Those Plans (Plural) of June “24,” 1861

24 10 2020

Today’s update to the Correspondence – USA Official page of the Resources section is Irvin McDowell’s June 24th response to Winfield Scott’s June 20th request for a plan for his force to cooperate with that of Maj. Gen. (of PA Militia) Robert Patterson’s force to “sweep the enemy from Leesburg to towards Alexandria.” A few things to keep in mind:

  • McDowell took four days to respond to Scott’s request. Patterson’s response came in just one day.
  • Neither man seemed very enthusiastic about the project, to put it lightly.
  • McDowell’s response to Scott’s request should in no way be construed as having anything at all to do with his plans to move against Beauregard at Manassas Junction. In my opinion, some historians have done exactly this, particularly pertaining to McDowell’s plans against Bory having some sort of “requirement” regarding Patterson’s responsibilities. McDowell clearly cast out that excuse after the fact and the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War (JCCCW) took the bait, but I see no validity in it whatsoever.
  • McDowell’s plans for the movement against Manassas is dated by the compilers as “about June 24, 1861.” This seems odd because McDowell sent his plan for the Leesburg/Alexandria proposal on June 24th. So why was he sending another plan on the same day? I suspect it was written later, but perhaps it was written after some discussion with Scott on the 24th (the second plan was submitted, McDowell says, “in compliance with the verbal instructions of the General-in-Chief”). If so, McDowell sure came up with that plan fast. Another possibility is that he didn’t like the plan to co-operate with Patterson and anticipated that he would be asked for an alternative, and so came up with one in advance. Maybe that’s why it took him four days to respond. Would love to know the compilers’ reasoning for the assumed date. Guess I’ll need to see the actual document. (Keep in mind that the published Official Records – the “ORs” – are NOT in and of themselves primary documents. They’re transcriptions of primary documents.)




McDowell’s Plan for the Proposed Movement from Alexandria to Leesburg

24 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 718-719

Hdqrs. Department Northeastern Virginia,
Arlington, June 24, 1861.

Lieut. Col. E. D. Townsend,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Army:

Colonel: I have the honor to submit the following, in answer to your letter of June 21, in reference to a column to co-operate from this position with a movement to be made with a portion of Major-General Patterson’s command “to sweep the enemy from Leesburg towards Alexandria.” For a better understanding of what follows, I have the honor to transmit a map, which I have had prepared, showing the position of our troops and of that of the enemy in front of it. There is at Manassas Junction and the places in its front or immediate vicinity a force of from 23,000 to 25,000 infantry and about 2,000 cavalry and a supply of well-provided artillery. The advanced position of this force is at Centreville, Germantown, Fairfax Court-House, and Fairfax Station, the numbers and proportion at each varying from time to time. How much of a force is beyond Manassas Gap, in the valley, and could be brought within the operations here contemplated, I have no means of judging. There is nothing to hinder their coming, and unless they are kept engaged by our troops around Harper’s Ferry, re-enforcements, in case of serious operations from that section would have to be guarded against, as would also those from places to the south of Manassas, on the line of the railroad to Richmond or Lynchburg, which would be pressed forward whenever it should become known we were moving upon them or they upon us in any force.

I have not learned that the troops in our front are fully provided with transportation, though I am satisfied they are not so deficient as we have supposed, and not as much so as we are at this time ourselves, for the Quartermaster-General, after supplying yesterday transportation for two regiments to move each about six miles, had but three horses left.

We have in this department, good, bad, and indifferent, twenty regiments of infantry, giving an aggregate of less than 14,000; four companies of cavalry, giving about 250; one battery of regular artillery of six rifled guns; one battery of volunteer artillery, smooth-bores—an excellent company, but not accustomed to their guns, and hardly fit for service in the field. There are three companies of regular artillery, but they are in the earthworks, and not available for field service. The General-in-Chief was pleased to say he wished I would fight this project of a combined movement to sweep away the enemy from Leesburg towards Alexandria with him step by step. I take advantage of this permission, if, indeed, I do not obey a command, to say that it seems to me the distance between General Patterson’s force and this one is so great, and the line of march each has to take is such (a flank exposed), that, in my view, the force to move from each position should be constituted without reference to material support from the other. I am thought by those for whose judgment I have great respect, and who have been on the ground, to hazard something in having my advanced position so near Falls Church, when it is thrown forward from the right of the line, Fort Corcoran, and there are means of re-enforcing it promptly by the Georgetown turnpike and the railroad to Alexandria.

What would be our position if a movement is made to the right, at this the right bank of the Potomac, towards Leesburg? In the first place, as we are for any such purpose without means of wagon transportation, we should be obliged to repair and use the railroad; but whether this was done or not, we should march with the left flank of the column exposed to attack from their advanced positions, and on getting as far to the right as Vienna, have our line exposed to interruption, for Vienna is nearer to the enemy than it is to Falls Church or the camps on the Georgetown road.

To go farther to the right could not safely be done, even by a force superior to that the enemy can bring against us. I think a glance at the map will show this. Any reverse happening to this raw force, pushed farther along, with the enemy on the flank and rear and an impassable river on the right, would be fatal. I do not think, therefore, it safe to risk anything from this position in the direction of Leesburg farther than Vienna, seven miles by the Leesburg turnpike from Falls Church, and even to go there the force should be large. Vienna could be supplied or re-enforced—

1st. By the Leesburg road from Falls Church.
2d. By the railroad from Alexandria.
3d. By the dirt road from Ball’s Cross-Roads.

The first two are liable to interruption unless strongly guarded, and the third is an indifferent road and a long one. The force, then, to go as far as Vienna should be large enough to hold the position for several hours, and should be well supplied with artillery and cavalry and strengthened by such defenses as could be readily thrown up. Vienna being held in force, and offensively, would cover the country from the Difficult Creek well towards Goose Creek from any force of the enemy operating from Manassas Junction or its dependencies, and I have never heard of there being over 500 men, mostly local troops, at Leesburg. As it would be constantly liable to be attacked by all the available force of the enemy and is only a few hours’ march from him, it would be necessary to have strong reserves ready at either Falls Church or the camp of the Ohio brigade.

The force sufficient to hold Vienna cannot well be stated, because of the changes which are taking place in front of us. I do not think it prudent to go there with less than 8,000 infantry, a battery of field regular rifled artillery, with some guns in position, and six companies of cavalry, and the line from Fort Corcoran to General Tyler to be held as strong as at present, and a reserve on that line of 3,000 men; some of the force to be organized into small field brigades, as heretofore proposed, under regular colonels.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

IRVIN MCDOWELL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.





Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler to Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell on Intimated Retrograde Movement to Ball’s Crossroads

22 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 713-715

Headquarters Tyler’s Brigade,
Camp McDowell, June 22, 1861.

To Brigadier-General McDowell,
Commanding Department N. E. Virginia:

General: Your intimation yesterday that we might be ordered to fall back to Ball’s Cross-Roads took me so by surprise, that I went at once to your headquarters to see if there was not some mistake in the matter, and, not finding you, returned immediately back.

Since I have been in my present position I have used every possible means to connect it with our present line of operations, and also with the probable movements of the enemy, and I am satisfied that to abandon it would be the greatest mistake we could commit, and for the following reasons:

  1. It is so situated as to give you the best possible position to observe the enemy and to obtain the very earliest possible information as to any movement he can make towards Washington.
  2. It is the strongest and most defensible military position, except that about Shooter’s Hill, that I have seen between Washington and four miles of Fairfax Court-House, and is so situated that it must be attacked and carried before it would be safe for any enemy to make any forward movement on Ball’s Cross-Roads or Bailey’s Cross-Roads, as a movement on Bailey’s Cross-Roads would expose the enemy to a flank attack from the troops situated at Falls Church and a movement on Ball’s Cross-Roads to a rear attack, and neither of these crossings is more than two and a half miles from Falls Church.
  3. As the enemy’s pickets before our arrival here were in possession of the ground in our front, I am satisfied the moment we leave the position it will be occupied, and, in connection with the possession of Vienna, will give him the possession of a line that it will cost us thousands of men to drive him from it, and we shall have to do it if he is strong enough to sustain an advance.
  4. A retrograde, if followed by the occupation of the Falls Church position, as it will be, will enable the enemy to control the entire valley of the Four Mile Run, from Vienna to within two miles of Roach’s Mills, and if they have twenty thousand men, everything else being equal, fifty thousand men cannot drive them out.
  5. A retrograde movement (I will not consider its effects on the country) will have a most injurious effect on the Union men in this vicinity (and they are in considerable numbers), and thus must necessarily leave with us or be killed.

The above, general, are only some of the reasons that present themselves to my mind in opposition to a retrograde movement, which I think can be prevented and our position here perfectly secured by posting three regiments at Ball’s Cross-Roads and as many at Bailey’s Cross-Roads, which will bring the whole front from Georgetown, Falls Church, and Alexandria within short supporting positions. With a single battery of light artillery and a couple of hundred of cavalry, with two Connecticut and the two Ohio regiments, I can hold our position at Falls Church for two hours against ten thousand men, counting time from the moment our pickets will notify us of the approach of the enemy, and that will give us time to be supported from Ball’s and Bailey’s Cross-Roads and the New Jersey regiments at Roach’s Mills, leaving the troops at Alexandria and those in the vicinity of Arlington, Georgetown, and Washington near enough to sustain us in case we should be overmatched, which I do not think we should be. At all events, we would give time enough for these troops to come to our relief.

Before a retrograde movement is made I would like to canvass this matter with yourself and General Scott. Since I came here my mind has been constantly occupied with the subject of my position here, and I think I understand as well as any engineer officer or officers who may come out here and pass half an hour examining it and then return to Washington with a report. I know that these things must be, but 1 must confess that I felt mortified that two gentlemen of the Engineers should come into my camp under instructions, as I now find, to examine and pass upon the most important military positions in our whole line, which had been selected by me, and not have the courtesy to invite my attendance or call my attention to the fact that they were on any official duty.

When I had the honor to have a commission in the line of the United States, many years ago, the etiquette of service would not excuse such neglect, even in the scientific officers of the Army.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

DANL. TYLER,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Ohio Brigade. Hagerstown, June 22, 1861.





Army A. A. G. E. D. Townsend to Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell on Proposed Movement from Alexandria to Leesburg

21 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 711

Washington, June 21, 1861.

Brigadier-General McDowell, U. S. A.:

Sir: The General-in-Chief sends you the inclosed copy of instructions to Major-General Patterson,* and desires you to propose a column to co-operate from this end, according to the outline plan indicated.
I am, &c.,

E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

*See Scott to Patterson, June 20, p. 709.





McDowell to Brig. Gen. Theodore Runyon and Col. David Hunter on Readiness to Move

21 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 710

Headquarters Department N. E. Virginia,
Arlington, June 20,1861.

Brigadier-General Runyon [and others]:

General Tyler reports enemy concentrating in his front. Hold all your command in readiness to move at a moment’s warning. If you have time, cook a day’s rations.

Irvin McDowell,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

P. S.—To Colonel Hunter.

Have the Sixty-ninth Regiment move forward to Ball’s Cross-Roads.

By order General McDowell:

W. H. WOOD,
Captain, Third Infantry, Acting Inspector General.





McDowell and Army Headquarters Discuss the Reconnaissance to Vienna

21 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 700

June 18,1861—1.35 a. m.

Brigadier-General Schenck: It is not intended you shall attempt to carry the position at Vienna.

Colonel Corcoran, with four companies, and Brigadier-General Tyler, with part of his brigade, will soon be with you.

Get your wounded attended to, and as soon as General Tyler arrives let them go down by the first train he may send.

Let me know when Colonel Corcoran and General Tyler arrive.

Let me have report early to-morrow morning.

IRVIN MCDOWELL,
Brigadier- General.


Arlington, June 18, 1861—5.20 a. m.

Lieut. Col. E. D. Townsend:

Will it accord with the plans of the General-in-Chief that a movement be made in force in the direction of Vienna, near which the attack was made on the Ohio regiment?

IRVIN MCDOWELL,
Brigadier- General.


Washington, June 18, 1861—6.30 a. m.

General McDowell, Arlington:

The General-in-Chief says do not make a movement in the direction of Vienna which is not necessary to bring General Schenck back to his camp.

E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant-General.





McDowell Reports on Loudoun and Hampshire Road Reconnaissance

14 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 695

Hdqrs. Department Northeastern Virginia,
Arlington, Va., June 17, 1861.

Lieut. Col. E. D. Townsend,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington, D. C.:

Colonel: Brigadier-General Tyler, with part of the Connecticut regiment, made, agreeably to instructions, a reconnaissance up the Loudoun and Hampshire Road as far as Vienna. He found all the bridges and the road in good order. All the rolling stock of the road between Vienna and Leesburg he reports as having been burned, to prevent it falling into our hands. One of the sleepers, which had been set on fire by the droppings of the locomotive, gave rise to the report from the telegraph station near Arlington Mills that the bridges had been set on fire and were burning, and that General Tyler was beyond them.

Whilst near Falls Church one of the Connecticut regiment, Private George Bigbee, Captain Comstock’s company, was wounded in the shoulder by a shot from the roadside. The man suspected of having fired it was captured, and is in jail in Alexandria.

It is reported re-enforcements have been sent from Manassas to Fairfax Court-House.

I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

IRVIN MCDOWELL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.





McDowell is Informed of Patterson’s Delay in Proposed Movement

14 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 690

Washington, June 15,1861.

General McDowell, Arlington: General Scott says, whether Harper’s Perry is evacuated or not, General Patterson cannot cross the river before Wednesday next [19th]. This in reference to a proposed movement of yours, on the expediency of which events must now decide.

E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant-General.





McDowell Reports on Progress of Defenses of Washington

13 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 683

Hdqrs. Department Northeastern Virginia,
Arlington, June 14, 1861.

Lieut. Col. E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters of the Army:

Colonel: I have received a letter from Maj. J. G. Barnard, Engineer, making suggestions concerning the defenses thrown up on this side of the Potomac. I have attended to these so far as my resources enabled me. Speaking of the work on Shooter’s Hill, he says:

Having to use heavy guns on sea-coast carriages for this as well as for other works in progress, it will require at least a week, probably more, before such guns can he mounted; but there will also he eight field-guns (part of them rifled) in the armament. These could be put in position in a couple of days, but they should not be sent to the work until the matter of a guard or garrison is attended to and artillerists provided for them.

* * * * * * *

With reference to the tete-de-pont at Long Bridge, he adds:

Arrangements must be made for moving and working these guns (twenty-three in all). The same may be said of the tete-de-pont at the Aqueduct.

I have made the above extracts for the purpose of saying that I am unable to comply with so much as relates to providing artillerists for manning these works.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

IRVIN MCDOWELL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.





McDowell’s Estimate of Required Force for Proposed Movement

10 10 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 664-665

Hdqrs. Department N. E. Virginia,
Arlington, June 4,1861.

Lieut. Col. E. D. Townsend, Asst. Adjt. Gen.,
Headquarters of the Army, Washington, D. C.:

Colonel : I have the honor to report as follows, in compliance with your telegram of the 3d instant requiring me to submit “an estimate of the number and composition of a column to be pushed towards Manassas Junction, and perhaps the gap, say in four or five days, to favor Patterson’s attack on Harper’s Ferry.”

In view of the number of the enemy supposed to be at Manassas Junction, at Centreville, Fairfax Station, Fairfax Court-House, and other places this side of Manassas, and of that at places beyond Manassas, but within a few hours of it by rail, and of the possibility of troops coming from the valley through the gap, I think the actual entire force at the head of the column should, for the purpose of carrying the position at Manassas and of occupying both the road to Culpeper and the one to the gap, be as much as 12,000 infantry, two batteries of regular artillery, and from six to eight companies of cavalry, with an available reserve ready to move forward from Alexandria by rail of 5,000 infantry and one heavy field battery, rifled if possible; these numbers to be increased or diminished as events may indicate. I propose that this force, composed mostly of new troops, shall be organized into field brigades, under active and experienced colonels of the Army, whilst their regiments are being recruited, aided by a few regular officers. This is made the more necessary from the fact that the presence on this side of some corps indifferently commanded has led to numerous acts of petty depredations, pillage, &c., which have exasperated the inhabitants and chilled the hopes of the Union men, and show that these regiments should all of them be restrained as well as led; and where, as is the case with many, they are not so by their officers, they must have some one immediately over them who can and will. I do not propose to have a supply train of wagons for the main body, but to use the railroad, which makes it necessary that every bridge or other important point be guarded, and have either a block-house or field-work. This will require several Engineer officers, and a full supply of intrenching tools, axes, &c.

I have now, perhaps, done all that the General-in-Chief desires of me, but I will take the liberty of adding a few remarks, if not even some suggestions. As soon as we commence to move they will do the same, and as their communications with their position at Harper’s Ferry, which they evidently cherish, will be threatened, they will do as they did when we first came over—hurry forward from all the stations at the South—and the question arises as to the best point or line it is advisable to hold, even for defensive purposes. This, it seems to me, is the line of the Rappahannock, which, if occupied in force, will effectually free all Northeastern Virginia, without coming in contact with the inhabitants, and also free the Potomac. It will be necessary to hold the Aquia Creek Railroad, which, if done in large numbers, would make a powerful diversion in General Butler’s favor. It is true the foregoing is not directly in answer to the question of the General-in-Chief, but I think it flows from it. In relation to the number of troops to be used, I have only to say—what, perhaps, is evident enough, however—that in proportion to the numbers used will be the lives saved; and as we have such numbers pressing to be allowed to serve, might it not be well to overwhelm and conquer as much by the show of force as by the use of it?

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, colonel, your most obedient servant,

Irvin McDowell,
Brigadier- General, Commanding.