Saturday, June 25, 2011

June 25, 1861 (Tuesday): Scott's Orders to Patterson

                                                                        WASHINGTON, June 25, 1861.

Major-General Patterson:
   SIR: I have received your letters of the 22nd and 23d instant.
   As the enemy on breaking up at Harper’s Ferry did not abandon that district of country, but still continues in force between Winchester and the Potomac, observing that river from Harper’s Ferry to Williamsport, I deem it best that you should with your column remain in his front, and if, as is supposed, with superior or equal numbers, that you should cross the river and offer him battle; but if the enemy should retire upon his resources at Winchester it is not enjoined that you should pursue him to that distance from your base of operations without a well-grounded confidence in your continued superiority.
  A secondary object to which your attention is invited is a combined operation upon Leesburg between a portion of your troops and the column of Colonel Stone, at and (possibly) above the Point of Rocks, in order to occupy and to hold that village, the center of a wealthy district, abounding in friends of the Union.  As I write I learn from Colonel Stone that the enemy has just re-enforced Leesburg up to about 1,600 men, and may increase that number.  Inquire.
                                                                        WINFIELD SCOTT

Patterson’s mission was to interpose between Johnston and Beauregard, which required maintaining close contact.  But at the same time, Scott was reluctant for Patterson to engage Johnston on equal terms.  He had recently tasked Patterson with finding a way to make Harper's Ferry defensible using artillery on Maryland Heights.  Patterson also had received information leading him to believe a column of 8,000 Confederates might be approaching him.  Given the distance involved, and lacking clear information, it is not surprising Patterson chose to say put.

Series I, Vol 2., Page 725

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