Testimony of A. K. Stake
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 225-226
WASHINGTON, February 24, 1862.
A. K. STAKE sworn and examined.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. Where do you reside, and what is your present occupation?
Answer. I reside in Williamsport. I am officially connected with the Chesapeake and Ohio canal—as general superintendent of the canal.
Question. Have you any knowledge of the force under Johnston at the time when Patterson was at Martinsburg?
Answer. None except from intercourse with Virginians whom I knew to be refugees. They corroborated all that Mr. Spates has said about it. I know that it was the impression throughout the community, and in the army, that there was not more than 10,000 men under Johnston; and there is this additional fact, ascertained since from perfectly reliable gentlemen, that there never was at any time, in Winchester, as many as 14,000 men, and of these there were, perhaps, 4,000 or 5,000 militia. The gentleman from whom I received this information is perfectly reliable. He is a southern man, and says there was not at any time as many as 14,000 men at Winchester, and of these there were from 3,000 to 5,000 militia, badly armed and equipped. I am not aware what information General Patterson may have had; but I should think he could have had the same information in regard to that matter that outsiders had.
Question. It was obtainable—current information?
Answer. Yes, sir. There was a party about him—McMullin’s men, “scouts,” as they were called ; they were so constantly about him that very few persons could approach him with matters of that kind. I could sometimes get to his headquarters about other matters, but not upon subjects of that kind. General Patterson told Mr. Spates and myself afterwards, at Harper’s Ferry, that he had positive information that Johnston had 42,000 men at Winchester. Of course, we believed as much of that as we pleased.
Question. Were you at Martinsburg when Patterson moved his force to Bunker Hill?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Do you know the feeling of the troops at that time?
Answer. When he moved from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill the supposition was that he was going out to attack Johnston, and the troops were in fine spirits about it. They had laid there at Martinsburg four or five days, and were tired of that, and were anxious to meet the enemy, and when they turned off towards Charlestown they became very much dissatisfied; but the officers allayed a great deal of that feeling by asserting that they were going down to Wizard’s Cliff, (a place on the road between Charlestown and Winchester,) from which they were to approach Winchester, so as to avoid the masked batteries that would be in their way if they went direct from Bunker Hill. But when they came to Wizard’s Cliff and passed on towards Charlestown there was a great deal of dissatisfaction; and at Charlestown, as I learned afterwards—I did not go there myself—was the first distinct refusal on the part of the three months’ men to follow General Patterson any longer. They declared that they had no disposition to be bamboozled any longer in that way, and as their time was up they would go home, unless he was disposed to go out and attack the enemy. He rode up before two regiments at Charlestown and announced to them that their time was up, and he had no further claim upon them; but he desired them to remain with him, as he hoped to meet the enemy in the field. My opinion is that there was not a word of dissent at that time; but when they retreated still further, to Harper’s Ferry, they became still more dissatisfied, and determined to go home. I had this from those who had official positions about him at that time. I heard General Cadwalader say, at Martinsburg, that the enemy had from 25,000 to 30,000 men. I do not know where he got his information, for there was no man outside of headquarters that estimated Johnston’s force at over 10,000 or 15,000 men.