Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 24, 1861 (Wednesday): J. E. B. Stuart Reports

J. E. B. Stuart
Fairfax Court-House, July 23, 1861-10 a. m.

GENERAL: I arrived and halted beyond the town at 9.30 a. m. Three wounded officers here. I had already sent scouting parties around. The enemy's operations may be known by the papers inclosed. The retreat continued in utter disorder into Washington City; 50,000 said to be engaged. I send a letter from Arnold Harris, from whom I got the last information. I have retained him and Magraw and party as prisoners, and urge that the request he makes be refused. He says McClellan has been ordered to succeed McDowell at once. I send a late file of papers obtained from him. They say there is no force this side of Alexandria; 50,000 men are to be mustered out of service in fifteen days. Banks has been ordered to relieve Patterson.

Most respectfully,

Colonel, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 2, Page 995

Harris and Magraw came into Confederate lines stating they were looking for the body of a friend.  At the time, Union forces were not permitting private individuals to do so under flags of truce, so Stuart had them held as prisoners.  Johnston approved, stating that if the two were returned to Union lines it would have to be by a sea route.  The Confederates had no way of knowing if the two men were on legitimate business or engaged in a ruse to gather information on the state of their forces.   The information obtained from the two men was mostly accurate, even if it overstated the number of men mustering out. 

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