President Jefferson Davis to Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston on Reinforcements

31 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. 976-977

Richmond, July 13,1861.

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston:

My Dear General : I have just received yours of yesterday,[*] and am surprised at the extreme inaccuracy of the young officer who reported to you that about 15,000 volunteers, extremely well armed and equipped, were assembled in North Carolina, but were not accepted because they offered to serve for but twelve months. The truth is, that about ten days ago it was reported to me that three regiments for twelve months and five for the war were ready for service; they were all ordered to proceed immediately ; one of the twelve-month’s regiments arrived about three days ago, with a special request that, as they were mountaineers, they should be sent to General Garnett; they were imperfectly equipped, but as soon as ready were sent forward. Another, for the war, came yesterday; it was fully equipped, and to-day has gone to your column. Another, imperfectly armed and equipped, two days since was reported as subject to my orders at Danville; it is on its way here by my order. I have written and telegraphed to hasten the movement of the troops promised and the organization of others, and have asked if they could not be raised that arms would be sent to me for troops who would promptly respond. So much for the fiction of the 15,000 men. The same story with variations has been circulated here, and you will not be surprised if, weary and heart-sick from fruitless exertions to obtain the troops necessary to re-enforce our different columns, I have come to speak harshly of men who circulate stories so destitute of truth. From Mississippi I could get 20,000 men, who impatiently wait for notice that they can be armed. In Georgia numerous tenders are made to serve for any time at any place, and to these and other offers I am still constrained to answer, “I have not arms to supply you.” I have seen the opportunity which the incapacity of the enemy offered to beat his columns in detail, but have neither had the men nor the transportation to avail of the occasion. From day to day have sought such arrangements as would secure the more steady and rapid advance of the troops and then to leave here to share the fortunes of the Army in the field, but have never seen the occasion when I might go away without leaving everything behind me in such condition as would cause my absence to be injuriously felt.

I will not weary you with details of delay and mismanagement, but I could not permit you to suppose that I had allowed any rule to stand in the way of the one great object of giving to our columns capacity to take the offensive and prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces. I recollect Captain Pendleton well, and when we were all younger esteemed him highly as a soldier and a gentleman. I some days since directed that he should have rank as a colonel and be put in command of the batteries of your army. General Lee’s attention has been called to your remarks about intrenching tools and the muskets which had been promised. He will endeavor to supply your wants. I realize the difficulty to which you refer of a retreat, and feel that it would expose Virginia to temporary, if not permanent, disintegration; it is therefore only to be contemplated as a necessity, and the evil consequences only to be repaired by such a vigorous attack upon the enemy east of the mountains as would drive them across the Potomac, and, by threatening the capital, to compel the withdrawal of Patterson within the strong intrenchments from Alexandria to Arlington Heights; the results would certainly be doubtful, and if it failed nothing would remain to prevent the enemy from occupying the valley and cutting off the communication between our army and Richmond. I have therefore resorted to a call for the militia in all the counties north of James River from the Alleghany to the Atlantic. If they come with promptitude and spirit and the sixteen regiments which I hope for from the cotton States should arrive in time, we may yet drive the invaders from Virginia and teach our insolent foe some lessons which will incline him to seek for a speedy peace. I need not assure you that my confidence and interest in you both as an officer and as a friend cause me to turn constantly to your position with deepest solicitude.

I recollect but imperfectly the country about Winchester, and have feared that the position had but little natural strength if the enemy can turn it. He will not hazard an attack upon your intrenchments if he has the little sagacity which would be necessary to show him the advantage of pressing to the rear to seize the Manassas Railroad, and occupy the strong places in the mountains through which it passes.


Very truly, your friend,

JEFFERSON DAVIS.

[*Not found.]


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