Testimony of Gen. Robert Patterson
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 98-114
WASHINGTON, January 8, 1862.
General R. PATTERSON resumed as follows:
In my testimony before the committee as regards the expiration of the terms of service of the volunteers, I omitted to state that an order or circular from the War Department, dated somewhere about the 12th or 13th of July, directed that the regiments should be sent to the places of muster in their respective States in time to reach there on the day their terms of service expired. A strict obedience to this order would have reduced my command to a very small number on the 18th of July. I also omitted to state that, although the general-in-chief had on the 17th of July informed me that “the Junction will probably be carried to-morrow,” he had neglected to inform me that it was not carried on the 18th, or on the 19th, or on the 20th. It was certainly due to me, and to the great interests at stake, that if the general did not do what he said he would do I should have been informed of it. If on the evening or night of the 17th, or on the morning of the 18th, he found he could not make an assault on the Junction, why did he not telegraph me of the fact, and direct me to make an attack or a demonstration? I was all ready; my men had three days’ rations in their haversacks, and I had that morning, at half-past one, put the question to him direct—”Shall I attack?” I could have made a demonstration on Winchester just as easy from Charlestown as from Bunker Hill, and I could have made an attack much easier from Charlestown than from Bunker Hill, as the road from Bunker Hill was blocked and barricaded, and the road from Charles- town was not, and with the great additional advantage of being so much nearer my base and depots. I do not charge the neglect or inattention to which I have referred as intentional, but to physical inability to perform the immense labor of his official station in the present state of the country. I desire to speak of the general-in-chief as I feel, with all kindness, courtesy, and respect, and with all honor for his loyalty and great services.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Can you designate each of the regiments of your command, and the time when their terms of service expired?
Answer. I hand in a report from Brevet Major General Cadwalader, giving in detail the names and numbers of the regiments belonging to his division, and the time at which their terms of service expired.—(App. No. 39.) I have made out, with the aid of General Cadwalader’s report, and from memory, a memorandum of all the regiments composing my column, and the time fixed or supposed as near as I could approximate to the expiration of their terms of service:
1st regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Yohl, July 18 ; 2d regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Menier, July 19 or 20; 3d regiment Pennsylvania volunteers,- Colonel Stambaugh, July 19 or 20; 6th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Negley, July 22; 7th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Irwin, July 22; 8th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Emlee, July 22; 9th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Longnecker, July 22, 23 and 24; 10th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Meridith, July 25; 13th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Rowley, July 23; 14th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Johnston, supposed July 23; 15th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Oakford, supposed July 23; 16th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, July 20, 21, 25, 26, 27 and 30; 17th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Patterson, supposed July 21; 20th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Grey, July 30; 21st regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Ballier, July 29; 23d regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Dare, July 21; 24th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, Colonel Owen, supposed July 30; one-half (five companies,) 25th regiment Pennsylvania volunteers, July 18; Wisconsin regiment, Colonel Starkweath, early in August; Indiana regiment, Colonel Wallace, about July 20; Massachusetts regiment, Colonel Gordon, three year’s men; 1 New Hampshire; 1 New York, under Colonel Stone, last of July; 4 New York, under General Sanford, last of July and early in August; 2d and 3d regiments left at Martinsburg.
Pennsylvania regiments, seventeen and one-half; New York and other regiments, nine; making a total of twenty-six and one-half regiments, averaging, present and fit for service, six hundred and fifty men, equal to seventeen thousand two hundred and twenty-five; to which add cavalry, artillery, and one company of rangers, in all one thousand, making a total of eighteen thousand two hundred and twenty-five. .
Question. When you fix the time at which their term of service expires, do you reckon from the time when they were mustered into the service of the United States?
Answer. Yes, sir; not from the time when they were enrolled, but from the day they were mustered into service, that being the decision of the War Department, and so communicated to me by the general-in-chief.
Question. And the term of service, as you have stated it, is fixed on that basis?
Answer. Yes, sir. Most of those regiments, however, were enrolled and on duty a week or ten days before. My son’s was the first that turned out, on the 16th, by my own order.
Question. I suppose you found out, from the movements of your army, that it is impossible to say, a week or ten days beforehand, that you will be at a given point on a certain day.
Answer. Yes, sir; I could not tell a week beforehand where I would be.
Question. Is not that a difficulty which is incident to the moving of all large bodies of men?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. It is impossible for a commander to tell, even a week beforehand, what he will be doing, or where he will be a week hence?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. You moved from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill on the 15th July?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. And remained at Bunker Hill over the 16th?
Answer. A part of my army did. A large force was sent forward to reconnoitre and drive in the pickets of Johnston’s army.
Question. On the morning of the 17th you moved to Charlestown?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. When you were at Bunker Hill how near were you to Winchester?
Answer. About 12 miles.
Question. How near at Charlestown were you to Winchester?
Answer. From 15 to 17 miles, I think.
Question. Is it not further than that?
Answer. I think not.
Question. We have had it stated at 22 miles.
Answer. I cannot answer certainly, because I do not know. That is a matter that General Newton could answer better than I can.
Question. We have had the distance given as 22 miles. You say you are uncertain as to the distance?
Answer. I am uncertain as to the distance.
Question. Did you know the force of General Johnston when you moved from Martinsburg?
Answer. Our estimate then was that it was over 30,000 men.
Question. When you moved from Martinsburg?
Answer. Yes, sir; we took several prisoners, and got additional information at Bunker Hill, making his force from 35,000 to 40,000. In my statement to General Scott on the 6th of July I reported that he had 25,000 men.
Question. As you moved from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill I think you stated that General Sanford was in command of one division, and moved down on the road to the left, and the other divisions of your army moved to the right of him?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Did you propose, on Tuesday the 16th, to advance towards Winchester from Bunker Hill?
Answer. No, sir.
Question. You made a reconnoissance that day?
Answer. Yes, sir; I made a reconnoissance in force to see the condition of the country, &c. The object was to learn the enemy’s strength and his preparations, so as to know whether we ought or ought not to go forward.
Question. What did you learn from that reconnoissance?
Answer. The report was decided against a forward movement.
Question. I did not ask what the report was, but what the facts were.
Answer. We learned that the roads were barricaded, fences were built across it, trees cut down; and all manner of impediments thrown in the way; that in front of the town of Winchester everything was levelled, fences and everything, trees cut down, and in some cases houses pulled down, so that their guns should have a clear and complete sweep; and that there were fortifications extending two miles and a half, with heavy guns.
Question. Then you issued no orders for an advance from Bunker Hill towards Winchester?
Answer. I.did, but countermanded it.
Question. At what time was that order countermanded?
Answer. On the return of the reconnoissance, or some time afterwards— some time in the afternoon or evening. My own desire was to go ahead, but I was opposed by all around me.
Question. General Sanford was in command of a division?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. You say that you yielded to the opinions of others. Was General Sanford’s opinion taken in relation to that?
Answer. No, sir; General Sanford’s opinion was not taken at any time. General Sanford joined—I forget now the exact time—perhaps the 10th, or may be the 11th of July, at Martinsburg. There was no council held at Bunker Hill. General Sanford was not in time to join the council of the 9th, and there was no council held after that. The opinions taken by me at Bunker Hill were the opinions of the gentlemen of my own staff, and the old officers of the regular army, who had great experience—those with whom I had been in the habit of counselling from the time I had taken command. There was no council; but any person of the class referred to who came into headquarters was consulted. But no council was held there on that day.
Question. Why did you move from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, instead of remaining at Bunker Hill?
Answer. Because there I was in a most dangerous position. I should have considered it an act of utter insanity to have remained there with so long a line behind me, my force not nearly half the number, not more than one third the number of the enemy. I was under constant expectation of an attack, and being cut off from my base; and I had the warning of the general-in-chief, dated the 11th of July, that that would be done. And also because all my officers told me that Johnston was luring me on, and that I would be caught. The desire of my officers was that I should move direct from Martinsburg to Charlestown. My objection to that movement was this: that I was passing a long distance directly across the enemy’s front, and he could have sent out parties to kill all my teamsters, cut up my wagon guards, shoot the animals and make a regular stampede, and I could not by any possibility get into a position to fight him. Going to Bunker Hill, I was to a certain extent going towards Winchester, and as soon as I got to Smithfield I then diverged to the left. We there expected to be attacked, and I had arranged my command with the left in front, to be ready for an attack, should it be made while on our march. Everybody expected that we should be assailed there. All my wagons were in the front, out of the way. I could not have left Martinsburg and marched half the way without the enemy knowing it. But I could leave Bunker Hill and march to Charlestown, because they would not know where we were going.
Question. If it had been the intention of Johnston to attack you were you not more exposed to his attack in your movement from Bunker Hill to Charlestown than to remain at Bunker Hill?
Answer. If I remained at Bunker Hill I was just as liable to be attacked as on the road to Charlestown, and just as liable to be attacked on the road as there. But I could not remain at Bunker Hill forever. My remaining there was very perilous. To return to Martinsburg was not very soldier-like; and I was ordered to go to Charlestown, and I obeyed my orders.
Question. Then, do you say you went to Charlestown because you were ordered to go there?
Answer. Yes, sir; and because I considered it judicious to go there, and was advised to do so by my council. And I went there because I was ordered there, whether right or wrong.
Question. During all this time you considered it your especial business to take care of Johnston, did you not?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. That was the object and purpose of your army?
Answer. My especial object—yes, sir.
Question. And you were to take care of him until after the attack bad been made by McDowell upon Manassas, and keep him so occupied as to prevent his being present to take part there in the battle, if you could possibly do so?
Answer. Yes, sir; if I could.
Question. On the 9th of July you made a communication to General Scott, in which you stated to him your plans of operations for the future?
Answer. Yes; sir.
Question. And under that head you wrote as follows:
“Under these circumstances, I respectfully present to the general-in-chief the following plan, which, with my present views, I desire to carry into operation so soon as I can do so with safety, and the necessity for following Johnston ceases. I propose to move this force to Charlestown, from which point I can more easily strike Winchester; march to Leesburg; when necessary, open communication to a depot to be established at Harper’s Ferry, and occupy the main avenue of supply to the enemy. My base will then be some seven miles nearer, more easily reached by road, and my line of communication rendered more secure than at present. I can establish communication with the Maryland shore by a bridge of boats. In this way I can more easily approach you; and the movement I think will tend to releive Leesburg and vicinity of some of its oppressors. My present location is a very bad one in a military point of view, and from it I cannot move a portion of the force without exposing that of what remains to be cut off.”
Then, in the last part of that communication, you say:
“When you make your attack I expect to advance and offer battle. If the enemy retires, shall not pursue. I am very desirous to know when the general-in-chief wishes me to approach Winchester. If the notice does not come in any other way, I wish you would indicate the day by telegraph, thus: ‘Let me hear from you on——-‘”
In reply to that you received the following telegraph:
“Go where you propose in your letter of the 9th instant. Should that movement cause the enemy to retreat upon Manassas via Strasburg, to follow him at this distance would seem hazardous; whereas the route from Charlestown via Keyes’s Ferry, Hillsboro’, and Leesburg, towards Alexandria, with the use of the canal on the other side of the river for heavy transportation, may be practicable. Consider this suggestion well; and except in an extreme case do not recross the Potomac with more than a sufficient detachment for your supplies on the canal. Let me hear of you on Tuesday. Write often when en route.”
That was a telegraphic despatch which you received in reply to your communication of the 9th?
Answer. Yes, sir; and your reading of that has reminded me of the strongest reason for not remaining at Bunker Hill. We had but supplies for two days, and could not remain there.
Question. Then you received on the next day this telegraphic despatch? “I telegraphed you yesterday if not strong enough to meet the enemy early next week, make demonstrations so as to detain him in the valley of Winchester. But if he retreats in force towards Manassas, and it be hazardous to follow him, then consider the route via Keyes’s Ferry, Leesburg,” &c. Now, did you not understand from these communications from General Scott that you were either to detain Johnston in the valley of Winchester until after you had heard of the result of the attack on Manassas, or, in case of his retreating, to follow him directly, or come down by the other route which General Scott had indicated, via Keyes’s Ferry, Leesburg, &c., so as to be present and participate in the action at Manassas?
Answer. Unquestionably, if I could detain him. I was undoubtedly to detain him if I could, but I was not to follow him down there, or to move on the other route, unless circumstances required it. In my letter of the 20th or 21st I stated ——-
Question. I would rather you would confine your answer to this question.
Answer. Unquestionably I was to detain him and to remain there as long as he remained there. Will you repeat the question?
Question. [The question was repeated.]
Answer. Yes, sir. The reason I did not follow him is stated in my letter of July 21st to the general-in-chief. On the 20th I telegraphed thus : “With a portion of his force, Johnston left Winchester by the road to Millwood on the afternoon of the 18th, his whole force about 35,200.” I believed then, and so did the officers of my command, that it was very likely that Johnston had information, and we had not, of the battle of Manassas, and that he had gone down on the right bank of the Shenandoh to cut me off; and on the night of the 20th, at midnight, I had ordered General Cadwalader to send a strong brigade down to Keyes’s Ferry, and hold it, as I expected Johnston to attempt to come in my rear. On the 21st I reported to General Scott thus: “I came here (Harper’s Ferry) to-day. Yesterday Winchester and this country was abandoned by all armed parties. Johnston left for Millwood to operate on McDowell’s right, and to turn through Loudon upon me. I could not follow.” I had no men to follow on the 20th or the 21st. I had made every effort on the 18th, but the men would not stay.
Question. You were still apprehending an attack from Johnston on the 20th.
Answer. I was expecting an attack from Johnston any hour from the 18th until I went into Harper’s Ferry.
Question. When did you first know that Johnston had left?
Answer. On the 20th, and the instant I received that information I sent a telegram announcing the fact to the general-in-chief, with orders to go with all speed, and that despatch was received in this city that night.
Question. Did you not know that your position at Charlestown offered no obstacle to General Johnston joining the forces of Beauregard at Manassas?
Answer. It offered no more obstacles than at any other point, except that I was nearer to him than at Martinsburg. I could not stay at Bunker Hill, for I had no supplies.
Question. You were not threatening Johnston at Charlestown so as to prevent him joining Beauregard at Manassas?
Answer. No, sir; I remained there because I was ordered to remain in front of him until he left.
Question. You knew at that time that you were not offering any obstacle to his going down to Manassas?
Answer. Perfectly. I knew I had not the means to do it.
Question. Why did you not communicate that fact to General Scott immediately ?
Answer. I did communicate my condition and where I was.
Answer. On the 16th. I wrote him in detail from Bunker Hill; on the 17th I wrote again; and on the 18th I gave him all the information necessary. And it was his business to order me, not my business to make any further suggestions to him.
Question. Did you communicate to him by telegraph?
Answer. Certainly. I sent three telegrams to him on the same day.
Question. On what day?
Answer. On the 18th. At half-past one in the morning I telegraphed him my condition, and asked him if I should attack. To have sent further information to him would have been rather impertinent, and he would have so considered it.
Question. On the 17th he telegraphs you thus: “I have nothing official from you since Sunday, but am glad to learn through Philadelphia papers that you have advanced. Do not let the enemy amuse and delay you with a small force in front, whilst he re-enforce the Junction with his main body.”
Answer. Yes, sir, I received that.
Question. And on the 18th you telegraphed to General Scott: “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 generally superior force at Winchester is most hazardous. My letter of the 16th gives you further information. Shall I attack?” Did you send him any other telegram on the 18th?
Answer. Certainly; two others.
Question. I find this one on the 18th: “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 well be expected in face of an enemy far superior in numbers, with no line of communication to protect.”
Answer. I beg to state that in that telegram of the 17th is one of those things that I take exception to as bad treatment. I had written to the general-in-chief, as I stated in my examination in chief, every day; and yet I am told that he has nothing official from me since Sunday—no information except through the papers. Now, I telegraphed him on the 12th, on the 13th, and on the 14th. I did not telegraph him on the 15th, because I was marching that day. But I telegraphed him three times afterwards, and wrote him on the 18th.
Question. In your telegraph of the 18th you told him distinctly that the enemy had stolen no march upon you, that you had kept him actively employed, and by threats and reconnoissance in force caused him to be re-enforced.
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. And you intended that General Scott should understand at that time that Johnston had not made any movement towards Manassas?
Answer. Yes, sir; and he had not at that time.
Question. On what day did he leave?
Answer. He left on that day, but had not left then. But I did not know it for two days afterwards.
Question. My question is, why did you not inform General Scott that yon were then not in a condition to offer any obstacle to Johnston’s joining Beauregard?
Answer. I should have considered it rather a reflection on him to have told him so. He knew my condition.
Question. You told him in your telegraph that you had kept Johnston actively employed. .
Answer. And I had.
Question. But you did not give the general any information that you were not then doing it, or that you were not still able to do it?
Answer. I had all along been remaining there according to his orders, but in no condition to do it. I was perilling my army, but was willing to do it, because it was my orders. If he had ordered me to go anywhere, I should have gone. He knew my force, my condition, and my aide-de-camp was also sent down to inform him. He knew my condition perfectly well. He could order me.
Question. On the 18th he telegraphs you thus:
“I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy; if not, to hear that you had felt him strongly, or, at least, occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least, his equal, and, I suppose, superior in number. 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 mustered 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.”
That was on the 18th of July?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. During all this time you knew that General Scott expected of you that you should either engage and beat Johnston, or detain him in the valley of Winchester; or, in the event that he should come down by a route where you could not follow him, that you should follow down via Keyes’s Ferry and Leesburg ?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. And yet when you were at Charlestown you found yourself not in a condition to do either ; now my question is, why did you not communicate that fact to General Scott?
Answer. There was no occasion for it, in my judgment. He knew my condition, and to have added to the information he already had would have been a waste of time and paper. I had informed him of my condition, and it was his business to order me what to do. I had asked him, “Shall I attack ?” It was not my business to say anything beyond that Johnston was there.
Question. But you say yourself that you were not in a condition to attack at that time?
Answer. In saying that, I did not mean that the men I had were not in a condition to fight, but that I had not force enough to fight. My men, I believe, were in about as good a condition, if not better, than any other column in the field. They had been drilled from eight to ten hours a day, and I have no doubt a good portion of them would have cheerfully gone up with me. I was in as good a condition then to fight as I would be at any time after that; and if I had got the order, I would have gone up with all who would have gone with me. I do not mean to say that my men would not fight, or that they would not have obeyed an order to attack, but that I was not numerically strong enough to hold him anywhere, or to justify an attack, unless it was indispensable to save some other army, or to carry out a part of some great scheme. If General Scott had wanted me to sacrifice 1,000, or 5,000, or 10,000, or the whole, for the purpose of settling the question as to Johnston going down to Manassas, and had he given me the order I had asked, I should have done it.
Question. General Scott wanted you to do one of three things: either to attack Johnston and beat him, or to detain him, or, if he left, to follow him?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. You have just said that if it were necessary, in order to save or protect any other division of the army, or to secure any great object, you would have felt it your duty to have run some hazard or make an attack. Now did you not know that such was the fact, that General McDowell was just about to make an attack upon Manassas, and that it was of the first importance that Johnston should not be allowed to join Beauregard?
Answer. On what day?
Question. About this time.
Answer. I did suppose that on the 18th he had done it.
Question. Did you suppose it was an absolute certainty that the attack was made on the 18th?
Answer. With the preparations that were going on, I had no more doubt of it than I had of my own existence.
Question. Did you not, as a military man, know that it was impossible to fix beforehand, even for a week, when a battle should come off; that it depends as much upon one side as upon the other, especially where large bodies of men are to be moved?
Answer. I know that it is very uncertain. But I know that if you are moved up within fighting distance, you certainly ought to fight within a day of the time you say; and if you do not it is the duty of the man who does not fight to inform the other. I know it is uncertain; but I never saw anything yet to keep men from Tuesday until Sunday.
Question. On the 17th you had a telegraph showing that the fight had not taken place that day?
Answer. The despatch of the 17th showed that he had begun the day he fixed. He said the first day’s work was done.
Question. That day was Wednesday?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Then in case the attack bad been begun there was no certainty that it would be finally concluded on the day of the attack?
Answer. No, sir.
Question. The battle might last one day, or two days, or three days, and Johnston was in a position to join Beauregard in a very short time?
Answer. No, sir, he could not do it in a very short time; not under three days, and I knew the general could reach me by telegraph in an hour or an hour and a half. There was no answer to any of my three despatches, or to my letter of the 18th.
Question. Do you deem that you, as a military man, had the right to assume, with the knowledge you had that it was merely proposed to fight the battle of Manassas on a certain day—do you deem that you had the right to assume that the battle had been fought and concluded on that day, and therefore leave Johnston at liberty to move forward on Manassas?
Answer. I assumed as a military man that if the general-in-chief told me that he would fight on Tuesday, the 16th, and on the 17th had told me that he had driven the enemy beyond a certain point and would probably complete the operation on the next day—I assumed it was his duty to inform me if he had not done it; otherwise I had a right to infer that he had done it.
Question. On the 18th you got still another despatch, saying, “I have certainly expected you to beat the enemy,” still showing you that General Scott deemed it of the first importance that you should detain Johnston there; and certainly you might presume from that telegraph that the battle of Manassas had not been fought.
Answer. I at that time supposed so, certainly. And yet it would have been perfectly convenient for the general to have said so. I looked upon that telegraph, and so did every gentleman on my staff, as nothing more nor less than an exhibition of bad temper.
Question. Why did you suppose the general-in-chief was in bad temper?
Answer. I could not tell. He states that he supposes I am Johnston’s superior, after having repeatedly been informed by me that I was not equal in number to him.
Question. Did you feel justified in regarding that telegraph as an exhibition of bad temper, and paying no attention to it?
Answer. Certainly not—most assuredly not—because I would pay regard to anything, to the slightest wish that General Scott ever put out—to anything.
Question. And yet you did not do anything to prevent Johnston going to Manassas, notwithstanding that you on the 18th were notified by General Scott—or you inferred from his telegraph—that the battle of Manassas had not been fought ?
Answer. It strikes me as very singular, indeed, after my statements of my efforts to keep my troops—the whole of the 18th was occupied in making speeches—I appealed to nearly every regiment in my command—it strikes me as very singular that I could by any possibility have thought of doing anything without an order from General Scott. An order from him would have helped me.
Question. And you have stated this morning that you could have attacked on the 18th if you had been ordered to do so?
Answer. I would have done it, because I would not have gone to making speeches. Up to the 20th, late in the day, I believed Johnston still to be there; and I would at once, if the order had come, have gone and attacked, if I had taken with me but 5,000 men. I suppose I could have carried 8,000 of them; they could have detained him if the whole of them had been killed; but I would have done it.
Question. You say you could have attacked on the 18th if ordered to do so. You knew the necessity of detaining Johnston, and you must have inferred from the telegraph of
General Scott that he expected or required of you that you should do something in that direction. Why did you not do all that you could to detain him without an order?
Answer. Because I could not go up then without fighting, as I could not fall back again. I had no reason to believe that that telegraph was not written in the morning in reply to mine of that morning. There was no reason why General Scott did not fight that day; and there was no more occasion for my going up and perilling my men without an order than of doing anything entirely uncalled for—not the slightest occasion for it. I had every reason to believe Johnston was at Winchester. I knew he could not get down to Manassas under three days, for I knew that the day before I had driven him in. If General Scott did not fight, and saw the necessity for my acting, I repeat, it was his business to give the order.
Question. Did not Johnston come down in less than three days?
Answer. No, sir; he left Winchester on Thursday, and got in on Sunday afternoon.
Question. Did not a portion get in on Sunday, and another portion get there before Sunday?
Answer. No, sir. And I will state here that a gentleman showed me the Philadelphia Press of this morning, which contained a speech of General Beauregard at some dinner party, in which he stated that the first appearance of any part of Johnston’s force on the battle-field was from three to four o’clock in the afternoon of Sunday, and he at first thought it was my column, and gave up the day.
Question. Could you not on the 18th, without making an actual attack on Johnston, have made such demonstrations towards him as would probably have prevented, or tended to have prevented, his moving his force down to Mauassas?
Answer. I could have gone up; but if I had I must have gone up to fight. I could undoubtedly have made a demonstration. But while he was there, and I under the belief that the general-in-chief was fighting that day, it was uncalled for and unnecessary, and no soldier in my army would have thought of such a thing. General Scott knew where I was, and whether he was fighting or not. We waited for him to indicate what was to be done. It was not for us to do so. Having made a demonstration the day before, it would have been unpardonable for me to have thrust all my men into action without cause. I had made a demonstration on the day he had indicated that the battle would be fought. I knew that Johnston was there, and could not get down under three days, and I knew that the general ought to inform me if he did not fight. He fixed the day, and it was his business to fight on that day, or inform all the commanders of corps depending on his movements that he had not fought. If he did not fight on the 18th, or the 19th, or the 20th, it was his business to inform me every day until he did fight.
By the chairman:
Question. The all important fact was to detain Johnston until that battle was fought, let that be when it might?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Now when you ascertained that you could not detain Johnston, the very moment you came to that conclusion was it not of the utmost importance that that should be known to General Scott and to General McDowell?
Answer. I was ordered not to go beyond Harper’s Ferry, but to keep that place. If I had marched down without General Scott’s orders, I left the whole Pennsylvania border unprotected.
Question. That is not the question I put.
Answer. What is the question?
Question. Why did you not, the moment you found you could not detain Johnston, inform General Scott of that fact ?
Answer. I had informed him time and time again that I was not strong enough to hold him. I was in that condition a month before. I never was able to hold him.
Question. Why, in reply to his telegram, ordering you to detain him in the valley of Winchester—why did you not tell him that you had not the force, and could not detain him?
Answer. The impression upon the minds of all of us was that by remaining in the neighborhood of Johnston he would not leave Winchester; that although we were not strong enough to attack him, he would not abandon the valley of Winchester to us. My order was to detain him in the valley of Winchester. Consequently, as long as I staid there I carried out that order to the best of my ability.
Question. But if I have understood you, there was a time when you found that from various reasons you had not the force to detain him. The knowledge of that important fact would undoubtedly have governed the action of the army at Manassas, our army under General McDowell, and they would have made their calculations and arrangements for the battle in accordance with that important fact. Had they been informed that you were unable to keep Johnston off, they might have delayed the attack until you could follow Johnston down with what force you could?
Answer. As long as we were in the neighborhood, at one place or the other, it was impossible for Johnston to know what force was in my army. Just so long as we remained there, there was a corps that would have been exceedingly troublesome to him. We inferred—I did and so did all the gentlemen around me—that because my request to go down, time and time again, was not complied with, General Scott wanted us to stay there without reference to our strength. I had informed the general-in-chief, over and over again, that I was not able to hold Johnston there. I had sent Mr. Sherman, and my staff, one after the other, to get leave to go below.
Question. There was a time when you supposed Johnston was re-enforced?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What time was that; just before you turned off to Charlestown?
Answer. No, sir; I think I reported on the 6th of July; I reported that Johnston had unquestionably received large re-enforcements and had then 25,000 men.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. In your telegram of the 18th you say to General Scott:
“Telegram of to-day received. The enemy has stolen no march upon me. I have kept him actively employed, and by threats and reconnoissance iii force caused him to be re-enforced. I have accomplished in this respect more than the general-in-chief asked, or could well be expected in face of an enemy far superior in numbers, with no line of communication to protect.”
Would the general-in-chief understand from that that General Johnston was then in a position where there was no obstacle in the way of his going to Manassas?
Answer. I expected him to understand that Johnston was in Winchester, as he was.
By the chairman:
Question. This is exceedingly important, in a military point of view. Was it not a most important fact for General Scott and General McDowell to know when Johnston started to go down to Manassas?
Answer. Undoubtedly it was; and the instant I got the information it was communicated to him.
Question. As soon as he started you communicated the information?
Answer. Not as soon as he started, but as soon as I knew it, without a moment’s delay.
Question. What day was that?
Answer. That was on the 20th, on Saturday.
Question. That was the first you discovered he was gone?
Answer. Yes, sir; the first intimation I had of it.
Question. How was that information communicated?
Answer. By telegram, immediately, not by post; horses from Charlestown to Harper’s Ferry, and telegraphed from thence here; and the despatch was known all over this town on Saturday evening.
Question. Did that telegram reach General Scott?
Answer. I do not know; I cannot say as to that.
Question. I understood you to say that you found yourself, in view of his re-enforcements and of your own condition, too weak to detain Johnston?
Answer. What I meant to say was this: it would have accomplished nothing if I had taken Winchester; I could not have kept him up there; and I supposed that General Scott was perfectly safe then, because on the 18th Johnston was still there, and could not under three days get to Manassas.
Question. I know you say you supposed the battle at Manassas had been fought; yet you might have been mistaken about that.
Answer. I was mistaken, no doubt, about that; I was mistaken.
Question. But this is what I am trying to get at: The moment you found you had not a force, sufficient to resist the purpose of Johnston to go down to Manassas, it was a fact all important for General Scott and General McDowell to know.
Answer. As far as General McDowell was concerned, I could have no communication with him.
Question. I know that.
Answer. And I had the order of General Scott to remain in front of Johnston as long as he remained in the valley of Winchester; and I had no right to move. If I had had the order on the 18th to come down here, I could have got down in time; on the 20th I could not.
Question. What I mean is this: you found yourself, in your own estimation, too weak to resist Johnston’s moving down to Manassas. Now, when that fact was known to you, ought you not to have communicated it to General Scott at once, and said to him: “I am not able to detain Johnston here?”
Answer. I communicated to General Scott every circumstance connected with my command. On the 9th I communicated the fact that I was in a false position, and asked to go to Charlestown. On the 12th he acknowledged the receipt of that, ordered me to go Charlestown, and told me he would attack on Tuesday. On the 13th he directed me to make a demonstration to hold Johnston. On Tuesday I made the demonstration and occupied his time. On the next day I moved to Charlestown, where General Scott had ordered me to go, and where I had asked leave to go; and then I was in a condition to come down here, and was in no condition to restrain Johnston.
Question. When you found you was in no condition to detain Johnston, was it not all important that that fact should have been communicated to General Scott—not the fact that you could not fight Johnston, but that you could not detain him, that your strength was insufficient to do that, and he could not rely upon his being kept back?
Answer. I never supposed for a moment that General Scott believed for the fifty-fifth part of a second that I could hold him.
Question. It is evident that his orders all along presuppose that you could detain him.
Answer. Could occupy him. If you will look back to the testimony in relation to the 13th and 16th of June, you will find that he then reproved me for trying to disturb him. What was the use of trying to drive him down to Strasburg? The impression upon my mind, and upon the minds of all around me, was that General Scott did not wish him to be disturbed at Winchester.
Question. General Scott wanted him to be prevented from forming a junction with Beauregard?
Answer. Yes, sir; not to drive him out of Winchester upon Manassas.
Question. And he made his arrangements for the battle in view of that all- important fact?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Now if it occurred to you that it could not be done, was it not all-important that he should have been advised of it?
Answer. Yes, sir; but my belief all the time was that so long as I remained there he would have stayed; and it is clear he would have stayed if he had not been ordered down.
Question. He would obey orders. But you knew he had an all-prevailing motive to make such a junction, and of course you had just as strong a one to prevent it?
Question. And it was just as important that General Scott should know the first moment it could be ascertained that you could not prevent Johnston forming that junction; because he could then make his arrangements, in view of that most decisive fact.
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. So that I say it occurs to me that the moment you found you could not detain Johnston, for any reason, you should have informed General Scott that you could not do it.
Answer. I had not found I could not do it, for I believed that by remaining there I could do it.
By Mr. Gooch :
Question. You say you would have fought General Johnston in an open field?
Answer. I certainly should not have avoided it.
Question. Did he make any demonstration towards coming out into the open field to fight you?
Answer. No, sir.
Question. He kept behind his batteries at Winchester?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Then as you were in your position at Bunker Hill, and he was behind his batteries at Winchester, and had placed obstructions in your way to prevent your reaching him—did you not infer from that that he did not desire to meet you in the open field?
Answer. My impression was that he meant to induce us to believe he was weak ; that by putting up these obstacles it was adding to the lure, that it was a decoy, and that he desired us to come up ; that these things were not put there really to prevent us from coming up, but actually to coax us up.
Question. Was not Johnston obliged to cross the Shenandoah river when he left his position at Winchester to go towards Manassas?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Might you not have taken some position on that river, or in the vicinity of that river, where you could have rendered his crossing it exceedingly difficult and hazardous?
Answer. I could not have got there without the liability of being entirely cut off. That would have placed me between him and Beauregard, have put him in my rear. I went to Charlestown, near the river; but I could not have got to any point above that without getting between him and Beauregard. I would have put myself in what soldiers call a false position. I could have put myself where I could have harassed him exceedingly; but I would have put myself where the chances were ninety-nine to one I would have been captured. At Bunker Hill I had no supplies; and if I had gone to the other place indicated I could not have got a mouthful without fighting for it.
Question. Would it not have been possible, if you had put yourself below Johnston, and he had pressed you, for you to have come down and formed a junction with General McDowell, leaving Johnston in your rear by tearing up the railroad bridges as you came down?
Answer. I could not have got down by railroad. The road goes from Winchester to Strasburg, and if I had attempted to go to the railroad, I would have had further to march than he had.
Question. Some eight or ten miles further?
Answer. Yes, sir. Besides that, I was in the enemy’s country without any supplies, and with a railroad at his and Beauregard’s command, by which he could have sent up 12,000 men a day.
Question. That was one of the matters discussed in your councils, was it?
Answer. Not in the council at Martinsburg, but among my staff at Bunker Hill, and afterwards at Charlestown.
Question. That was a thing proposed?
Answer. Yes, sir; and discussed fully. That was a matter we talked of at Bunker Hill, going to a place called Smithfield or Middleway, and then striking off in that direction. But the opinion was universal that we should get ourselves in a false position, and unquestionably be all captured.
Question. You were just stating that the general-in-chief, having fixed a day on which he would fight, should have notified you that he had not fought on that day, and so on, from day to day, until the battle actually took place.
Answer. Yes, sir. The ground I placed that upon was this: I was the subordinate of the general-in-chief; bound to obey his orders. As I had nothing to do with the day he was to fight on, he ought not to have informed me until he was ready to fight. But having informed me that he would fight on a certain day, if he did not fight on that day, it was his province to have informed me that he did not fight on that day, and to have informed me, from day to day, until he did fight.
Question. And yet you knew, as a military man, that it was exceedingly difficult, or that it was altogether impossible, to fix some days beforehand a day certain on which a battle would be fought; and did you not consider it your duty to continue to act in reference to Johnston precisely the same as though the battle at Manassas had not been fought, until you had been told that it was fought?
Answer. Not if I had been told it would be fought on a certain day. If I had not been told that, then it would have been my duty to have gone on with my demonstrations. When he informed me that it would be fought on a certain day, then that consideration ceased to have weight.
Question. Did you suppose that you were justified in not doing anything to detain Johnston? Did you suppose that under the circumstances you were justified in failing to do anything that you would have done had you not been told when it was intended the battle of Manassas should be fought?
Answer. I did not fail to do anything I would have done. I did exactly all that could have been done, unless I had been ordered down.
Question. During all the time that General Sanford was with yon, in command of a division, going up, as he did, from the city of Washington, having knowledge, as he might be presumed to have, in relation to the contemplated movements here, especially those of General McDowell, did you have any consultation with him in relation to the movements of your army and the best course to pursue?
Answer. None whatever.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Did you receive any information from General Sanford in reference to the intended movements of the army here?
Answer. None whatever.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. He made no communication to you in regard to that?
Answer. None whatever. General Sanford brought me a note from General Scott, but made no communication of any kind. Our intercourse was very pleasant as gentlemen. He did me the favor to call upon me, and I returned his call; but he brought me no information from the general-in- chief, and I had no consultation with him whatever.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. You stated, I think, in answer to a question here, that you had given orders for a forward movement on the 16th or the 17th?
Answer. On the 16th, while at Bunker Hill. The orders had not been put out. I had given them to the staff officers, but they had not been published.
Question. You had issued such an order to the proper staff officers?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. At what time did you recall that order?
Answer. I suppose it was somewhere between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon; I cannot exactly fix the time now. It was in the afternoon; late in the afternoon.
Question. What time on the 17th did you move from Bunker Hill?
Answer. Very early in the morning.
Question. What do you mean by “very early?”
Answer. The order was to move at three or four o’clock in the morning, but we did not get off at that time. I started about sunrise; a part of my command was, of course, before me.
Question. While you were at Bunker Hill you held Johnston?
Answer. No, sir; I was just in a straight line from him the other way. In other words, he was directly between me and Manassas Junction. He could leave when he pleased.
Question. The effect of your being at Bunker Hill was to hold Johnston in his position?
Answer. Yes, sir; as well as at any other place.
Question. Do you know now at what time Johnston left his position in front of you?
Answer. He left in the afternoon of the following day.
Question. Of the 17th?
Answer. No, sir; of the 18th.
Question. The effect of your going to Charlestown was to untie Johnston and his forces?
Answer. Yes, sir; I could not hold him at Martinsburg.
Question. I am not speaking of any other position than Charlestown. When you went to Charlestown you untied Johnston and enabled him to go forward?
Answer. Yes, sir; but I could not remain at Bunker Hill, because I had no supplies there, and was crippled in my movements.
Question. Now, in reference to the dissatisfaction of the troops, did not that manifest itself more after you had gone to Charlestown from the enemy than it did while you were at Bunker Hill?
Answer. I do not think there was any more dissatisfaction at the one place than at the other. The men had talked about going home until they had determined on it. I speak now of the Pennsylvania troops. I saw very little of the others. I speak of the Pennsylvania troops, including those that joined me late. And the others, I think, were the same. I do not think the going to Charlestown made any difference with them at all. They had talked about it, made up their minds about it, and they were determined to go. With the majority of them their time was up, and their hearts were bent upon going.
By Mr. Julian:
Question. Were not all willing to stay, without regard to the expiration of their time, if you would lead them against the enemy?
Answer. No such expression was manifested to me; no such communication was made to me. There has been a statement that Colonel Butterfield begged, time and again, to do that. But no such application was made to me. No regiment, or colonel, or general, or officer, under my command, ever asked to be led to the front—not one. I am satisfied there was a great desire, on the part of all, to have a fight. There is no doubt about that. But we were not allowed to go towards the enemy at Winchester until a certain day. I have here my general order of July 20, of which I read paragraph 3, as follows: “The detachment of about 250 of the 1st Pennsylvania regiment, claiming their immediate discharge at expiration of term of service, will be sent via Baltimore to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to be mustered out of service. A muster-roll of the detachment will be sent with the party.” These 250 men were so discharged on that day. They refused to serve longer, although appealed to by me, appealed to by their gallant colonel, and, I believe, by other officers. But they went off without their officers, with their muster-rolls, to be discharged. The remainder of the regiment agreed to stay six days longer. I have a document here which I desire to put upon record. It is a letter dated the 13th of July, and signed by nine captains of one regiment refusing to stay beyond the time when their term of service expired. I think it had better go upon the record.— (Appendix No. 50.)
The witness stated that he would like to have some officers who served there under him, and who are entirely familiar with the whole campaign, appear before the committee and testify.
The chairman stated that the witness could furnish a list of names of such persons as he might desire to be called, and the committee would take the matter into consideration.
Subsequently, having read over his testimony as written out by the reporter, the witness returned it with the following statement:
In reference to the question by Mr. Odell:
“Question. The effect of your going to Charlestown was to untie Johnston and his force?”
I could not have understood that question, or I should not have made such an answer. Johnston was never tied, and I could not hold him at Martinsburg, Bunker Hill, or anywhere else. He was before me at Falling Waters, at Martinsburg, at Big Spring, at Darkesville, at Bunker Hill, and at Winchester. I could hold him at neither place; he retired as I approached.