Reports of Gen. G. T. Beauregard, C. S. Army, and Resulting Correspondence (Part 2)
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 504 – 515
The order issued by the War Department to General Johnston was not, as herein reported, to form a junction, “should the movement in his judgment be deemed advisable.” The following is an accurate copy of the order:
General Beauregard is attacked. To strike the enemy a decisive blow, a junction of all your effective force will be needed. If practicable, make the movement, sending your sick and baggage to Culpeper Court-House, either by railroad or by Warrenton. In all the arrangements exercise your discretion.
The words “if practicable” had reference to letters of General Johnston of 12th and 15th of July, which made it extremely doubtful if he had the power to make the movement, in view of the relative strength and position of Patterson’s forces as compared with his own.
The plan of campaign reported to have been submitted, but not accepted, and to have led to a decision of the War Department, cannot be found among its files, nor any reference to any decision made upon it, and it was not known that the Army had advanced beyond the line of Bull Run, the position previously selected by General Lee, and which was supposed to have continued to be the defensive line occupied by the main body of our forces. Inquiry has developed the fact that a message to be verbally delivered was sent by Hon. Mr. Chesnut. If the conjectures recited in the report were entertained, they rested on the accomplishment of one great condition, namely, that a junction of the forces of Generals Johnston and Holmes should be made with the army of General Beauregard, and should gain a victory. The junction was made, the victory was won, but the consequences that were predicted did not result. The reasons why no such consequences could result are given in the closing passages of the reports of both the commanding generals, and the responsibility cannot be transferred to the Government at Richmond, which certainly would have united in any feasible plan to accomplish such desirable results.
If the plan of campaign mentioned in the report had been presented in a written communication, and in sufficient detail to permit proper investigation, it must have been pronounced to be impossible at that time, and its proposal could only have been accounted for by the want of information of the forces and positions of the armies in the field. The facts that rendered it impossible are the following:
1. It was based, as related from memory by Colonel Chestnut, on the supposition of drawing a force of about twenty-five thousand men from the command of General Johnston. The letters of General Johnston show his effective force to have been only eleven thousand, with an enemy thirty thousand strong in his front ready to take possession of the valley of Virginia on his withdrawal.
2. It proposed to continue operations by effecting a junction of a part of the victorious forces with the army of General Garnett in Western Virginia. General Garnett’s forces amounted only to three or four thousand men, then known to be in rapid retreat before vastly superior forces under McClellan, and the news that he was himself killed, and his army scattered, arrived within forty-eight hours of Colonel Chesnuts arrival in Richmond.
3. The plan was based on the improbable and inadmissible supposition that the enemy was to await everywhere, isolated and motionless, until our forces could effect junctions to attack them in detail.
4. It could not be expected that any success obtainable on the battlefield would enable our forces to carry the fortifications on the Potomac, garrisoned, and within supporting distance of fresh troops; nor after the actual battle and victory did the generals on the field propose an advance on the capital, nor does it appear that they have since believed themselves in a condition to attempt such a movement.
It is proper also to observe that there is no communication on file in the War Department as recited at the close of the report, showing what were the causes which “prevented the advance of our forces and prolonged vigorous pursuit of the enemy to and beyond the Potomac.”
HEADQUARTERS FIRST CORPS ARMY POTOMAC,
Centreville, Va., November 8, 1861
GENERAL: My attention having been called to the date of my report of the battle of Manassas, August 26, 1861, when it was only received at the War Department October 15, 1861, I have to request that the date of the letter accompanying the report, October –, 1861, should be affixed to it. The delay arose from the fact that it was placed in the hands of the copyist on the day of its date, but was left open to be amended and corrected as the details of the battle became better known and developed, by discussion on the subject and the reports of the enemy then being published, which enabled me to furnish, not only the report, but the history of that battle, accompanied by a full set of drawings, showing the position of the contending forces during four periods of that grand drama.
I am led to infer also that the strategic portion of the report is an obstacle to its publication. Should that be the case, I have to request that it may be separated into two parts, to obviate the difficulty referred to; but I do not wish it understood, however, that I ask the publication of any part of it, leaving that entirely to the judgment of the War Department.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant-General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
P. S.–What can be the matter with the mails? My letters are often from five to six days getting here from Richmond.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
July 16, 1861
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
SIR: In obedience to your order, I proceeded on Sunday last, 14th instant, to Richmond, with the purpose of laying before the President for his consideration your views and plans for the combined operation of the two armies under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston and yourself, respectively. I arrived in Richmond at 3.30 on the same day I left your quarters, and without delay reported to the President, who, although sick in bed, received me with great kindness and cordiality. After stating to him the object of my visit, he appointed an hour to meet him with General R. E. Lee, and Adjutant and Inspector General Cooper. At the appointed time the President, Generals Lee and Cooper, and Colonel Preston, of your staff, met me in private conference. Being requested by the President to lay before those present the subject-matter with which I was charged, I submitted on your part the following propositions:
That the Confederate armies were in front of the enemy with greatly inferior forces at all points; that it was desirable by uniting a portion of our forces to outnumber the enemy at some important point; that the point now occupied by you was at present in reference to the armies considered the most important. I stated also that the enemy were at present at or near Falls Church, with eight or ten thousand men, on the Alexandria, Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, and also with some portion of his force at Springfield, on the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, with every indication of a purpose to advance on both lines, and that it was most probable the enemy would threaten our camp at Manassas with about ten thousand men, while the main body, twenty thousand or more, would advance towards Vienna, Frying Pan, and Pleasant Valley, to Hay Market,, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, view to cut off our communication with General Johnston. To accomplish this, possession would be taken of passes of the Blue Ridge at Manassas, Ashby’s, and Snicker’s Gaps. He would then endeavor to cut off your communication with Richmond by the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, and force you either to fight in open field with greatly inferior numbers or to retire towards Fredericksburg by way of Brentsville, to join forces with General Holmes, or to withdraw from the intrenched camp and retire by the Alexandria and Orange Railroad before the enemy could reach it.
Under these circumstances I stated you would propose, and did propose, that General Johnston should, with the bulk of his forces, say twenty thousand, unite with you, leaving from three to five thousand men to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge and to hold Patterson in cheek. Then, with the combined forces of General Johnston and yourself, you would move rapidly forward on Fairfax Court-House, establish yourself between the two lines of the enemy, attack them separately with larger masses, and thus exterminate them or drive them into the Potomac. This being done, General Johnston, with ten thousand of your forces in addition to his own, and rallying as he went those left to guard the passes, would return at once with superior numbers, say thirty-five thousand, to attack and destroy Patterson at Winchester or wherever he might be. One week from the time of leaving Winchester would be sufficient to accomplish all this. You would then either occupy the enemy’s works in front of Washington if he should abandon them, or fall back on your present positions, according to circumstances. General Johnston, having disposed of Patterson, would detach a sufficient number from his force to re-enforce Garnett and make him superior to General McClellan. Having defeated McClellan,. General Garnett could then unite with Johnston, and the two cross the Potomac at the nearest point for Maryland, and, arousing the people as they proceeded, march to the rear of Washington, while you would attack it in front.
To these propositions respectful and earnest consideration was given by the President and the two generals I have mentioned. The scheme was considered brilliant and comprehensive, but to its adoption at this time two leading objections were urged by the President and by General Lee One was that General Johnston’s force was not now sufficiently strong to allow of the withdrawal of numbers sufficient to effect your object, and at the same time leave enough to keep Patterson in check and keep him from coming down upon your left. And the other and main objection was that the enemy was as yet too close to their cover to allow the reasonable expectation of the accomplishment of your object; that they would immediately fall back upon their intrenchments, or, being so close to their large reserves, would be quickly re-en-forced in numbers sufficient to regain the superiority of numbers, and thus defeat your purpose; that the combination might be made at a later period, when the objection would be removed by a sufficient increase of your armies and by the lengthening of the enemy’s lines and increase of distance from cover and reserves for quick re-enforcement.
JAMES CHESNUT, JR.
RICHMOND, VA., August 4, 1861
General G. T. BEAUREGARD:
MY DEAR SIR: Inclosed I transmit copies of a resolution of inquiry and the reply to it.(*) You will perceive that the answer was made in view of the telegram which I inclose to you, that being the only information then before me. Since that time it has been communicated to me that your letter to the Hon. Mr. Miles,(+) on the wants of your army and the consequences thereof, was read to the Congress, and hence the inquiry instituted. Permit me to request that you will return the telegram to me, which I inclosed to show you the form in which the matter came before me. Some excitement has been created by your letters. The quartermaster and the commissary generals both feel that they have been unjustly arraigned. As for myself, I can only say that I have endeavored to anticipate wants, and any failure which has occurred from imperfect knowledge might have been best avoided by timely requisitions and estimates. I think you are unjust to yourself in putting your failure to pursue the enemy to Washington to the account of short supplies of subsistence and transportation. Under the circumstances of our Army, and in the absence of the knowledge since acquired–if, indeed, the statements be true–it would have been extremely hazardous to have done more than was performed. You will not fail to remember that, so far from knowing that the enemy was routed, a large part of our forces was moved by you in the night of the 21st to repel a supposed attack upon our right, and the next day’s operations did not fully reveal what has since been reported of the enemy’s panic. Enough was done for glory, and the measure of duty was full. Let us rather show the untaught that their desires are unreasonable than, by dwelling on possibilities, recently developed, give form and substance to the criticisms, always easy to those who judge after the event.
With sincere esteem, I am your friend,
RICHMOND, VA., October 30, 1861
General G. T. BEAUREGARD:
SIR: Yesterday my attention was called to various newspaper publications, purporting to have been sent from Manassas, and to be a synopsis of your report of the battle of July 21 last, and in which it is represented that you had been overruled by me in your plan for a battle with the enemy south of the Potomac, for the capture of Baltimore and Washington, and the liberation of Maryland. I inquired for your long-expected report, and it has to-day been submitted to my inspection. It appears, by official indorsement, to have been received by the Adjutant General on October 15, though it is dated August 26, 1861. With much surprise I found that the newspaper statements were sustained by the text of your report. I was surprised, because, if we did differ in opinion as to the measures and purposes of contemplated campaigns, such fact could have no appropriate place in the report of a battle. Further, because it seemed to be an attempt to exalt yourself at my expense, and especially because no such plan as that described was submitted to me. It is true that some time before it was ordered you expressed a desire for the junction of General Johnston’s army with your own. The movement was postponed until the operations of the enemy rendered it necessary, and until it became thereby practicable to make it, with safety, to the valley of Virginia; hence-I believe was secured the success by which it was attended. If you have retained a copy of the plan of campaign which, you say, was submitted to me, through Colonel Chesnut, allow me to request that you will furnish me with a duplicate of it.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
RICHMOND, VA., October 30, 1861
Col. JAMES CHESNUT, Camden, S. C:
MY DEAR SIR: I beg that you will as promptly as possible send me a statement of a communication made to me by yourself on or about July 13 last, as aide of General Beauregard, in relation to any proposed plan of battle or campaign. I ask this because I have had my attention directed to a synopsis in the newspapers of General Beauregard’s report so entirely at variance with the facts as they occurred that I think it well to recur to your recollection of the message brought by you from the general.
I am, very truly, your friend,
CAMDEN, S.C., November 9, 1861
To the PRESIDENT:
DEAR SIR: I have this morning received your letter of the 15th  ultimo,(*) and, according to your request, reply at once, although you will not get [it] as promptly as I desire, as to-morrow, being Sunday, no mail leaves this place.
You ask me to recur to my recollection and send you a statement of a communication which, as aide to General Beauregard, I made to you on or about July 13, last, “in relation to any proposed plan of battle or campaign.”
On Saturday night or Sunday morning of July 14 last, about midnight I received a message from General Beauregard, requesting my attendance at his room. I immediately repaired thither, and learned from him that he had formed a plan of campaign which he desired to lay before the President, and requested me to undertake the duty.
About 6 o’clock of the same morning I left headquarters and arrived in Richmond in the afternoon of the same day, several hours beyond the usual time of arrival. I had two interviews with you that day, one in the afternoon and another in company with other persons during the evening. Remaining Monday for the completion of my mission, I returned to camp at Manassas on Tuesday following. Immediately after reaching headquarters of General Beauregard I made to him verbally a full report of all things touching the subject matter with which I had been charged.
On Thursday, July 18 last, while we were preparing for the field, the general in person directed me to make at once a written report of the same matter. This I did, and handed it to the assistant adjutant general, Colonel Jordan, who filed it for information of the general commanding, when I left the camp to join the general on the battle-field. I think the written report bears date of the verbal report, say July 15 last, and I am sure is accurate and full to the points in question, according to the freshness of my recollection at the time. I will ask you, however, to write to General Beauregard requesting a copy of the report, as I myself will do.
In the mean time and now I will state to you my recollection of the interview and of the contents of the report. I am sure the two will be found identical in substance, however they may vary in phraseology. I stated to General Beauregard that when I arrived in Richmond I repaired immediately to your apartment, where I learned you were ill in bed; but upon being notified of my presence you at once caused me to be invited into your chamber, where I was kindly and cordially received. I informed you of the object of my visit at which you expressed yourself pleased, and sent messages to Generals Cooper and Lee to meet us that evening at 7 o’clock, with maps, in your parlor. I requested you to allow Col. John S. Preston, who was then in Richmond, to be present at the interview, to which you consented.
At the time and place appointed yourself and Generals Cooper and Lee and Colonel Preston and myself assembled. You stated to the gentlemen present that I had come with a message from General Beauregard, which you then requested me to explain, whereupon I submitted on the part of General Beauregard the following propositions:
That we were standing in front of the enemy with inferior forces at all points; that it was desirable, by uniting a portion of our forces, to outnumber the enemy at some important point; that the most important point was the one at Manassas, and that the indication then was that the enemy would soon advance upon us by the Alexandria and by the Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, having then his advanced force, 8,000 or 10,000 Strong, at or near Falls Church; that it was probable he would continue the movement towards Vienna, Frying Pan, and Pleasant Valley to Hay Market, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, with a view to cut off General Johnston from us by sending a few thousand men to take possession of the passes in the Blue Ridge, namely, Manassas Gap, Ashby’s Gap, and Turkersville [Snicker’s] Gap, and then probably attempt to cut off our communication with Richmond by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and force us to fight him with great odds in an open country, or to retire towards Fredericksburg by way of Brentsville, to join our forces with those of General Holmes, or to withdraw from our intrenched camp at Manassas by the Orange [and Alexandria] Railroad before the enemy could reach it; that the enemy was also advancing part of his force on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad on our front, with a view probably of covering his movements on our left by threatening our center and right with a force of about 10.000 men.
In view of this condition of things General Beauregard, through me, at that time proposed that General Johnston should at once join him with the larger portion of his force, say 20,000, leaving from 3,000 to 5,000 to occupy and guard the gaps already mentioned and to hold General Patterson in check; then, with the combined forces of Generals Johnston and Beauregard, make a rapid march forward on Fairfax; establish themselves between the two lines of the enemy; attack them separately and successfully, and thus exterminate them. This being done, General Johnston would return and attack Patterson with a force of about 35,000 men, made up of about 10,000 of General Beauregard’s and 20,000 of his own, and gathering up on his return the 5,000 which were left to guard the passes. All this it was thought could be done in one week from the time that General Johnston should leave Winchester. In the mean time General Beauregard, with the 10,000, or about that, left with him, would either hold his position, or occupy the works of the enemy in front of Washington, if abandoned, according to circumstances. After General Johnston should take or defeat Patterson it was proposed that he should send from his command a force sufficient to General Garnett to outnumber and destroy General McClellan, Garnett in the mean time having received orders to fall back in the direction of Johnston’s column. McClellan being disposed of, General Garnett would unite his forces with General Johnston’s, and both cross the Potomac at the nearest point into Maryland, march on Washington, taking it in the rear, while General Beauregard attacked it in front, General Johnston in the mean time arousing the people of Maryland wherever he passed to the defense of their homes and independence.
After I had laid before you, these views, both yourself and General Lee spoke in terms of kindness and compliment to General Beauregard; thought the plan well conceived, and might be brilliant in its results if we should meet with no disaster in the details, and if the time for its execution had arrived. General Lee expressed the opinion, to which you assented, that the time for its execution had not yet arrived. With deference I asked General Lee for the reason upon which the opinion was founded. He proceeded to say the subject had been thought of generally. He thought the enemy was as yet too close to his cover; that if he found us with combined and superior forces before him he would not, or might not, give battle, but retire behind the protection of the guns of his intrenchments, and thus defeat the objects of our combination; that in such an event we would be put to a great disadvantage of achieving nothing and leaving the other points exposed, &c.; that in his opinion it would be better to draw the enemy farther from his intrenchments, and by lengthening to weaken his line, which would give us a better chance of success, &c.
Many other matters were spoken of at that interview as to the war generally, its policy the character of our forces, &c.; but as they did not pertain to the object of my mission, they were not mentioned in my report nor are repeated here.
I believe I have given you the sum and substance of what occurred at the interview referred to in relation to the matter in question, and what is contained in the report which I made in writing to General Beauregard. I do not at this time pretend to verbal accuracy, but feel satisfied of the correctness of the substance of the matter. I had at the time, and I have before me now, a memorandum of the points submitted by me on the part of General Beauregard.
I am sure a full and dispassionate investigation and consideration of this subject will leave little ground for dissatisfaction. The success of our cause depends not merely on the ability and fidelity, but to a great extent also on the harmony and hearty co-operation, of those who are chief and chosen instruments in the direction of our affairs. Any extended distrust in the crisis of our fate will bring dire calamities upon us. We must heed not the unwise babbling of some nor the deliberate malice of many. Yourself and your generals are alike elevated above the reach of unworthy considerations. Firm in the consciousness of right, devoting all your faculties to the triumph of a common and a noble cause, you and they can already afford to live in the clear light of a future judgment.
With great respect, your friend and obedient servant,
JAMES CHESNUT, JR.
*See also Davis to Chesnut, November 11, p. 513
RICHMOND, VA., November 3, 1861
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Commanding Department of the Potomac:
SIR: Reports have been and are being widely circulated to the effect that I prevented General Beauregard from pursuing the enemy after the battle of Manassas, and had subsequently restrained him from advancing upon Washington City. Though such statements may have been made merely for my injury, and in that view might be postponed to a more convenient season, they have acquired importance from the fact that they have served to create distrust, to excite disappointment, and must embarrass the administration in its further efforts to re-enforce the armies of the Potomac, and, generally, to provide for the public defense. For these public considerations I call upon you, as the commanding general, and as a party to all the conferences held by me on July 21 and 22, to say whether I obstructed the pursuit of the enemy after the victory at Manassas, or have ever objected to an advance or other active operations which it was feasible for the Army to undertake.(*)
Very respectfully, yours &c.,
*Answer, if any, not found.
RICHMOND, VA.. November 4, 1861
Generals COOPER and LEE, C. S. Army:
GENTLEMEN: The injurious effect produced by state, ants, widely published, to show that the Army or the Potomac had been needlessly doomed to inactivity by my rejection of plans for vigorous movements against the enemy which were presented to me by General Beauregard, induces me to ask you to state what was the communication made by that officer through the Hon. Mr. Chesnut, on the subject of his position at Manassas in July last, and what were the propositions and requests then conveyed to me. You are invited to refer to the introduction of General Beauregard’s report of the battle of Manassas, that you may see how far the statement made therein agrees with the communication made to me by the Hon. Mr. Chesnut in the interview at which you were present.
I have requested General Beauregard to furnish me with a duplicate of the plan of battle and campaign, which he says in his report was submitted to me, but have not received an answer.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
RICHMOND, VA. November 9, 1861
To his Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President of Confederate States:
SIR: In reply to your letter of the 4th instant, I have the honor to state that I was present at an interview in the parlor of the Spottswood Hotel, on the occasion referred to in General Beauregard’s introductory remarks in his report of the battle of Manassas, wherein he states that he dispatched, on July 13, one of his staff, Col. James Chesnut, of South Carolina, to submit to the consideration of the President a plan of operations, &c.
My impression in respect to that interview is that General Beauregard, being fully satisfied that an early attack would be made on his position by the enemy, greatly superior in force, and feeling the necessity for additional aid to enable him to give battle on more equal terms, had sent Colonel Chesnut to urge upon the President an increase from General Johnston’s command, then in the valley of the Shenandoah. I am also under the impression that it was represented on the part of General Beauregard that, if compelled to abandon his position by superior numbers, he would retire by Fredericksburg, or in the direction of the Rappahannock. Beyond these representations or suggestions I am not sensible that any plan of operations was submitted, whether written or oral; nor can I call to mind that any written communication from General Beauregard was made to the President on the occasion of the interview. In respect to receiving aid from General Johnston, it will be recollected that that officer had in his front a large force of the enemy, at least double his own numbers, and it would have been fatal to our cause in the valley to have sent away at that time any considerable portion of his command for the object contemplated by General Beauregard. Nor was it possible for him to do so, with any reasonable hope of success, until the tardiness and inactivity of the enemy in his front rendered such movement practicable, when it was finally accomplished under your telegraphic instructions of July 17, which resulted in the success of our arms at the battle of Manassas on the 21st.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
General, C. S Army
RICHMOND, VA., November 11, 1861
Col. JAMES CHESNUT:
MY DEAR SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge yours of the 2d instant, in reply to my inquiry of the 30th ultimo.(*) My memory is confirmed as to the fact that you delivered to me orally a message from General Beauregard, but left with me no plan of battle or of campaign; and I regret, as our conversation was to be reported and to be filed with the papers of General Beauregard, that the propositions were not reduced to writing and submitted for a written reply, or at least that I was not permitted to see the report of the interview before it became a public document. I well remember that you came to explain the hazard of General Beauregard’s position, and to ask for re-enforcements, suggesting that General Johnston should make a junction with him; but do not remember that any proposition was made to select Fairfax Court-House as a battle-field, and cannot realize how I should have objected to the choice of that field, as I did not then know how bad a selection it would have been. The rest seems to have been merely hypothetical propositions, and such as would only have impressed themselves on my memory by their errors, both as to numbers of available troops and topography of the country. The general’s report does not give those details, but presents a summary of things which no one desired more than myself, with a conclusion that the plan for their achievement was not accepted, &c Thus has apparent confirmation been given to the slander that I would not permit the Army to advance to the capture of Washington and the liberation of Maryland, attributing to me political views which I think you must know were not entertained by me. The importance of this is not any effect it may have on me individually, but is the injury inflicted on the public interest by the belief created that the Army has been doomed to inactivity, to avoid the exasperation of the enemy.
That I have not heeded “the unwise babbling of some nor the deliberate malice of many,” is to be found in the fact that they were never noticed by me until a respectable foundation appeared for them. My confidence and friendship for General Beauregard have been unmistakably manifested, and none can regret more than myself the error he has committed in bringing extraneous matter into his report of a battle, without any perceivable motive for so doing which is consistent with the good opinion I entertained of him. To a request for a duplicate of the plan of battle and campaign, which he had reported was submitted to me through you, he replies by assuring me that the plan, as stated in his report, is the one you were sent to submit-that he has a written statement of the result of your conference with me, which has been sent to New Orleans, and of which he promises to furnish a copy.
Your letter shows that you bore merely a message from General Beauregard, and his official announcement of a plan of operations submitted but not accepted is poorly sustained by reference to a conversation with me by a third person, even though it was reduced to writing after having been orally communicated to him. When the newspapers published a synopsis of General Beauregard’s report, in which reference is made to the plan said to have been submitted to me by him, I could not believe he was responsible for the statement until I saw his report.
I accept your friendly advice in the spirit which suggests it, and can assure you that our cause is to me so far above any personal considerations, that I can find no difficulty in fully co-operating with any one who can and will promote its success.
*Colonel Chesnut refers to this letter as of October 15. See his letter of November 2, p.509.
RICHMOND, November 12, 1861
General G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Comdg. District of Potomac, Centreville, Va.:
GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 8th instant,(*) and in compliance with your request have caused to be affixed to your report of the battle of Manassas the date of your letter of the 14th October, which accompanied it, although this was unnecessary, inasmuch as the letter had already been filed with the report itself.
In respect to the strategic portion of the report as an obstacle to its publication, I would remark that it is a rule of the Department to furnish copies of reports of battles only to Congress, by whose authority alone they are printed. Under this rule they are withheld from publication by the Department in the daily papers. Some few of these reports of battles have found their way into the papers, but the newspapers obtained their copies before the reports reached this office.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Adjt. and Insp. Gen.
P. S.–I am unable to account for the irregularity of the mails between this city and Centreville, and this reminds me that I duly received your note of the 23d October, in which you asked for information in respect to aides-de-camp and other matters, and to which I promptly replied as fully as I had the means of doing, offering at the same time to supply you with anything in addition that you might require. I was surprised to learn from Colonel Deas a few days ago that you had never received my answer.
COOSAWHATCHIE, S.C., November 24, 1861
His Excellency THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES:
My absence on an examination of the coast of South Carolina and Georgia has prevented until now my reply to your note of the 4th instant, asking what communication was made by General Beauregard to you through the honorable Mr. Chesnut on the subject of his position at Manassas in July last, and what were the propositions and requests conveyed by him.
I have not seen the report of General Beauregard of the battle of Manassas, and am unable to refer to his introductory statement to which you call my attention. I cannot, therefore, say how far it agrees with the communication of Mr. Chesnut, I recollect, however, that at the interview at which I was present Mr. Chesnut urged, on the part of General Beauregard, the importance of re-enforcing the Army of the Potomac to enable it to oppose the Federal forces accumulating in its front. As a means of accomplishing this end he suggested that a portion of the Army in the Shenandoah Valley, under General Johnston, be ordered to join it. With the aid thus afforded General Beauregard thought he could successfully resist an attack of the enemy. Should he succeed in repulsing him, he could in turn re-enforce General Johnston. Should General Johnston succeed in driving back General Patterson, then in his front, he could re-enforce the Army in Northwestern Virginia. The advantages of the union of the armies on the Potomac had been more than once the subject of consideration by you, and I do not recollect that at the interview in question they were less apparent. The difficulty of timing the march of the troops so as to benefit one army without jeopardizing the object of the other was therefore mainly considered, and you decided that the movements of the enemy in and about Alexandria were not sufficiently demonstrative to warrant the withdrawing of any of the forces from the Shenandoah Valley. A few days afterwards, how-ever–I think three or four–the reports from General Beauregard showed so clearly the enemy’s purpose, that you ordered General Johnston, with his effective force, to march at once to the support of General Beauregard, and directed General Holmes, with such troops as could be spared from the defense of the approaches to Fredericksburg, to move upon Manassas.
The successful combination of the armies was made, and the glorious victory of July 21 followed.
I have the honor, &c.,
R. E. LEE