Anniversary Videos from the Battlefield

23 07 2021
Left to Right, Dana Shoaf, Melissa Winn, and Brandon Bies on Matthews Hill

This past Thursday, July 21, 2021, I had the great fortune to roam about the battlefield for the 160th Anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, to record a series of Facebook Live videos with the good folks from Civil War Times Magazine, Editor Dana Shoaf and Director of Photography Melissa Winn. Also joining us was Manassas National Battlefield Park supervisor Brandon Bies. We spent time on Matthews and Henry Hill, and took in some familiar and new sites and sight lines. Over the next few days I’ll be posting the videos here. Topics discussed include: the 71st NYSM boat howitzers and their captain; Francis Bartow and his monument; Barnard Bee and “that nickname”; a dead letter office member of the 1st OVI; BOOM; tree clearing and the threat of a GINORMOUS data center to the view shed; the Robinson family; Hampton’s Legion; and the Gallant Pelham. And lots of other stuff on the way.

It was typically blistering hot on the Plains of Manassas. Not as hot as two years ago when it was 108 degrees, but still plenty hot enough for me to, I suspect, suffer from a little heat exhaustion toward the end of the day – but lack of sleep and food also had something to do with it.

Thanks so much to Dana and Melissa for giving me the chance to talk about the battle and the people and to be seen and heard all over the planet, and for allowing me to wear a hat!





Interview: McMillan, “Armistead and Hancock”

17 07 2021
Author Tom McMillan

New from Stackpole Books is Tom McMillan’s Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend of Two Friends at the Turning Point of the Civil War. The author took some time to answer a few questions about himself and the book.

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BR: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

TM: Bottom line, I’m someone who loves history and studying the Civil War. I just retired from a 43-year career in sports media and communications, but my second career choice was history teacher, and history has always been a passion. I serve on the board of Trustees of Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center and previously was on the board of directors of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial. I’m also a docent at the Civil War Room/GAR Post at Carnegie Library in Carnegie, Pa. My first history book was Flight 93: The Story, The Aftermath and The Legacy of American Courage on 9/11, and my previous book on the Civil War was Gettysburg Rebels: Five Native Sons Who Came Home to Fight as Confederate Soldiers, which won the 2017 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award as the best new work on the Gettysburg Campaign.

BR: What first got you interested in history, and the Civil War in particular? What Civil War authors have influenced you?

TM: Like most kids growing up in Pennsylvania, I visited Gettysburg with my parents on vacation, but I was so focused on my professional career as a young adult that there wasn’t room for much else. It wasn’t until the movie Gettysburg came out in 1993 that I turned the corner. I saw it at a theatre in Pittsburgh on a Tuesday night, drove to Gettysburg on a Friday and have been immersed in the study of the Civil War ever since. It was only after this became my No. 1 hobby that I realized “I had so many ancestors who fought in the war (including several who fought in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg). The authors who impacted me most at the start were Edwin Coddington and Harry Pfanz, the Gettysburg icons. As a long-time writer I also appreciate the talent of Stephen Sears — a brilliant writer — although I don’t always agree with his conclusions. From a more contemporary perspective I really like the work of James Hessler, (Sickles, Peach Orchard, Pickett’s Charge), who is also a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide.

BR: Your previous Civil War related book was about Gettysburg’s rebels, while this new one focuses on Gettysburg as well. Is this battle your main Civil War interest?

TM: There’s a powerful draw to Gettysburg, especially for someone who lives only a few hours away. And it was the movie Gettysburg that sparked my renewed interest in the 1990s, so, yes, there is something very special about the place. My wife and I always attend the Anniversary Days. But we’ve really become interested in Antietam in recent years and may try to become guides there in retirement. We’ve visited the Virginia battlefields, and Vicksburg, and will always continue to appreciate those places as well. It’s important to have context about the entire war. Frankly, though, from a bottom line perspective as an author, national publishers have more interest in Gettysburg books than those from other battles.

BR: So, why Armistead and Hancock?

TM: Did I mention the movie Gettysburg? (he says, laughing). The movie, and the novel it was based on, The Killer Angels, have made such a huge impression on an entire generation of Civil War visitors – probably more than any other works about the battle. The impact is so strong that many people tend to forget they are based on historical fiction. I was fascinated from the start by the story of Armistead and Hancock, two friends described as “almost brothers,” but was curious that I couldn’t find much information in bonafide histories about their friendship – that the topic had never been addressed in book form. Many Hancock books barely mention Armistead. I knew the movie version was heavily dramatized, so I set out to see if I could find the story behind the legend. It was an intriguing research journey.

BR: Hancock has spawned a Caspian Sea of Ink over the years. Armistead, on the other hand, while well-known, remains a shadowy figure. How were you able to overcome the relative dearth of information on him?

TM: That was part of the attraction, part of the challenge — could I find much about the story of Armistead? It was kind of amazing to me that there had been only one book written about him in the 158 years since the battle — a short biography by the legendary guide Wayne Motts back in 1994. There just isn’t a lot of stuff that is readily available. But Wayne’s previous work led me to some productive research paths, and by digging into the service records of Armistead’s 22-year U.S. Amy career at the National Archives; studying his family’s long military history, which is profound; obtaining his Confederate service records, along with those of his three younger brothers, and his son; checking out the incredible library at West Point; and finding some very interesting nuggets from newspapers of the time, I was able to piece together the story. The frustrating part is that there always will be gaps in the record and questions we can’t answer. There was a fire at the Armistead family home in the 1850s and that may have destroyed some of his letters and other materials.

BR: What were some things you learned about these two men that surprised you.

TM: I had so little knowledge of the Armistead story, other than his famous day at Gettysburg, that it was all interesting and surprising. He was brevetted multiple times for gallantry in the Mexican War. He had a tragic personal life, losing two wives and two of his three children to disease on the frontier. But some of the most intriguing insights were about his family and its military history. His father was the third man to graduate from West Point and became a brigadier general in 1828. I also had no idea that his three younger brothers also fought in the Civil War (and that one had graduated from West Point). It’s no coincidence at all that Armistead became a soldier. As for Hancock? Despite all the Hancock books out there, I’ll admit that most of what I knew about him centered on his three outstanding days at Gettysburg. It was interesting to track the progress of his life and career both before AND after the war — it provides a lot of context for his Gettysburg actions. And he did a lot more after the war than just running for president in1880. Mostly, though, I was interested in finding what I could about their interactions and their friendship. It’s an interesting and compelling story — although not quite the same as what you saw in the movie.

BR: Can you describe how long it took to write the book, what the stumbling blocks were?

TM: Looking back, I realize that I was “researching” the story of Armistead and Hancock long before I decided to write a book. The quest to learn more about them as a student of history is what led me, eventually, to do the book. The project itself took four years, with lots of twists and turns. The biggest challenge was uncovering as much of the hard-to-get-at Armistead material as I could. My wife, Colleen, is such a great researcher that she was a big part of this effort. Also, because of the power of the movie, I wanted to find as much as I could about their farewell in California before the war. Some people think it’s all fiction, that it didn’t happen at all. It’s a puzzle with some missing pieces, but I believe it DID happen. As for the overall story, there always will be questions we can’t answer. But that’s why we all keep studying history, right?

BR: Can you describe your research and writing process? What online and brick and mortar sources did you rely on most?

TM: My own process is to do some significant research, then start writing a bit, then go back to more research … and on it goes. I can’t just research, research, research. I have to start writing a little, to create a style for the book, to get the momentum going … and then go back for more research. Do I often double-back and edit or completely rewrite a segment because of something I’ve found? Sure. All the time. You’re constantly editing as you write. But I find that switching between research and writing throughout the process adds some freshness, at least for me.
There’s nothing like the National Archives when you are researching Civil War soldiers — their pre-war U.S. Army records and Civil War records, many of which include signed documents and letters. It’s eye-opening. Their online site at fold3.com is tremendous, but there are items at the Archives building in D.C. that are not yet digitized online, so traveling there is a must. We went to the West Point library and I was in awe of the information they have on the cadets — their academic records, even their application papers, which also include letters. I was stunned at the information we found in contemporary newspapers of that era, available at newspapers.com and other sites. Reporters wrote a lot about the army in those days, which is invaluable to a historian. Copies of the Confederate Veteran magazine series, which are both online and in some libraries, were a great resource on Armistead; those letters and articles were written by soldiers themselves, and a number of them wrote about serving with Armistead during Pickett’s Charge. All authors utilize previous books on our subject matter, of course, but finding some of the lesser-known books related to these guys (and, in Armistead’s case, his family) was also helpful for uncovering nuggets. A tidbit here, a tidbit there.

BR: In the editorial process something always ends up on the cutting room floor so to speak. Was there anything that didn’t make the final cut – things for which you expected to find support and came up dry, for example?

TM: I didn’t enter this project with many preconceived notions, so the answer is probably no. One specific topic I wanted to examine was the pre-war meeting in California, and I think I found as much as I could. Everything else was an open book. I was learning as I went alone. As we mentioned earlier, there really wasn’t much written in book form about Armistead before this. I guess you’re always a little frustrated at the end, because you wish you could have found more, but I thought I had exhausted many of the research avenues and had a pretty good story to tell. I hope readers agree.

BR: What’s next for you?

TM: RETIREMENT! That means more time to travel, research and write. I’m hoping there are more books in my future. My wife and I are also interested in doing more volunteer work at Antietam, and hopefully becoming guides some day. It’s an exciting time.





Coming Up Live From the Battlefield, July 21, 2021

8 07 2021

In just a couple of weeks (that makes me really nervous, because it’s just 13 days and I don’t feel nearly ready), I’ll be coming to you live via Facebook with Dana Shoaf, Melissa Winn, and Civil War Times for a series of short vids from various sites at Manassas National Battlefield Park, on the 160th Anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). It should be fun – I’ll be sharing various cool (well, what I consider cool) stories from the field, and we’ll be joined by Superintendent Brandon Bies to discuss some new additions/deletions on the field that will greatly enhance interpretation of the First Battle of Bull Run. You can follow Civil War Times Magazine, and their wonderful First Monday videos (ours will be a Third Wednesday) on Facebook here. Below is a little example of how these things work from a couple of years ago. But we’ll be mostly outside. And hot. We’ll probably be really, really hot.





Bull Run at Gettysburg: Augustus Van Horne Ellis

21 06 2021

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Capt. Augustus Van Horne Ellis, Co. I, 71st NYSM from FindAGrave

In a few weeks, the National Park Service will be placing two boat howitzers on the field at Manassas National Battlefield Park to represent the position occupied during the Frist Battle of Bull Run of two boat howitzers of Co. I, 71st New York State Militia. The tubes which are right now being prepared for placement at the left end of the James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery on Matthews Hill have been relocated from a monument installation outside the Fairfax County Courthouse. You can read all about it here.

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From left, Brandon S. Bies, Andrew Bentley, Jim Burgess, and Jason Edwards, all with the National Park Service’s Manassas National Battlefield Park, disassemble two Civil War cannons that were given to the Manassas Battlefield. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

You can find the position on the D. B. Harris map here, but below is a smaller section of the map. Look at the far right of the line of guns (little crosses) farthest north.

Harris Map Matthews Hill Detail

Harris map detail courtesy of Manassas National Battlefield Park

This recent development reminded me that I have had a draft post sitting around for years – yes, literally years.

On December 3 of whatever year that was, I was at Gettysburg, tromping the field with friend John Banks. Our travels took us up Big Round Top, through the Triangular Field, along the old trolley path, and up through Devil’s Den. Not quite as many Bull Run connections on this route as on Hancock Avenue the day before, but I always manage to root them out. In this case, let’s take a look at the monument to the 124th New York Infantry that sits on Houck’s Ridge above the site of the regiment’s July 2, 1863 action, what Harry Pfanz dubbed “The Triangular Field.”

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Atop the monument sits the unmistakable likeness of the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis. I say unmistakable, because here is the most well known image of Ellis:

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I know, right?

As you’ve read in the link, at First Bull Run then Captain Ellis was in command of two 12-pdr Navy boat howitzers attached to the 71st New York Infantry. There were at least four Ellis brothers in the 71st at the battle: Julius E., Samuel C., and John S. all served in Co. F. Julius, the captain of the company, was mortally wounded. (You can read an account of the battle by brother John here.) The ultimate fate of Co. I’s boat howitzers that were lost at the battle is murky (mention of the “recovery” of the lost boat howitzers in the 71st NYSM Regimental History).

At Gettysburg, Ellis’s “Orange Blossoms,” as they were called due to the large number of recruits from Orange County, NY, were part of the Ward’s Brigade, Birney’s Division, Sickles’s Corps of the Army of the Potomac. On July 2, 1863, they were positioned along Houck’s Ridge above Devil’s Den. Across and up the triangular field in front of them came Texans of John Bell Hood’s division of James Longstreet’s First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. The “Orange Blossoms'” position and situation was critical. After slowing the advance of the 1st Texas Infantry at short range, Major James Cromwell, who explained that the field officers of the regiment, including Ellis, were mounted because “The men must see us today,” repeatedly requested permission to lead a charge. Initially denying him, Ellis finally assented. Unable to resist, he also joined in. The move stopped the enemy advance, but Cromwell was shot down when the reforming Texans fired another volley. Ellis encouraged his men to rescue their major, and as the Texans were pushed back, the colonel was killed instantly by a bullet to the head. His and Cromwell’s bodies were recovered and placed on a boulder to the rear of the regiment, and the 124th NY returned to their original position, the Confederate advance in that part of the field successfully, but expensively, repulsed. Of the 238 officers and men taken into battle, the “Orange Blossoms” lost 92 in killed and wounded.

Legend has it that the monument to the 124th New York on Houck’s Ridge (one of two monuments to the regiment on the field), with the full portrait sculpture of Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis, sits atop the boulder on which he and his major were placed by their men. If that legend isn’t true, it should be.

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at Fold3

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at FindAGrave

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at Wikipedia

71st New York State Militia Regimental History

An account of Ellis’s death at Gettysburg

Some info on this type of gun





A Few Charleston Civil War Sites April, 2021

4 05 2021

Here are a few photos from James Island I took while on my recent trip to Charleston, S.C.  Click the images for larger versions. I apologize for the format – still trying to figure out WordPress’s “new” editor, and it’s clumsy. Next post I think I’ll just insert thumbnails.

Secessionville Manor, a short boat ride from my brother’s dock. The impressive dwelling and grounds played a role in the 1862 battle of the same name.

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Morris Island Lighthouse, a longer boat ride. The lighthouse can orient you in the general direction of the site of Ft. or Battery Wagner, now under water. And the lighthouse was designed at least in part by First Bull Run first-shot-firer, Peter Conover Hains. There is an active preservation group working on the lighthouse, and you can learn more about it here.

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Monuments and displays at the Ft. Lamar Heritage Preserve. (EDIT: I did not notice the vandalism until I posted these photos.)

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These are self explanatory, and are found in the yard of the James Island Presbyterian Church.

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Fort Sumter Civil War Round Table 4/12/2021

29 04 2021

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My now traditional pre-talk selfie.

This past April 12, I was in the Holy City, otherwise known as Charleston, SC, to present my program on McDowell’s plan for what became the First Battle of Bull Run. We had about 30-35 people on hand at the hall of Stella Maris Catholic Church on Sullivan’s Island, in the shadow of Ft. Moultrie. This presentation capped of a very full day that included a trip out to Shute’s Folly in Charleston Harbor, the site of Castle Pinckney, which for a time was home to Federal prisoners taken at First Bull Run. But more on that later.

The talk was a long time coming, as friend Jim Morgan (a co-founder of the round table) had first invited me down a couple-or-three years ago. I was scheduled to speak last May, I think, when the group held their meetings at The Citadel, but Covid put the kibosh on that. So things loosened up and we rescheduled, but with a change in venue as things had not loosened up enough for the folks at the Citadel.

I’ve presented “McDowell’s Plan” more times than any other program I’ve done. And I’m never happy after I finish, as I always think I left something out, or put something in that I shouldn’t have, or said something stupid (see below for my pre-talk stupid story). This time was non different, and I vow again to make big changes before next time (which right now looks like April 2022 in Frederick, MD). But I got some good feedback, answered some good questions, and I think folks generally liked it.

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We started out pledging allegiance to this flag.

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This flag was also there, but no one pledged anything to it.

All in all it was a good time, and I have to say there are some really sharp minds in this group (including present and former Citadel history profs. Kyle Sinisi and Steve Smith, and retired USMC Col. Ed Forte, among others), so be on top of your game if you’re lucky enough to be invited to speak there.

I did have the opportunity to really embarrass myself with one other esteemed member of the group, and I’ll share that story which I posted on Facebook again here because I’m a glutton for punishment.

So, after a full morning of boating and exploring Castle Pinckney, I got back to my base of operations and was able to take a nap and freshen up. I met up with a few members of the RT at a place called “Poe’s” on Sullivan’s Island, near the venue. (Turns out some hack writer from Baltimore was stationed for a time at Ft. Moultrie, also on Sullivan’s Island.) Jim Morgan, one of the founders of the RT and the person who invited me to speak, makes the introductions. Now, I’m horrible with names and forget them as soon as I hear them. I’m seated next to a man named Rick Hatcher, and am told he is a retired NPS historian who had worked at both Ft. Sumter and Ft. Moultrie, among others. At some point, I was handed a copy of one of my Collateral Damages articles from Civil War Times. Mr. Hatcher asked me if I ever wrote about the Ray house. I’m thinking on it, and having trouble focusing what with all the new names that are rapidly escaping my brain. He says “Wilson’s Creek.” I say, “Oh yeah, I did,” and he tells me he used to work there, and I try to remember the man’s name who I talked to at the site when I wrote “the article.” Well it soon dawns on me that I’m thinking of the Bottom House at Perryville, and that I never wrote an article on the Ray House at Wilson’s Creek. Trying to explain this mix-up, I say, “Well, same state.” Which can only be true if Missouri and Kentucky are the same state. And they’re not. Still trying to dig myself out, I bring up a fine study of Wilson’s Creek that I read years ago, which was authored by William Garrett Piston “and some other guy.” Ummmm….did I mention it was a long day? (Mr. Hatcher was a good sport about it.)

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Backlog of Book Previews

24 04 2021

I apologize for the break – I won’t go into detail, but things have been busy. So let’s just get to this.

I have a few books that have been sent that are new-ish. Three from the good folks at Savas Beatie.

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Meade and Lee at Rappahannock Station is the third installment in Jeffry William Hunt’s look at that period after Gettysburg in the East. Subtitled The Army of the Potomac’s First Post-Gettysburg Offensive, From Kelly’s Ford to the Rapidan, October 21 to November 20, 1863, you get:

  • 287 pages of text, including six appendices (Deciphering the Rappahannock Station Battlefield, Ordering the Rappahannock Station Attack, Emory Upton and Rappahannock Station’s Legacy, and Confederate Uniforms at Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford, and Orders of Battles for both Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford).
  • Bottom of page footnotes.
  • New and historical maps (I’m not sure who prepared the new maps), illustrations, and photos.
  • Nine page bibliography, including numerous unpublished manuscript sources.
  • Full Index

OIP

The Maps of the Cavalry at Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Mounted Operations from Brandy Station through Falling Watters, July 9-July 14, 1863, is also the latest in a series, this one by Bradley M. Gottfried who has authored all but on in the series so far. The format has not changed, with maps and narrative on facing pages. You get:

  • 169 pages of text and maps through the epilogue.
  • An appendix with Orders of Battle.
  • 33 pages of endnotes (footnotes would not be practical given the facing pages format).
  • Ten page bibliography including unpublished archival sources.
  • Full index.

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Seceding from Secession: The Civil War, Politics, and the Creation of West Virginia is a collaborative effort between prolific author Eric J. Wittenberg, Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., and Penny L. Barrick, all three Ohio lawyers. You get:

  • 186 pages of text.
  • Five appendices: 
    1. The Letters to Abraham Lincoln from His Cabinet
    2. The Complaint in State of Virginia vs. State of West Virginia
    3. The Supreme Court’s Decision in Virginia vs. West Virginia
    4. The Supreme Court’s 1911 Decision in Virginia vs. West Virginia
    5. Current Events Prove that These Questions Live On
  • Bottom of page footnotes.
  • Numerous photos throughout.
  • 11 page bibliography including numerous newspapers and manuscripts.
  • Full index.





Update: Ft. Sumter Civil War Roundtable

24 03 2021

For anyone planning to attend my upcoming presentation to the Fort Sumter Civil War Roundtable in Charleston, SC on April 12:

The venue has changed. Due to Covid restrictions, the roundtable is unable to use the facilities at The Citadel. Instead, we’ll meet at 6:30 at the parish hall of Stella Maris Catholic Church, 1204 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island. The parish hall is in between the Ft Moultrie visitor center and the church, tucked away behind a house that’s right there on the road.

Also, I’m here live. I’m not a cat. I’ll be back to posting soon. Lots of stuff still ahead. Lots and lots of stuff. And we’ve got a Facebook Live event coming up in July, from the battlefield.

ONWARD!

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More on that Photo of James McKay Rorty

3 12 2020
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L to R, Peter Kelly (Co. J), James McKay Rorty (Co. G), and O’Donoghue (Co. K) as officers of units in the Irish Brigade, post Bull Run and 69th NYSM

Reader (and host of The Significant Word) Jason Cheol Spellman has done a little more legwork on the above photo of John McKay Rorty and friends, all members of the 69th New York State Militia, all captured at First Bull Run.

I attach said legwork right here. I’ll also attach it to this post I made a while back about the photo.

Read more about Rorty’s experience at First Bull Run here.

Read about Rorty later in the war here.





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.