Testimony of Gen. Robert Patterson
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 89-98
WASHINGTON, January 7, 1862.
General R. PATTERSON resumed as follows:
I omitted yesterday to read a letter from the general-in-chief, dated July 5, 1861. It is as follows:
“HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, “Washington July 5, 1861—11 p. m.
“Major General PATTERSON, Hagerstown Md.:
“Your letter of the 4th is received. Orders were sent this morning to Madison for the 3d and 4th regiments from Wisconsin to repair to Williamsport via Chambersburg and report to you.
“The 19th and 28th New York regiments leave here for Hagerstown tomorrow at half past 2 p. m. You will have to provide transportation for them thence to the post you may order them to.
“If any three months men will re-engage for the long term, designate a regular officer of your command to muster them, provided a sufficient number can be obtained to form a regiment.
“Having defeated the enemy, if you can continue the pursuit without too great a hazard, advance via Leesburg or Strasburg towards Alexandria, but consider the dangerous defiles, especially via Strasburg, and move with great caution, especially via Strasburg, halting at Winchester, and threatening a movement by Strasburg or the passage of the Potomac twice, and coming down by Leesburg may be the more advantageous movement.”
On the 6th of July I sent to the general-in-chief an official report of the battle of Falling Waters.—(Appendix No. 34.) It is due to the officers who distinguished themselves that it should be made known. It has been made public, and never yet, for some reason or other, allowed to go out of the Adjutant General’s office. I also sent a circular, accompanying the report.— (Appendix No. 35.) In a telegram, of date July 6, I informed the general- in-chief that “the insurgents have unquestionably received large re-enforcements, and are said to have 26,000 men, with 24 guns, many rifled, and some of very large calibre.” I then expected to have by the night of the 8th 18,000 men and 16 guns, and intended to march on the 9th and attack them. On the 8th of July an order was issued (Appendix No. 36) reducing the number of tents to four common and one wall tent to each company, and also an order to march the next morning.—(Appendix No. 37.) On the 11th of July I issued a circular (Appendix No. 38) requiring division, brigade, and regimental commanders and quartermasters to have their commands ready to march at a moment’s warning. On the 19th of July I telegraphed the general-in-chief that “the 2d and 3d Pennsylvania volunteers demand discharge, and I send them home to-morrow.” On the 20th General Cadwalader sent in a report (Appendix No. 39) of the dates of expiration of term of service of the different regiments composing his division, in which he states “his fear that the men of two of his regiments would give us trouble,” and “that there was a strong feeling in one regiment on the subject of returning to-morrow.” On the 19th of July I reported to the adjutant general of the army (Appendix No. 40) “that almost all the three months volunteers refuse to serve one hour after their time, except three regiments.”
I closed my narrative yesterday with a reference to my report of July 17 to the general-in-chief, in which I stated that the term of service of 18 of my 26 regiments would expire within seven days. It should be remembered that this report of mine was from Charlestown where I had gone on the 17th, having on the day appointed made the demonstration ordered by General Scott on the 13th, and performed my part perfectly. No information was sent to me on either the 14th, 15th, or 16th, the last being the day on which General Scott said Manassas would be attacked. If any change took place, and the attack was not to be made on the 16th, then it was the imperative duty of the general-in-chief to have informed me, that I might have arranged my movements in accordance, and have made my demonstrations against Winchester at the proper time. Confident that Manassas Junction would be attacked on Tuesday, I moved from Martinsburg on Monday, and drove Johnston’s pickets in on Tuesday. If I had known the assault on the Junction would not have been made until Sunday, I would not have moved until Saturday. I am not therefore responsible for the appearance of Gen eral Johnston at Manassas on Sunday, the 21st. The same neglect or inattention kept me from being at Manassas to meet Johnston. No information of any kind was given me by General Scott from the 13th to the 17th.
On the 17th he telegraphed me, (Appendix No. 41,) “McDowell’s first day’s work has driven the enemy beyond Fairfax Court-House; the Junction will probably be carried to-morrow.” This anticipation was unfortunately not realized.
Let me recapitulate the essence of General Scott’s last three despatches. On the 12th, “Go to Charlestown; I will attack Manassas on Tuesday.” On the 13th, “If not strong enough to meet the enemy early next week, make demonstrations, so as to detain him in the valley of Winchester.” On the 17th, “McDowell’s first day’s work has driven the enemy beyond Fairfax Court-House ; the Junction will probably be carried to-morrow.” With this despatch of the 17th in possession, I and the officers under me were relieved from great anxiety, indeed were very exultant. With Fairfax Court-House in possession of our troops, and the Junction to be taken the next day, all I had to do was to be ready to meet and repel the attack which all expected.
On the 18th of July General Scott telegraphed me (Appendix No. 42) as follows: “I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy; if not, to hear that you had felt him strongly, or at least have occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal, and I suppose superior in numbers. Has he not stolen a march and sent re-enforcements towards Manassas Junction? A week is enough to win a victory. The time of volunteers counts from the day of muster into the service of the United States. You must not retreat across the Potomac. If necessary, when abandoned by the short-term volunteers, intrench somewhere, and wait for re-enforcements.” I had no doubt that the opinion of the general-in-chief was correct, that “a week was enough to win a victory.” My own army had gained a decided victory in less than four hours on the day I crossed the Potomac, and it was the opinion of myself and all the officers under my command that we would have gained many victories several days earlier if the general-in-chief had not emasculated my army by ordering from me my regulars, (infantry, artillery, and cavalry,) with the Rhode Island regiment and battery, just at the moment when they were most needed. But the want of artillery and transportation compelled me to wait at Martinsburg until the enemy, previously my superior in men and guns, had time to be re-enforced heavily with both, and to intrench themselves at Winchester having nearly 50 field guns, and more siege guns, of the heaviest calibre and of longer range, than I had of all kinds.
Were I disposed to indulge in recrimination I might retort with some severity upon the lieutenant general the expression so unjustly used towards myself. For full three months after the remark General Scott has been obliged to retire from the command of an army in which are concentrated all the choice troops of the country without that victory with which he was so anxious to close his brilliant career In fact, the whole country, who looked for the most brilliant results from the rawest of all troops, now apprehend, as well, perhaps, as the lieutenant general himself, that one who attempts to precipitate a victory will run the risk of finding also that “a week is long enough for a defeat.”
On the same day, the 18th, I sent three telegrams and one letter (Appendix Nos. 43, 44, 45, and 46) to the general-in-chief, informing him of the condition of my command; that many of my men “were without shoes;” the men had received no pay, and neither officers nor soldiers had money to purchase with ; that under the circumstances I could not ask or expect the three months men to stay longer than one week; that I had “that day appealed almost in vain to the regiments to stand by the country for a week or ten days; the men were longing for their homes, and nothing could detain them;” that “Captain Newton had been sent that day to Harper’s Ferry to arrange for defence, and re-establish communication with Maryland;” that the general’s order had been obeyed ” to threaten and make demonstrations to detain Johnston at Winchester;” that Johnston had been largely re-enforced, and that even if I could “take Winchester it would be only to withdraw my men, and be forced to retreat, thus losing the fruits of victory.” At 1.30 a. m. that morning I telegraped General Scott that “telegraph of date received. Mine of to-night gives the condition of my command. Some regiments of my command have given warning not to serve an hour over their time. To attack under such circumstances the greatly superior force at Winchester is most hazardous. My letter of the 16th gives you further information.”
I will read here my letters of the 14th and 16th to the general-in-chief:
“MARTINSBURG, Virginia, July 14, 1861.
“I have thus far succeeded in keeping in this vicinity the command under General Johnston, who is now pretending to be engaged in fortifying at Winchester, but prepared to retire beyond striking distance if I should advance far. To-morrow I advance to Bunker Hill, preparatory to the other movement. If an opportunity oilers I shall attack, but, unless I can rout, shall be careful not to set him in full retreat upon Strasburg. I have arranged for the occupation of Harper’s Ferry, opposite which point I have directed provisions to be sent. Many of the three months volunteers are very restless at the prospect of being retained over their time. This fact will soon cause you to hear of me in the direction of Charlestown. Want of ample transportation for supplies and baggage has prevented my moving earlier in the direction I desired.”
In my letter of the 16th, from Bunker Hill, I wrote:
“I have the honor to report, for the information of the general-in-chief, my advance and arrival at this place yesterday, opposed only by a body of six hundred cavalry, of which one was killed and five taken prisoners. Tomorrow I move upon Charlestown. A reconnoissance shows the Winchester road blocked by fallen trees and fences placed across it, indicating no confidence in the large force now said to be in Winchester. I send you a sketch, prepared by Captain Simpson, of the works said to have been erected in the vicinity of Winchester. Preparations have already been commenced to occupy and hold Harper’s Ferry with the three years troops. If the general-in-chief desires to retain that place, (and I advise it never to be evacuated,) I desire to be at once informed by telegraph. I have to report that the time of service of a very large portion of this force will expire in a few days. From an undercurrent expression of feeling I am confident that many will be inclined to lay down their arms the day their time expires. With such a feeling existing, any active operations towards Winchester cannot be thought of until they are replaced by three years men. Those whose term expires this week, and will not remain, I shall arrange to send off by Harper’s Ferry; those for Philadelphia via Baltimore; those for Harrisburg via Hagerstown. If Harper’s Ferry is to be held, after securing that, I shall, if the general-in-chief desires, advance with the remainder of the troops via Leesburg, provided the force under Johnston does not remain at Winchester, after the success which I anticipate from General McDowell. I wish to be advised if these preparations meet with the approval of the general-in-chief. The Wisconsin regiments are without arms and accoutrements, which I have directed the commander of Frankfort arsenal to provide.”
On the 17th I wrote from Charlestown:
“The term of service of the Pennsylvania troops (eighteen regiments) expires within seven days, commencing to-morrow. I can rely on none of them renewing service. I must be at once provided with efficient three years men, or withdraw to Harper’s Ferry. Shall I occupy permanently Harper’s Ferry, or withdraw entirely? I wrote yesterday on this subject, and now wish to be informed of the intentions of the general-in-chief. My march to-day was without opposition or incidents of importance. The country has been drained of men. This place has been a depot for supplies for force at Winchester, and the presence of the army is not welcome.”
I telegraphed the general-in-chief from Charlestown, at 1.30 a. m., on the 18th: “Telegram of date received. Mine of to-night gives the condition of my command. Some regiments have given warning not to serve an hour over time. To attack under such circumstances, against the greatly superior force at Winchester, is most hazardous. My letter of the 16th gives you further information. Shall I attack?”
On the same day, at 1 p. m., I telegraphed the general-in-chief: “I have succeeded, in accordance with the wishes of the general-in-chief, in keeping General Johnston’s force at Winchester. A reconnoissance in force on Tuesday caused him to be largely re-enforced from Strasburg. With the existing feeling and determination of the three months men to return home, it would be ruinous to advance or even to stay here without immediate increase of force to replace them. They will not remain. I have ordered the brigades to assemble this afternoon, and shall make a personal appeal to the troops to stay a few days, until I can be re-enforced. Many of the regiments are without shoes; the government refuses to furnish them. The men have received no pay, and neither officers nor soldiers have money to purchase with. Under these circumstances I cannot ask or expect the three months volunteers to stay longer than one week. Two companies of Pennsylvania volunteers were discharged to-day and ordered home. I to-day place additional force at Harper’s Ferry and re-establish communication with Maryland. I send Captain Newton to prepare for its defence.”
On the same day I telegraphed again to the general-in-chief: “Telegram of to-day received. The enemy has stolen no march upon me. I have kept him actively employed, and, by threats and reconnoissance in force, caused him to be re-enforced. I have accomplished, in this respect, more than the general-in-chief asked, or could be expected, in face of an enemy far superior in numbers, with no line of communication to protect.”
On the 18th I wrote from Charlestown as follows: “I arrived at this place on the 17th instant; nothing of importance occurred on the march. The principal inhabitants left some ten days since, anticipating its occupation by the federal troops. It was till our arrival the location of a band of secession militia, engaged in pressing into the service the young men of the country.
“I have to acknowledge the receipt of two telegrams from the general-in-chief, of the 17th and 18th instant, both looking to a movement and attack upon Winchester. A state of affairs existed which the general-in-chief is not aware of, though, in some respects, anticipated by his instructions, that if I found the enemy too strong to attack, to threaten and make demonstrations to detain him at Winchester. I more than carried out the wishes of the general-in-chief in this respect. Before I left Martinsburg I was informed of a large increase of Johnston’s command, and of the visit to Winchester of the leading members of the confederate army. Just before General McDowell was to strike I advanced to Bunker Hill, causing surprise, and, I have since learned, an additional increase of force. On Tuesday I sent out a reconnoitring party towards Winchester; it drove in the enemy’s pickets, and caused the army to be formed in line of battle, anticipating an attack from my main force. This party found the road barricaded and blocked by fallen trees. The following day I left for this place.
“Before marching from Martinsburg I heard of the mutterings of many of the volunteer regiments, and their expressed determination not to serve one hour after their term of service should expire. I anticipated a better expression of opinion as we approached the enemy, and hoped to hear of a willingness to remain a week or ten days. I was disappointed, and when I was prepared for a movement to the front, by an order for the men to carry two days’ provisions in their haversacks, I was assailed by earnest remonstrances against being detained over their term of service; complaints from officers of want of shoes and other clothing, all throwing obstacles in the way of active operations. Indeed, I found I should, if I took Winchester, be without men, and be forced to retreat, thus losing the fruits of victory. Under the circumstances neither I nor those on whom I could rely could advance with any confidence.
“I am therefore now here with a force which will be dwindling away very rapidly. I to-day appealed almost in vain to the regiments to stand by the country-for a week or ten days. The men are longing for their homes, and nothing will detain them. I send Captain Newton to-day to Harper’s Ferry to arrange for defence and re-establish communication with Maryland and the Massachusetts regiments. The 3d Wisconsin will soon be there. Lieutenant Babcock has been at Sandy Hook several days trying to get the canal in operation, prepare the entrance to the ford, putting in operation a ferry, and reconstructing the bridge. Depots for all supplies will soon be established, and there I shall cause to be turned in the camp equipage, &c., of the regiments. And to that place I shall withdraw if I find my force so small as to render my preserit position unsafe. I cannot intrench sufficiently to defend this place against a large force. I shall direct the regiments to be sent to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, to be mustered out by Captain Hastings and Major Ruff and Captain Wharton.
On the 19th I wrote to the adjutant general of the army:
“Almost all the three months volunteers refused to serve an hour over their time, except three regiments, which will stay ten days; the most of them are without shoes and without pants. I am compelled to send them home, many of them at once. Some go to Harrisburg, some to Philadelphia, one to Indiana, and, if not otherwise directed by telegraph, I shall send them to the place of muster, to which I request rolls may be sent, and Captain Hastings, Major Ruff, and Captain Wharton ordered to muster them out. They cannot march, and unless a paymaster goes to them they will be indecently clad and have just cause to complain.”
I will state here that the troops I appealed to to remain were those from Pennsylvania. I did not appeal to the Indiana regiment, but the next day they marched up to my headquarters and offered to remain. I was very much delighted I assure you.
As I have before stated, at 1.30 a. m. of the 18th of July I telegraphed General Scott that “some regiments of my command have given warning not to serve an hour over their time. To attack under such circumstances the greatly superior force at Winchester is most hazardous. My letter of the 16th gives you further information,” and closed by asking, “Shall I attack?” Let it be borne in mind that this was despatched at half past one in the morning; and to be ready for the order to attack, if it came, the following order, addressed to commanders of divisions and brigades, was issued: “Have cooked provisions provided immediately for your men in haversacks, and be ready to march whenever called upon.” General Scott might have left it to my discretion to act as circumstances required, or have ordered me to attack Johnston, or have ordered me to march with all speed to Leesburg and join with McDowell in the attack on Manassas. If left to myself, I would, as the correspondence proves, have done the latter; and if I had, it is probable that with my little army in the action, Bull Run would not have been a drawn battle. I had carefully and correctly kept General Scott advised of all my movements, and of the great superiority of the enemy; and when goaded by the taunt, “a week is enough to win a victory,” I asked “shall I attack,” the responsibility of an answer, negative or affirmative, is evaded.
General Scott begins his despatch of the 18th with, “I have certainly been expecting you to meet the enemy,” and closes by saying, “You must not recross the Potomac. If necessary, when abandoned by the short-time volunteers, intrench somewhere and wait for re-enforcements.” These passages do not fit well together in the same despatch, and come with a bad grace after having ordered me to go to Charlestown and “make demonstrations to detain Johnston in the valley of Winchester.” I knew, and so repeatedly informed General Scott, that Johnston was far superior in men and artillery. After the council of July 9 was held, reliable information was received by me that General Johnston was so largely re-enforced with men and guns as to render an assault upon his intrenchments utterly hopeless. The immense superiority of the enemy at Winchester in men and guns, as well as in position, was well known. The information was obtained from Union men who had been there, from prisoners, from deserters, and from various sources, all agreeing on an average of forty thousand men and over sixty guns. A captain named Morrill, or Wellmore, belonging to a Maryland regiment, and taken prisoner at Charlestown by a party from Harper’s Perry, gave forty thousand. A gentleman of Berkeley county, of high respectability, serving under Johnston as an unwilling Virginia volunteer in Jackson’s brigade at the battle of Falling Waters, subsequently gave the following statement, taken down by General Negley, and by him given to me:
“General Jackson retreated with his brigade, consisting then of four regiments and four pieces of artillery, (Captain Pendleton,) to Big Spring, three and a half miles south of Martinsburg. General Johnston arrived at Darkesville the same night with about fourteen thousand men. He was then re-enforced by one regiment and one battery (four guns) flying artillery. General Jackson retreated to that point. The army made a stand there for four days; they then retreated to Winchester. When we arrived there, we found fortifications commenced by the militia. All the army then assisted, and in two days the city was fortified all around, within two miles of the suburbs, with intrenchments. Re-enforcements commenced pouring in. Ten forty-two pounders were placed, masked, around the fortifications; also artificial thickets planted for riflemen. The force consisted of forty-two thousand, including four thousand militia. General Johnston then received a despatch, as read to the men, that General Patterson was out of the way; that he had gone to get in Beauregard’s rear; and that Jeff. Davis had ordered him to cut off General P. in order to save the country; that Gen. B. had been attacked by an overwhelming force. General Johnston’s army moved at 1 o’clock p. m. Thursday, consisting of nine brigades, with fifty- two pieces of flying artillery, including three ten-inch columbiads, represented to me as such. Amongst the artillery was a detachment of the Washington Artillery, consisting of eight guns, four of which were rifled cannon. General J. took with him thirty-five thousand men, leaving the militia and volunteers, to the number of seven thousand, in Winchester.”
Another gentleman gave the following statement, taken by General Cadwalader, and by him given to me. Mr. ——— says:
“General Johnston’s force at Winchester was forty-two thousand men, infantry, artillery, and cavalry, of which eight hundred Virginia cavalry, under Colonel Stuart, and three hundred from southern States. Forty regiments, thirty-five thousand men, left Winchester at 1 o’clock p. m. on Thursday, by order of General Beauregard; took the road to Berry’s Ford, on the Shenandoah, thirteen and a half miles over the Blue Ridge to Piedmont Station, on the Manassas Gap railroad, fifteen miles, making twenty-eight and a half miles, requiring two days’ march. Freight and passenger cars had been hauled over the road, on their own wheels, to Strasburg last week, and on them Johnston’s forces were expected to be transported on the Manassas railroad from Piedmont to Manasas Junction, thirty-eight to forty miles. There remained at Winchester 7,000 troops until Saturday afternoon, when they left for Strasburg on their way to Manassas, except about 2,500 of the militia of the neighboring counties, disbanded and sent home. A large quantity of arms in boxes was sent to Strasburg. The Virginia cavalry remained, (under Colonel Stuart,) and went to Berrysville to observe the movements of General Patterson’s column. The rest of the cavalry went with General Johnston. They had at Winchester sixty-two pieces of artillery in position in the fortifications; about ten 42-pounders (some they thought were columbiads) were left. The remainder were taken by General Johnston. A detachment of the Washington Artillery, from New Orleans, had eight heavy guns, of which four were 32-pounders. These were hauled by twenty-eight horses each, the rest (smaller guns) by six and four horses each. Part, if not all of them, were brass rifled guns. The fortifications surrounded Winchester, except to the southward, upon the high ground; very heavy earthworks made with bags and barrels filled /with earth, &c. In front of the breastworks deep trenches were dug communicating below with inside of the works. The guns were all masked with artificial thickets of evergreens, which were intended in some cases to be used as ambuscades for riflemen and sharpshooters. Among the regiments was one of Kentucky riflemen armed with heavy bowie-knives. They refused to take more than one round of cartridges. They proposed to place themselves in the bushes for assault. All the fences had been levelled for miles in front of Winchester. The fortifications extended two and a half miles. The trees had been feHed between Bunker Hill and Winchester to impede our advance. Fifteen hundred sick at Winchester confined with measles, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Prisoners taken from our column were sent to Richmond. Wise has been recalled, it is said, with his troops from Western Virginia. Beauregard and Davis had done it in opposition to General Lee’s advice.”
On the 23d of July General Scott, a witness who cannot be suspected of a desire to overrate the enemy’s force in men and guns, telegraphed to General Banks, at Harper’s Ferry, (App. No. 47,) ” there are nine 32-pounders, four 44-pounders, two 6-pounders, and a very large amount of powder, balls, and shell at Winchester.” Add to these siege guns the twenty field guns reported by General Cadwalader and Captain Newton on the 20th June, and you have from two of our own officers of the highest rank in the service, Scott and Cadwalader, official information that the enemy at Winchester had double the number of guns I had. But it is well-known that Johnston carried over fifty guns, some of the largest calibre, with him.
On the same day he telegraphed to General Banks, (App. No. 48,) “I deem it useful, perhaps highly important, to hold Harper’s Ferry. It will probably soon be attacked, but not, I hope, before I shall have sent you adequate re-enforcements. A Connecticut regiment may soon be expected by you. Others shall to-morrow be ordered to follow.” This despatch speaks for itself. If my army was stronger than Johnston’s, why, I again ask, send re-enforcements to General Banks? A most reliable and respectable gentleman furnished my engineer with a detailed statement (App. No. 49) giving the regiments from each State—say, two from Kentucky, two from Tennessee, five from Alabama, five from Georgia, one from North Carolina, five from Mississippi, two from Maryland, &c.—making a total force of over 35,000 confederate troops at Winchester. These statements, which I have seen and examined, with the names of the gentlemen who furnished them, with many others taken by different officers from different persons at different times and places, agree very much in the main facts. From these and other documents, and from information obtained in various ways, there is no doubt of the fact that General Johnston had not only the advantage of extensive intrenchments in his own country, with abundant supplies, and a railroad which could bring him re-enforcements at the rate of 12,000 men a day, and I could get none, but that he had at least three men and four guns to my one, and that nothing but the good order of my column saved it from annihilation and capture by Johnston”. Why should I have made an attack with such awful odds against me? I had done all I was asked to do, and all that was necessary, if General Scott’s plan of attack on Manassas had been carried out in season. I was informed that, on the 16th, the assault on Manassas would be made; and had no information to the contrary until the receipt of General Scott’s telegram of the 17th, saying it would probably be taken on the 18th. I then supposed it would be taken en the 18th, and had no information of the repulse of General McDowell’s column until I heard through the newspapers of the unfortunate affair of the 21st. It is just within the bounds of possibility that, with a frightful slaughter of my men, I might have taken Winchester. But why hazard the safety of the army, possibly of the country, upon such a contingency? If General Scott had taken the Junction, I was in position, my army intact, ready for anything required of me. If our army had been repulsed at Manassas, I was in position to do what I did do—prevent the army from crossing the Potomac to assail Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, and desolating Maryland and Pennsylvania. If I could with heavy loss have taken Winchester, it would have been a bloody and a barren victory. I had but twenty- six regiments under my command; of these the terms of service of eighteen from Pennsylvania and one from Indiana expired within ten days. I could not have held Winchester if I had taken it. The general-in-chief knew when the term of service of the regiments in my army, and at Washington, expired. If General McDowell’s army could not be got ready to fight on the 16th, no battle ought to have been fought then. I knew that General Johnston was too good a soldier to retreat with an army of over 18,000 men and twenty-two guns before an army of 10,000 men and six guns, for that was about the relative strength the day my army entered Martinsburg. He would not retreat except for a purpose. It was the opinion of the officers of the old army, and of most of the new, that Johnston had a trap set for me, and many feared I would fall into it. But fortunately I had full and reliable information which convinced me, and every officer of my staff, that Johnston’s object in falling back as I advanced was to lure me on to an attack on the entrenched camp at Winchester. If the bait had taken defeat was inevitable, and a large portion of my army would probably have been destroyed, and the residue been made prisoners of war. The affair would have been more disastrous than that of Bull Run, for my force had no intrenchments to fall back upon. The Potomac was behind me, and the retreat would have been a disgraceful rout. The enemy, flushed with two victories instead of one, and no army intact to check them, would have been in possession of Washington, Baltimore, and possibly Philadelphia within five days. If General Scott really “supposed” me “superior in numbers,” why the necessity of ordering me “not to retreat across the Potomac, but to intrench somewhere and wait for re-enforcements.” Why send re-enforcements if I was stronger than the enemy? Did I retreat, or attempt to retreat, across the Potomac? Certainly not. I held Harper’s Ferry until I was relieved on the 25th of July, and would, under the order of the 18th, have held it until the crack of doom, unless relieved or ordered away. On the 20th of July I telegraphed General Scott as follows: “With a portion of his force Johnston left Winchester, by the road to Millwood, on the afternoon of the 18th—his whole force 35,200.” That is, he marched with that number of confederate troops—leaving 7,000 volunteers and militia in Winchester. With this information in the hands of the general- in-chief what excuse can be given for fighting on the 21st, when it is apparent to the eye of any one who reads the reports of General McDowell, and of his division and brigade commanders, that our army was in no degree fitted for the encounter? The frank, manly, and soldier-like report of General McDowell proves this. If General Scott chooses to fight, or force others to fight when not ready, I am not responsible for the unfortunate result. My case is in a nut-shell. Johnston’s force was always much stronger than mine in men and guns. I was not to fight unless I was equal or superior to him, but to threaten in order to keep him at Winchester until Manassas was attacked, which, by instructions, was to be on Tuesday, the 16th. Johnston was kept until the Thursday following, and the attack on Manassas was not made till Sunday, the 21st, and then not in the morning. Had others discharged their duty, mine having been accomplished, the contest would have been different in its results. Had the enemy been beaten at Manassas all praise would have been bestowed on my command for having manoeuvred to keep Johnston so long at Winchester. I have gone over my papers, in detail, to enable the committee to understand the operations and conduct of my column. I have asked for a court of inquiry, and it has been refused. I have asked, through the Senate of the United States, for all the correspondence between General Scott and myself, and all the orders of that distinguished soldier to me. This, also, has been refused, and for the same reason, that it would be incompatible with the public interests. I do not question the propriety of the refusal. The knowledge of the fact that it would be injurious, and very injurious, has caused me to submit to all manner of misrepresentations for the last six months. The youngest soldier in the army is entitled -to fair play. I have been a major general for nearly forty years, and hope it will not be denied to me. I was honorably discharged on the 19th of July—two days before the battle of Bull Run. On that day I was pleading with the troops to stand by the government. I am not here to make a defence—there is no official charge against me. My record is perfect. I seek controversy with no man. But if there is any man of sufficient rank and character, or of rank without character, or character without rank, to entitle him to consideration, who has any charge to make against my military conduct, I not only will invite but will thank him to make it, and bring it before a court-martial or of inquiry, and I will meet it. All I ask is justice, strict justice for service rendered. It is the duty of the government to protect the character of officers who have performed their duty, been honorably discharged, and are unjustly assailed. I am confident this committee will see fair play.
[At the request of the witness the committee will consider the question of attaching his farewell order to his testimony.]
Adjourned till to-morrow.