Testimony of Gen. George Cadwallader
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 235-241
WASHINGTON, March 19, 1862.
General GEORGE CADWALADER sworn and examined.
By the chairman:
Question. What has been your rank and position in the army?
Answer. I hold a commission of brigadier general in the State of Pennsylvania, under which, upon the call of the President last spring, I came into the service for three months. I also held a commission as major general by brevet in the army of the United States, conferred upon me after my commission as brigadier general had terminated. I state that, as it is considered material by General Scott.
Question. When did you commence service last year, and where did you serve?
Answer. I was mustered into service on the 19th of April, 1861, for three months.
Question. Under General Patterson?
Answer. Not at that time. I was assigned to the command of the department of Annapolis, my headquarters being at Baltimore. I succeeded General Butler in that command. I subsequently joined General Patterson’s column, where I commanded the first division of the column, consisting of the three brigades then commanded by General Williams, Colonel Thomas, and Colonel Miles.
Question. Did you accompany General Patterson in that campaign until he returned?
Answer. I joined him at Chambersburg, and remained with him until the army returned to Harper’s Ferry.
Question. What was his force at Martinsburg, Virginia?
Answer. My official position only gave me official knowledge of my own division, and perhaps I can only give an estimate.
Question. Give your estimate, according to the best light you had upon the subject.
Answer. I should say, according to the general knowledge I had, that he had from 18,000 to 22,000 men; perhaps from 18,000 to 20,000 men for duty.
Question. What was the object of that expedition, as you understood it?
Answer. I never was informed there, and never was officially consulted in regard to it by General Patterson. General Scott told me when I left here, and I also knew from the Secretary of War and the President, that the object was to drive General Johnston and the rebel force under him out of Harper’s Ferry. That was the object for which I went there, and I expected to be relieved and to return here the moment that was accomplished. I was so promised by the Secretary of War, but it was not done.
Question. General Patterson followed General Johnston from Harper’s Ferry for a while, did he not?
Answer. My division, as a part of General Patterson’s column, was in the advance. I crossed the Potomac from Williamsport; and when Johnston retreated as we advanced upon Harper’s Ferry, we went down as far as Falling Waters, on the Virginia side. I was there met with an order to send to Washington all the regular troops—they were all under my command— as it was thought that Johnston had fallen back to re-enforce Beauregard, and that Washington was in danger. All the regular troops being ordered to Washington, and the object of dislodging the enemy from Harper’s Ferry having been accomplished, General Patterson was compelled, or rather induced, to give me the order to fall back. I was then on the way to Martinsburg, and had got as far as Falling Waters, some miles on the other side of the Potomac. General Patterson was still at Hagerstown. A great misfortune, by the by, was that recall.
Question. Did you accompany his army into Virginia?
Answer. Yes, sir; I remained with the army until we went on up to Martinsburg, and on to Bunker Hill, which is ten miles from Winchester.
Question. What was Johnston’s force at Falling Waters, as near as yon could estimate it?
Answer. My information was so uncertain, so vague, that I never had any very definite idea upon the subject.
Question. He retreated before you after the battle of Falling Waters, did he not?
Answer. Yes, sir. He fell back first upon Bunker Hill, and then upon Winchester, which is due south about ten miles from Bunker Hill.
Question. Your position at Bunker Hill threatened Winchester, did it not?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Do you know the orders General Patterson received from headquarters here?
Answer. I know now; I did not know then. When I returned here General Scott expressed great astonishment that I had been kept in ignorance of everything of that kind, and directed Colonel Townsend, his adjutant general, to furnish me with copies of everything that had passed between him and General Patterson.
Question. When Patterson was at Bunker Hill with his army, was there any difficulty in his detaining Johnston in the valley of Winchester, and preventing his going down to join Beauregard?
Answer. I always considered our position a false one from the time that Johnston retreated from Bunker Hill. I could see that no movement we could make from there could accomplish the purpose of holding Johnston at Winchester one moment longer than he chose to stay. To the south of him he had the whole country open, while we were directly north of him. I always thought we should have moved more in a southeasterly direction, where we could have been more within supporting distance of a column moving from here, and also in a position more threatening upon Johnston’s right flank—our left upon his right. On the only occasion I ever was consulted, which was at Martinsburg, where the commanding officers of divisions and brigades, and the officers of the engineer corps on duty with our column, were summoned together by General Patterson, I expressed my opinion that, as we were not holding Johnston at Winchester one moment longer than he chose to stay there, we ought to attack him, and move in this direction at once, and unite with the forces that we supposed were about to attack Manassas. That was the advice I gave before all the officers present.
By Mr. Wright:
Question. When did you advise that?
Answer. It was within two days before we left Martinsburg for Bunker Hill. It was at the only meeting of the officers that was held during the campaign. It was a large meeting, and all the principal officers and the engineer officers were present.
By the chairman:
Question. What was the reason given for not attacking Johnston?
Answer. General Patterson gave no reason. He summoned these officers, myself among others, and asked our opinion as to what, under existing circumstances, we would advise being done. And, according to military usage, beginning with the junior in rank, it came to me last. Major General Sanford, of New York, and Major General Keim, of Pennsylvania, among others, were there. I at last gave my opinion, stated it briefly, as I have stated it here. We were not holding Johnston, because, as we were ten miles north of him, he could leave whenever he chose. He could get information much more rapidly from Beauregard than we could get it from Washington, and he knew exactly what the movements over in this direction were. If the intention was to hold Johnston there, we were not accomplishing the purpose; and we could not do it where we then were.
Question. Would it not have been easy to have placed yourself in a position where you could have done so?
Answer. Certainly. If we had moved upon Berryville and got upon his right flank, and he could not have moved one foot without our being upon his flank, we could have been at Manassas sooner than he could, and could have attacked him at any moment. Some of the officers thought that, as our army moved from here under General McDowell, Beauregard might retreat, falling back upon the whole of Patterson’s army, General Johnston uniting with him for that purpose. It was the opinion of two or three of the officers that Johnston might advance and cut us off while Beauregard came with his whole army upon Patterson’s column.
Question. Suppose that Patterson had orders from General Scott to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?
Answer. Which, I say, he could not have done without attacking him.
Question. Then, with such orders, he should have attacked him ?
Answer. That was what I thought; either to have attacked him or to have come down here, as we were doing no good there.
Question. You were at Bunker Hill when Johnston turned off to Charlestown?
Answer. Yes, sir; my division was in the advance from Bunker Hill in the direction of Winchester; and I marched with that column from Bunker Hill to Charlestown through Smithfield.
Question If you threatened Winchester while at Bunker Hill, did you not relinquish your threatening attitude when you turned off towards Charlestown ?
Answer. Of course, for we then went away from Winchester.
Question. So, from the time you turned off from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, all hope of detaining Johnston must have entirely vanished ?
Answer. Certainly; we were marching.away from him. In other words, we were on our way to Harper’s Ferry through Charlestown.
Question. Do you know whether General Patterson, when he resigned all hope of detaining Johnston, immediately informed General Scott of that fact?
Answer. I never was consulted about any such thing. Until I came back here I never saw a line from General Scott to General Patterson, or from General Patterson to General Scott. When I so informed General Scott he expressed great dissatisfaction, saying, “General Patterson knew that my communications to him were intended as much for you as for himself.” And it was then that he turned to Colonel Townsend and ordered him to make out and furnish to me copies of everything that had passed between General Patterson and himself.
Question. Is there anything more that you deem material which you would like to state? If so, please go on and state it in your own way.
Answer. I have no desire, nor do I know that there is anything of public utility for me to state, other than I have already stated. There are matters personal to myself; that, of course, I have no right to bring before this committee.
Question. You can state anything that you think best. We are endeavoring to find out how this war has been conducted, and you can state anything in that connexion that is material for us to know.
Answer. I should like to state some things on my own account; and they are historical, too, so far as anybody may deem them of public importance. You asked me what my rank and position in the army were. When I was in command at Baltimore I was sent for by General Scott to come here. General Cameron was at General Scott’s headquarters, and General Scott handed me my commission as major general by brevet in the army, saying, “That commission of General Cadwalader’s as a major general of the army is a perfectly valid one at this time.” The question was whether I should rank as major general with General Patterson, and whether I was to be assigned to duty under my major general’s commission. Upon that General Cameron promised to assign me to duty under my brevet commission as a major general. He offered me a commission as major general of volunteers, or a commission of brigadier general in the regular service, which was what I had held during the Mexican war. I accepted the commission of brigadier general in the regular service, with the promise of the President, through the Secretary of War, that I was to be assigned to duty under my commission as major general by brevet, with the promise of promotion as major general, when they heard from General Fremont, which they expected to do in two weeks; under the expectation and with the conviction, as they told me, that he would decline the commission tendered to him. With that promise I took the commission of brigadier general, with the understanding that I was to be assigned to duty under my commission as major general by brevet, in preference to the commission of major general of volunteers.
Question. When was that?
Answer. That was the 8th of June. I addressed a letter to the Secretary of War before I left here, reminding him of the promise so as to avoid all mistakes, and which he perfectly remembers. General Fremont, unexpectedly to them, returned and accepted the commission offered him, which prevented their being able to give me that. For some reason General McClellan was brought here, and had I been commissioned major general, I would have ranked him. That prevented their being able to do one thing or the other. In the mean time they made major generals of volunteers, whom I would have ranked, that ranked me. They could not comply with their promise to me, and I went home, as they did not want me. That was the military position I occupied, and those are the reasons I am not now in service.
Question. You say they were convinced that General Fremont would decline. Upon what did they found that conviction?
Answer. I do not know. That was what General Cameron told me.
By Mr. Gooch :
Question. Did they desire that General Fremont should decline?
Answer. That I do not know; I merely tell you what passed. They told me that I was to have that commission; that they knew he would decline. That was the offer to me. I certainly would not otherwise have accepted the commission of brigadier general in the regular army, when I had the commission offered me of a major general in the volunteers. My commission of major general by brevet dates back to 1847, and ranks all except General Wool. They were unable to do what they had promised. They had appointed as major generals of volunteers General Banks, General Butler, General Dix, &c., and to come in then would have placed me very differently from what their own proposition was. I had not asked for that; they had sent for me and asked me to take it. I considered it a very complimentary and a very handsome thing; but, as I have said, they were unable to give it to me, for it interfered with other places. I told the President that if it deranged any of their plans, I was perfectly willing to exonerate him from any promise; if the interest of the service required it, I was perfectly willing and ready to serve; and it was not my fault that I went home.
Question. To come back to the other subject. You have not stated yet what you supposed Johnston’s force at Winchester to be.
Answer. I desire my remark about his force at Falling Waters to apply to his force at Winchester. I had no reliable information upon which to base an opinion.
By the chairman:
Question. Had you any reason to believe that Johnston’s army was materially increased after he reached Winchester?
Answer. By general rumor it was said to have been greatly increased.
Question. From where was it supposed the troops came?
Answer. From the south; we did not know from where.
Question. From Manassas?
Answer. We did not know. It was just the sort of rumor that would be current among the people of the country, entirely unreliable.
By Mr. Gooch :
Question. Have you ever made any written statement of the force under Johnston at Winchester? If so, please state when and under what circumstances you did so.
Answer. I never made any official statement of any kind of the forces under Johnston at Winchester, having no knowledge of my own in regard to it. After many of our regiments had started on their march home, their term of service having expired while we were at Harper’s Ferry, a Mr. McDaniel, a civilian, came to me on the 23d of July, with a statement of some information which he said he had obtained in regard to the force under Johnston, at Winchester. I asked him to let me copy it, which I did as he read it to me. I put no date to it, merely writing down what he read. I was about leaving, but before I went I showed it to General Patterson, as something that might be of interest to him. I did not give it as information obtained by myself, or express any opinion in regard to its reliability, giving it merely as information which McDaniel said he had obtained—not as information of my own. General Patterson asked me to allow him to take a copy of it, promising to return me the original. He, however, did not return me the original, but sent me a copy of it.
By the chairman :
Question. Did you attach any importance to the paper as containing reliable information?
Answer. Not the slightest; and if I had, it could not have influenced General Patterson in what he had done, for he had got back to Harper’s Ferry, and the troops had crossed the river on their way home, before either of us knew anything about this.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. When you were at Bunker Hill, if it had been known that General McDowell was about to attack Manassas, and that it was expected that the army under General Patterson would detain Johnston so as to prevent his forming a junction with Beauregard and taking part in the action at Manassas, what should have been done by Patterson’s army to have accomplished that object?
Answer. I do not think he could have detained him in any other way than by attacking him. He could have prevented his taking the route by which he did go to Manassas, by taking up a position on his right flank, that is, to the eastward of Winchester. Johnston, however, would have had open to him the route by the way of Strasburg, which was the one they had always received and sent troops by. The way he actually did go was east, over the mountains to Piedmont, Strasburg lying west of south of him. If we had not attacked him, but had taken a position to the east of Winchester, Johnston could have gone by the way of Strasburg, but could not have gone the way he did go, over the mountains to Piedmont. Believing that we were not holding him where we then were, and that the object of any such instructions or suggestions, if any such existed, as I subsequently learned they did exist, could not be accomplished except by attacking Johnston, I advised that we should attack him, or if that was not done, that we should unite with the main body of our troops here in the attack upon Manassas. The expression used by General Scott, in one of his letters to General Patterson, which I saw afterwards, was “to consider the route by the way of Leesburg.” It is true that in the telegrams that came from General Scott it was indicated that General Patterson was to hold General Johnston if he did not attack him. But there was no possibility of holding him if we did not attack. To use General Johnston’s own expression in his report, he was merely waiting there looking at us.
By the chairman:
Question. Then if he was to hold him, and attacking him was the only way to hold him, it meant that he should attack him?
Answer. Attack him or consider the route by way of Leesburg.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Could Patterson have come down that route in time to have taken part in the battle here?
Answer. Yes, sir; if he had moved on Berryville, we would have been on Johnston’s flank all the way.
Question. And you could have reached Manassas before Johnston could?
Answer. Certainly, if we had moved in time. According to McDaniel’s memorandum, Johnston started from Winchester at one o’clock on the day we left Bunker Hill. It was more with a view to the time when Johnston started than for any other purpose that I showed that memorandum to General Patterson. We started from Bunker Hill at daylight, and if you take the official report of Johnston, recently published, you will see that on that very day he got his instructions to go to Manassas, and that at one o’clock on the day we left Bunker Hill for Charlestown, Johnston left Winchester for Manassas.
Question. And you should have gone from Bunker Hill to Berryville, so as to have prevented Johnston from going to Manassas by the route he did go?
Answer. If we had done that, we could have gone to Manassas also. We had but 10 miles further than Johnston to go if we had gone by the way of Winchester; and we had not much further to go if we had gone by the way of Berryville, for we were almost as near Berryville as he was.
Question. So that you could have prevented his going the route he did?
Answer. We could have attacked him, which I think would have prevented him. I think he knew that, because he would not fight us in the open ground. He showed that his object was to elude us, according to his own expression.
By the chairman:
Question. And General Scott’s idea was to detain him by fighting or in any other way?
Answer. Yes, sir.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Then Johnston could have been prevented from forming a junction with Beauregard, and the force under Patterson might have been ready to have taken part in the attack upon Manassas?
Answer. We might have attacked Johnston, and if we had been successful, which I think we would have been, we could have prevented the junction. And if we did not attack him, if we had marched in due time, we could certainly have been at Manassas in time to have taken part in the battle. The way was open to us, and the suggestion of General Scott was “to consider the route by way of Leesburg.” If I had had any discretion, I should have gone at once to Leesburg, which was half-way to Manassas, and on a good turnpike road directly there.
Question. Will you furnish the committee with the copies of the telegraphic despatches you received from General Scott?
Answer. I will.