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.





Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson’s Plan for the Proposed Movement from Leesburg to Alexandria

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, pp. 711-712

Hagerstown, Md., June 21, 1861.

Col. E. D. Townsend,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., U. 8. Army, Washington City:

Colonel: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the telegram of the General-in-Chief calling for a plan of operations with a portion of my force to sweep the enemy from Leesburg, &c. Inclosed is a copy of my telegraphic reply. The following is my plan more in detail:

To carry out the views of the General-in-Chief I propose—

First. To occupy the Maryland Heights with a brigade (2,100 men); fortify and arm with Doubleday’s artillery, and provision for twenty days, to secure against investment.

Second. To move all supplies to Frederick, and immediately thereafter abandon this line of operations; threaten with a force to open a route through Harper’s Ferry, this force to be the sustaining one for the command on Maryland Heights.

Third. To send everything else available (horse, foot, and artillery) to cross the Potomac near Point of Rocks, and unite with Colonel Stone at Leesburg. From that point I can operate as circumstances shall demand and your orders require. If no blow is to be struck here, I think this change of position important to keep alive the ardor of our men as well as to force an enemy.

The reasons for this change of depot will be so apparent to the General-in-Chief that I need not refer to them. By the employment of the local transportation of the country I can soon make the necessary changes, and will hasten to carry out your orders.

I have many reports in regard to the movements of the force opposite us in Virginia, and have reason to believe that when the regulars were withdrawn, General Johnston, with thirteen thousand men and twenty-two pieces of artillery, was marching to the attack, and that night posted his force, expecting from us an attack the following morning. I regret we did not meet the enemy, so confident am I that, with this well-appointed force, the result would have been favorable to us, and that this portion of Virginia would now be peaceably occupied.

Reports of the enemy having returned to Harper’s Ferry and had driven the occupants to this shore reached me yesterday. I immediately dispatched a strong force to take position in the vicinity of Sharpsburg and protect all parties on this side of the river, and drive back any force which may attempt to cross.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. PATTERSON,
Major-General, Commanding.

[Inclosure.]

Hagerstown, Md., June 21, 1861.

Col. E. D. Townsend, Washington City:

The telegram of the General-in-Chief of yesterday was received at midnight. To carry out proposed plan I think involves a change of depot to Frederick and evacuation of Williamsport and Hagerstown. With an enemy close at hand, a move suddenly, with present amount of transportation, necessitates sending a large mass of stores back to Harrisburg or their abandonment.

Maryland Heights can be secured, and Frederick also, and a strong force of infantry, some cavalry, and artillery sent via Frederick to Leesburg to sweep the enemy from that point to Alexandria. If no blow is to be struck here, and this meets the views of the General-in-Chief, I will at once commence moving, and be in position to act at the earliest practicable moment. I send a regiment to-day to Frederick at the urgent solicitation of the governor. I shall write in full by mail. Reconnaissance of heights being made. Send your telegrams via Harrisburg, Chambersburg, &c. Frederick line cannot be relied upon.

R. PATTERSON,
Major-General, Commanding.





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.





Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott to Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson on Proposed Movement from Leesburg to Alexandria

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. 709

Washington, June 20,1861.

General R. Patterson, U. S. A., Hagerstown, Md.:

I desire you to cause to be examined the Maryland Heights, overlooking Harper’s Ferry, with a view to a battery sufficient to hold the same, and also without delay to propose to me a plan of operations with a portion of your force to sweep the enemy from Leesburg towards Alexandria, in co-operation with a strong column from this end of the same road. Of course it is designed that you should absorb the column of Colonel Stone, now covering the fords and ferries on the Potomac below Leesburg; the remainder of your troops (how many?) to be left to cover the detachment on the Maryland Heights. Reply promptly.

WINFIELD SCOTT.

(Copy to General McDowell.)





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.