Testimony of Gen. Winfield Scott
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 241-242
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT.
NEW YORK, March 31, 1862.
On the statement of Major General Patterson, submitted by him as evidence to the honorable the committee of the House of Representatives on the conduct of the war, I beg leave to remark :
1. That his statement, 148 long pages, closely and indistinctly written, has been before me about 48 hours, including a Sunday when I was too much indisposed to work or to go to church; that I cannot write or read at night, nor at any time, except by short efforts, and that I have been entirely without help.
2. That, consequently, I have read but little of the statement and voluminous documents appended, and have but about two hours left for comments on that little.
3. The documents (mainly correspondence between General Patterson and myself) are badly copied, being hardly intelligible in some places from the omission and change of words.
4. General Patterson was never ordered by me, as he seems to allege, to attack the enemy without a probability of success; but on several occasions he wrote as if he were assured of victory. For example, June 12th he says: he is “resolved to conquer, and will risk nothing;” and July 4th, expecting supplies the next day, he adds: as soon as they “arrive I shall advance to Winchester to drive the enemy from that place;” accordingly he issued orders for the movement on the 8th ; next called a council of war, and stood fast at Martinsburg.
5. But although General Patterson was never specifically ordered to attack the enemy, he was certainly told, and expected, even if with inferior numbers, to hold the rebel army in his front on the alert, and to prevent it from re-enforcing Manassas Junction, by means of threatening manoeuvres and demonstrations—results often obtained in war with half numbers.
6. After a time General P. moved upon Bunker Hill, and then fell off upon Charlestown, whence he seems to have made no other demonstration that did not look like a retreat out of Virginia. From that movement Johnston was at liberty to join Beauregard with any part of the army of Winchester.
7. General P. alludes, with feeling, to my recall from him back to Washington, after the enemy had evacuated Harper’s Ferry, of certain troops sent to enable him to take that place; but the recall was necessary to prevent the government and capital from falling into the enemy’s hands. His inactivity, however, from that cause need not to have been more than temporary; for he was soon re-enforced up to, at least, the enemy’s maximum number in the Winchester valley, without leading to a battle, or even a reconnoissance in force.
8. He also often called for batteries and rifled cannon beyond our capacity to supply at the moment, and so in respect to regular troops, one or more regiments. He might as well have asked for a brigade of elephants. Till some time later we had for the defence of the government in its capital but a few companies of regular foot and horse, and not half the number of troops, including all descriptions, if the enemy had chosen to attack us.
9. As connected with this subject, I hope I may be permitted to notice the charge made against me on the floors of Congress that I did not stop Brigadier General McDowell’s movement upon Manassas Junction after I had been informed of the re-enforcement sent thither from Winchester, though urged to do so by one or more members of the cabinet. Now, it was, at the reception of that news, too late to call off the troops from the attack; and besides, though opposed to the movement at first, we had all become animated and sanguine of success; and it is not true that I was urged by anybody in authority to stop the attack, which was commenced as early, I think, as the 18th of July.
10. I have but time to say that among the disadvantages under which I have been writing are these: I have not had within reach one of my own papers; and not an officer who was with me at the period in question.
Respectfully submitted to the committee.
WINFIELD SCOTT. NEW YORK, March 31, 1862.