Testimony of Gen. Charles W. Sanford
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 54-66
WASHINGTON, December 31, 1861
General CHARLES W. SANFORD sworn and examined.
Question. We want to know especially your relation to the Bull Run battle; that was the object of the committee in sending for you; you were here, were you not?
Answer. I made a movement into Virginia on the 24th of May. I left, under the orders of General Scott, directed to me, at 2 o’clock in the morning, with about 11,000 men, and took possession of Arlington Heights and the whole of that region, down to Alexandria, inclusive.
Question. What position did you then hold ?
Answer. I was called into service as a major general of the State of New York immediately after the news of the attack on Fort Sumter, at the request of General Scott, and with the sanction of the governor of my own State. I sent off as rapidly as possible all the troops I could for the relief of Washington. I sent off in the first week from the city of New York about 8,000 men, commencing on the 19th of April; and I then continued engaged in the organization of other troops there until General Scott sent for me, and I came from New York here on the 20th of May, having, in the meantime, sent off from my own division in the city of New York about 10,000 men. When I arrived here General Scott issued an order placing me in command of all the troops from the State of New York. My own division proper comprises only the troops in the city and county of New York and the county of Richmond, having command of about 10,000 uniformed troops, and enrolling about 90,000 ununiformed troops in the whole district. When I arrived here, there being no general officer from my State, and I being the senior major general in the State of New York, General Scott issued an order placing all the troops from the State of New York, as fast as they arrived, under my command; and I continued in that command until I was sent into Virginia. I crossed over the morning of the 24th of May, and took command of the troops ordered into Virginia. That morning I proceeded up to the railroad beyond Ball’s Crossing, and cut the railroad in two places, capturing some persons who came down on the railroad, to prevent their carrying information; and from there I examined the whole country all the way down to Alexandria. I remained there getting additional troops over, forming such plans as I thought necessary for the fortification and occupation of that region, and getting ready to move, as I proposed to do, further down into Virginia, until the morning of the 28th of May, when the cabinet appointed General McDowell to take command of a new department, organized as the department of Virginia; and General McDowell being a junior officer to me, being appointed to that department, of course superseded my command over there. I returned to Washington and resumed my command of the New York troops there; they continued to increase so, that on the 4th of July, independent of all I had sent over to Virginia, I had still 23 regiments of New York troops in the city of Washington, which I forwarded that day.
On the 29th of June a council of war was held at the White House by the President and his cabinet, and all the senior officers on service here, to consider the propriety of an attack on the enemy’s lines at Manassas. I made some objections to the plan of that battle, and among other things—I only mention this because it comes in with what I did afterwards—I objected that no movement of that kind should be made until it was ascertained that General Patterson was in such ft position as to prevent the junction between General Johnston’s army and the troops at Manassas; that that ought to precede any advance against the enemy at Manassas, if it was made at all.
On the 6th of July 1 was sent for by Governor Seward, who informed me that, although a great deal of dissatisfaction had existed respecting the movements of General Patterson, the cabinet had decided not to remove him; but General Scott suggested—to use Governor Seward’s words—that although General Patterson did not seem to be disposed to fight, he was satisfied that I was otherwise disposed; and that he had recommended that if I would go up and waive rank to General Patterson, I being a senior major general to him, General Patterson would be glad to give me an opportunity to fight a battle and have the credit of a victory if I succeeded. Governor Seward said that General Scott s was desirous I should waive rank to Patterson, and go there and take a command under him for the purpose of pushing forward the army, and doing what I suggested was a necessary step prior to the battle of Manassas. I told Governor Seward that I would do anything, if it was to serve as a volunteer in the ranks, to aid the cause. He wrote a letter to General Scott stating what was the result of the interview between us, and I delivered it to the general, and received his orders to go with such troops as I deemed necessary to aid General Patterson, and to assume a command under him.
I sent off that night the 19th and 28th New York regiments, and followed the next day with two more regiments, the two best I had here, the 5th”and 12th New York city regiments. I went around by way of Harrisburg and Hagerstown, which was the only way then open. I left Hagerstown a little before sundown, marching all the night of the 9th of July with those two regiments from Hagerstown to Williamsport, and was there by daylight the next morning. The other two regiments arrived there the day before.
I reported to General Patterson, and arranged with him to take command of a division, consisting of about 8,000 men, the most of them New York troops. I delivered orders from General Scott to General Patterson, and urged a forward movement as rapidly as possible. With the troops that I took on were some others that I had detailed to General Stone, who arrived immediately after my arrival at Hagerstown. General Patterson’s army was increased to 22,000 men, of which I had under my own command 8,000, with two batteries.
We had some delay at Martinsburg, notwithstanding the urgency of our matter; but we left there on the 15th of July, and went in the direction of Winchester. General Patterson, with two of his divisions, went down on the Winchester turnpike in a straight line from Martinsburg towards Winchester, while I took the side roads, more easterly, so as to get into a direction to enable me to flank Johnston, keeping constantly in communication with Patterson through the intervening country. I moved down, in fact, in advance of his force until I arrived a little to the eastward of Bunker Hill, General Patterson holding Bunker Hill, which was a little village in the lower part of Berkley county.
We halted there on the afternoon of the 15th of July. On that same afternoon General Patterson came around with his staff to where I was engaged in locating my camp, sending out pickets, &c. J had a conversation with him on the subject of our moving forward. I was anxious, of course, to progress as rapidly as possible, for fear this movement of Johnston might take place before we arrived at his camp. I was then within about nine miles of Johnston’s fortified camp at Winchester. Patterson was complimenting me upon the manner in which my regiments were located, and inquiring about my pickets, which I had informed him I had sent down about three miles to a stream below. I had driven out the enemy’s skirmishers ahead of us. They had some cavalry there. In answer to his compliments about the comfortable location I had made, I said, ” Very comfortable, general, when shall we move on? ” This was in presence of part of my staff; Colonel Morell, now General Morell, was one, and Patterson’s own staff. They were mounted and we were on foot. He hesitated a moment or two, and then said: “I don’t know yet when we shall move. And if I did I would not tell my own father.” I thought that was rather a queer sort of speech to make to me under the circumstances. But I smiled and said, “General, I am only anxious that we shall get forward, that the enemy shall not escape us.” He replied, “There is no danger of that. I will have a reconnoissance to-morrow, and we will arrange about moving at a very early period.” He then took his leave. The next day there was a reconnoissance on the Winchester turnpike, about four or five miles below the general’s camp. He sent forward a section of artillery and some cavalry, and they found a post and leg fence across the Winchester turnpike, and some of the enemy’s cavalry on the other side of it. They gave them a round of grape. The cavalry scattered off, and the reconnoissance returned. That was the only reconnoissance I heard of while we were there. My own pickets went further than that. But it was understood the next afternoon that we were to march forward at daylight. I sent down Colonel Morell with 40 men to open a road down to the Opequan creek, within five miles of the camp at Winchester, on the side roads I was upon, which would enable me in the course of three hours to get between Johnston and the Shenandoah river, and effectually bar his way to Manassas. I had my ammunition all distributed, and ordered my men to have 24 hours’ rations in their haversacks, independent of their breakfast. We were to march at four o’clock the next morning. I had this road to the Opequan completed that night. I had then with me, in addition to my eight regiments, amounting to about 8,000 men and a few cavalry, Doubleday’s heavy United States battery of 20 and 30 pounders, and a very good Rhode Island battery. And I was willing to take the risk, whether General Patterson followed me up or not, of placing myself between Johnston and the Shenandoah river, rather than Johnston escape. And at four o’clock I should have moved over that road for that purpose, if I had had no further orders. But a little after 12 o’clock at night I received a long order of three pages from General Patterson, instructing me to move on to Charlestown, which is nearly at right angles to the road I was going to move on, and 22 miles from Winchester. This was after I had given my orders for the other movement.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. What day was that?
Answer. It was at 12 o’clock on the night of the 16th of July. I received that order—which was the first intimation I had of any kind or sort that we were not going to move on to Winchester—with a peremptory order to move at three o’clock in the morning to Charlestown, which was nearly at right angles to the position I was then occupying in my route towards Winchester, and twenty-two miles from Winchester.
By the chairman:
Question. And that left Johnston free?
Answer. Yes, sir; left him free to make his escape, which he did. (Pointing to the map.) Here is Martinsburg. After crossing the Potomac we came down to Martinsburg and then moved from Martinsburg down to Bunker Hill. This Winchester turnpike, passing down here, brought General Patterson down in a straight line from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill. I pursued the side roads for the purpose of flanking Johnston, who was at Winchester, just below. This is the road (pointing to it on the map) leading down from Bunker Hill to Winchester. It is nearly a straight line from Martinsburg right down to Winchester. I was there; my camp lay right in here, (pointing to the place;) and the general was with his two divisions at the little village of Bunker Hill. I pursued those cross roads and had sent down and opened this road, (pointing to it,) which was an old and almost discontinued road, to a bridge which was here on the Opequan creek. The distance from my position to the bridge was about three and one half miles. I advanced a strong picket of some two hundred or three hundred men to keep the enemy from burning the bridge, and made the road fit for the artillery to travel over. I was then directed, by this order I have referred to, instead of moving in this direction, which would have enabled me to get between Johnston and the Shenandoah river, to move on this road (pointing it out) until I got upon the road which leads from Winchester to Charlestown. The distance between Charlestown and Winchester was twenty- two miles, while the distance from Bunker Hill was only nine miles.
Question. In what direction would Johnston have had to move to get by you?
Answer. Right out to the Shenandoah river, which he forded. He found out from his cavalry, who were watching us, that we were actually leaving, and he started at one o’clock that same day with eight thousand men, forded the Shenandoah where it was so deep that he ordered his men to put their cartridge boxes on their bayonets, got out on the Leesburg road, and went down to Manassas.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Now, about your orders?
Answer. I was here, (referring to the map,) a little southeast of Bunker Hill, and General Patterson was at Bunker Hill. Originally my arrangement was to go down this way, (pointing.) That was my own arrangement with Patterson’s consent. That was part of the understanding with which we started from Martinsburg. And I still supposed, up to 12 o’clock on the night of the 16th of July, that I was to go down this way or continue where I was, and he was to sustain me if I got into a fight. I had not the slightest idea that we were going to retrograde.
Question. Had you given out your orders?
Answer. My orders were out for the men to have all the ammunition distributed, and to have one day’s provisions, exclusive of breakfast, in their haversacks, and to march at 4 o’clock in the morning. And Patterson knew that I had 400 men out at this bridge, on the road I had opened, yet I was ordered to move at 3 o’clock in another direction, which operated to let Johnston escape. I have never made these facts public at all. I have spoken among my very personal friends about it; and I reported immediately, as soon as I got back here, to General Scott, who was extremely indignant about the whole matter. I did not speak of it as freely as I have done, until this very strange publication of General Patterson the other day, which appeared to put the burden of the whole matter upon General Scott, when, in fact, it was all his own act.
By the chairman:
Question. Did he assign any reason for that movement?
Answer. I was, of course, very indignant about it, and SO were all my officers and men, so much so that when subsequently, at Harper’s Ferry, Patterson came by my camp there was a universal groan—against all discipline, of course, and we suppressed it as soon as possible. The excuse given by General Patterson was this: that he had received intelligence that he could rely upon, that General Johnston had been re-enforced by 20,000 men from Manassas, and was going to make an attack upon him; and in the order which I received that night—a long order of three pages—I was ordered to occupy all the communicating roads, turning off a regiment here, and two or three regiments there, and a battery at another place, to occupy all the roads from Winchester to the neighborhood of Charlestown, and all the cross-roads, and hold them all that day, until General Patterson’s whole army went by me to Charlestown; and I sat seven hours in the saddle near a place called Smithfield, while Patterson, with his whole army, went by me on their way to Charlestown, he being apprehensive, as he said, of an attack from Johnston’s forces.
Question. You covered his movement?
Answer. Yes, sir. Now the statement that he made, which came to me through Colonel Abercrombie, who was Patterson’s brother-in-law, and commanded one division in that army was, that Johnston had been re-enforced, and General Fitz-John Porter reported the same thing to my officers. General Porter was then the chief of Patterson’s staff, and was a very excellent officer, and an accomplished soldier. They all had got this story, which was without the slightest shadow of foundation; for there had not a single man arrived at the camp since we had got fall information that their whole force consisted of 20,000 men, of whom 1,800 were sick with the measles. The story was, however, that they had ascertained by reliable information of this re-enforcement. Where they got their information I do not know. None such reached me, and I picked up deserters and other persons to get all the information I could; and we since have learned, as a matter of certainty, that Johnston’s force.never did exceed 20,000 men there. But the excuse Patterson gave was that Johnston had been re-enforced with 20,000 men from Manassas, and was going to attack him. That was the reason he gave then for this movement. But in this paper he has lately published he hints at another reason—another excuse, which was that it was by order of General Scott. Now, I know that the peremptory order of General Scott to General Patterson, repeated over and over again, was this— I was present on several occasions when telegraphic despatches went from General Scott to General Patterson: General Scott’s orders to General Patterson were that, if he were strong enough he was to attack and beat Johnston. But if not, then he was to place himself in such a position as to keep Johnston employed and prevent him from making a junction with Beauregard at Manassas. That was the repeated direction of General Scott to General Patterson ; and it was because of Patterson’s hesitancy, and his hanging back, and keeping so far beyond the reach of Johnston’s camp, that I was ordered to go up there and re- enforce him, and assist him in any operations necessary to effect that object. The excuse of General Patterson now is that he had orders from General Scott to move to Charlestown. Now, that is not so. But this state of things existed : Before the movement was made from Martinsburg, General Patterson suggested to General Scott that Charlestown would be a better base of operations than Martinsburg, and suggested that he had better move on Charlestown, and from thence make his approaches to Winchester; that it would be better to do that than to move directly to Winchester from Martinsburg; and General Scott wrote back to say that if he found that movement a better one, he was at liberty to make it. But General Patterson had already commenced his movement on Winchester direct from Martinsburg, and had got as far as Bunker Hill; so that the movement, which he had formerly suggested, to Charlestown, was suppressed by his own act. But that is the pretence now given in his published speech for making the movement from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, which was a retreat, instead of the advance which the movement to Charlestown, he first proposed to General Scott was intended to be.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. He was to go to Charlestown in order to get to Winchester; and he had already gone where he was nearer to Winchester and in a better position to reach it?
Answer. Yes, sir. In the first place he was within ten miles of Winchester, and on a direct line of turnpike from Martinsburg to Winchester ; and I was in a position, on a side road, which enabled me to flank Johnston. Charlestown is twenty-two miles from Winchester.
By the chairman:
Question. Was not that change of direction and movement to Charlestown a total abandonment of the object which you were pursuing?
Answer. Entirely an abandonment of the main principles of the orders he was acting under.
Question. And, of course, an abandonment of the purpose for which you were there?
Answer. Yes, sir.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Was it not your understanding in leaving here, and was it not the understanding, also, of General Scott, that your purpose in going there was to check Johnson with direct reference to the movement here?
Answer. Undoubtedly. It was in consequence of the suggestion made by me at the council at the President’s house. And the cabinet had -under discussion whether to remove Patterson or not, because General Scott was dissatisfied at his tardy movements, he not having got down to within anything like striking distance of Johnston’s camp. But the Secretary of State explained to me that they had decided that it was not expedient, at that time, to remove General Patterson. And upon the suggestion of General Scott they wanted me to go up there and assist Patterson in this movement against Johnston, so as to carry out the point I had suggested of first checkmating Johnston before the movement against Manassas was made here.
By the chairman:
Question. You and Johnston had about the same forces there, had you not?
Answer. Patterson and myself had twenty-two thousand men, while Johnston had twenty thousand, with eighteen hundred of them sick.
Question. Would there have been any difficulty in preventing Johnston from going to Manassas?
Answer. None whatever.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. Has there been any court-martial on this subject?
Answer. No, sir.
Question. Can you tell me the reason why there has not been?
Answer. I do not know, except this: General Patterson’s term of service— being called out with the three months’ men—expired on the 27th of July. In the meantime I was compelled to remain there, and these facts were not reported at Washington with the minuteness that I have stated them here now. The result of these operations were, of course, well known at Washington—the movement of Patterson to Charlestown, the escape of Johnston, and all that. An order came, just before the 27th of July, dismissing General Patterson and the other three months, men whose terms then expired. Among others, General Patterson was mentioned as being honorably discharged from the service. That was a few days after this movement, which took place on the morning of the 17th of July, and Patterson’s term of service expired on the 27th of July. An order came from the adjutant general’s office, the date of which I do not now recollect, discharging Patterson honorably from the service. That superseded the idea of a court-martial.
By the chairman:
Question. I have heard it suggested that he undertook to excuse this movement on the ground that the time of many of his troops had expired, and they refused to accompany him.
Answer. That, to my knowledge, is untrue. The time of none of them had expired when this movement was made. All the troops that were there were in the highest condition for the service. These three months’ men, it may be well to state to you, who are not military men, were superior to any other volunteer troops that we had in point of discipline. They were the disciplined troops of the country. The three months’ men were generally the organized troops of the different States—New York, Pennsylvania, &c. We had, for instance, from Patterson’s own city, Philadelphia, one of the finest regiments in the service, which was turned over to me, at their own request; and the most of my regiments were disciplined and organized troops. They were all in a fine condition, anxious, zealous, and earnest for a fight. They thought they were going to attack Johnston’s camp at Winchester. Although I had suggested to General Patterson that there was no necessity for that, the camp being admirably fortified with many of their heavy guns from Norfolk, I proposed to him to place our- selves between Johnston and the Shenandoah, which would have compelled him to fight us there or to remain in his camp, either of which would have effected General Scott’s object. If I had got into a fight it was very easy over this road I had just been opening for Patterson to have re-enforced me and come up to the fight in time. The proposition was to place ourselves between Johnston’s fortified camp and the Shenandoah, where his fortified camp would have been of no use to him.
Question. Even if you had received a check there, it would have prevented his junction with the forces at Manassas?
Answer. Yes, sir. I would have risked a battle with my own division rather than Johnston should have escaped. If he had attacked me I could have taken a position where I could have held it, while Patterson could have fallen upon him and repulsed him.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Had you any such understanding with Patterson?
Answer. I told him I would move down on this side road in advance, leaving General Patterson to sustain me if I got into a fight. So, on the other hand, if he should attack Patterson, I was near enough to fall upon Johnston’s flank and support Patterson. By using this communication of mine to pass Opequan creek—where I had informed Patterson I had already pushed forward my pickets, 200 men in the day and 400 at night, to prevent the enemy from burning the bridge—it would have enabled me to get between Johnston and the Shenandoah river. On the morning of our march to Charlestown, Stuart’s cavalry, which figured so vigorously at Bull Run, was upon my flank all day. They were apparently about 800 strong. I saw them constantly on my flank for a number of miles. I could distinguish them with my glass with great ease. Finally, they came within about a mile of the line of march I was pursuing, and I sent a battery around to head them off, and the 12th regiment across the fields in double-quick time to take them in the rear. I thought I had got them hemmed in. But they broke down the fences, and went across the country to Winchester, and I saw nothing more of them. They were then about 8 miles from Winchester, and must have got there in the course of a couple of hours. That day at 1 o’clock—as was ascertained from those who saw him crossing the Shenandoah—Johnston started from Winchester with 8,000 men, forded the Shenandoah river, and got to Manassas on Friday night; and his second in command started the next day with all the rest of the available troops—something like 9,000 men, leaving only the sick, and a few to guard them in the camp at Winchester—and they arrived at the battle-field in the midst of the fight, got out of the cars, rushed on the battle-field, and turned the scale. I have no doubt that if we had intercepted Johnston, as we ought to have done, the battle of Bull Run would have been a victory for us instead of a defeat. Johnston was undoubtedly the ablest general they had in their army.
Question. I think I read in the speech that Patterson made in Philadelphia that he excused himself in part by saying that he telegraphed to General Scott for orders to move, and he did not get them?
Answer. That is not so. General Scott was anxious, and night after night kept telegraphing to Patterson to move forward. And night after night they were receiving despatches from Patterson excusing himself, that he had not transportation enough, or he had not troops enough, or something of that kind. And I was sent up with re-enforcements that he might be sure to have enough; with peremptory orders from General Scott if he was strong enough to fight Johnston, or if not to hold him in check. It was the intention to delay the battle here until after it was known that Johnston was checkmated.
Question. Did he receive any orders to move back?
Answer. He certainly did not. I had a conversation with General Scott in New York, and he was very much surprised to find on his return from Europe that Patterson should make such statements in his speech. Patterson’s speech was made after General Scott left the country, and I suppose after Patterson thought General Scott had left it forever. Since General Scott’s return I have had two conversations with him; one since I received this summons from you. I supposed it might have some reference to this matter, and I went on Sunday afternoon to see him, and had a conversation with him, and told him that I had been summoned here to Washington, and it probably had some reference to this affair of Patterson. General Scott was as much surprised as I was at Patterson’s pretending that this movement was made by his order; General Scott having at all times pressed upon him simply these two things: to attack and defeat Johnston if he was strong enough, or, if not, so to move as to prevent Johnston getting to Manassas.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. You spoke of a council of war being held late in June. What was the decision of that council as to the propriety of delivering a battle?
Answer. That council of war was to decide the question of an attack upon Manassas. At that council General McDowell presented his plan for an attack upon Manassas; and the question submitted to the President and his cabinet and the general officers present was as to the propriety of that movement. I was a little peculiarly situated in regard to the matter, because I had been superseded by General McDowell, a much younger officer than myself. And yet I deemed it my duty to say that I did not approve of the movement from my knowledge of the country and the state of things. But, if the movement was to be made, I objected to two points in the movement. The one was the marching 14 miles to win a battle, which I considered almost equivalent to a defeat itself; and secondly, that no such movement should be made until it was ascertained that Patterson was between Johnston and Manassas. On a subsequent day they had a meeting of the cabinet to decide upon the subject of Patterson’s removal, which resulted in this request to me, to go up there and waive rank to him.
Question. And in that subsequent council of war it was decided to deliver the battle.
Answer. In the council of war on the 27th of June, General McDowell was authorized to make his arrangements for this battle, if he found every other thing concurred in making the movement. It was an unfortunate movement, in my opinion, in every point of view. In the first place, no such attack should have been made upon Manassas at all, because other means of dislodging them might have been attempted. In the second place, it was an unfortunate commencement of a battle to march 14 miles to begin it. It was a very exhausting march over such a country as I knew that to be, and it turned out to be a very great drawback to the troops.
Question. But had Patterson not marched you down to Charlestown, and you had held Johnston in check, have you any doubt of the favorable result of that battle?
Answer. No, sir; none at all. In the first place, it was not only the acquisition of those 8,000 troops that Johnston took down himself, but those that came in fresh on Sunday. And then they had the ablest man in the confederate army to manage that fight, and it was done with great adroitness and ability. I have no doubt at all that that battle was fought chiefly by Johnston, for he is a superior strategist to Beauregard.
Question. Your conclusion, then, is, as I understand you, that the battle was properly planned by General McDowell, and would have been a success had you attacked and whipped Johnston; that McDowell would have whipped Beauregard.
Answer. I have no doubt McDowell would have whipped Beauregard had Johnston been kept out of the field; although I do not believe in the plan of the battle.
By Mr. Odell :
Question. Did not General McDowell suffer a great deal from the character of the officers under him? Did not a great many incompetent ones resign immediately after that battle?
Answer. Yes, sir; but some good officers resigned as well as incompetent ones
Question. But the most of the resignations were of incompetent officers?
Answer. Yes, sir.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. After the movement from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, did you have any conversation with General Patterson in relation to the matter; and if so, what explanation did he give of it at the time?
Answer. I had no conversation with him personally; I had with Colonel Abercrombie, his brother-in-law and one of his leading advisers. I was very much annoyed to see that the whole object of my going there was frustrated, and I sought no interview with General Patterson. But Colonel Abercrombie, understanding how much I was dissatisfied, came to me on purpose to explain the reason of this movement.
Question. Probably sent by Patterson?
Answer. Probably sent by Patterson. The explanation he made was that they had reliable information that Johnston was re-enforced with 20,000 men from Manassas, and was going to attack and destroy Patterson’s army. Now, in the first place, he could not have done it if he had had the 20,000 men, because the country there was such that we could have resisted him. But I knew it to be untrue, and I think General Patterson knew it to be untrue. There had been a company of 120 men from the vicinity of Martinsburg pressed into the service of the rebels. I say this, because I saw the orders. They were brought to me by one of my pickets. The orders had been issued to the commanding officers to force these men out. They were forced out and went to Harper’s Ferry, and were there at the time of its occupation by the rebels. Of these men, all but forty deserted on the march from Harper’s Ferry to Winchester, or while at Winchester. We had a great many of them in and about Winchester while we were there. And all the information from those men, as well as from others coming in from time to time to our camp, satisfied General Patterson and satisfied me perfectly that Johnston’s whole numbers could not exceed 20,000 men; and after we got to Bunker Hill, still some of these Martinsburg deserters cams in repeating the same information. This was down to the very night before we moved- that these men repeated the story that the numbers in the whole camp at Winchester did not exceed 20,000, and they generally estimated them from 18,000 to 19,000, and up to the evening of the day, when we marched the next morning at three o’clock, all the information concurred in that same statement, and we know now that it was so, and that Johnston did not receive any re-enforcements.
Question. Then at that time General Patterson relied for his vindication of his conduct in not going forward upon the fact that he had heard, or pretended that he had heard, that Johnston was re-enforced by 20,000 men, and was to attack him?
Answer. Yes, sir; that was the vindication set up for him by his brother-in- law, Colonel Abercrombie, and, as I understood, by Colonel Porter, the chief of his staff.
Question. Did General Patterson know at that time that it was the intention of General McDowell to attack Mauassas?
Answer. Certainly he did. I carried him that information.
Question. On what day did you suppose that attack was to be made?
Answer. I supposed that, in pursuance to the suggestion I had made, they were waiting to hear from us that we were in position to prevent Johnston from joining Beauregard, and that that was the only cause or delay in making the attack. I expected that attack to be made the instant we satisfied them that we were in position. I did not believe, from the communication made to me by Governor Seward, and the reason for sending me up there, I did not suppose that General McDowell would make a movement until we had got into position to prevent Johnston from joining Beauregard. I went up there with the opinion that the attack would be made upon Manassas the moment it was ascertained that we were in a position to keep Johnston occupied.
Question. And when you communicated that fact to the authorities at Washington, then General McDowell would make the attack and not until then, and Patterson knew that?
Answer. He was so informed by me, and was so informed by a written communication from General Scott.
Question. Did you know that the army here was making a forward movement?
Answer. Yes, sir; we knew they were prepared to make that movement the instant it was certain that Johnston could not move on them. So that when this movement on Charlestown was made I thought it in direct dereliction of duty. Our movement was made on the morning of the 17th, and that same day at one o’clock Johnston crossed the Shenandoah river where I expected to have intercepted him.
Question. Our troops moved forward from the Potomac here on the 16th of July, I believe?
Answer. Yes, sir; the day before we commenced the march to Charlestown.
Question. How soon was General Scott or the authorities here at Washington advised of the movement on Charlestown? Do you know when that knowledge reached them?
Answer. I do not know. There was a communication constantly between General Patterson and General Scott, but they had to send some distance in order to reach the telegraph.
Question. In how short a time could General Patterson have communicated to General Scott the fact that he had moved on to Charlestown?
Answer. He could have communicated in twenty-four hours, by sending an express to the telegraph station on the other side of the Potomac.
Question. And that fact could have been known here three days before the battle?
Answer. Yes, sir. There is a gentleman here in Washington—Colonel Townsend, now, I believe, in the adjutant general’s office—who was the chief of General Scott’s staff at that time, and who knows all about the orders at that time. He has possession of all the communications that passed, so General Scott told me on Sunday last—all that passed between General Scott and General Patterson in relation to this matter; and I am authorized to say to him, and I shall make it my business to-day to say to him from General Scott, that the general is anxious that they should be known. General Scott, being now aware of General Patterson’s statements, is willing that these facts should be known. I state this myself in vindication of General Scott, because I was present night after night when these communications were going on between General Scott and General Patterson, urging Patterson forward before I went up there to join him.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Do you know of your own knowledge that it was a subject of discussion in the cabinet councils—the inefficiency of General Patterson and the propriety of his removal?
Answer. I do not know that his inefficiency was the subject of discussion; but the great delays he made in his movements in that part of Virginia were the subject of discussion.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. That was something they could not understand?
Answer. Something that they could not understand the reason for. At one time he wanted more artillery; another time he wanted more means of transportation; and his movements were altogether so slow that it created a great deal of uneasiness here. Of course, being second in command, I made no communication to the department here in relation to our movements up there until my return to this city. I had no right to do so before I came back here; and I must say that it appeared very strange to me that so important a change in our movements there should have been made without my being consulted at all upon the subject. But General Patterson chose to consult only his own staff, but none of the officers under his command.
By the chairman:
Question. You are an officer who has reflected a great deal on the condition of things here, and know the ground and the condition of affairs well. Now, we would like to have your opinion as to whether it would be proper for the army at this time of the year, and under all the circumstances, to make an advance or not, or whether it shall act on the defensive until the spring opens.
Answer. Perhaps I am not qualified at this moment to judge of that, because I am not informed as to the strength and position of the enemy at the present time on the other side of the Potomac. But no matter what their strength is, I would make certain movements which would materially affect the condition of the enemy, and perhaps lead to more serious operations. In the first place I have been very much annoyed and chagrined at the retreat of that part of our army that was occupying that portion of upper Virginia. They should never have left Harper’s Ferry. It was one of the causes of my asking to be recalled to Washington. When Patterson was superseded, and General Banks came there, I sent a communication requesting to be recalled to Washington. I was not willing to serve under a general so much my junior as General Banks was, who was, at that time, entirely without any military knowledge at all, and because General Banks’s first operations were to retreat out of Virginia, which I thought he ought not to do. The whole of the enemy at that time there was some thousand cavalry marauding around the country, while we had 12,000 men. But General Banks retreated out of Virginia, though I knew that General Scott could and would send forward re-enforcements there to enable us to move forward; and I think we should now undertake movements to occupy that part of Virginia, and effectually clear the route of the Baltimore and Ohio road. One consequence of our abandoning that part of Virginia, was their re-occupying the whole line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad through that country, and the removal of a large quantity of iron to enable them to make good their connexions between Winchester and Manassas. That would have been all avoided if we had continued to occupy it. But, unfortunately, though a very excellent statesman and a man of talent, General Banks came there entirely a new man in his military duties, instead of there being some man of military experience sent there; and that part of the service has, consequently, been paralyzed.
Question. You would occupy Winchester and take possession of that railroad?
Answer. I would send troops, now, to occupy the whole of that upper part of Virginia, and Leesburg and Winchester, take possession of that turnpike, and effectually clear the whole of that part of Virginia through which the Baltimore and Ohio railroad runs.
Question. Would not that bring on a general battle?
Answer. If it did we would beat them effectually, because, to make a movement for a battle there, they would weaken their strength so much at Manassas as to make it impossible to maintain their lines before our large force opposite them here. In making such a movement as that which I should contemplate from the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry and Point of Rocks, unquestionably we would be upon the qui vive here to see what movements were made by the enemy to meet our movements there. And that part of Virginia should be occupied, at all hazards, for another reason. There is a very large body of Union men in that part of Virginia. I discovered that while I was there, and if we had continued in possession of that part of Virginia, the whole of that part of the State would have been loyal this day, although there were a great many secessionists there. I was there within pistol-shot of the residence of Faulkner, and such men as he—leading secessionists. But a large portion of the inhabitants—pretty much all the people that remained at Martinsburg—were loyal, and when we went there they hailed us with acclamations and were glad to see us. I had invitations from all the leading people to come and dine and sup with them. They were well disposed towards us, and indignant at the immense injury done by the enemy to their property throughout all that part of the country.
Question. What, in your judgment, would be the effect of our taking possession of Winchester and that valley?
Answer. To cut off, effectually, all the supplies they now get from the valley of the Shenandoah.
Question. Where would they get their supplies then?
Answer. They undoubtedly are receiving some supplies from the neighborhood of Richmond, and I understand that cattle are sent up to them all the way from Louisiana, even; but they derive a very large portion of their supplies from the upper part of Virginia—from that valley, which is a rich one. I think the whole valley of the Shenandoah is as rich as the Genesee valley.
Question. Then, if we move a very strong force up towards Winchester, you think they would not come out and give us a general battle, with all their force, here?
Answer. Yes, sir; and we must make that movement so strong as to drive all their present force there before us, and watch their movements in this quarter, so as to be able to checkmate them if they undertake to make any important movement from here. General Banks’s division could be increased so as to sweep that country with the utmost ease.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. You mean that our whole right wing should be thrown across the river?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Did you infer from what has transpired in relation to the movement at Ball’s Bluff that such was the intention at that time?
Answer. I supposed at that time—not from any knowledge upon the subject, but from watching the operations that were going on—that when our folks crossed at Ball’s Bluff the residue of General Banks’s army was going down to Leesburg from the other direction, and that General Stone was ordered to cross there to support that movement. I could not see any other explanation of that movement. I am judging now only from what I see in the papers. I supposed that that movement was only a portion of just such a movement as I am now suggesting—that is, for General Banks to move across at Point of Rocks and so on down to Leesburg, and General Stone to meet General Banks at Leesburg. Where the fault is I do not know. General Stone I know to be a good soldier and a capital officer. He was under me for some length of time, and I urged, when I left for New York, that he should be put in command of our force along the Potomac; and I cannot imagine that General Stone made that movement unless he expected to be sustained by finding General Banks at Leesburg when he got there. Whether General Banks had such orders or not, of course I do not know.