Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 14, 1862 (Sunday): Patterson Prepares to Move on Bunker Hill

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                                                            MARTINSBURG, VA., July 14, 1861
   COLONEL:  I have thus far succeeded in keeping in this vicinity the command under General Johnston, who is now pretending to be engaged in fortifying at Winchester, but prepared to retire beyond striking distance if I should advance far.
   To-morrow I advance to Bunker Hill, preparatory to the other movement.  If an opportunity offers, I shall attack; but unless I can rout, shall be careful not to set him in full retreat upon Strasburg.  I have arranged for the occupation of Harper’s Ferry opposite which point I have directed provisions to be sent.
    Many of the three months’ volunteers are very restless at the prospect of being retained over their time.  This fact will cause you to hear from me in the direction of Charlestown.  Want of ample transportation for supplies and baggage has prevented my moving earlier in the direction I desired.
   I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                            R. PATTERSON,
                                                Major-General, Commanding.
Col. E. D. Townsend,
            Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington City

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 2, Page 166

Patterson had one task, to keep Johnston close enough at hand to restrict his movement, preventing him from joining Beauregard.  Martinsburg is 23 straight line miles from Winchester, more than a day’s march with inexperienced troops.  It was imperative for Patterson to move forward to Bunker Hill, 11 miles from Johnston.  As to the calculation by Patterson that he should attack only if he could rout, it is difficult to understand under what circumstances he would believe he could rout Johnston, given he constantly overestimated the size of his force.  At the time, Patterson had 11 regiments and approximately 18,000 men, Johnston 4 regiments and cavalry totaling about 12,000.

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