Brig. Gen. Samuel Cooper to Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston on State of Affairs, Confidence, Communications, and Reinforcements

26 12 2020



O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 934-935

Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office,
Richmond, June 18, 1861.

General Joseph E. Johnston, Comdg. C. S. Forces,
Camp Bunker Hill, Twelve Miles from Winchester, Va.:

Sir: Yours of the 17th instant this day delivered by Colonel Thomas, and the ammunition will start this evening under his charge by a special train. In the letter to you of the 15th, if the instructions seemed to you specific, be assured it was only intended to respond to the desire manifested in the letter communicated by you, and both then and theretofore and now the fullest reliance was placed in your zeal and discretion, and you are expected to act as circumstances may require, only keeping in view the general purpose to resist invasion as far as may be practicable, and seek to repel the invaders whenever and however it may be done. In order that all disposition may be made to meet your wants it is necessary that you should write frequently and fully as to your position, and the movements which may be contemplated by you. Since the date of my last letter to you re-enforcements have been steadily sent forward to the camp at Manassas Junction, and others will be added to that force and to yours, as the current of events may determine us to advance on one line or the other. Should we not be able to assume the offensive with prospects of success the war must for a time remain one of positions, and active operations be carried on against small detachments and lines of communication. If the enemy should advance boldly, the latter operations will become to you more easy and to him more injurious. It is needless to tell you that we are poorly supplied with disciplined troops and with transportation for maneuvering in the field, and you will therefore readily understand why we have not sought to accumulate in your command before receiving requisitions from you and before being in a condition to instruct you to advance.

Our information here—much less perfect than your own—has not led to the conclusion that a main attack was now contemplated upon your line of operations, but we have not failed to observe indications of a purpose to make such attack hereafter—probably not before affairs in Western Virginia remove the apprehensions of the enemy as to popular resistance in that quarter. We have, however, endeavored to use the limited means at control so as to meet the contingency of attack either by way of Harper’s Ferry or by Alexandria, as the case might be, should either occur before we were ready to shift the campaign to suit our own views. The advance upon Romney was most probably only intended to capture the arms which had been placed there, and a painful rumor is in circulation here that this was near being effected by surprise, on account of the neglect to have scouts and pickets on duty sufficiently far in advance to gain timely warning of the approach of an enemy. You will in the manner which you may deem most effective enforce upon all the troops under your command the necessity of the greatest vigilance and activity on picket and reconnoitering duty. If the inhabitants of the valley have rallied with spirit to your standard, you will no doubt find among them men well suited to the duty of scouts and guides. As far as it may be practicable you will seek to strip the country which may be possessed by the enemy of those things which may be most available to him, especially horses suited to the military service and herds of beef cattle. If it be possible to do so, it is desirable that the gun-stocks, gun-barrels, tilt-hammers, &c., which have not been removed from Harper’s Ferry should be brought away and sent forward for our use elsewhere.

Re-enforcements will be sent to you of such character and numbers as you may require and our means will enable us to afford; and here I would enforce upon you the necessity of communicating promptly all reliable information which you may obtain in relation to the enemy. The reports which we receive from other than official sources are so often incorrect that no action can possibly be based upon them.

Very respectfullv, your obedient servant,

Adjutant and Inspector General.



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