JCCW- Col. David B. Birney

17 07 2009

Testimony of Col. David B. Birney

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 163-168

WASHINGTON, January 11, 1862.

Colonel DAVID B. BIRNEY sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. What is your rank and position in the army?

Answer. I am colonel of the 23d regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers, from Philadelphia. I was the lieutenant colonel of the same regiment in the three months’ service, under General Patterson.

Question. What number of troops, with which to operate against Johnston’s army, had General Patterson while at Martinsburg?

Answer. I have only my own estimate from seeing the regiments. I have no official knowledge of it.

Question. Will you give your best estimate?

Answer. I thought there were about 25,000 men—from 20,000 to 25,000— merely from seeing the camps and troops; that is only my estimate of them.

Question. What number of troops had General Johnston under him at that time, according to the best estimate that you had about it?

Answer. There was a great variety of opinions about that. I thought, from information that I got from the people there, in the country, that he had from 15,000 to 20,000 men.

Question. Was his army thought to be superior in numbers to that of General Patterson?

Answer. I do not know as I could state that; there was such a variety of opinion about it. Our regiments were all very anxious to try that point —to meet them—but they had no chance. That was the great trouble with our regiments.

Question. How long did you remain at Martinsburg?

Answer. We remained at Martinsburg some ten days, I think.

Question. Where was Johnston understood to be during those ten days?

Answer. On the road between Martinsburg and Winchester, and intrenched at Winchester. We marched from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill.

Question. How far was that?

Answer. About seven miles.

Question. Can you give the date of your march from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill? ‘

Answer. I know we spent the 4th of July at Martinsburg. It was a few days after the 4th of July, but I cannot tell exactly the date.

Question. When you got to Bunker Hill, how long did you stay there?

Answer. We got there in the evening and encamped. The next day I was sent by General Patterson, with a detachment of six companies of infantry, a squadron of cavalry, and two sections of artillery of the Rhode Island battery, with instructions to make a demonstration and persuade the enemy that the army was marching upon Winchester, and to approach within two or three miles of Winchester. I marched down the road until we came to Stuart’s cavalry. We fired upon them and they retreated, and I continued my march as far as I thought was prudent. I found the road barricaded—trees across it, and fences built across it. My instructions were only to give the enemy the idea that the army was coming. When I thought I had done that, I halted and came back. I suppose I went to within about four miles of Winchester.

Question. How far is Bunker Hill from Winchester?

Answer. I think the sign-post shows it to be eight miles.

Question. While you were at Bunker Hill what direction would Johnston’s army have to take to get down to Manassas? How near to where you were stationed would they have to pass?

Answer. As I understand the geography of the country, they would come no nearer to us.

Question. They would still keep about the same distance from you?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. They would have to pass within about eight miles of you?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. If you had remained at Bunker Hill, would there have been any difficulty in your encountering them on their way to Manassas, if you had sought to intercept them on their way? Would there have been any difficulty in having an encounter with them, supposing they had come out of Winchester to go down to Manassas?

Answer. They would have been going in a side direction—laterally. They would not have come any nearer to us.

Question. You could have moved so as to have prevented their going down without an engagement with you, could you not?

Answer. Yes, sir; that could have been done by a forced march.

Question. Do you know any reason why you turned off from there to Charlestown?

Answer. No, sir; I do not.

Question. That, however, opened the way to them—gave them a free way to Manassas, did it not?

Answer. Yes, sir. Well, we would not have obstructed them if we had remained where we were at Bunker Hill. But we were told when we left Bunker Hill on our march that morning, that we were to take a road about half-way between Bunker Hill and outflank them. We were told that, as the road from Bunker Hill to Winchester had been found to be barricaded, we were to march towards Charlestown, and take the road turning off to the right as we approached Charlestown, and thus outflank them and prevent their coming down to Manassas. We had no idea of marching to Charlestown.

Question. You had no such idea when you started?

Answer. No, sir. We understood from our brigade commanders, &c., that we were still going to march upon Winchester, but to take this side road, instead of the one that was barricaded, and thus intercept them and prevent their joining Beauregard down here?

Question. Do you know the real purpose that was expected to be effected by this army of Patterson? Was it to prevent Johnston from joining Beauregard? Was that understood to be the object of Patterson’s movements?

Answer. I do not know as I understood that it was especially to prevent him from joining Beauregard. Our conversation with our superior officers led us to suppose that we were to attack Johnston and whip him. I knew nothing about Johnston joining the enemy at Manassas, except, when we left Bunker Hill, we were then told that our object was to take this side road and prevent Johnston from coming down to Manassas on the railroad.

Question. You knew nothing, then, about the expectation of a battle being fought at Manassas at that time?

Answer. Yes, sir; the reason I knew was this: I called upon General Patterson about that time. General Cadwalader, who was our brigade general, referred me to General Patterson. We called to represent to him the state of our regiment, and he told me that he expected that a battle had been fought at Manassas on Tuesday, and thought he should hear of that battle on that day, and that we were to attack Winchester.

Question. In your judgment, as a military man, while you were at Bunker Hill would it have been in your power to have detained Johnston in the valley of Winchester, if that had been your purpose and object? Could you have prevented him from coming down to Manassas?

Answer. That is rather a difficult question to answer. I do not know what I would have thought then, if I had had the information that General Patterson had. But I think now, knowing the strength of the two parties, that we could have done it. That opinion is, however, based upon my present knowledge of the situation of the two parties, and not upon the knowledge that General Patterson and all the officers may have had at that time.

Question. How strong did you take the enemy to be at that time? Did you estimate his strength to be superior to your army?

Answer. He was not generally thought by the officers composing our army to be superior. There was a great deal of indignation among men and officers that we were marched and countermarched so much. There was great anxiety to march on—to get on. It was very difficult for those of us commanding regiments to make our men satisfied. We were there without tents—only four tents to a company—and when it rained the men were exposed. We had supposed that we were going to be marched on to fight. And the men were marched and countermarched until they became very tired of it.

Question. At what time did you first discover that it was not the intention to bring on a battle?

Answer. At Charlestown.

Question. Was there any dissatisfaction among the men until it was found that there was no probability of their being led to battle?

Answer. There was not in our brigade—in the 21st, the 6th, and the 23d Pennsylvania regiments, composing our brigade.

Question. Did the men refuse to go further or stay longer after their time should expire, at any time before they ascertained that they were not going to be led against the enemy?

Answer. I can speak better of my own regiment. At Charlestown there was some dissatisfaction in the regiment about the marching and countermarching, and the retreat; for they considered this march to Charlestown a retreat.

Question. It was a retreat in fact, was it not?

Answer. Yes, sir; they so considered it when we did not take this side road, as we expected. When we came to Charlestown their three months’ time was out, and about 300 of my men were without shoes. My regiment had offered again for the war under myself—had offered to remain before that—but the offer had not been accepted at Washington. The time had come to go home, and a great many of them were without shoes, and they felt discouraged. I went to see General Patterson, and told him that if shoes were furnished my men to march, and there was any prospect of any fighting—if they were going to march on to Winchester—the regiment would to a man go on to Winchester and fight their way to Manassas, and so come on through Washington home. But if they were to be kept there marching and countermarching, it would be almost impossible to detain them much longer than their term of enlistment.

Question. At what time did you ascertain that Johnston had left Winchester?

Answer. I did not hear of it until the 21st or 22d of July.

Question. You were not near enough to him to ascertain when he did leave, I suppose?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. How far is Charlestown from Winchester?

Answer. I think it was some fifteen or sixteen miles. We were about eight miles from Winchester while we were at Bunker Hill, and this was a side movement that took us away some seven or eight miles further. I think it was about fifteen miles, though I do not know how far it was.

Question. You have already said that you considered this march to Charlestown a retreat?

Answer. Yes, sir; when we passed through the little town about half-way to Charlestown, and passed the little road down which we expected to turn towards Winchester—when we passed that, we understood that we were retreating.

Question. And then the dissatisfaction among the troops commenced ?

Answer. Yes, sir; when we got to Charlestown.

Question. You had not heard the dissatisfaction before in your own brigade ?

Answer. No dissatisfaction; some feeling at marching and countermarching so much.

Question. While they were expecting to be led to battle they did not reckon upon quitting the service?

Answer. No, sir. If the men had been told that they were to be led to battle, I think they would have gone. I think there would have been no dissatisfaction if there had been any certainty that they would be led to battle.

Question. .I am thus particular in asking about this matter, because that has sometimes been assigned as a cause for the retreat.

Answer. There was a great deal of dissatisfaction at Charlestown—that is, these regiments did not want to be retained if they were going to be marched and countermarched as they had been.

Question. That is, after all prospect of fighting was over?

Answer. Yes, sir. There was no such dissatisfaction at Martinsburg or Bunker Hill that I saw. I never saw men more rejoiced, who seemed to feel more like being led into action, than our men at Bunker Hill.

Question. They were enthusiastic and anxious to be led on?

Answer. Yes, sir, until we began to go back.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Are you aware of the fact of Captain William McMullin, of the Rangers, having been sent out to ascertain the number of troops at Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was his report?

Answer. I heard from others that he reported the enemy to have forty thousand men.

Question. Did you solicit the privilege of taking some of your men, and heading a reconnoissance, to ascertain the exact force of the enemy?

Answer. I told General Thomas that I had very little confidence in Captain McMullin; that I considered him a very disreputable character; and that I had in my regiment men who would make excellent scouts, and that I should be very happy to take a few of them, and try myself to ascertain the strength of the enemy.

Question. The permission was not granted to you?

Answer. No, sir; but the general said he would mention it.

Question. You did not believe McMullin’s report at all?

Answer. Well, sir, it was just in this way: You probably know McMullin’s reputation. He has always been a noted character in Philadelphia— a bully, a kind of a character there. He is a fellow of courage, and all that, but he is not a man in whom I would place the most implicit confidence.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Do you mean his judgment?

Answer. His judgment is good enough. But I would not place the utmost confidence in his statements. He is a man of courage, and of fighting propensities, and all that. He is that strong enough.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. He would report according to circumstances, not according to the fact? That is about the amount of it, is it?

Answer. Yes, sir; that is, I would not have that amount of confidence in his statements that I would have in the statements of others who felt more interest in the cause.

By Mr. Covode :

Question. Was he sent out to reconnoitre before you came back to Charlestown or after?

Answer. He was used for that purpose. There was a company raised at the request of General Patterson—not exactly as a body guard, but he used them as scouts and in matters of that kind.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did he not make this report, that Johnston had 40,000 men at Winchester, after Johnston had left Winchester entirely?

Answer. I think so. We left Winchester on Sunday, and marched back to Harper’s Ferry. I did not think there was any knowledge then—at least we did not know—that Johnston had left Winchester.

By Mr. Covode :

Question. Was it after you came back to Charleston that you proposed to reconnoitre?

Answer. That was merely in the way of conversation with General Thomas. I merely stated to him, as we were talking about the fire in the evening, that I had very little confidence in McMullin, and that I had some men in my regiment whom I had the most implicit confidence in; and I would even go with them and see that this information was obtained. That was before we went to Charlestown; that was when we were at Martinsburg.

By the chairman:

Question. Had you any reason to believe that Johnston’s army had been re-enforced?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. You knew that Beauregard was to be attacked at Manassas?

Answer. I heard so.

Question. They would not, of course, under those circumstances, re-enforce Johnston from Manassas. And where was there any probability of his army being re-enforced ?

Answer. I do not know.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. When did the time of your regiment expire?

Answer. On the 21 st of July.

Question. What was the spirit of your men at Bunker Hill, in reference to marching against the enemy?

Answer. They were perfectly willing to go; they were anxious to march on Winchester.

Question. From Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir. We had the idea that we were to go home by way of Manassas, through Washington, and so on home that way. There was a rumor that we were to go home that way.

Question. How was it with the men when they were at Charlestown?

Answer. There was great dissatisfaction there.

Question. Do you think, as a military man, that Johnston could have been held or fought better from Bunker Hill than from Charlestown?

Answer. We were then seven miles nearer to him.

Question. Seven miles nearer at Bunker Hill than at Charlestown?

Answer. Yes, sir. We supposed the idea in the movement to Charlestown was to take this side road, and thus avoid the intrenched turnpike.

Question. Did not you and your officers understand that your business at Bunker Hill was to hold or fight Johnston while General McDowell engaged Beauregard at Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was told we were to prevent the junction.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. That was the general understanding, so far as you knew, of all the officers there?

Answer. Yes, sir; we supposed we were to attack him.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did you not believe that efforts were being made by McMullin and others to magnify the size and strength of Johnston’s army?

Answer. Not exactly that; I only judged from my knowledge of the man. I did not feel that I could depend upon his statements.





A Note on Blogs – This One, Anyway

16 07 2009

Heart-Rate

Yesterday I had heart rate problems.  For a number of reasons I won’t go into, my resting heart rate is usually somewhere in the mid to low 50’s.  But yesterday as I sat at my computer it was hovering 25-30 bpm faster.  This was due to an email I received from the author of a book mentioned in a couple of my posts, which resulted in my writing this post.  This guy was irate regarding “gross deficiencies” in my post, which was one in a series.  It became obvious after an exchange of emails that he had not read all the posts in the series, had not read them in order after learning of them, and did not understand the focus of the posts – nor did he care.  I’m pretty sure he was most upset with the fact that I never contacted him about his book (the existence of which I only learned of in the process of writing the series that ended with the receipt of the book), although he also didn’t like my characterization of his footnotes as “uneven” and a cautionary statement about regimental histories and biographies written by descendants in general, a concern shared by just about every historian and student of history I know.  I only read a page or two of the book that dealt with the topic in question, and offered no review or qualitative comments about the book specifically.

Look, this blog is not a linear narrative – it’s not a book.  Books don’t have hyperlinks – when I place a link in a post (such as see here), I expect the reader will click on that link.  It’s part of the post.  Other than links to Amazon or other sources for purchase information, those links aren’t put there for giggles.

In addition, blog posts are usually pretty focused and brief.  Topics are generally narrow.  In what is still my favorite series of posts, the Kilpatrick Family Ties series, I did not write much about Kilpatrick’s military career.  So you see no mention of, say, Monroe’s Crossroads.  That’s not because of poor research, but because the “story” in that case was his family.

I held these truths to be self evident.  I guess I shouldn’t have.  But I definitely shouldn’t have let it get to me like it did.  It’s times like these I wish I’d spent a few years in an ashram, or taken up TM.  Ohmmmm…ohmmmm…

UPDATE:  Today this guy has sent even more insulting and rude emails.  He steadfastly refuses to identify what he calls “misinformation” spread by my “blithering” blog, and keeps repeating the same nonsense.  I’m quite willing to correct any mistakes I’ve made in my posts, and have done so on more than one occasion when they have been pointed out to me.  I’m tempted to reproduce his emails here in their entirety, but that would be quite embarrassing to the individual and maybe there’s more to his story than I know.  Hopefully I’ve heard the last from him.

Sorry about this.  I don’t use my blog to vent, and hopefully this will be a one-time thing.





A Note on Comments

15 07 2009

I have always enabled the comments feature to posts on this blog.  I even enable it on “resource” posts like the ORs and the JCCW testimony.  I’ve done so to allow and encourage reader participation and, just as important, contribution.  So, if you read something here about which you feel compelled to comment, please by all means do so.  Just follow these simple rules:

  • Be courteous.
  • Be rational.
  • Be specific – especially with criticism (which should of course be constructive).
  • Be concise.
  • Leave the comment on the applicable post, not on places like “About Me”.

If you have a question that is not specific to one or a series of posts, send me an email at my address to the right.  But don’t send me an email about a post – leave a comment.

I reserve the right to delete comments or to not approve comments.  As it stands now, the first time you post a comment on this site – from a specific email address – your comment must be approved.  After that first comment is approved, subsequent comments will post automatically, though I can still delete them.  The decision rests with me.





2009 Battle Anniversary

15 07 2009

I’ve received some inquiries regarding anniversary programs at Manassas National Battlefield Park.  I got this from the website, though it was tough to find:

148th Anniversary of First Manassas (Bull Run) 

Date:  7/18/2009, 7/19/2009

Time:  10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Location:  Henry Hill

Details:

See Union and Confederate troops portrayed in an encampment representing the raw soldiers of the summer of 1861 on the Henry Hill battlefield.  Demonstrations of musketry and artillery firing will echo over the grassy fields where the combat raged 148 years ago.  Soldier life demonstrations will describe the experience of citizen soldiers, naive amateurs in their baptism of fire, encountering their “first gunpowder christening.”  U.S. Marine Battalion exhibits will illuminate the uniforms and equipment of Civil War Marines.  Replica colors or flags of regiments in the colorful confusion of the battle will be unfurled, and impressions of Union and Confederate uniforms will depict the “fog of war” the muddle of confusion in the reek of smoke on the battlefield.  Park Ranger tours will be conducted over the ground where bravery and sacrifice was witnessed in what the raw troops, “as green as grass” believed would be the “only battle of the war,” only to be sobered by the carnage revealed in the brutal combat.
 
Fee Free Weekend
 
Contact Park ranger staff at (703) 361-1339





JCCW – Gen. John G. Barnard

15 07 2009

Testimony of Gen. John G. Barnard

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 160-162

WASHINGTON, January 11, 1862.

General JOHN G. BARNARD sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer Yes, sir.

Question. In what capacity?

Answer I was the chief of the engineer corps of General McDowell’s army.

Question. Without going minutely into the matter, will you state concisely to what you attribute the disaster to our army in that battle?

Answer. One of the influential causes was, I think, the loss of time in getting under way the morning of the fight. The fact that the repulse turned into a disastrous defeat I attribute to the fact that our troops were all raw. General McDowell had not even time to see all his troops They were brigaded only for the march, and put under officers whom the troops had not time to know, and who had no time to know the troops; and they had not been under military training long enough to be thoroughly educated as to what they had to do. With every disposition to fight well, they had not acquired the knowledge and experience they should have had, and when they were driven back on the narrow roads, in small bodies, they became so mixed up that it was almost impossible to recognize them.

Question. You attribute the first bad phase of that battle to the fact that our troops did not get on the ground in time?

Answer. Yes, sir. I think an hour’s difference would have gained the battle. We had almost gained it as it was.

Question. What caused that delay?

Answer. There were two cause distinct from each other. One was that in the plan of attack General Tyler’s division was to move first on the Warrenton turnpike to Stone Bridge, while the really attacking column which was to turn the enemy’s left flank, and which consisted of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, had to follow Tyler until they reached the road where they were to turn off to make this detour. The road into which they were to turn was not a beaten, travelled road, but a mere country path. And Tyler’s division was not out of the way so that they could get up to that turn-off for an hour and a half later than was expected. So that, instead of getting at that point at four o’clock, the head of Hunter’s column was not able to get there until, say about half-past five. That was the first cause.

Question. What delayed Tyler’s division; did you ever know?

Answer. When General McDowell and his staff rode along after waiting for the columns to get in motion—this was at four or half past four o’clock— we found the columns standing in the road waiting for one of Tyler’s brigades to get out of camp and under motion. Perhaps there was some fault in planning it, in overlooking the fact that Tyler’s division was so large, including three brigades, and the want of experience that we all had in moving large bodies of men. But whether it was General Tyler’s fault in not getting his troops under way in time, I am not competent enough to decide. I think that after we had waited for some time General McDowell had to stop the last brigade of Tyler’s division until Hunter’s division filed past.

I said there were two causes for that delay. The second was the much longer time it took for the column of Hunter’s to get around to Sudley’s Ford than we calculated for. In going over the ground as far as we could the day before, we fell upon the enemy’s patrol, and, not liking to attract their attention that way, we did not explore the ground up to the ford. We found that the ground was perfectly free; that there was nothing to obstruct cavalry or artillery; and the guide took them by a detour, saying that we would be exposed to the enemy’s batteries if we took the shorter road. So that we were three or four hours making that march through the woods. We did not get to the ford until half past nine or ten o’clock, and we ought to have been there at six o’clock. We succeeded in our operations. We deceived the enemy as to the point we were going to attack. We turned his left flank. He actually did not know the point of attack until twelve o’clock, when he commenced accumulating his forces at that point. If we had been earlier, we should have got on the Warrenton turnpike, in the rear of Stone Bridge, before he could have got there We should have concentrated three divisions there.

Question. There was a strong brigade on Centreville Heights after the retreat began?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What would have been the effect of ordering up that force to support the retreating columns?

Answer. When I saw that there was danger of losing the battle—when I saw the first charge, the first repulse of the Zouave regiment, the first capture of Ricketts’s battery—I began to fear that we would be beaten. I had felt confident of a victory up to that time, but then I began to see the possibility of a repulse. We supposed that the Stone Bridge was unguarded, and if we were beaten, and the enemy should cross there, we would be cut off. I had got separated from General McDowell, and I hunted up the adjutant, who was behind attending to some duty, and requested him to order up the brigade at Centreville to the Stone Bridge, in order to support us there, as we supposed the division of Tyler had entirely got across the bridge. General McDowell left that brigade at Centreville as a reserve at a central point, as he was afraid that while we were operating on the enemy’s left, making this long detour to do so, the enemy would pass Blackburn’s Ford and manoeuvre up by Centreville on our left flank. I had rather overlooked that until I saw it in General McDowell’s report.  And General Beauregard says that if we had not anticipated him, he would have attacked us. He actually did send an order to General Ewell to move up and attack our communication that way; and the reason it was not done was because the order miscarried in some way, so that that part of his plan failed. If they had attacked and carried that position at the same time that we were repulsed on our left, we would have been worse off than we were.

Question. But would not have been defeated, would you, if that strong division at Centreville had been at the fight? They would have gone right through them, would they not?

Answer. If our line had held out for a half an hour longer, we would have beaten the enemy as it was, because Schenck’s brigade at the Stone Bridge was at that moment just ready to act. The enemy had made an abattis on the other side; cut down the woods for some two hundred yards back from the bridge. Two of Tyler’s brigades had crossed over to join our left. Schenck’s brigade had remained at the bridge, and Captain Alexander had cut through the abattis and was ready to move on the enemy’s right just at the moment that they received news that our men were retreating. I believe if we had held out a half an hour, or even but a quarter of an hour, longer, we should have beaten them.

Question. If Patterson had held Johnston back, what would have been the effect?

Answer. We should have beaten them. That was the only thing that saved them.

Question. At what time before the battle commenced was it understood that Patterson was not holding Johnston back?

Answer. All that I knew about it, and all, I believe, that was distinctly known in the army about it, was that we heard the railroad cars running all night long. We were near enough at Centreville to hear the locomotives at Manassas.

Question. Suppose that when Patterson turned off from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, the moment that he knew he was no longer able to hold Johnston back, he had given notice to General Scott, and that notice had come to you, what would have been the effect of it upon your councils, had you heard it the day before the battle?

Answer. I think we should have fought any way. We could not have delayed any longer; that would have done us no good. The time of the three months’ volunteers was expiring. We had made that march to fight, and I think we would have fought.

Question. Suppose you had held your own there until Patterson had followed Johnston down?

Answer. If we had received something definite—a communication of that kind—I think it is likely the determination would have been altered.

Question. I mean if that communication had been given directly from Patterson to General Scott, and from General Scott had been sent immediately to you, I suppose the effect upon your council would have been at least to wait until Patterson had followed Johnston down?

Answer. If we had received the information in a distinct form, we might have acted differently. I know that, with what information we had, it was uncertain. The question was discussed, “Shall we defer the attack?” and it was concluded that we better fight as soon as we could. We heard the railroad cars running all night, and presumed that Johnston’s forces were coming in. But the moral effect of a delay would have been bad, and that action at Blackburn’s Ford had a bad effect on the army.

Answer. Could you not have brought up 10,000 or 15,000 more troops from Washington by a little delay?

Answer. By stripping Washington entirely of all its troops we might have done so, I suppose. I do not recollect what the whole force was here then.

Question. General Tyler was sent around to make a reconnoissance merely, as we have been told, not to make an attack, on the 18th?

Answer. He was not expected to go further than Centreville, I think. I think he was not expected to make any attack at all.

Question. Seeing that he did make an attack, he should have carried those batteries, should he not, if he could have done so? And if he had, would it not have cleared the way for the next battle, so that you could have turned their left?

Answer. He ought not to have made the attack at all without knowing that he could do something. He ought to have made the attack with the intention of carrying the position, or not have made it at all. I was on the spot, and warned him twice that it was not intended to fight a battle there; that it was on the straight road to Manassas, at one of the strongest crossings on Bull Run, and that it was evident the enemy was moving up his force to meet us there. And as he had no orders to fight, and as there was no plan to fight there, I did all I could to get him to desist. I had no objection to his opening his artillery fire, for that was a sort of reconnoissance, to make them show just what they were. But I had no idea that they were going to march down to the Run and fight as they did.





Porter on Patterson’s Staff

14 07 2009

Fitz_John_PorterSome readers may be surprised upon seeing Fitz-John Porter’s testimony before the JCCW on Robert Patterson’s activities in the Shenandoah Valley at the time of First Bull Run.  Yes, he was on Patterson’s staff.  Most historians fail to mention Porter’s presence there, with the notable exception of Russel Beatie.  Perhaps more attention should be focused here?

Put together these several puzzle pieces:  Robert Patterson, contrary to popular perception, had spent a total of about five years in military service prior to becoming a Major General of PA militia in April, 1861.  Those five years consisted of three in the war of 1812, and two in the war with Mexico; Scott gave Patterson explicit instructions to consult with and take the advice of the regular army officers with him; Porter’s JCCW testimony is almost a mirror image of Patterson’s.

Hmmm…you know, George “Slow Trot” Thomas was also one of the regular army officers whose advice was available to Patterson.





JCCW – Gen. Fitz-John Porter

13 07 2009

Testimony of Gen. Fitz-John Porter

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 152-159

WASHINGTON, January 11, 1862.

General FITZ-JOHN PORTER recalled and examined.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Were you on General Patterson’s staff?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was his assistant adjutant general, and with him from almost the commencement of his expedition. At all events, I was with him from about the 1st of May.

Question. Then you were with him when he moved from Martinsburg?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Will you state concisely the movement from Martinsburg?

Answer. I do not recollect the dates.

Question. We understand that he moved from Martinsburg on the 15th of July.

Answer. We moved from Martinsburg direct upon Bunker Hill.

Question. What distance?

Answer. I think it was about twelve miles. We there remained one day. There was a heavy force towards Winchester, and the following morning we moved from Bunker Hill to Charlestown.

Question. Johnston was at that time intrenched at Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. When you were at Bunker Hill how far were you from Winchester?

Answer. I think about twelve miles.

Question. How far is it from Charlestown?

Answer. About the same distance.

Question. You sent forward a heavy force towards Winchester on Tuesday, the 16th?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Did they meet any enemy?

Answer. The cavalry of the enemy came in contact with them, some 500 or 600 of them; that is the report we received; I do not know it myself. They met that force, and I think a few cannon shot and a few infantry shot passed.

Question. Did they find any obstruction?

Answer. The road, as I understood, had trees felled across; had a fence put across it; was barricaded.

Question. Did they go near enough to ascertain whether Johnston was intrenched at Winchester?

Answer. They did not.

Question. Did you know at that time whether he was or not intrenched at Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir; we knew it six weeks before.

Question. And these barricades were thrown up to prevent your progress towards Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir; I always presumed these barricades were put there with the design, if he retired, (as I supposed he was prepared to do,) that we should not be able to pursue him.

Question. To prevent your pursuit if he retired towards Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir; to give us all the obstructions he could while he was at his ease.

Question. While at Bunker Hill you were threatening Johnston?

Answer. Yes, sir; and I always considered that to be the design unless our force was superior to Johnston.

Question. You considered that during that campaign you were to take care of Johnston’s force, and particularly at this period of the campaign?

Answer. Yes, sir; it was to try and hold him at Winchester.

Question. It was deemed of the first importance that Johnston should be held in the valley of Winchester at that time, in order that he might not be present and participate with Beauregard at Manassas when General McDowell made his attack?

Answer. Yes, sir; and there was also a fear which was expressed by General Scott in one of his despatches in a direction to be careful not to drive Johnston on Manassas.

Question. But to threaten him.

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You being on the staff of course saw the despatches of the commander-in-chief to General Patterson?

Answer. Yes, sir; they were all filed away under my direction.

Question. Did you not understand, from the general character of these despatches, that General Scott especially desired that Johnston should be held by Patterson’s force?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. That was the great point that General Scott required there.

Answer. Yes, sir; that was the desire. And he also expressed the desire that if Johnston retired from Winchester in force not to pursue him, but take into consideration the route via Leesburg, through Keyes’s Ferry, or better still, cross the Potomac twice and go, via Leesburg, down this way.

Question. That is, in case Johnston went down by way of Strasburg, it was deemed hazardous to follow him in that direction.

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And in order that you might be up with him, you were to take the other road right down as rapidly as possible.

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. So that, in case Johnston should get down and form a junction with Beauregard, you should be on hand to join McDowell?

Answer. That was the design.

Question. When you made the march from Bunker Hill towards Charlestown, you were then retreating from Johnston, going further from him?

Answer. That was regarded at that time as a necessity.

Question. The fact was, you were going from Johnston?

Answer. Yes, sir; we were retiring, or rather it was going further from Winchester.

Question. Of course you were threatening Johnston less at Charlestown than you were at Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir. But the design in going to Charlestown was to get near our depot where provisions could be provided. From that point the design was, and the directions were given, to move again upon Winchester.

Question. When did you first learn of the battle of Bull Run, of the engagement of McDowell with the rebels there?

Answer. The first information was a telegraph from General Scott stating that the first move of McDowell had caused the enemy to abandon Fairfax Court-House. But there was no intimation after that, I think, until the Thursday night afterwards.

Question. Thursday, the 18th of July.

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You got the news then that he had moved and driven the enemy from Fairfax?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Then you say you do not know when you first got the news of the battle at Bull Run.

Answer. No, sir; I do not recollect?

Question. You were about to explain why the movement was made from Bunker Hill to Charlestown.

Answer. It was in part the carrying out a plan which had been submitted to General Scott to take Charlestown and make Harper’s Ferry a depot. The communication, via Williamsport, up to Martinsburg was a long one, and continually threatened. From Charlestown down to Harper’s Ferry was a short distance, and there was a railroad there available for use; and another thing, it was much easier to go down in this direction by immediately crossing to Leesburg and striking from there, if necessary, over to Manassas. The proposition had been submitted several days before this movement was made, but there was no reply made to it by General Scott until, I think, three or four days after its probable receipt by him. It was then too late for us to make the move which had been indicated, and go to Charlestown and there establish a depot and threaten Johnston on the Tuesday when it was designed to make the threat. We had a great many supplies, and transportation was not very abundant, and the movement of the supplies from Martinsburg to Charlestown had to be covered by an advance upon Bunker Hill; and in order to carry out General Scott’s wish to threaten Johnston strongly on Tuesday, as that was the day he said he was going to make the attack on Manassas, the movement to Bunker Hill was made, and we there remained threatening him. We could not carry at any time more than three days’ provisions. In the mean time the provisions were being changed, and all the supply train that could possibly be gathered from Hagerstown and Williamsport was brought up there, and the movement to Bunker Hill covered the movement of the train to Charlestown.

Question. The question submitted to General Scott whether our forces should be at Charlestown or Martinsburg for threatening Johnston?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And as between Charlestown and Martinsburg General Scott approved of Charlestown?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. That brought you into a better position with reference to Johnston at Winchester than you were in at Martinsburg?

Answer. Just about the same relative position, but better for us if we had required a forward movement.

Question. You were not threatening Johnston at Charlestown so much as at Bunker Hill?

Answer. While we were at Bunker Hill all the train we could get together at Martinsburg was carrying all our supplies over to Charlestown, and it was covered by the movement of the army over to Charlestown by Bunker Hill. If we had been compelled to come down to the assistance of McDowell, we would have been compelled to abandon everything at Martinsburg if we had remained there, or even at Bunker Hill.

Question. That was not true at Charlestown?

Answer. No, sir; everything there could have been pushed at once to Harper’s Ferry and secured.

Question. Johnston was at Winchester when you were at Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir; before and afterwards.

Question. And he remained there until the next day, when you moved to Charlestown?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And on Thursday, the day following, he moved to Mauassas?

Answer. He broke up, I think, at 2 o’clock on Thursday.

Question. Do you know how long it took him to make the passage from Winchester to Manassas?

Answer. I think he got to Manassas on the day of the battle, Sunday.

Question. So that if you had detained him one day longer at Winchester, he would have been too late for the battle?

Answer. Yes, sir; but I do not believe he could have been detained; that was my own impression.

Question. Was it your impression at the time you were at Bunker Hill that Johnston would move down to Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir; when it was necessary for him to go to Manassas.

Question. You believed, then, that he would go?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. That that was his intention?

Answer. Yes, sir; and that it was an utter impossibility for us to hold him.

Question. You came to that conclusion when you were at Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir; and not only then, but long before. We came to that conclusion when we were at Hagerstown.

Question. Did General Patterson come to that conclusion?

Answer. I do not know.

Question. Was that question discussed in your councils at all?

Answer. In speaking of it—General Patterson, Captain Newton—we all were under the impression that if we went to Winchester the enemy, as we advanced, would quietly retire; that as we went along, they would also go along a little further back, and gradually draw us forward until the time came when they would suddenly strike us, and make a dash at Manassas.

Question. The prevailing opinion among General Patterson’s staff was, that the enemy would, at an opportune moment, dash forward so as to be at Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir; that is my impression of the existing opinion.

Question. Do you know whether any such impression as that was ever communicated to the general-in-chief?

Answer. I do not.

Question. You do not know whether any such communication was ever made to the general-in-chief?

Answer. No, sir; I have no recollection of anything of the kind.

Question. You say General Scott had indicated Tuesday as the day he would fight?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Therefore you deemed it of prime importance to hold Johnston over Tuesday?

Answer. Yes, sir; of great importance to hold him over Tuesday. Even if the fight was delayed, or not decided for one or two days, Johnston could not reach there.

Question. Did you not also deem it of prime importance that you should, if possible, detain Johnston until you knew the result of the attack by General McDowell upon Manassas?

Answer. Yes, sir; and when we got to Charlestown preparations were made at once to advance upon Winchester and continue the same movement.

Question. Was there any demonstration ever made from Charlestown towards Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir. Quite a heavy reconnoissance was sent from there under Colonel, now General, Thomas.

Question. The enemy must have inferred from your movement from Bunker Hill to Charlestown—must have come to the conclusion that you did not intend to commence an attack upon them?

Answer. They may have come to that conclusion. I presume their thought was that we were then making a move to get down to Leesburg, and so on down.

Question. They probably inferred that you intended to go down by way of Leesburg?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And therefore they must hasten their forces forward and go down, so as to be equal with you?

Answer. Probably so.

Question. That would have been natural?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. If they had drawn that inference they would have done what they did do?

Answer. Yes, sir; and to prevent their drawing that conclusion this force was sent out the following morning.

Question. You felt it was necessary to do something to do away with that impression?

Answer. Yes, sir; and a force was thrown out for that purpose. I will say here that when we were at Bunker Hill there was a commencement—in fact, it commenced at Martinsburg—of demoralization among the troops, which tended to prevent an attack.  Some of them positively refused. There was a petition from one of the regiments, signed by a number of the captains, which I think is, or ought to be, in General Patterson’s possession. He always kept it. It never went on the files of the records of the office.

Question. Have you any doubt that your men would have gone forward from Bunker Hill if you had desired them to do so?

Answer. I think they would have gone, but with very great reluctance—with no confidence. I think the great confidence of that command was destroyed immediately after the withdrawal of the regular troops from the command, when it first crossed the Potomac.

Question. Did you communicate to General Scott, immediately upon your withdrawal to Charlestown, the fact that you were not in position then to hold Johnston?

Answer. I have no recollection of it.

Question Why did you not follow down by way of Leesburg, via Keyes’s Ferry, as indicated by General Scott in his despatch to which you have referred?

Answer. My impression about that is that General Patterson was ordered to remain there.

Question. And that was the reason he did not move immediately down?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Otherwise he would have moved immediately forward?

Answer. That I do not know.

Question. You would suppose so?

Answer. I do not know. I cannot say with reference to General Patterson’s opinion at all.

Question. I do not ask you what General Patterson’s opinion was.

Answer. I think the reason we did not move forward was the effort being made to retain Johnston at Winchester. That is my own impression; that was my own view at the time we were there; and, in order to retain Johnston, orders were given for the men to carry two days’ provisions, and those provisions were being prepared for the purpose. The circular was sent around, and immediately after a number of officers came in. Some of them spoke to me, and begged, if I had any influence at all, I would prevent that movement. One came in and said his men were very much demoralized, and said they would not go.

Question. On what day was this?

Answer. I think that was Thursday.

Question. Do you remember what officer that was who said his men would not go?

Answer. I think it was Colonel Johnson, Colonel Meredith, or Colonel Minier; one of those three I think it was.

Question. When you were at Bunker Hill an order was given, was it not, to move forward on Wednesday towards Winchester?

Answer. Not that I am certain of; I think not.

Question. Was not General Sanford’s division ordered to move forward on Wednesday?

Answer. Not towards Winchester that I know of.

Question. Do you know what time on Tuesday the order was issued to move on Charlestown on the next day, Wednesday?

Answer. I do not think it got out until one o’clock that night.

Question. Then you were in doubt during the day of Tuesday about the movement on Charlestown?

Answer. There was a design of remaining at Bunker Hill that day, but provisions would not permit them to remain there over Wednesday. We were obliged to meet the provisions at Charlestown, which were then in the train moving from Martinsburg. The regiments were ordered to leave Martinsburg with three days’ provisions; but many of them did not take one day’s provisions; some of them were very improvident. There were two regiments, and one was Colonel Johnson’s, that had no provisions at all.

Question. Could you not have brought your provisions from Charlestown to Bunker Hill as well as have gone from Bunker Hill to the provisions at Charles-town? ,

Answer. We could have got them up, but not in time to move forward and make an attack.

Question. They could have reached you at Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir. I would like to say this much: that at the time this order was given for the movement from Charlestown the officers came in and requested that it should be delayed, and that an appeal should be made to the men. It was suspended until General Patterson went out and made his appeal. The intention then was to move upon Winchester.

Question. That was on Thursday?

Answer. Yes, sir; the day after we got to Charlestown. He went out and made this appeal, and a very earnest one; and from some of the regiments that he asked at first the cry immediately was for shoes and pants.

Question. Was the appeal that they should go on and attack Winchester?

Answer. I was not present at this appeal, but I was informed that they were told that this movement was to be made, or that they were wanted for a few days longer. Some of them said they would not march—they were unprepared.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did not some of the regiments say they would remain if they were led to battle?

Answer. Not a word said upon that.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Your men had got very tired of marching?

Answer. I think that was the case; I think they had not much confidence in each other. There were a great many of the men without shoes. There was one regiment which afterwards came forward, expressing its willingness to remain—Colonel Wallace’s regiment from Indiana; and when General Patterson thanked them for it a number of the Pennsylvania regiments did the same thing—offered to remain; others refused. Colonel Wallace turned to me and said: “Those boys have come up to offer their services to remain or move forward ; but if they were called upon to march, there would not be three hundred of them that could march for want of shoes.” I think General Patterson’s great desire was to hold Johnston at Winchester. I think he felt he could not do so; I am certain of it. I think the main portion of that command felt that if they made an attack upon Winchester there would be nothing left of them.

Question. You think it was the general feeling in General Patterson’s staff that it was absolutely beyond your power to hold Johnston?

Answer. I think so.

Question. And you think that General Patterson shared that feeling with his staff officers?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By the chairman:

Question. At what time was that feeling?

Answer. I do not think it was in the mind of any of General Patterson’s staff, or any of the brigade commanders, that Johnston would stay in Winchester to meet an attack unless he was very powerful; and if he was wanted down in this direction, he could more whenever he pleased, and we could not touch him. I think that was the prevailing opinion.

Question. Can you tell why General Patterson did not communicate to General Scott the fact that he could not hold Johnston, as soon as he was satisfied of that fact?

Answer. I cannot tell you why he did not. I am of the opinion that General Scott was of that opinion himself. I think he says so in his despatch, where he says if Johnston retires in force do not follow him.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. That is, if he retire by Strasburg?

Answer. I do not think he said if he retire by Strasburg—but if he retire in force. I never expected that he would retire by Strasburg.

By the chairman:

Question. It was the design, in that case, for Patterson to follow down to Manassas.

Answer. He said, take into consideration the going by way of Leesburg.

Question. General Scott did at one time think that Patterson could detain Johnston in the valley of Winchester, did he not?

Answer. I do not think there is anything in his despatches to that effect. I think that General Scott, by sending more troops there, showed that he thought we had not enough.

Question. Your idea is that General Scott did not suppose that General Patterson would detain Johnston in the valley there?

Answer. I do not think he thought so.

Question. Of course, then, in your estimation, any such expectation could not have entered into his calculations in regard to the attack upon Manassas?

Answer. I think not. General Scott may have had the hope that we would detain Johnston. .

Question. Why did General Patterson advance towards Winchester at all if he did not think he could detain Johnston?

Answer. The object in advancing towards Winchester was partly to cover the movement of his supplies from Martinsburg to Charlestown, and partly also to carry out what General Scott directed him to do on Tuesday, to make a demonstration with the hope of holding Johnston at Winchester. I believe General Patterson, if he had thought there was any chance at all of whipping Johnston at Winchester, would have gone there. I heard him often express the wish, and say, “we will move at such or such a time.” And in some cases he gave orders to that effect. But I think General Patterson began to feel that his troops would not carry him out if he went to Winchester.

Question. He had no confidence in his troops?

Answer I think not. Many of the officers had not, and came forward and so expressed themselves. I think he was influenced by that. I do not say he did not have confidence in his troops, but I think he was influenced in his movements by the opinions that the officers expressed.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did you ever know of Colonel Johnson refusing to go with General Patterson previous to the time that you came back to Charlestown; that is, was it before or after the time that you went from Bunker Hill to Charlestown that Colonel Johnson signified his unwillingness to remain?

Answer. I do not think that Colonel Johnson himself signified that, but a large portion of his regiment. ,

Question. Was it before or after you went to Charlestown?

Answer. It was while we were at Charlestown. I never heard it before. And I never heard Colonel Johnson refuse to remain; on the contrary, he wanted to remain there.

Question. Do you know of any other regiments that refused to remain in the service previous to the time you turned back to Charlestown?

Answer. Yes, sir; one regiment presented its petition at Martinsburg. And that written petition, I think, is in General Patterson’s possession now.

Question. Do you recollect what regiment that was?

Answer. I think it was the 6th Pennsylvania regiment. I think it was a written statement that their regiment would not remain, but demanded to be sent home by the time their service expired. There was another thing occurred while we were at Martinsburg. Information came to the men—how it got there no one ever knew—that an order had been published by the Secretary of War directing all volunteers then in service to be returned to their homes in time to be mustered out at the expiration of their term of service. That information was brought up there at Martinsburg. I supposed at the time that it was brought up there by some person probably friendly to the enemy.





Holy Guacamole!

13 07 2009

I received a package in the mail today from friend and Chickamauga devotee Dave Powell.  Earlier this year, Brent Nosworthy, author of Roll Call to Destiny (which features a segment on First Bull Run), in an effort to downsize his library, was looking to dispose of many of his research materials for that book.  Dave took Brent up on his offer, and in the process I agreed to relieve Dave of the Bull Run portion.  So today’s mail brought me a three inch, three-ring binder literally overflowing with mostly primary Bull Run material, including newspaper accounts and memoirs.  Most of the stuff is published – though not all easy to find – which means I should be able to post it here with no copyright infringement concerns.  It will take some organizing first, but the result will be a large contribution to the resources section of this site.





JCCW – Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes

13 07 2009

Testimony of Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 149-152

WASHINGTON, January 8, 1862.

General E. D. KEYES sworn and examined.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Were you in the battle of Bull Run as brigadier general?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was acting brigadier; I was then a colonel.

Question. Will you tell us in what part of the field you were; and, in short, what you saw—what came under your own observation on that day?

Answer. I crossed Bull Run, directly following Sherman. I was in Tyler’s division and followed Sherman, and came into action on the left of our line, and my line of operations was down Bull Run, across the Warrenton turnpike. I crossed about half a mile above Stone Bridge and came into action a little before 11 o’clock, and passed to the left, and moved down a little parallel to Bull Run; and when I received orders to retire, I was nearly a mile in advance’ of the position where I had commenced. When I started into the action I was close up with Sherman’s brigade; but as I advanced forward, and got along a line of heights that overlooked Bull Run, Sherman’s brigade diverged from me, and I found myself separated from them, so that I saw nothing up there, except at a distance, beyond what related to my own brigade. I continued to advance, and was continually under fire until about 4 o’clock, when I received orders that our troops were retiring. I came off in perfect order, and was in perfect order all the day.

Question. You were on the left?

Answer. Yes, sir; opposed to the right of the enemy.

Question. Then, so far as you saw in your immediate vicinity, there was no rout?

Answer. No, sir; there was no confusion. I retired in just the same order nearly as I went into the fight; but when the masses mingled together as they came to cross Bull Run, there was confusion.

Question. What proportion of our troops reached the run without rout?

Answer. I being on the extreme left, of course all our people who withdrew before the enemy had to go a much longer distance than I had to go to reach Bull Run, because I was near to it at the time I received orders to retire. I moved up almost perpendicularly to the line of retreat of the balance of the army. As I approached the line of men in retreat they were all walking; I saw nobody run or trot even until coming down to Bull Run. In coming down there a great many wounded men were carried along, and I was detained so that the whole of my brigade got past me. I saw the quartermaster when I crossed Bull Run, and asked him where the teams were, and he said they were ahead; he saved them all but one, and got them back to camp. I then inquired of some ten or twelve squads of men to find out if they belonged to my brigade, and I found but one that did. Shortly after that a staff officer of mine came up and told me that my brigade was all ahead. I increased my pace, and got back to Centreville a little after dark, and found nearly all my brigade there. I did not come to the Potomac until Tuesday evening. There was no confusion at all in the whole affair, so far as my brigade was concerned, except very slightly in the retreat from Bull Run to the camp at Centreville; that I considered a perfect rout.

Question. You were in Tyler’s division, and you moved first on the field in the morning?

Answer. Our division started first; but I received orders to make way for Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions to pass through, as they had to go further to the right. So that before I got into action it was nearly eleven o’clock.

Question. Do you know why your division was stopped for the other divisions to pass through?

Answer. I thought it very obvious. Hunter had to go furthest up Bull Run to cross; then Heintzelman had to go next; and the next lower down was Tyler’s division. To enable the several divisions to arrive about simultaneous against the enemy, Hunter should go first and Heintzelman next. The reason we started first was, because our division was encamped ahead of the others mostly.

Question. How far from where you started did Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions turn off?

Answer. Heintzelman’s division passed through mine in the neighborhood of Cub Run.

Question. How far did they go on the same route you were going?

Answer. About a half or three-quarters of a mile beyond Cub Run, I think. I was not with them, but that is my impression.

Question. Do you know from whom the order proceeded for you to let the other divisions pass through your division?

Answer. My first order was from General Tyler, and then I received another order from General McDowell to remain where I was. When I sent word forward to know if I should go forward, General McDowell sent orders to remain where I was.

Question. Could you not have have passed on to the point where the other divisions turned off without bringing you in immediate contact with the enemy?

Answer. I think I could; yes, sir. But I did not know that at the time, and I do not know whether it was known to others or not.

By the chairman:

Question. To what did you attribute the disaster of that day?

Answer. To the want of 10,000 more troops—that is, I think if we had had 10,000 more troops than we had to go into action, say at eleven o’clock in the morning, we should certainly have beaten them. I followed along down the stream, and Sherman’s battery diverged from me, so that it left a wide gap between us, and 10,000 more men could have come in between me and Sherman, which was the weak point in our line, and before Johnston’s reserves came up it would have been won. I thought the day was won about two o’clock; but about half past three o’clock a sudden change in the firing took place, which, to my ear, was very ominous. I sent up my aide-de-camp to find out about the matter, but he did not come back.

Question. What time was it that you ascertained on the field of battle that Patterson had not detained Johnston’s column, but that it would probably be down there? Was it before the fight commenced?

Answer. There were rumors about the camp, to which I attached no particular importance. I supposed that Patterson was engaged up the river there, and would hold Johnston in check or follow him up if he should retreat. That was my impression at the time.

Question. Was that so understood at the time the battle was planned?

Answer. We had a council of war the night before the battle, but it was a very short one. It was not a council of war exactly; it was a mere specification of the line in which we should all proceed the next day. The plans appeared to have been digested and matured before that meeting was called. Whether anything was said about Johnston and Patterson at that meeting, I am not sure. I think not. That subject was discussed about the camp; but I know my own impression was that Patterson was opposed to Johnston, and would certainly follow him up if he should attempt to come and molest us. I know I conversed with some persons about it; but I do not think a word was said about it at the meeting the night before the battle.

Question. Had it been known that Patterson had not detained Johnston, would it not have been imprudent to hazard a battle there any how?

Answer. If it had been known that the 30,000 to 40,000 men that Johnston was said to have had, would have been upon us, it would have been impolitic to have made the attack on Sunday.

Question. If Johnston had not come down to the aid of Beauregard’s army, what, in your opinion, would have been the result of that battle?

Answer. My impression is that we should have won it. I know that the moment the shout went up from the other side, there appeared to be an instantaneous change in the whole sound of the battle, so much so that I sent my aid at the top of his speed to find out what was the matter. That, as far as I can learn, was the shout that went up from the enemy’s line when they found out for certain that it was Johnston and not Patterson that had come.

Question. Even after the disaster, what prevented your making a stand at Centreville, and sending for re-enforcements and renewing the fight there?

Answer. I was not the commander-in-chief.

Question. I know that; I only ask your opinion of what might have been done there.

Answer. If we .had had troops that were thoroughly disciplined it would have been the greatest military mistake in the world to have retreated further than Centreville. But as our troops were raw, and this capital appeared to be the point in issue, I think men of decided military ability might have been in doubt as to the policy of remaining there. There was a striking want of generalship on the other side for not following us. If they had followed us they might have come pell-mell into the capital.

Question. Was it not as likely that you could defend the capital on Centreville Heights as well as after the rout here?

Answer. I will simply tell you what I did myself. I came back to my old camp at Fall’s Church, and remained there until five o’clock on the afternoon of Tuesday, with my whole command. Then I marched them in good order, and passed three or four miles before I saw any of our own people. My impression then was that I could rally them there better than here. I acted upon that impulse myself. I did not bring my troops into town, which was the worst place in the world to restore order, but kept them in my camp at Fall’s Church.

Question. Was there not a strong brigade on Centreville Heights that had not been in the engagement at all on that day?

Answer. There was a division there—three brigades.

Question. Could.not a stand have been made there; and if it had been made, would our troops have been so demoralized as they were by running further?

Answer. It was a complicated question, and required, in my opinion, a first-rate head to decide; and if you have not a first-rate head of course you must guess a little. In my opinion it is a question that involves many considerations; first, the want of absolute command of the troops. The troops then were not in a sufficient state of discipline to enable any man living to have had an absolute command of them. The next point was to balance all the probabilities in regard to this capital; that is, was it more probable that the capital would fall into the hands of the enemy by retreating than by remaining there t I confess it was a question so complicated that I cannot answer it very definitely.

Question. If you had had knowledge on the ground, before the battle, of the condition of things with Patterson and Johnston, it seems to me that battle should not have been fought that day at all.

Answer. I should not have done it myself, certainly, if I had had that knowledge.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. I suppose there was no such absolute knowledge as that?

Answer. No, sir; I do not think there was.

By the chairman:

Question. Ought not military men to have been informed of that important and decisive fact before we made a movement?

Answer. It is certainly one of the axioms of the art of war to know what the columns are going to do, and where they are.

Question. Could not the railroad have been broken so as to prevent Johnston from coming down?

Answer. I suppose that Hunter’s column intended to push forward and disable that railroad, but he found work enough to do before he could undertake that. And in the heat of the day, after marching some fifteen miles, and being called upon to fight, they could not very easily have torn up a bridge.





America’s Civil War – September 2009

10 07 2009

ACW-Sept-09As the 150th anniversary of his raid on Harper’s Ferry approaches, the September 2009 issue of America’s Civil War features John Brown on the cover.  Inside, related articles include the cover story by Tim Rowland, a timeline of slavery in North America; a look at David Hunter’s struggle to raise the all black 1st SC Volunteers (to be commanded by Brown “conspirator” Thomas Wentworth Higginson) by Tom Huntingdon; and a recounting of VMI instructor Thomas Jackson’s role in the hanging of Brown at Charlestown.90th-PA

Fellow blogger Mannie Gentile contributed a nice article on one of the most interesting regimental monuments on any battlefield, that of the 90th PA Volunteer Infantry at Antietam (at right is a photo I took of the replica monument  not long after its dedication in 2004).  Check out Mannie’s essay on the historiography of George B. McClellan here.

Also in this issue: Jared Frederick on Altoona, PA’s loyal governor’s conference in 1862; Daniel E. Sutherland on Missouri guerrillas; and a convincing letter from Doug Garnett (no relation) in Canada refutes an earlier identification of a photograph of the elusive Richard Brooke Garnett.

My contribution in Six-Pack has five new books and one old,  Bruce Allardice’s Kentuckians in Gray is paired with Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary, edited by Nancy Baird; John Schmutz’s The Battle of the Crater: a Complete History with Richard Slotkin’s No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864; and Invisible Hero: Patrick R. Cleburne by Bruce Stewart with 1997’s Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne & the Civil War by Craig Symonds.








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