Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 23, 1861 (Wednesday): The Sherman Expedition Moves South

The Naval Component of Sherman's Expedition

Centerville, Va., October 23, 1861.

General J. E. JOHNSTON, Centerville, Va.:
DEAR GENERAL: It is reported that all that heavy armament was intended against Magruder, who has been fighting all day before yesterday; this might explain the plan of occupying the Valley of Virginia with Banks' column strongly re-enforced to cut off our retreat in that direction in case Richmond was taken. Don't you think it would be wise and proper to make a tremendous attack on Dranesville to relieve Evans and break through all their plans, for then we might turn the tables on them. I am going to visit the country from here to Sudley Springs. Will be back about 3 p. M.
Yours, truly,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 353

Despite the victory at Ball's Bluff, the Confederates continued to overestimate McClellan's abilities and intentions.  The biggest threat to the South at the moment was the Sherman Expedition, which would ultimately land troops at Port Royal on the South Carolina coast.  His ships were seen near Fort Monroe and Richmond did not know where they were headed.  The possibility of a movement up the James to Richmond was obviously on the mind of Beauregard, who envisioned a retreat into the Shenandoah Valley.  Here, he suggests a preemptive attack in the direction of Leesburg to counteract a supposed movement of Banks to the Valley to cut off any retreat from Richmond.  It is easy, 150 years on, to be amused at Beauregard taking counsel of his fears.  The bigger lesson is neither side had a grasp on what the other could or would do in the Fall of 1861. 

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