Col. Philip St. George Cocke Updates Col. Robert S. Garnett on Troop Strengths and Dispositions

30 11 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – CONFEDERATE

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 841-843

Headquarters Potomac Department,
Culpeper Court-House, Va., May 14,1861.

Col. R. S. Garnett, Adjutant-General:

Sir: I report, for the information of the General-in-Chief, that I returned to this place on Sunday morning, the 12th instant, from Manassas Junction, where I had gone to examine the position and the country around, and to make arrangements for gathering a force there for the defense of the place. My observations of the country were mainly directed towards the Potomac, on the right flank, and I find the head of tide, at Occoquan, approached within eighteen miles of Manassas. Mr. John Grant, my acting engineer and topographical draughtsman, was sent forward with a guide, to examine the roads towards Occoquan, while I myself rode over the most direct road, to a point where it crosses the Occoquan River, seven or eight miles to the right of Manassas Junction. Mr. Grant subsequently pursued this latter road to the village or landing of Occoquan, the head of tide, and I can report that the country upon these routes, covering the right flank of the position at Manassas Junction, is quite favorable for defensive operations, the same being broken or undulating, covered with dense forests of second-growth pines or of original oak, except here, and small fields or farms, the roads very narrow (mere ditches), and everywhere such as to render artillery and cavalry of our enemy on the march of little use to him, while the cover of forests, hills, and ravines make a fortress for brave men and riflemen in which to carry on the destructive guerrilla warfare upon any marching columns from that side. Nevertheless the proximity of the Potomac River, on that side, from Manassas Junction to Alexandria, will ever require extreme vigilance and precaution to cover the right of that line from flank attack at other points, where the ways may be more open and inviting.

The force that I have been enabled to assemble thus far at Manassas Junction consists of a detachment of artillery, under Capt. D. Kemper, with two 6-pounders; Capt. W. H. Payne’s company, numbering 76 men; Capt. J. S. Green’s company, numbering 57 men; Captain Hamilton’s company, numbering about 60, and two Irish companies, numbering, respectively, 54 and 58, and Colonel Garland’s force, arrived Sunday, consisting of 490 men. Altogether, about 830 men. Also Captain Marr’s company, 88 Warrenton Riflemen. Total, 918. The Powhatan Troop, under Captain Lay, has been ordered back here, and will arrive to-day.

Should Colonel Terrett make Manassas his headquarters, he will doubtless go on to strengthen it with forces to be gathered within the large and populous district assigned to his immediate command. I have advised Colonel Terrett, through a letter yesterday, addressed to him, not to leave Alexandria himself until he shall be well satisfied that his next in command there will be a man of cool, firm, and otherwise able character, to hold that important outpost so long as it be possible for brave men to hold it.

The General-in-Chief may be assured that I will make all practicable efforts to bring about the speedy assembling, mustering into service, organizing, drilling, and disciplining of the volunteers on my whole line, and to draw from this source as rapidly as possible, to strengthen the main positions on this line—a line which even now remains almost wholly open to the enemy, should he decide to march with any force upon it. Indeed, it would seem highly expedient, in view of the now openly acknowledged and accepted state of war on the part of the Confederate Congress, that this line, hitherto left wholly to its own feeble resources, and directly in front, as it is, of the enemy’s massed force at Washington, should immediately be put in an adequate attitude of defense by such exterior aid or re-enforcements of Southern troops as have been heretofore withheld from this line, while they have been concentrated at Richmond, Norfolk, and Harper’s Ferry, leaving absolutely at the mercy of the enemy the town of Alexandria, the gallant little band which now holds that post, and the whole system of railroads which, debouching from Alexandria, penetrates this noble country to its very heart, connected with the valley and strategically with Harper’s Ferry, and thus laying bare the very vitals of the State to a deadly attack or to a stunning blow. Verbum sap[*]. The hour for closing the mail is at hand, and the General-in-Chief will pardon the imposition of this. Germane subjects will be pursued in the next following dispatch.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

PHILIP ST. GEO. COCKE,
Colonel, Commanding Potomac Department.

[*Enough said]


Headquarters Potomac Department,
Culpeper Court-Rouse, Va., May 14, 1861.

Col. R. S. Garnett, Adjutant-General:

Sir : I communicate herewith a paper for the information of the General-in-Chief, which may have a significance of some interest just at this juncture. I would also communicate to the general that I was yesterday informed by Major Brent, Virginia volunteers, and direct from Alexandria, that the enemy is prolonging himself along the canal, and has already reached Monocacy with his advanced post, which point is at the junction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad with the canal, so that already Colonel Jackson’s vedettes may be in sight of the enemy. Some of my cavalry being without pistols, I would be glad if they could be provided with lances.

Very respectfully, your most obedient,

PHILIP ST. GEO. COCKE,
Colonel, Commanding Potomac Department.

[Inclosure.]

Washington Home Guard of Cavalry,
May 13, 1861.

Lieutenant-Colonel Terrett,
Commanding Post at Alexandria, Va.:

My vedettes of Saturday and Sunday reported “that, while upon their station, near the Aqueduct, at Georgetown, at noon of each day, they were fired upon from Georgetown, the balls striking the trees near them, forcing them to change their position, when the firing was repeated upon their new position.” To-day, with five men, selected and well armed, I proceeded upon the tow-path, on the Aqueduct, to the middle, when I summoned the corporal of the U. S. guard, and demanded an explanation of the firing. He stated that it was not from his men. His orders were to stop supplies, suspicious persons, and to act upon the defensive. I then sent a messenger to the mayor of Georgetown, demanding an explanation of him. Received in reply, through superintendent of police, that the corporate authorities would punish the offenders if found out; that my complaint had been brought before the military commandant, and that all ball-cartridges would be taken from the troops quartered in Georgetown. The mayor offered me an escort and protection if I would visit Georgetown for more explicit explanation, but I considered that received as sufficient.

Submitted by

E. B. POWELL,
Captain.


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