Saturday, June 4, 2011

June 5, 1861 (Wednesday): Intelligence From Manassas

General P. G. T. Beauregard

                                                                        Arlington, June 5, 1861
Lieutenant-Colonel Townsend:
    The following information is respectfully forwarded.
     General McDowell is temporarily absent.
                                                                        JAMES B. FRY, A. A. G
                                                                        Alexandria, June 5, 1861
Capt. J. B. FRY, Arlington:
    I have it from a most reliable source that there are 20,000 men at Manassas Junction, Lee’s Station, Fairfax Court-House, and Centreville.  Persons from there are instructed to say that there is a much smaller force there.  General Beauregard arrived at Manassas Junction on Friday last.  General Lee has returned to Richmond.
                                                                        S. P. HEINTZELMANN

The accuracy of intelligence varied widely throughout the war.  Distance, disinformation, and the all too human tendency to exaggerate threats contributed.  Sometimes, though, when the armies were not far apart reports were relatively accurate.  Here Heintzelmann reports the arrival of Beauregard at Manassas within a few days of the actual event (May 31).  The size of the Confederate force is overstated, but not greatly.  When the Battle of Bull Run was fought, Beauregard's force did number around 20,000, but he was receiving new recruits throughout June, so this estimate was high.  It is interesting, also, to note the Confederates were already attempting to make use of disinformation, a "home field" advantage" they would enjoy throughout the war.

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