Jefferson Davis' Endorsement on P. G. T. Beauregard's Manassas Report

Richmond Va Executive Department
[October 30, 1861]

The order issued by the War Department to Genl. [Joseph E.] Johnston, was not, as herein reported, to form a junction "should the movement in his judgement be deemed advisable": the following is an accurate copy of the order:- " General Beauregard is attacked, - To strike the enemy a decisive blow, a junction of all your effective force will be needed.- If practicable make the movement, sending your sick and baggage to Culpepper Court House either by rail road or by Warrenton. - In all the arrangements exercise your discretion.--" The words "if practicable," had refference to letters of Genl Johnston of 12th. & 15th. July, which made it extremely doubtful if he had the power to make the movement, in view of the relative strength and position of Patterson's forces, as compared with his own. -

The plan of campaign, reported to have been submitted, but not accepted, and to have led to a decision of the War Department, cannot be found among its files, nor any reference to any decision made upon it* [and] it was not known that the Army had advanced beyond the line of Bull Run, [t]he position previously selected by Genl. Lee, and [which] was supposed to have continued [to be] the defensive line occupied by the main b[ody of] our forces. - /(Enquiry)/ Enquiry has developed the fact, that a message to be verbally delivered was sent by Hon. Mr [James] Chesnut. If the conjectures recited in the report were entertained, they rested on the accomplishment of one great condition, namely: that a junction of the forces of Genls. Johnston & [Theophilus H.] Holmes should be made with the Army of Genl. Beauregard, and should gain a victory- The junction was made, the victory was won; but the consequences that were predicted did not result; the reason why no such consequences could result, are given in the closing passages of the reports of both the Commanding Generals, and responsibility cannot be transferred to the Government at Richmond which certainly would have united in /any/ feasible plan to accomplish such desirable results. -

If the plan of campaign mentioned in the report had been presented in a written communication [a]nd in sufficient detail to permit proper < -detail-> investigation, it must have been <-rejected at the time as whol[ly]-> /pronounced to be/ [im]possible /at that time,/ [and] its proposals could only have b[een accounted for by the want of information of the forces and posi]tions of the Armies in the field.- The facts that rendered it impossible are /the/ following: 1st. It was based, as related from memory by Col. Chesnut, on the supposition of drawing a force of [a]bout twenty five thousand men from the command of Genl. Johnston. - The letters of Genl Johnston shew his effective force to have been only eleven thousand, with an enemy thirty thousand strong in his front ready to take possesion of the Valley of Virginia on his withdrawal. - 2nd. It proposed to continue [o]perations by effecting a junction of a part of the Victorious forces with the army of Genl [Robert S.] Garnett [i]n Western Virginia,- Genl. Garnett's forces amounted only to three or four thousand men, then [kn]own to be in rapid retreat before vastly superior forces under [George B.] McClellan, and the news that he was himself killed, & his army scattered, arrived within forty eight hours of Col. Chesnut's arrival in Richmond. 3rd. The plan was based on the improbable and inadmissable supposition, that the enemy was to await everywhere, isolated and motionless, until our forces could [e]ffect junctions to attack them in detail. -- 4th. It could not be expected that any success [obtain]able on the Battle field would enable our forces to carry the fortifications on the Potomac[,] g[arrisoned, and] within supporting distance of fresh troops; nor, after the actual battle and victory, did the Generals on the field propose an advance on the Capitol, nor does it appear that they have since believed themselves in a condition to attempt such a movement.

It is proper also to observe that there is no communication on file in the War Department as recited at the close of the report, showing what were the causes which "prevented the advance of our forces & prolonged vigorous pursuit of the enemy to and beyond the Potomac.

Jefferson Davis.

From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 7, pp. 383-86. Transcribed from the National Archives, RG109, Documents in the Official Records, Series 1, Volume 2, pp. 504-505.

The Papers of Jefferson Davis
Rice University--MS 215
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, Texas 77251-1892

Phone and Fax Numbers
Phone: (713) 348-2586
Fax: (713) 348-6172 

Email Address