Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November 10, 1861 (Saturday): Davis Refights Bull Run (Again)

Jefferson Davis Statue-Monument Avenue, Richmond

Centerville, November 10, 1861.
His Excellency the PRESIDENT:
    SIR: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 3rd instant,* in which you call upon me "as the commanding general, and as a party to all the conferences held by you on the 21st and 22nd of July," to say," whether you obstructed the pursuit after the victory at Manassas," or have ever objected to an advance or other active operation which it was feasible for the army to undertake." To the first question I reply no.  The pursuit was "obstructed" by the enemy's troops at Centerville, as I have stated in my official report. In that report I have also said why no advance was made upon the enemy's capital (for reasons) as follows: The apparent freshness of the U. S. troops at Centerville, which checked our pursuit; the strong force occupying the works near Georgetown, Arlington, and Alexandria; the certainty, too, that General Patterson, if needed, would reach Washington with his army of more than 30,000 sooner than we could; and the condition and inadequate means of the army in ammunition, provisions, and transportation prevented any serious thoughts of advancing against the capital. To the second question, I reply that it has never been feasible for the army to advance farther than it has done-to the line of Fairfax Court-House, with its advanced posts at Upton's, Munson's, and Mason's Hills. After a conference at Fairfax Court-House with the three senior general officers, you announced it to be impracticable to give this army the strength which those officers considered necessary to enable it to assume the offensive; upon which I drew it back to its present position.
    Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                                        J. E. JOHNSTON.
 Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part II, Page 374.

Beauregard's report of the Battle of Bull Run was published in newspapers before being submitted to the War Department or Davis.  It was the basis of newspaper attacks on Davis for failing to adequately support the manpower needs of Johnston and Beauregard before the battle and of impeding the pursuit of the defeated Union Army after it.  This lead Davis to call on all parties to commit their memories to paper in order he might rebut the charges against him.  The quarrels between Davis, Johnston, and Beauregard go beyond personal animosity.  Had the three men cooperated and set aside their differences they might have spent the time spent revisiting Bull Run on developing some strategy to move against the enemy.  There is little doubt Washington was too strongly entrenched to be assaulted directly, but openings to at least further bloody McClellan's forces or transfer additional resources to the Valley for operations there were not developed.

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