Monday, May 12, 2014

March 20, 1864 (Thursday): Settling Accounts From First Manassas

Congressman Louis T. Wigfall

NORTH GARDEN DEPOT, March 20, 1864.
MY DEAR GENERAL: I recollect in the autumn of 1861, when with the Army of the Potomac at Camp Wigfall, near Manassas, to have heard that it was proposed by you, General Johnston, and G. W. Smith, or by one of you with the concurrence of the others, that the war should be carried into the enemy's country if the army were increased to 60,000 men; that this proposition was made to the President, and that he declined to acceded to the proposition. I am under the impression that the proposition was made in writing and that I saw or heard it read. Will you be kind enough to communicate to me the facts confidentially if you do not choose to have your name mentioned in connection with the matter. If the proposition was made in writing, can you furninsh me with a copy and of the President's answer if that was also in wirting? My impression is, that it was handed to him during one of his visits to the army, and that he declined the proposition on the ground that he had no troops to furnish, and that he did not put reasons for not complying in writing. My recollection, however, is not very distinct. I think the proposition was made in September; I am sure that such a proposition was either made or intended to be made. My reason for asking you the question and desiring a direct answer and such proof as you can furnish is that I stated as a fact a short time ago to Senator Hunter (Honorable R. M. T. Hunter) what I have above written and he said I must be mistaken, because he had heard the President flatly deny that any such proposition had ever been made. I wish to use your statement for the purpose of satisfying him, and for that purpose only. It may be that you did not make the proposition; that it was made by Johnstont or possibly by you, Johnston, and Smith, or by Johnston, you, and Smith, and that the denial was a quibble predicated upon some inaccuracy as to the statement. You will oblige me by answering sure I did not dream this, and yet Davis' denial was so flat as to make me doubt as to whether my recollection is entirely to be relied on. Hunter and I were speaking of the failure to follow up the victory of the first Manassas fight, and I stated to him that it was proposed to invade the North after the 75,000 troops were discharged and before the next call (400,000) were organized, &c., as above stated, and that Davis declined upon the ground that he had no troops to spare. Was there not then a large number of troops idle in the Carolinas and Georgia? My recollection is that one of you, G. W. Smith I think, thought that 50,000 would be enough, but that 60,000 were asked for. This paper is so wretched that I fear you will not be able to make out this scrawl.
    Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain, very truly and sincerely, your friend,


If you write before the 1st of May, direct to me at North Garden Depot, Albemarle County, Va.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Pages 839-840.

Wigfall had been a US Senator from Texas.  At the start of the war he resigned his seat and went to Charleston where he played a conspicuous role in the fall of Fort Sumter (there becoming an associate of Beauregard's).  He lead the Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia before resigning in 1862 to become a Confederate congressman.  He was a leader in the anti-Davis faction, which accounts for this letter.  Wigfall believed himself to be the military genius the Confederates needed to win the war.  He escaped from Galveston to England at its conclusion.  He was a hard nosed man who killed one political opponent in a duel before the war and wounded another. 

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