President Jefferson Davis to Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard, on Operational Options

22 12 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. 922-923

Executive Department,
Richmond, June 13,1861.

General Beauregard, Comdg., &c., Manassas Junction, Va.:

My Dear General: Colonel Jones delivered to me your letter of the 12th instant,* and, as suggested by you, I conversed with him of the matters to which it related. Your information may be more accurate than we possess in relation to the purpose of the enemy, and I will briefly reply to you on the hypothesis which forms the basis of your suggestions.

If the enemy commences operations by attack upon Harper’s Ferry, I do not perceive why General Johnston should be unable, even before overwhelming numbers, to retire behind the positions where the enemy would approach him in reverse. It would seem to me not unreasonable to expect that before he reached Winchester, the terminus of the railroad in his possession, the people of the fertile and populous valley would rise in mass to aid him in repelling the invader. But suppose it should be otherwise, he could still, by retiring to the passes on the Manassas Railroad and its adjacent mountains, probably check the progress of the enemy, and prevent him from either taking possession of the valley or passing to the rear of your position. We hope soon to re-enforce you to an extent equal to the strength you require by the junction of General Johnston, and I cannot doubt but that you will agree with me that you would then be better circumstanced to advance upon Alexandria than if General Johnston, by withdrawing from the valley, had left the enemy the power to pass to your rear, to cut your line of communication, and advance to attack you in reverse while you were engaged with the enemy in front.

Concurring fully with you in the effect which would be produced by possession of Arlington Heights and Alexandria, if your rear is at the same time sufficiently covered, it is quite clear that, if the case should be otherwise, your possession, if acquired, would be both brief and fruitless.

To your request that a concerted plan of operations should be adopted, I can only reply that the present position and unknown purpose of the enemy require that our plan should have many alterations. I have noticed your converging lines upon Richmond, and it can hardly be necessary to remind you that we have not at this time the transportation which would enable us to move upon those lines as described. Should the fortune of war render it necessary to retire our advance columns, they must be brought mainly upon railroads, and that of Harper’s Ferry would come by your present position. It would therefore be a necessity that General Johnston’s columns should make a junction with yours before yours retired; but I have not anticipated the necessity of your retreat, and have struggled rather to increase your force, and look hopefully forward to see you enabled to assume the offensive. Had I been less earnestly engaged in providing for yours and other commands, I should have had the pleasure of visiting you before this date.

Two regiments have been sent forward, neither of which had reached you at the date of your letters, and you will soon receive further re-enforcements. They are not trained troops, but I think they are better than those of the enemy, and the capacity which you have recently exhibited successfully to fight with undisciplined citizens justifies the expectation that you will know how to use such force as we are able to furnish.

Very truly, yours,

JEFFERSON DAVIS.

*Not found


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