Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 20, 1861 (Tuesday): Jackson's Romney Plan

November 20, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
   SIR: I hope you will pardon me for requesting that at once all the troops under General Loring be ordered to this point.
   Deeply impressed with the importance of absolute secrecy respecting military operations, I have made it a point to say but little respecting my proposed movements in the event of sufficient re-enforcements arriving; but since conversing with Lieut. Col. J. T. L. Preston, upon his return from General Loring, and accertaining the disposition of the general’s forces, I venture to respectfully urge that after concentrating all his troops here an attempt should be made to capture the Federal forces at Romney.
  The attack on Romney would probably force McClellan to believe that the Army of the Potomac had been so weakened as to justify him in making an advance on Centerville; but should this not induce him to advance, I do not believe anything will during the present winter.  Should the Army of the Potomac be attacked, I would be at once prepared to re-enforce it with my present volunteer force, increased by General Loring’s.  After repulsing the enemy at Manassas, let the troops that marched on Romney return to the valley, and move rapidly westward to the waters of the Monongahela and Little Kanawha.  Should General Kelley be defeated, and especially should he be captured, I believe that by a judicious disposition of the militia, a few cavalry, and a small number of field pieces, no additional forces would be required for some time in this district.
   I deem it of very great importance that Northwestern Virginia be occupied by Confederate troops this winter.  At present it is to be presumed that the enemy are not expecting an attack there, and the resources of that region necessary for the subsistence of our troops are in greater abundance than in almost any other season of the year.  Postpone the occupation of that section until spring, and we may expect to find the enemy prepared for us and the resources to which I have referred greatly exhausted.  I know that what I have proposed will be an arduous undertaking and cannot be accomplished without the sacrifice of much personal comfort; but I feel that the troops will be prepared to make this sacrifice when animated by the prospects of important results to our cause and distinction to themselves.
   I may be urged against this plan that the enemy will advance on Staunton or Huntersville.  I am well satisfied that such a step would but make their destruction more certain.  Again, it may be said that General Floyd will be cut off. To avoid this, if necessary the general has only to fall back towards the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.  When Northwestern Virginia is occupied in force, the Kanawha Valley, unless it be the lower part of it, must be evacuated by the Federal forces, or otherwise their safety will be endangered by forcing a column across from the Little Kanawha between them and the Ohio River.
   Admitting that the season is too far advanced, or that from other causes all cannot be accomplished that has been named, yet through the blessing of God, who has thus far so wonderfully prospered our cause, much more may be expected from General Loring’s troops, according to this programme, than can be expected from them where they are.  If you decide to order them here, I trust that for the purpose of saving time all the infantry, cavalry, and artillery will be directed to move immediately upon the reception on the order*.  The enemy, about 5,000 strong, have been for some time slightly fortifying at Romney and have completed their telegraph from that place to Green Spring Depot.  Their forces at and near Williamsport are estimated as high as 5,000 but as yet I have no reliable information of their strength beyond the Potomac.
    Your most obedient servant,
                                                                      T. J. JACKSON,
                                                               Maor-General, P. A. C. S.


Centreville, November 21, 1861.
                         Respectfully forwarded, I submit that the troops under General Loring might render valuable services by taking the field with General Jackson, instead of going into winter quarters, as now proposed.
                                                                                               J. E. JOHNSTON,

*See Johnston to Cooper, November 22, p. 966, and Benajmin to Lorings, November 24, p. 968.

Official Records, Series. I., Vol. 5, Page 966.

At the time this was written, Loring’s force was at Huntersville, about 100 miles SW from Jackson and to the North and East of Lewisburg.  It would take until late December for his troops to finally join Jackson.  Johnston’s endorsement on the 21st was followed the next day by a memo to General Cooper in Richmond saying he believed Jackson was proposing more than can well be accomplished making it “..inexpedient, in my opinion, to transfer to the Valley District so large a force as that asked for by Major-General Jackson.”  Loring, as well, opposed the move.  General Lee (who before leaving for South Carolina had moved Loring’s force to protect the passes west of Staunton) was also thought not to favor the plan.  Despite this, the War Department ultimately approved of Jackson’s plan, which lead in January to the capture of Romney and ultimately to the famous Loring-Jackson feud. 

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