Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 13, 1861 (Thursday): Davis Counsels Beauregard

White House of the Confederacy, Richmond

Richmond, June 13, 1861.
General Beauregard, Cmdg., &c, Manassas Junction, Va.:
My Dear General: Colonel Jones delivered to me your letter of the 12th instant, and, as suggested by you, I conversed with him on the matters to which it related. Your information may be more accurate than we possess in relation to the purpose of the enemy, and I will briefly reply to you on the hypothesis which forms the basis of your suggestion.
If the enemy commences operations by attack upon Harper’s Ferry, I do not perceive why General Johnston should be unable, even before overwhelming numbers, to retire behind the positions where the enemy would approach him in reverse. It would seem to me not unreasonable to expect that before he reached Winchester, the terminus of the railroad is his possession, the people of the fertile and populous value would rise in mass to aid him in repelling the invader. But suppose it be otherwise, he could still, by retiring to the passes on the Manassas Railroad and its adjacent mountains, probably check the progress of the enemy, and prevent him from either taking possession of the valley or passing to the rear of your position. We hope soon to re-enforce you to an extent equal to the strength you require by the junction of General Johnston, and I cannot doubt but that you will agree with me that you would then be better circumstanced to advance upon Alexandria than if General Johnston, by withdrawing from the valley, had left the enemy with the power to pass to your rear, to cut your line of communication, and advance to attack you in reverse while you were engaged with the enemy in front.
Concurring fully with you in the effect which would be produced by possession of Arlington Heights and Alexandria, if your rear is at the same time sufficiently covered, it is quite clear that, if the case should be otherwise, your possession, if acquired, would be both brief and fruitless.
To your request that a concerted plan of operations should be adopted, I can only reply that the present position and unknown purpose of the enemy require that our plan should have many alterations. I have noticed your converging lines upon Richmond, and it can hardly be necessary to remind you that we have not at this time the transportation which would enable us to move upon those lines as described. Should the fortune of war render it necessary to retire our advance columns, they must be brought mainly upon railroads, and that of Harper’s Ferry would come by your present position. It would therefore be a necessity that General Johnston’s columns should make a junction with yours before yours retired; but I have not anticipated the necessity of your retreat, and have struggled rather to increase your force, and look hopefully forward to see you enabled to assume the offensive. Had I been less earnestly engaged in providing for yours and other commands, I should have had the pleasure of visiting you before this date.
Very truly, yours,

Davis' leading commanders both wanted to move from their current positions. To the west was Johnston, constantly asking for authority to retreat from Harper's Ferry. To his north, Beauregard, the conjurer of grand offensive dreams, wanted Johnston to come to him and for them to move forward to retake Alexandria.  Letters to them from Davis, Lee, and Cooper all show Richmond still wanting them to maintain their current positions while new recruits were pushed forward to reenforce them.  Richmond had no master strategic plan, but wanted two large armies in the field, one to cover the Valley, the other the approaches to Richmond.  To the Union, Davis was willing to concede the opening move.

Official Records: Series I, Vol. II, Page 923

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