From Fairfax Civil War on Facebook.
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Thanks to potential jury duty, the appearance of Bull Runnings before the JCCW – er, the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable set for April 4 has been rescheduled. I will be presenting my Bull Run themed program in the Judicial Hearing Room of the Rayburn House Office Building (where the Watergate hearings were held!) on June 6, 2011. Yep, D-Day. The presentation will look at the Battle of First Bull Run through the aged eyes of participant Peter Conover Hains.
Thanks to President George Franks III for his understanding and flexibility in rescheduling this engagement which I absolutely did not want to cancel.
There’s plenty of good stuff inside on the battle and the battlefield – see here for the table of contents. NPS historians Greg Wolf and John Reid have pieces on some battlefield detective work and the Centennial reenactment; museum specialist Jim Burgess writes on civilian spectators at the battle, and superintendent Ray Brown has an interesting article on the owner of the Van Pelt house. The folks who work and have worked at the park are the real experts on the battles that were fought here. These articles should not be missed – and yes, they’re all available online for free. While I don’t see it listed, there is supposed to be an interview with yours truly in this issue as well. Perhaps I wound up on the cutting room floor? I’ll let you know once I see the magazine itself.
One article in particular caught my attention: An End to Innocence, The First Battle of Manassas by Bradley Gottfried. Here’s the passage that stuck out:
While Lincoln and his Cabinet members listened, McDowell laid out a plan to attack the 24,000-man Confederate Army under Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, deployed near the winding Bull Run creek about 25 miles southwest of Washington. The general intended to use about 30,000 troops in the effort, marching in three columns, while another 10,000 men were held in reserve. With such numerical superiority, it appeared McDowell would overwhelm his Southern counterpart.
OK, I’ve talked about this in the past and you’re probably sick of hearing it by now. I have met Mr. Gottfried – he’s a good guy. I worked closely with him in proofing his book, The Maps of First Bull Run. But what he has written here conflicts with my understanding of McDowell’s plan. Here’s the text of the portion of McDowell’s plan regarding the force he expected to meet at Manassas (emphasis and brackets mine; you can read the whole thing here):
The secession forces at Manassas Junction and its dependencies are supposed to amount at this time [June 24-25, 1861] to–
We cannot count on keeping secret our intention to overthrow this force. Even if the many parties intrusted with the knowledge of the plan should not disclose or discover it, the necessary preliminary measures for such an expedition would betray it; and they are alive and well informed as to every movement, however slight, we make. They have, moreover, been expecting us to attack their position, and have been preparing for it. When it becomes known positively we are about to march, and they learn in what strength, they will be obliged to call in their disposable forces from all quarters, for they will not be able, if closely pressed, to get away by railroad before we can reach them. If General J. E. Johnston’s force is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson, and Major-General Butler occupies the force now in his vicinity, I think they will not be able to bring up more than ten thousand men. So we must calculate on having to do with about thirty-five thousand men.
And here’s where he described the size of the army with which he proposed to take the field:
Leaving small garrisons in the defensive works, I propose to move against Manassas with a force of thirty thousand of all arms, organized into three columns, with a reserve of ten thousand.
I’ve not yet found any evidence that McDowell expected he would have numerical superiority in his strike against Beauregard. I’ll have more to say on this in an upcoming article in America’s Civil War.
UPDATE 3/15/2011: Let me make this clear for everyone, if for some reason you got a different impression from this post: my problem is with the notion that McDowell’s plan assumed a numerical superiority for his army over that which he expected to face around Manassas. To quote Wilfred Brimley in Absence of Malice: “That’s a lot of horse-puckey. The First Amendment (in this case McDowell’s plan) doesn’t say that.”
McDowell’s plans regarding this are clear, as stated above.
Check it out.
…for me to post something new, check out this post from 2009. Goofy stuff.
OK – it’s been a week and we’re tweeting away. Some pretty cool joints are following Bull Runnings there – 37 in all, including the Museum of the Confederacy, Virginia Historical Society, U. S. Dept. of the Interior, and folks who also follow the blog directly or on feed readers, Facebook, and other middlemen.
If you have a Twitter account, it’s easy to follow. Just click on the link over to the right, cryptically labeled Click here to follow Bull Runnings on Twitter. Links and short bits that don’t necessarily make it to “the Big Site” will show up there.
In this post I let you know that the next issue of Blue & Gray magazine will feature First Bull Run. For those who don’t know, since 1983 B&G has been publishing this very fine magazine about six times a year. Each issue focuses on one campaign or battle, and sometimes very specific pieces of a campaign or battle. For example Gettysburg has been done about a gajillion times over the past 28 years. But believe it or not, this will be the first issue dedicated to BR1. Go figure.
Anyway, here’s a sneak peek of the cover, from the magazine’s site.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I asked Jim Burgess at Manassas National Battlefield to proof an article I was writing (I’ve since submitted my final draft, after rewriting the whole thing – that’s what editors are for, and good editors make good writers). At the time he told me about the upcoming issue, and that the feature was written by ranger Henry Elliott. Nobody knows Bull Run like the good folks who work there at the park, so this should be first-rate. I’m really looking forward to it – 20 maps! A driving tour! This will come as quite a surprise to those supposedly learned students convinced that this important battle was simply a meeting of two armed mobs, with no displays of tactics whatsoever and therefore unworthy of attention.
Of course, Blue & Gray won’t be the only publication focusing on our favorite topic in the coming months. Keep an eye out here for more news in that regard.