then presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln to grow whiskers.  Lincoln stopped in Westfield on his roundabout journey to his inauguration and met Grace.  The moment has been commemorated by the town.  Here are some photos of the statues, an accompanying plaque, and an interpretive marker.  I used my cell phone, so excuse the quality.  Click on the thumbs for larger images.

Westfield-Placard Westfield-Plaque Westfield-Statue-1 Westfield-Statue-2

Craig Swain’s Manassas Weekend

21 07 2009

Fellow blogger and battlefield stomper Craig Swain paid a visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park for the anniversary weekend a few days ago, and has posted this nice photo essay.  I particularly like the image below, a view of Henry House Hill from the second floor of the Stone House:


Hits From Unexpected Sources

21 07 2009


Yesterday, my WordPress stats told me that someone visited Bull Runnings by following a link posted on this site.  As you see, it’s a blog that features Discussion of Late Triassic Paleontology and Other Assorted Topics.  “Hmmm”, said I, “what in the heck is Bull Runnings doing on this guy’s blogroll?”  So, I fired off an email, figuring at the very least it would make for a good blog post…as of yet, I have received no reply.  But I did find this post on Chinleana.   It seems that Mr. Parker’s (the host) great-great-great grandfather was a member of the 1st Connecticut Infantry at First Bull Run, and he has a number of his ancestor’s letters written prior to the battle.  I do hope I hear from Mr. Parker.  There’s a question concerning just who was in command of the regiment on the field that day, Col. Burnham or Lt. Col. Speidel – maybe these letters can shed some light.  Oh, and I have no idea if T-Rex lived in the late Triassic epoch.  I just liked the picture.


20 07 2009

I’ve added ratings options to posts and comments.  When you click on the link to a post on the main page (the title of the post is the link), that will take you to a page with the post only on it.  At the bottom of the post you’ll see five stars followed by “Rate This”.  When you mouse over the stars, a rating will appear, anywhere from “very poor” for one star to “excellent” for five stars.  Click on the appropriate star, and you’ve rated the post!

I’ve also added a “Nero” rating to the comments.  You can give “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” ratings to anyone’s comment.

I hope you enjoy and use this feature, and if there are any posts you’ve read here in the past that you’d like to rate, feel free to do so.

R. B. Price’s JCCW Testimony – “Porte Crayon”

19 07 2009

strother_portrait_webAs many of you are no doubt aware, the “Porte Crayon” identified in Price’s testimony as the source of enemy troop strength was none other than David Hunter Strother, an artist, diarist, and native of Martinsburg, VA.  He would serve as a staff officer for George McClellan and John Pope, and receive a brigadier general brevet.  His wartime observations are collected in A Virginia Yankee in the Civil War.  Already famous before the war, Strother sketched the John Brown trial in Charlestown.


JCCW – Col. R. Butler Price

19 07 2009

Testimony of Col. R. Butler Price

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 185-194

WASHINGTON, January 18, 1862.

Colonel R. BUTLER PRICE sworn and examined.

By the chairman.

Question. Did you serve with General Patterson during his expedition into Virginia; and if so, about what time?

Answer. I served with him from his first orders from the President, some time in April. He left Philadelphia on the 2d of June, and I remained with him until he was discharged from the service.

Question. What was your rank and position?

Answer. I was senior aid under General Patterson, with the rank of major.

Question. You accompanied him on his march from Martinsburg to Charlestown ?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. About what was his force at that time?

Answer. He had about 19,000 men with him—that is, for all purposes. A portion of those men were detailed for special duty, guarding wagon trains, &c. He had probably 15,000 or 16,000 fighting men—not over 19,000 men in all.

Question. What was the object of that expedition? What particular purpose was it intended to accomplish?

Answer. From Martinsburg over to Charlestown?

Question. Yes, sir.

Answer. There were two reasons, I think, which prompted General Patterson to make that movement from Martinsburg to Charlestown: one was partly the condition of the quartermaster’s and commissary’s departments in relation to the supply of the army; and another was to make Charlestown as a more favorable base of operations, either to the front, or to fall back to Harper’s Ferry. Charlestown was considered safer than Martinsburg; Harper’s Ferry being within six miles of Charlestown.

Question. You were with him on the march from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was the distance?

Answer. About twelve miles.

Question. How far is Bunker Hill from Winchester?

Answer. I think about sixteen miles; I am not positive about that; but I think the distance is in the neighborhood of sixteen miles.

Question. Was one great object of General Patterson’s expedition to prevent Johnston from joining Beauregard at Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. That was the principal object?

Answer. That was one of the motives; yes, sir. To place General Patterson in a position where he could do that to the most advantage. As I said before, Charlestown is a point which would have facilitated either in making a forward movement, or falling back upon Harper’s Ferry.

Question. When he was at Bunker Hill, was he not then in as good a position to have prevented Johnston from joining Beauregard as from any other point?

Answer. No, sir; he was not in so good a position as at Charlestown. And under the circumstances it would have been impossible for him to have remained at Bunker Hill.

Question. For what reason?

Answer. The difficulty of provisioning his army; getting forage forward. There was no nearer point there than Maryland.

Question. How came he to go to Bunker Hill, then?

Answer. He did not go there with the intention of staying there.

Question. Was it on the direct road to Charlestown?

Answer. No, sir; but he went to Bunker Hill because he was ordered to keep Johnston in check, and always keep a force in front of him. He went there for the purpose of offering Johnston battle.

Question. Johnston was not at Bunker Hill, was he?

Answer. He was there while we were at Winchester. As we approached him he fell back.

Question. And Johnston having fallen back to Winchester, General Patterson approached him no further?

Answer. No, sir; not towards Winchester.

Question. Why not?

Answer. Because he heard while at Bunker Hill that the force of General Johnston was very much greater than his own, both in number and in artillery force.

Question. Had he any intelligence that Johnston’s army had been increased during this period?

Answer. Yes, sir; very materially increased.

Question. Where from?

Answer. Somewhere between Winchester and Manassas; it was not known where. He got positive information at Bunker Hill that Johnston had 42,000 men at Winchester, and, I think, sixty-three pieces of artillery.

Question. From whom did he get that information?

Answer. It was given to him by General Cadwalader, who obtained it through private parties; I do not know who they were.

Question. Where did these re-enforcements come from?

Answer. From towards Manassas.

Question. At what time were these re-enforcements, supposed to have joined Johnston?

Answer. Between the time of our leaving Martinsburg and leaving Bunker Hill, which was a period of two and a half days.

Question. Was it not very singular that he should have retreated to Winchester with this great increase of force?

Answer. He was re-enforced while he was at Winchester, after he left Bunker Hill. From the best knowledge we could obtain while at Martinsburg, General Johnston had in the neighborhood of 25,000 or 26,000 men.

Question. Was it not very singular that Johnston should be re-enforced from Manassas when they knew they were about to be assailed by the central army, under General McDowell?

Answer. I can give no opinion in reference to their motives.

Question. Had you any authentic information of re-enforcements joining Johnston during this period?

Answer. It was information that was given to General Cadwalader from what he considered a reliable source, and he so reported to General Patterson. The information proved to be correct, as we learned from various sources afterwards.

Question. That he received a very large re-enforcement at this period from Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir; making his whole force over 42,000 men.

Question. How did you learn that afterwards?

Answer. By information from various persons. One was a gentleman, whose name I forget. His soubriquet is “Porte Crayon.” He was in Winchester at the time General Johnston left with 35,000 men, leaving 7,000 at Winchester. There were two or three other persons, who were at Winchester at that time, who reported the same thing, thus verifying the report Cadwalader made to General Patterson.

Question. Had it not been for this supposed re-enforcement, would he have advanced upon Winchester from Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. That was his intention?

Answer. Yes, sir; provided he thought proper to do so after arriving at Bunker Hill.

Question. Where was he when he heard of this re-enforcement?

Answer. At Bunker Hill.

Question. And then he retreated from the enemy to go to Charlestown ?

Answer. No, sir; he did not. It was not a retreating movement. It was merely a movement across the country to Charlestown.

Question. He gave up all idea of encountering Johnston ?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Then, when he left Banker Hill, he knew he could no longer hold Johnston in check, did he not?

Answer. Yes, sir; he gave up the idea of attacking Johnston. But then he was under the impression that the necessity of his holding Johnston in that part of Virginia had passed away, from the fact that he supposed the battle at Manassas had at that time been fought.

Question. What made him think that?

Answer. From despatches he received from General Scott, and letters fixing the date of the attack.

Question Did General Scott ever send him any despatch that he would fight at Manassas on any particular day?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Where is that despatch?

Answer. I suppose it is among the papers of General Patterson. It was either a despatch or letter; I did not know which.

Question. Did you learn the date of that despatch?

Answer. I do not recollect now.

Question. Do you know what time was stated when the battle would be fought at Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir; on the Tuesday previous to the Sunday on which it was fought.

Question. Do you suppose, as a military man—I ask your opinion as a military man—that General Scott could fix. beyond a doubt, upon a day when he could attack the enemy with such an army, the two being so far apart ? Could he fix with certainty that he would fight on a particular day?

Answer. I think he could, having the control of his operations.

Question. He did not fight on the day he proposed?

Answer. No, sir; he did not.

Question. Then it is possible for a military man to be mistaken about that?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And a military man would know that there would not be any certainty about such a thing?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. General Patterson, if I understand it, had the means of communicating by telegraph with General Scott?

Answer. The facilities were not great from Bunker Hill. There was no telegraph nearer there than Hagerstown.

Question. How far was that?

Answer. About 42 miles. All the despatches received from and sent to General Scott were carried by carriers from any position in which the army happened to be to Hagerstown.

Question. Would it not have been well for General Patterson, when he had ascertained that Johnston had received re-enforcements, that rendered it impossible for him to detain him—would it not have been well to have sent General Scott the earliest information of that?

Answer. He did.

Question. What was the import of that communication?

Answer. The import of that information was that Johnston’s force was then estimated at 42,000 men, and was much larger than what General Patterson had.

Question. And when he turned off to Charlestown, and found he could no longer detain him, did he notify General Scott of that?

Answer. No, sir ; I do not know as he sent any despatch that he could no longer detain him, but General Patterson was under the belief he could not detain him there any longer. When he discovered that Johnston’s force was moving he telegraphed to General Scott.

Question. As the matter stood, suppose he had, the moment he received that information, and had made up his mind that he could no longer detain him—for you have said already that it was the object of this expedition to detain him there, and prevent his joining Beauregard—had he communicated that immediately to General Scott, would it not have been a military fact that would have had a controlling effect upon planning and carrying out the battle of Manassas?

Answer. I think it ought to have been.

Question. And if he did not give General Scott the earliest information of that, would it not have been a negligence and unmilitary act?

Answer. So I should have considered it.

Question. But you think he did give him that information?

Answer. I am under that impression—yes, sir.

Question. How long did you remain at Charlestown?

Answer. I think we stayed there, at Charlestown, five days.

Question. Was there any order from General Scott to General Patterson, that if he could not detain Johnston, he should follow him down to Manassas?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. No such arrangement?

Answer. None that I have ever heard

Question. When he turned off from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, had you heard any dissatisfaction manifested among the officers and troops?

Answer. Nothing of the kind—not the slightest; nothing but the most unqualified approbation.

Question. Was there any period when the troops whose time was expiring refused to go further?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What time was that?

Answer. That was at Charlestown.

Question. You did not hear anything of that before?

Answer. No, sir. I heard of the circumstance, but it was not within my own positive knowledge.

Question. Charlestown was the first?

Answer. Yes, sir; the first open exhibition of it.

Question. Then, in brief, the Pennsylvanians, when they supposed he was advancing upon the enemy, did not wish to take advantage of their time being out?

Answer. They did not grumble about there being no fight, because General Patterson, in the appeal he made to them at Charlestown, begged them to stay for ten days in case he might have to fight with the enemy.

Question. Did he expect to have a fight with the enemy?

Answer. He thought he might have a fight, and in the mean time he had sent to General Scott for orders, and did not know what orders he would get.

Question. After Johnston had been re-enforced, he had double your force; would he have fought him then?

Answer. He would not follow him up, but he would have fought if Johnston had attacked him.

Question. Why not throw himself across Johnston’s path, and detain him in that way?

Answer. It was impossible for him to do that while at Bunker Hill or at Charlestown.

Question. Was it not possible to do that?

Answer. It was totally impossible.

Question. What was the impossibility?

Answer. It was that he could not reach the track that Johnston took before Johnston could reach it; for he could march his men to a point below Strasburg, and then take his men to Manassas, and it was impossible that General Patterson could reach that point to intercept him. I do not think he would have made an attempt to do that.

Question. If it was an object to detain him, how did he expect to detain him?

Answer. He did not expect to do it after he left Bunker Hill.

Question. If he was willing to fight double his force in the open field, why not follow him up?

Answer. He was intrenched there; not in the open field.

Question. You say he could not get to the railroad without attacking Johnston at Winchester. Now I want to know this: I find from the testimony that General Patterson turned from Bunker Hill, and gave up the original intention of detaining Johnston, because Johnston had been greatly re-enforced.

Answer. Yes, sir,that was one reason; and another reason was that he thought the necessity had passed.

Question. Now I understand you to say that he would have fought Johnston even after he had been re-enforced, perhaps at Charlestown, and expected to do it, and wanted to keep his troops there.

Answer. Yes, sir. He would have fought him, if he had attacked him.

Question. If so, and his main purpose being to detain him in the valley there, why did he relinquish his original position?

Answer. The design no longer existed after he left Bunker Hill; and if he had been so disposed, he could not have thrown himself across the track of Johnston after he left Winchester.

Question. Suppose that, before Johnston left Winchester, Patterson had taken a position between Manassas and Winchester upon that railroad, could he not have done that?

Answer. No, sir; not before Johnston.

Question. Not before Johnston left?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. Then he could not have prevented Johnston from going to Manassas, whether he was re-enforced or not?

Answer. No, sir. He could not have prevented Johnston from going to Manassas, whether he was re-enforced or not. But he would have attacked him at Winchester, if he had not been re-enforced. He offered him battle on two or three different occasions. Johnston was between Martinsburg and Bunker Hill when we marched to Martinsburg. He then fell back to Bunker Hill, and then he fell back to Winchester, laying a trap for us all the time.  Johnston would not have fought before he got to Winchester, and there he had a great advantage over us.

Question. You think General Scott was apprised of this right off.

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. General Patterson moved from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill because there he more directly threatened Johnston?

Answer. Yes, sir; he marched there for the purpose of offering him battle.

Question. For the purpose of threatening him?

Answer. Yes, sir, to threaten him, and to hold him there and give him battle. From the best information we had, Johnston’s force was from 22,000 or 23,000 to 26,000.

Question. The great object you deemed to be to hold Johnston, and you moved to Bunker Hill so as to threaten him and hold him?

Answer. Yes, sir; and fight him there.

Question. And Johnston fortified himself at Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You moved to Bunker Hill and sent out some pickets?

Answer. There was a reconnoissance made from Bunker Hill on the day we arrived there, I think, with probably 800 or 1,000 men. They marched on the road to Winchester, a distance of four or five miles. There they found the cavalry pickets of Johnston, which they dispersed. They found the road obstructed.

Question. The object of the reconnoissance was successful?

Answer. Yes, sir. To find the condition of the road from there to Winchester, and to find out the preparations to prevent General Patterson from marching to Winchester.

Question. You found no indication to show that Johnston intended to attack you at Bunker Hill?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. The indications were that he wanted to fight you behind his intrenchments at Winchester, and not to come out to attack you?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Did you send some of your baggage trains directly from Martinsburg to Charlestown?

Answer. No, sir. They all came down by the way of Bunker Hill. We marched on two roads from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill.

Question. During all this time you were following up Johnston, there was no time that he offered you battle, or proposed to do so in any way in the open field?

Answer. No, sir. Not upon any occasion.

Question. He wanted to fight you upon unequal terms at Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You did not believe when you reached Bunker Hill that Johnston intended to fight you at Bunker Hill?

Answer. No, sir. We found no such indication.

Question. When you were at Bunker Hill, I suppose that you felt that, during that time, you were threatening that position of Johnston, instead of his threatening you?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Then, when you moved from Bunker Hill, you moved to a point, Charlestown, which was further from Winchester than Bunker Hill?

Answer. I think Charlestown is rather further from Winchester than Bunker Hill is: probably five or six miles further.

Question. You moved down from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill in two columns. Did you propose to move forward upon Winchester in two columns?

Answer. No, sir. I do not know that we did.

Question. General Sanford had a column there, had he not?

Answer. We marched in two columns from Martinsburg, but they were all concentrated in the vicinity of Bunker Hill.

Question. Was it not the intention to move from Bunker Hill to Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir. At one time General Patterson had given an order to move from Bunker Hill to Winchester. He was very unwilling to leave Johnston even at Winchester without attacking him; and on the afternoon before we left Bunker Hill he decided to attack him, notwithstanding his strong force.

Question. Behind his intrenchments?

Answer. Yes, sir; it went so far that his order was written by his adjutant, General Porter. It was very much against the wishes of General Porter; and he asked General Patterson if he would send for Colonel Abercrombie and Colonel Thomas and consult them on the movement. General Patterson replied: “No, sir; for I know they will attempt to dissuade me from it, and I have made up my mind to fight Johnston under all circumstances.” That was the day before we left Bunker Hill. Then Colonel Porter asked to have Colonel Abercrombie and Colonel Thomas sent for and consulted as to the best manner to carry out his wishes. He consented, and they came, and after half an hour they dissuaded him from it.

Question. At that time General Patterson felt it was so important to attack Johnston that he had determined to do it?

Answer. Yes, sir; the order was not published, but it was written.

Question. You understood .General Patterson to be influenced to make that attempt because he felt there was a necessity for detaining Johnston?

Answer. Yes, sir; to detain him as long as he possibly could.

Question. That order was not countermanded until late on Tuesday, the 16th, was it?

Answer. That order never was published. It was written; but at the earnest solicitation of Colonel Porter it was withheld until he could have a consultation with Colonel Abercrombie and Colonel Thomas.

Question. It remained the intention of General Patterson to make the attempt to move on Winchester from Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And the order to move on Charlestown was not promulgated until 12 o’clock that night?

Answer. It was later than that; it was between 1 and 2 o’clock in the morning.

Question. Your position on the staff of General Patterson was such as to enable you to know of the telegraphic despatches passing between him and General Scott?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. If I understand you, after you moved from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, you were then no longer directly threatening Johnston?

Answer. No, sir; the movement towards Charlestown was a flank movement, not one threatening General Johnston.

Question. So that Johnson at that time would not have felt that his force at Winchester was in danger of being attacked by your force?

Answer. No, sir.

By the chairman:

Question. If I have understood you, I am not able to see how at any time you could have prevented Johnston from going to Manassas, if he saw fit to go?

Answer. We never could have prevented Johnston from going to Manassas if he had chosen to do so. He retreated before us all the time. His cavalry force, under Colonel Steuart was hanging around us all the time.

Question. So that you knew all the time that if he saw fit to retreat from Winchester, and so on down to Manassas, he could have done so?

Answer. Yes, sir, at any .time.

Question. You have been asked if you thought General Scott, the commanding general, would positively fix the time upon which a battle could be fought

Answer. I thought he could fix upon the time when he decided to have the attack, unless circumstances arose to prevent it.

Question. As a military man, do you not know that there are numerous contingencies to render it very uncertain when two armies shall meet?

Answer. There is always an uncertainty. But I think an officer with a large army could fix upon the day when he should commence his attack. That was not done in this case.

Question. You mentioned that the roads were barricaded in front of you at Bunker Hill, what was the character of those barricades?

Answer. From the reports of officers, I understand there were trees cut down and thrown across the roads there.

Question. Would you, as a military man, consider that a formidable obstacle in the way of an army 20,000 strong?

Answer. No, sir, not by any means. There were fences built across the road, stone walls built across the road; and they became more numerous as we approached Winchester, and more formidable. And it was reported that the road was defended all the way from that point to Winchester. They would not retard the progress of an army, but they would give great advantage to a foe lurking in the neighborhood. I should not think it was a serious obstacle in the way by any means. I only mention this to show that there was no disposition on the part of General Johnston to attack General Patterson at that point.

Question. Were you not cognizant of the fact that General Patterson had a positive order from General Scott to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir; those were General Scott’s orders all the time.

Question. Was not that with direct reference to the battle that was expected to take place at Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By the chairman:

Question. Was not the order a little more than that? Was it not that if he could not detain Johnston he should follow him down by way of Leesburg?

Answer. No, sir; the Leesburg proposition was made by General Patterson, but not consented to by General Scott. That was before we left Martinsburg.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Do you think your position at Bunker Hill was a success so far as holding General Johnston was concerned, in accordance with the order received from General Scott?

Answer. Yes, sir; but the position of General Patterson, at Bunker Hill, could not have prevented Johnston from leaving Winchester any moment he pleased.

Question. Your army, while at Bunker Hill, was successful in holding Johnston in the valley of Winchester, in accordance with the orders of General Scott.

Answer. Yes, sir.

By the chairman:

Question. Is there anything else that occurs to you which you wish to state?

Answer. In reference to the forward move from Martinsburg, there was a council of war held there, at which I was present, and heard all the opinions given. They were unanimous against a forward movement any further than Bunker Hill. In reference to the discontent shown by officers and soldiers, I never saw anything of the kind   After the army left Bunker Hill, on the march to Charlestown, every regiment that we passed were baited and faced to the front, and by the command of their officers, they cheered General Patterson, without a single exception. There was not the slightest sign of disapprobation shown by officers or men, that I saw.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. You had no information that Johnston was reinforced at the time you held your council at Martinsburg?

Answer. No, sir. The supposition when we left Martinsburg was that Johnston would fight us at Bunker Hill.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. What do you now understand to have been Johnston’s force at Winchester on the day you commenced your movement to Charlestown?

Answer. 42,000 men. I am as certain of that as I can be of anything I do not know of my own knowledge.

Question. I suppose there is always great uncertainty in the movements of large bodies of men?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And it is impossible almost for a commander to say a week beforehand that he will be with 20,000, 30,000, or 40,000 men at a given point on any given day ?

Answer. Certainly.

Question. Because contingencies may arise to prevent his getting there, even if he meets with no foe?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Answer. And of course there is always great uncertainty in fixing the time when you will attack the enemy?

Answer. Yes, sir; most undoubtedly.

Question. And, as a military man, I suppose you would not be willing to base any important military operations upon the assumption that there had been an engagement, simply because it had been fixed upon a week beforehand for a certain day?

Answer. That is true. But under the circumstances under which General Patterson was at the time, and from the various letters and telegraphic despatches between Washington and himself, I would have drawn the conclusion that the battle of Manassas would be fought on Tuesday. Because General Scott was positive in his despatch in fixing Tuesday as the day. I would not have been certain the battle would have taken place on that day. But I would certainly have expected it in twenty-four hours of that time, although it might have been delayed, as it was in that case.

Question. Still you would not have based any important military operation on the assumption that it did take place that day?

Answer. Although I would not suppose it was a certain thing that the battle would take place that day, yet at Bunker Hill General Patterson’s column was very much exposed; there was difficulty in getting forage and provisions for it. His army was some thirty-two miles from the Potomac, and anything but a friendly country and people in his rear, and he might have placed himself in a very precarious and dangerous position. I would have taken these things into consideration, with the supposition that there was no longer any necessity to remain there. I should have been governed by those considerations.

JCCW – Col. Thomas A. Davies

18 07 2009

Testimony of Col. Thomas A. Davies

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 177-184

WASHINGTON, January 14, 1862.

Colonel THOMAS A. DAVIES sworn and examined.

By the chairman :

Question. What is your position in the army?

Answer. My present position is colonel of the 16th New York volunteers.

Question. Were you present at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was not present at what is called the battle of Bull Run, but I was six miles from that, upon the left wing.

Question. What position did you occupy there?

Answer. I left Alexandria in command of the 2d brigade, 5th division of the army of the Potomac.

Question. Acting as brigadier general?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Will you, in your own way, go on and tell us what you know about the causes of the disaster of that day, what was done, and what you think might have been done ? .

Answer. Shall I tell what I did?

Question. Give us a general idea, without any great minuteness.

Answer. The fifth division, together with Runyon’s division, was marked upon our programme when we started as the reserve—I mean in the card that was issued by General McDowell. Colonel Miles, of the infantry, was in command of the fifth division, and Brigadier General Runyon was in command of his part of the reserve. There were two commanders to the reserve. We went by the way of the old Braddock road to Fairfax Court- House the second night, driving the enemy before us, and capturing some few things; skirmishing all the way through the woods about six miles. On the third day we arrived at Centreville, and camped about a mile from Centreville. The part we took in the battle of Sunday was decided upon in a military conference held the night before the battle, at which the division and brigade commanders were present. General McDowell read off the programme, and as soon as we found that our position was to be in the reserve and remain at Centreville, we left the council very early, and I heard nothing more said in respect to the plan of campaign than what was read there. Early the next morning we got our troops up—very early, for they were awake pretty much all night, or half asleep and half awake all night. We started in the morning, I with instructions to go down to the position that was occupied as a battle-field on the afternoon of the 18th, what was then called the battle of Blackburn’s Ford.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. You were not in the affair at Blackburn’s Ford?

Answer. No, sir; I lay at Centreville that day. Instead of stopping where he ought to have stopped, as I understood it, General Tyler went on there. The bringing on of that battle, as I understand it, was an accidental affair altogether. This division of Miles, on Sunday, was to occupy a position at Centreville Heights, and also at Blackburn’s Ford, which was two miles further towards Bull Run. The road from Centreville to Blackburn’s Ford runs directly to Manassas Junction. The Warrenton turnpike that led up to where the battle of Bull Run was fought made an angle with the Blackburn’s Ford road of about thirty degrees, and bore off to the right, went on to the Stone Bridge, and so on across where the balance of the army went. All the army, excepting Miles’s division, moved up the Warrenton road, while that division moved off to the left to Blackburn’s Ford with my brigade, leaving Blenker’s brigade on Centreville Heights, with instructions to intrench the heights that day. Lieutenant Prime was to furnish the tools for that purpose. We went off to the left and were to make a feint at Blackburn’s Ford to attract the attention of the enemy and draw their troops there.

Richardson’s brigade, I found, was up there. But Colonel Miles told me to go down and compare notes with him, and find out which ranked, the one ranking to take command of the two brigades. I met Colonel Richardson, compared notes with him, and found that I ranked him. I then took command of the troops, and stationed him on the road directly to Blackburn’s Ford, and exactly on the battle-ground of the 18th. I took a road that led off further south from this road, and went into an open wheatfield and took possession of the brow of a hill, where I could annoy the enemy by shell during the day, and make a demonstration. My position was about eighty rods, I should think, from Colonel Richardson’s. I had brought into the field two regiments of infantry and Hunt’s battery. Green’s battery was behind, but by mistake Green’s battery, belonging to my brigade, got into Richardson’s brigade, and Hunt’s battery belonging to Richardson’s brigade, got into my brigade. We went on making a demonstration, and at 10 o’clock I found that our ammunition was running short. I sent back word to Colonel Miles, at Centreville Heights, that our ammunition was running short, and I wanted to slacken my fire. He sent me back word to fire on. I did fire on very slowly, and kept up the fire till about 11 o’clock, when Colonel Miles came himself. He made some new disposition of the troops. I suppose, however, that is not important.

Question. Unless it led to important results.

Answer. It did. I had stationed two of my regiments on a road that led around from Centreville Heights off in the rear of my position entirely. I happened to find it out from the guide who went along with me down there to show me the way. He mentioned casually, saying, “There is a road that leads around to the enemy’s camp direct.” Said I, “Can they get through that road?” “Oh, yes,” said he, “they can.” I gave the word of command to halt immediately, and put two of my regiments on this road, and two pieces of artillery, and went on with my other two regiments into the open field with the battery. When Colonel Miles came down in the morning he was in a terrible passion because I had put these two regiments there. He gave me a very severe dressing down in no very measured language, and ordered the two regiments and the artillery forward, without knowing what they had been put there for. I complied with the order, and said nothing. But when he left me, about an hour afterwards, I immediately sent back pioneers who cut down about a quarter of a mile of trees and filled the road up. As I expected, the enemy made an attempt to go up that road, but finding it obstructed by trees, and protected by a few pickets, they went back. We did not see them coming up, but when they were going back we shelled them pretty severely.

We continued the firing by degrees all day, until I got a line from some one in the advance. I could not read the whole of it. It said something about being beaten, but I did not understand which side was beaten; but I knew one or the other was. The firing about six miles to the right had ceased when this line came to me. I afterwards learned it was from Colonel Richardson, and I could see that the enemy or we were beaten, but I could not tell which. And there was something else about it, but I do not remember now, for I have lost the note. I saw unmistakable evidence that we were going to be attacked on our left wing. I got all ready for the attack, but did not change my front. About 5 o’clock, I think, the enemy made their appearance back upon this very road up which they had gone before; but instead of keeping up the road, they turned past a farm-house, went through the farm-yard, and came down and formed right in front of me in a hollow out of my sight. Well, I let them all come down there, keeping a watch upon their movements. I told the artillery not to fire any shots at them until they saw the rear column go down, so as to get them all down in the little hollow or basin there. There was a little basin there, probably a quarter of a mile every way. I should think that, may-be, 3,000 men filed down before I changed front. We lay there with two regiments back, and the artillery in front, facing Bull Run. As soon as about 3,000 of the enemy got down in this basin I changed the front of the artillery around to the left in face of the enemy, and put a company of infantry between each of the pieces of artillery, and then deployed the balance of the regiments right and left, and made my line of battle. I gave directions to the infantry not to fire a shot under any circumstances until they got the word of command from me. I furthermore said I would shoot the first man that fired a shot before I gave the command to do so. I gave them orders all to lie down on their faces. They were just over the brow of the hill, so that if they came up in front of us they could not hit a man. As soon as I saw the rear column, I told whom I thought to be Lieutenant Edwards to fire. It proved to be Lieutenant Benjamin, because in placing the companies between the artillery they had got displaced. Lieutenant Benjamin fired the first shot at them when the rear column presented itself. It just went over the tops of their heads, and hit a horse and rider in the rear. As soon as the first shot was fired, I gave the order for the whole six pieces of artillery to open with grape and canister. The effect was terrible. They were all there right before us, about 450 yards off, and had not suspected that we were going to fire at all, though they did not know what the reason was. Hunt’s battery performed so well that in 30 minutes we dispersed every one of them. I do not know how many were killed, but we so crippled their entire force that they never came, after us an inch. A man who saw the effect of the firing in the valley said that it was just like firing into a wheatfield: the column gave way at once before the grape and canister; they were just within available distance. I knew very well that if they but got into that basin the first fire would cut them all in pieces; and it did. We continued the fire for 30 minutes, when there was nothing more to fire at, and no more shots were returned.

About the time this firing commenced, or a little before that, I received this note from Colonel Richardson. It seems that Colonel Miles, instead of sending the order through me, as the ranking colonel in command, to Richardson to retire on Centreville Heights, sent it, or his aid gave it, directly to Colonel Richardson himself, and also gave orders directly to my two regiments, which lay back as a reserve for me, to move back on Centreville Heights, leaving me in this open field with two regiments and six pieces of artillery, and no reserve to support me. As luck would have it, however, I was successful in the manner of making the fight there, and I did not require any support.

When I got through, and the order came to me to retire on Centreville Heights, I retired my own brigade first, because I was the ranking brigade. I went over to give the order for Colonel Richardson to retire, but I found he had been gone about an hour. I then went to find my other two regiments, which I had had in reserve, and found that they had already been ordered back to Centreville Heights. And when I retired my force, which I did in perfect order, I found my two regiments there on Centreville Heights, and Richardson’s brigade all formed on the heights; rather, they were all there, but running about in a great deal of confusion, for Colonel Miles was not in a condition to be very accurate that afternoon. But for the defence which Hunt’s battery made there, and the little arrangement to keep the men from firing, I think we should have been broken through by the enemy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. You have referred to Colonel Miles. Did you see him frequently during the day?

Answer. I saw him two or three times during the day.

Question. What time in the afternoon did you last see him on the field?

Answer. He left me about three o’clock in the afternoon, with instructions to encamp on the ground.

Question. Did you see him after that?

Answer. I did, at Centreville Heights, when I first got back with these two regiments. He had thrown forward the balance of the division and Richardson’s brigade on Centreville Heights.

Question. Did you consider him in a fit condition to give orders at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Answer. Well, sir, I do not want to be the accuser of Colonel Miles here; I will give my testimony at the proper time; but I would prefer not to answer the question now, unless it be deemed essential as eliciting information in regard to the conduct of the war.

Mr. Chandler: We want to know what causes might have led to the disasters of that day. We want to find out, if we can, all the causes.

The chairman: We have some testimony to that effect already, and perhaps, in justice to those who have testified about it, we should have all of it.

The witness: Well, sir, I do not think the colonel was exactly fitted for duty much of the day. I did not see him drink, but I pretty well understood what his condition was.

By the chairman:

Question. You consider that the portion of the army you led were victorious throughout?

Answer. Entirely so. I claim that 13,000 of our men were victorious in that battle, and I never want it written down in any other way.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. That is, our left wing.

Answer. Yes, sir. We are entitled to that, and we should have a report made so; and the 18,000 on the right were victorious, too, until a very late hour; but the left wing were entirely victorious, and have a right to claim such to be the case.

By the chairman:

Question. What led to the final defeat, as near as you could ascertain on the ground?

Answer. I can tell you what I think is the cause of the whole defeat of that day. The troops were raw; the men had been accustomed to look to their colonels as the only men to give them commands. They had never been taught the succession of officers, which is necessary to understand upon the battle-field. They did not understand the command devolving in succession upon the colonel, lieutenant colonel, major, and the captains, in their order of rank. The officers did not themselves know what to do; they were themselves raw and green. Every man went in to do his duty, and knew nothing about anybody else. When the colonels were killed or wounded, the subordinate officers did not know what to do, or the men did not know whether to obey them or not. When they lost their commanding officers, or those to whom they had alone been instructed to look for commands, they supposed they had a right to leave the field. That, I think, was the cause of many of the regiments retiring from the field; not from any cowardice, or fear of fighting, but because, having lost their colonels, they supposed they were out of the battle. I consider that the great cause of our army being put in rout on the right wing.

Question. Were you in a position to observe about the arrival of Johnston’s re-enforcements at that time?

Answer. No, sir; I know nothing about that; I was too far to the left. I was going on to give my reasons for what I suppose caused our defeat that day. There were two, probably three things, which, though they may not have controlled the matter, are, in my judgment, to be considered as some of the reasons why we were not as successful as we might have been. But every general has his own plan of campaign, and my ideas may run counter to those of our general, as he may have had, doubtless did have, reasons and considerations for his plan which I am ignorant of. But judging from what I knew, if I had been in command there I should have harassed the enemy for the three nights before the battle that we were there. I would not have allowed them to lay there quiet all that time, when, with a half a regiment or a regiment, we could have kept them awake all night and worried them exceedingly. We had the power to do it. If we had done that we should have fought them to great advantage.

Question. You spoke of a council of war the night before the battle?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was understood there as to Patterson’s holding Johnston from that battle? Was that an element taken into consideration in that council?

Answer. I did not hear it mentioned; that I am aware of. It might have been mentioned there, but I did not hear it. I was on the outside, and did not enter much into the inside of the discussion. There were two tents there, and most of the officers were a great way inside, while I was on the outside.

Question. Was not that a fact of so much importance that it should have been known and acted upon in planning the battle?

Answer. I think it should have been considered, and it may have been. I know it was understood by all the officers there that Johnston was to be held by Patterson. That matter was talked over among the officers, and it was so understood.

Question. If it had been known the day before the battle that the next morning Johnston would be down there with re-enforcements, would it have been prudent to hazard a battle until you had also obtained re-enforcements, or until Patterson’s army had followed Johnston down?

Answer. I should not have risked it, though my reasons for not risking it may be different from those of the one in command. He may have supposed that he had good grounds for fighting the battle.

Question. Would it be according to military prudence to fight a battle that must be uncertain, when you can make it all but certain by waiting a day or two?

Answer. That is very clear, according to my view of things.

Question. What would have been the effect had you waited there on Centreville Heights and rested your men a day or two—seeing Johnston was down there—until Patterson’s army had followed him there, and been ordered to turn their left ?

Answer. We should undoubtedly have won the battle.

Question. Was there anything to prevent that?

Answer. I know of nothing that could. I was going to mention three things which seems to me ought to have been done. One was to harass the enemy all we could. Another was to have intrenched Centreville Heights during the three days we lay there. The men would have fought better after working all day and sleeping well all night, than to have gone into the field as they did. And another thing was this: Now, I do not know the facts, I am only telling you my opinion of what should have been done, if the circumstances of the case had all been as I suppose they were. Not that I find the least fault with General McDowell, for I believe he is a splendid soldier; but if I had been in command of the right wing I should have intrenched after I got to the first run, and allowed them to attack me ; we had the sure thing ; we had the game there, and they might have got it back the best way they could. After the first run, after their first line broke and retired, then we should have intrenched and let them attack, and we would have had the victory. We had a sure thing, and there was no use in throwing it away.

Question. How was it about the men coming on the ground fatigued with marching? Had they marched any considerable distance, many of them?

Answer. No, sir, I do not think they had marched a great deal. But they had been loafing around a great deal; had been out a great deal of nights, and had been broken of their rest, and had not had full rations. They were not altogether in a prime condition for fighting.

Question. There was a brigade or a division in reserve on Centreville Heights most of the day, was there not?

Answer. Yes, sir; Blenker’s brigade lay there the whole day.

Question. Could not they have strengthened our centre if they had taken their position on the field of battle

Answer. The object of leaving that force there was to intrench Centreville Heights so that in case any accident occurred we could have retired there. But instead of that being done as was designed, there was some difficulty about getting intrenching tools forward, and on that account they never broke ground there. There were 3,000 men there, and in one day they could have thrown up a pretty fair intrenchment. If those intrenchments had been prepared there when we got back we need not have gone back any further.

Question. After the repulse of our army, the enemy did not follow up their victory?

Answer. No, sir; not at all. There were only a few who came running after the right wing, firing random shots.

Question. They did not pursue?

Answer. No, sir; they did not pursue at all. Some cavalry came down, I believe, and made one or two charges which amounted to nothing.

Question. What necessity was there for bringing our army back to Washington? Why not have taken position on the heights and intrenched there at Centreville?

Answer. I did take position there. General McDowell, after the suspension of Colonel Miles, wrote an order on a visiting card, putting me in command of the left wing of the army as it stood; and I was going to stay there, and should have stayed there, except that I got an order between 11 and 12 o’clock, first to retire to Fairfax Court-House, and then to Washington. My brigade was the last to leave the heights at Centreville, which we did between 12 and 1 o’clock. There was no enemy there then.

Question. Would there have been any difficulty in rallying your whole forces and holding your position on Centreville Heights, while you sent for Patterson, or for re-enforcements from here and Fortress Monroe? Would you not have worsted the enemy in that way?

Answer. We never should have been compelled to leave the place with what troops I had under my command. I could have held my position there with the troops I had, which were my brigade, Richardson’s brigade, Blenker’s brigade, and some batteries that came down from the point above.

Question. Was it not a terrible military blunder to come back to Washington in disorder?

Answer. That is putting it rather strong. I should not like to say it was a military blunder.

Question. Well, it was a mistake, then?

Answer. I think this: that we could have held our position there; there is no doubt about that.

Question. Then you ought to have held it, ought you not?

Answer. That is a matter I am not responsible for. That is a matter which rests with the other powers, for I do not know all that combined to make up their judgment.

Question. Would it not have been easier to have defended Washington on Centreville Heights than to have come pell-mell here to do it?

Answer. I can answer that very readily: I think it would; there is no doubt about that.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. I understand you to say that our left wing was victorious that day?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Have you stated precisely what the left wing did?

Answer. Not in every respect, for Runyon’s division lay behind us as part of the left wing.

Question. Was that engagement you have referred to the only one of the left wing that day?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Did our left wing make any attack that day?

Answer. No, sir; not at all; we only defended ourselves. We were the reserve; we were to maintain our position.

Question. When you say you were victorious, you mean to say that you maintained the position assigned you?

Answer. Yes, sir; that is always a victory. When one is attacked in a position, and is successful in repelling that, attack, that is as complete a victory as can be; and I think that all those troops which have been, in the accounts, submerged with a defeated body of troops, ought to have the credit of being victorious. It ought to have read that we were victorious with the 13,000 troops of the left wing, and defeated in the 18,000 of the right wing. That is all that Bull Run amounts to. The attack upon the left wing was repulsed, and the enemy never attacked there again. I have understood from the secession accounts of that battle that we killed there about one-third of all that we killed at the battle of Bull Run. And neither of my two regiments there fired a shot; if they had, we probably should have been defeated.

Question. What was the number of the enemy that came around the first time upon the road you speak of?

Answer. As near as we could judge, there were about 3,000—that is, judging from the time it took them to pass a given point; we could see the dust, but we could not see the troops; there was a light growth of bushes that separated them from us; we fired shell into the bushes.

Question. The force left at Centreville and the force under your command were both necessary, in your opinion, to prevent the enemy coming around and attacking the main body of our army in the rear?

Answer. Certainly: entirely so.

Question. Then you cannot strictly call that a reserve?

Answer. No, sir; not strictly so. We were put down upon the programme, as I stated in the forepart of my testimony, as a reserve. But we, in truth, expected to make an attack upon the enemy, as well as the right wing. We, however, made an attack simply upon a body of troops that lay in the woods waiting for us. There were about 10,000 of the enemy’s troops concentrated upon our position all day long, hoping to take our army in the rear.

Question. So that it would not have been safe at any hour of the day to have taken our troops from Centreville and moved them forward to the main body of the army?

Answer. I think, as it turned out, that Blenker’s brigade, which was expected to have intrenched Centreville Heights, might have been spared. Yet, after all, we might not have been able to have maintained our position. We might have been broken, and then Blenker’s brigade would have been necessary for us to have fallen back upon. If the failure had taken place on our left wing, nothing in the world could have saved our army or Washington. When I got here to the city I could have taken the place with a thousand men, or even a less number. I never saw such an excited condition of things as there was here.

By the chairman:

Question. At what time did you get back and form on Centreville Heights?

Answer. The last two regiments got on Centreville Heights about 7 o’clock in the evening.


17 07 2009


Now we’ve heard from two folks who were to 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 two men on more than one occasion: their unique positions in army command, their close relationships with individuals and actions that were the subjects of investigation.  Or perhaps it was their seemingly innate abilities to give precisely the answers the committee members were looking for?


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