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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


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Vol. I
p491
Chapter XXIX

The Volunteers Are Called Out

Immediately following secession the governor and the advisory council had seen the folly of calling out more troops than Virginia needed at Harpers Ferry, at Norfolk, and at other exposed points. Student companies that had hurried to Richmond from the University of Virginia without orders had been sent back to school. The Confederate Government had been requested not to forward thirteen proffered regiments until Lee had been consulted.1 But the uninformed public had been insistent and the waiting volunteers had become restive. Despite strong pressure, Lee had postponed a general mobilization of volunteers in the knowledge that arms were limited, that field officers were lacking, and that the general staff had not been organized to transport, to quarter, and to feed the thousands who were anxious to defend their state. Now that the prospect of invasion was imminent he had to bring the waiting volunteers into the field. Delay after May 5 might be as dangerous as haste before that time would have been confusing.

Estimates prior to the dissolution of the Union were to the effect that the state would require about 15,000 soldiers.2 Lee listed the places that had to be defended, reversed the figures and promptly raised the total to 51,000.3 To supply this number of men Virginia had a partly organized militia of about 131,000, exclusive of the armed volunteers, who were supposed to number 12,000.4 In addition, the convention had authorized the establishment of a "provisional army," which was really to be a regular army of some 8000 men, enlisted for three years.5 A navy of p492 2000 men had likewise been sanctioned.6 Recruiting for the provisional army and for the navy was to be undertaken simultaneously with the enlistment of volunteers. This double appeal for men presented a difficulty. Another difficulty was the sharp division of opinion as to the term of enlistment of the troops who were to be accepted. Some bombastic orators whose overconfidence angered Lee were affirming that an early victory made long enlistments unnecessary. Lee thought that all soldiers should be sworn in for the duration of the war. The convention, after debate, decided to fix the term at one year — a course that was to plague the Confederacy in the spring of 1862.7

Making the best of what he could not change, Lee devised this method of mobilization: He directed the commanding officers at Harpers Ferry, at Norfolk, at Fredericksburg, at Richmond, and at Culpeper Courthouse to accept companies of volunteers from designated nearby counties, in numbers not to exceed specific totals of each of the three arms of the service. By fixing the company as the unit, he passed the task of individual recruiting to the localities where men of station were willing to collect enough men to form a company, either as a patriotic service or as a means of procuring commissions, through company elections, as captains or lieutenants. At other centres of population where good railroad connections were available, he named special recruiting officers who were to issue calls to the counties, accept companies, arm them, and either begin their training there or else send them to places where they were needed and could be drilled. No time schedule for a general concentration was attempted. From some of the mobilization centres the commanding officers were directed to forward the troops by companies as rapidly as they were organized and armed.8

The first call, which covered only one section of the state, was p493 sent out on May 3, the very day that Lincoln signed his second proclamation for 42,000 additional volunteers, ten regiments of regulars, and 18,000 seamen.9 Other calls for different parts of the commonwealth Lee issued on May 6, May 7, and May 9. He watched the response closely.10 In most counties the enlistment was general and hearty. From western Virginia there came varying stories of support and of disaffection, and on the lower Peninsula, for some reason, volunteers came in slowly.11 The stern eye of Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thomas J. Jackson found encouragement in the quality of the men, untrained though they were.12 "The whole state is clad in steel," ex-President Tyler wrote.13 Anxious as Lee was to bring Virginia's man-power quickly into the field, he declined to accept volunteers under the age of eighteen. "Those are beautiful boys, sir," he said of some lads he sent back home, "and I very much disliked to refuse them; but it will not do to let boys enlist now. I fear we shall need them all before this war closes."14 Ere long it became apparent that the provisional army could not be recruited for three years in competition with one-year volunteers.15 The provisional army had accordingly to be abandoned.16 It served one useful purpose, however, if only one, in that it gave the governor and the commanding general an organization in which to commission quickly a number of desirable officers for whom volunteer regiments or companies were not available. This experience with the provisional force showed that the war was not to be fought either with regulars or with militia, but with volunteers.17

Mobilization meant training, and that was the fifth aspect of Lee's labor of preparation. In addition to the simple drilling provided at the mobilization centres, a camp of instruction named p494 after Lee was established at Richmond. The cadets of the Virginia Military Institute who had been brought to the city as drillmasters were speedily put to work and some of them were subsequently sent to Harpers Ferry for similar service. They were invaluable. In fact, although the Institute supplied many competent officers during the war, it probably did nothing that helped more materially than furnishing these well-equipped young cadets of soldierly bearing and high morale at this stage of the mobilization. In addition to Camp Lee, an artillery school of instruction was established nearby, at Richmond College,18 with V. M. I. cadets again in charge of the raw gunners. The training and review of these men, which Lee occasionally found time to observe in person, gave Richmond its first glimpse of the picturesque side of a war whose horrors the city was soon to witness.19 New color, thrills, romance were added, a little later, when the first troops from other Southern states began to arrive at Camp Lee, the South Carolinians with their palmettos, and the picturesque Louisiana Tigers.20

Not all the phases of mobilization went as smoothly as the reviews at Camp Lee. Some blunders were made, particularly at Lynchburg. The call sent out from that city did not specify the number of troops that were to be received. The men from so many counties were directed to report there that some of them had to be sent elsewhere.21 It was at Lynchburg, also, that the first friction between the state and the Confederate authority occurred.22 With these and some other minor exceptions, however, mobilization and training proceeded better than might have been anticipated. The end of May was to find numerous large camps established in various sections and crowded with youthful volunteers.23 Within four weeks after the men had been called to the colors seventeen regiments were formed and nineteen p495 others were being organized from companies that had been brought together and had been given some training.24 Rail transportation in sufficient quantity for moving all these troops was made available. Lee left his part of the mobilization largely to the railroad authorities. He contented himself with seeing to it that physical connection was established at strategic points, and that military commanders should not use rolling stock without authority.25 On occasion it became necessary to suspend passenger traffic in order to move troops.26

Beyond a certain stage, mobilization was futile and training was impossible without arms and equipment. Providing these was the sixth aspect of Lee's problem, and during the first period of the war it remained a more difficult matter, by far, than finding troops.27 Virginia had collected a certain volume of munitions. During the early months of 1861 she had established a department of ordnance, had appropriated $800,000 for the purchase of arms and ammunition, and had authorized the counties and cities to borrow money for equipping the militia.28 The war had come, however, before this legislation of 1861 had yielded results.

The sources of supply from which Virginia hoped to draw were as follows:

1. When received into the service of the state, some 5000 volunteers — and not 12,000 as had been estimated by the adjutant general — carried arms that had been issued by the commonwealth or separately bought.29

2. Virginia had in storage at Richmond and at Lexington something over 60,000 small arms, though 54,000 of these were old flintlock muskets, wholly inferior to the percussion muskets p496 with which the Federals were certain to be armed from the outset.30

3. The state hoped that a considerable number of the arms damaged in the evacuation of the Harpers Ferry arsenal by the United States troops, or in process of manufacture,31 could be restored or completed and issued.

4. There was a possibility that arms might be imported and that a limited supply might be had, by loan or purchase, from some of the Southern states if any of them had a surplus.

These were the only sources, and Harpers Ferry was to yield little.

In order that the best use might be made of the arms that were available the convention authorized Lee to distribute them to Virginia troops and, inferentially, to the secessionists of Maryland.32 It was a burdensome assignment. The demands from the outset were insistent. Sometimes after volunteers had been received, and occasionally when they were in the face of the enemy, their armament was tragically inadequate. Upon General Cocke's arrival on the Alexandria line, for instance, he found that by no means all his pitiful little force of 300 or 400 men were armed, and those who carried any weapons had only flintlocks of the model of 1818.33 Again, 800 volunteers reported for muster at Williamsburg; just 300 of these had arms, and half of these were antiquated.34 Among 300 men from the western counties there were only 55 muskets of the same outmoded type, in bad order.35 Some commanders, even Colonel T. J. Jackson, demanded more muskets than they had prospects of issuing promptly, and had to be denied.36 In Lynchburg there was a near-mutiny because men who had volunteered as riflemen had flintlocks issued to them.37 At a very critical stage of operations in western Virginia, when every volunteer counted in determining whether that section would side with the commonwealth or turn against her, one p497 company reported with no arms whatsoever, and two others had to be sent home, as there were no muskets for them.38 General Joseph E. Johnston, on taking charge at Harpers Ferry, stated flatly that the dispatch of troops without arms simply made his command "more helpless."39

These were typical illustrations of a situation that Lee met as best he could. He had to dole out arms very cautiously in advance of actual enlistment,40 and he used his scant supply of percussion and "altered" muskets where he expected the troops to be called speedily to the field.41 "Sir," he said to one man who protested against the inferiority of his company's armament, "your people had better write Mr. Lincoln and ask him to postpone this thing for a few months until you can get ready for him."42 A thousand muskets were procured from North Carolina and were sent to Jackson.43 New efforts were made to recover arms seized by individuals at Harpers Ferry, and the shops there were being operated, in accordance with Lee's plan, as long as he believed it could be done without subjecting the machinery to the risk of capture.44 Georgia was urged to lend Virginia any surplus arms she possessed, and was diplomatically asked not to look to the hard-pressed Old Dominion to furnish muskets to the Georgia troops sent to Virginia.45 The Confederate States Government received similar notice.46 The store of percussion muskets was exhausted by the end of May,47 but through economy, patience, and care in not issuing more than were immediately required by the men at any one mobilization centre, the supply of flintlocks held out. Every requisition from Virginia troops was met, and probably more than 10,000 muskets were issued to troops from other states. When the Virginia forces were to be taken over by the Confederate States, Lee's report was to show some 46,000 guns in the hands of the mustered volunteers.48 It is enough to note, for p498 comparison, that during 1861 the North was able to issue to its soldiers 1,276,686 firearms.49

As it was with infantry small arms, so it was with arms and equipment for cavalry. The militia included five regiments of cavalry, which had never been armed, and the volunteers on December 15, 1860, had numbered 50 troops, 24 of which had sabres and pistols, while 24 had only pistols.50 The state had such scanty cavalry stores that all had been issued by May 12.51 Attempts to procure additional arms from Georgia failed, and Lee could only advise that the men take their double-barrel shotguns with them, or privately purchase such weapons where available.52

The same story seemed in a fair way of being repeated with percussion caps and small-arms ammunition. The supply of caps was very limited. An agent sent North to purchase a cap machine prior to secession was barely able to return home, empty-handed and in disguise.53 Early attempts to procure caps in Kentucky and the West yielded little; schemes to construct machines for their manufacture could not be executed quickly; some were found in Norfolk and some were forwarded from Tennessee; but by the end of May all that could be scraped together had been issued to troops and none remained in storage.54 A later windfall of 1,000,000 from some undisclosed source of supply saved the day.55

As for powder, the state had only 50,000 pounds and some 226,000 ball cartridges on December 15, 1860.56 The increase of this scant stock was very much in mind when the capture of the Norfolk navy yard was undertaken.57 The seizure of 300,000 pounds in that city met immediate needs, though so little rifle powder was taken that cartridges had to be loaded with coarse cannon powder. Lee urged close economy in the use of ammunition, p499 and called on the post commanders to take the powder he forwarded to them, and to prepare their own cartridges.58

Of field artillery the twelve volunteer companies in Virginia had thirty pieces in December, 1860, including about a dozen new Parrott guns.59 The state had some 300 old light cannon in addition,60 but most of these were unmounted and lacked harness and equipment. The principal task of the ordnance bureau, therefore, was to provide gun carriages and caissons and then to distribute the ordnance to best advantage among the many companies and localities that were asking for it.61 By May 16 the few available gun carriages and caissons were dispatched, and a week later the last of the mounted guns and of the harness had been sent from Richmond.62 The manufacture of additional gun carriages could not be rapid. Horses were provided by the individual cavalrymen, but they had to be purchased for the artillery. This, too, was slow work, as was the manufacture of harness.63 However, by June 8 twenty light batteries of four guns were to be put in the field, with horses and harness,64 though some of the batteries had to use wagon bodies as caissons.65

Thanks to the great store at the Norfolk navy yard, the supply of heavy ordnance was ample. The only problem was that of transporting and mounting it. There was some difficulty in procuring type of carriage desired, and an alarming shortage of ammunition existed, but under the good management of the Virginia navy, 217 guns were soon mounted in 21 heavy batteries in Virginia and more than 300 heavy pieces were sent to the other Southern states.66 Little time, however, was available for tests and none for experimentation.67

p500 In all supplementary equipment, at the time the general calls for volunteers were made, Virginia was dismally lacking. No tentage,68 no knapsacks, no cartridge boxes, no flags were ready for issue. In the first brush with Federal gunboats, the battery at Sewell's Point, near Norfolk, had to fly the state colors of a Georgia company in the small garrison, as it possessed no others.69 To avoid the hopeless task of attempting to uniform 51,000 men, Virginia required that the volunteers supply their own clothing, for which an allowance of money was made.70 Frequently the women of the counties made the uniforms of the first volunteers, and enterprising officers often had the minor equipment for their commands prepared in the towns where they mustered.71

The need of a large supply of field transport was in Lee's mind from the first, for despite the mobility that the railroads made possible, he knew the armies must often operate at a distance from tracks.72 According to the standards adopted by the Federal army, each man required four pounds of transport and each animal twenty-five pounds. To support an army two marches from its base, 2000 wagons were required.73 Virginia never possessed anything like this quantity and was very slow to accumulate the little she ever had. As late as June, 1861, Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Magruder had to complain that his men were in danger of starvation for lack of transportation.74 In the preliminaries of the Manassas campaign the Confederate army was served largely by hired wagons and teams.75 Failure to provide adequate transportation was, perhaps, the worst shortcoming of Virginia's preparation, and it was to cost the South dearly. Lack of transportation was one of the chief reasons the Confederates did not pursue the Federals after the first victory at Manassas and it added greatly to the difficulties of Lee's first campaign.76

While Lee was working in these and other ways to prepare the p501 state forces for the field,77 the Confederacy was beginning to send Southern volunteer regiments into Virginia to dispute the expected Federal advance. The earliest order for the movement of these troops had been issued without the knowledge of Governor Letcher,78 and officers holding Confederate commissions had been sent to Lynchburg to prepare for their coming.79 When Lee's representative arrived in the same town to mobilize Virginia volunteers, there was immediate confusion, which it took much time to straighten out.80 After some of the Southern troops arrived in Richmond, Letcher directed a Louisiana regiment to report for duty at Harpers Ferry. The colonel of the regiment declined to obey Letcher's order on the ground that governor of Virginia had no control over him. Letcher, with equal assurance and with the approval of the advisory council, determined to exercise authority over all troops in Virginia until the Confederate States acted.81 Conflict was in the air, and the personal representative of the Secretary of War began to crowd the wire with suspicions of Lee and of Letcher, intimating that Lee was "troubled about rank." In a personal exchange of telegrams with the President, Lee explained that he was satisfied with his place in Virginia service. The muckraker was then silenced.82 Friction was definitely relieved on May 10 by an order from the War Department authorizing Lee to "assume control of the forces of the Confederate States in Virginia, and assign them to such duties as you may indicate, until further orders."83 Four days later Lee was made brigadier general in the regular army of the Confederacy, the highest rank then existing.84 He continued to discharge all the duties of his Virginia commission, however, for some weeks,85 and certain of the duties for a much longer time.

p502 Although Lee's new powers were temporarily sufficient for moving Confederate troops,86 they did not save him from the blunders of inexperience or from overzeal in the War Department. One of the worst instances of this was the action of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.President Davis in calling on John B. Floyd, former Secretary of War under Buchanan, to raise a brigade of "your mountain rifle-men with their own tried weapons." Floyd accepted the invitation instantly and set about recruiting in the face of the state's own call for men. He subsequently sent an agent South in search of arms, precisely as if he were organizing a separate army.87

Floyd's independent command was to have an unhappy influence on operations in western Virginia, concerning which Lee was beginning to be very apprehensive. For that part of the state lying in and beyond the Alleghanies was strategically important and open to the Federals. Its rivers flowed into the Ohio or into the major tributaries of that stream. A Federal force commanding the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad could move up the river valleys, whereas troops from eastern Virginia would have to cross the watersheds. Harpers Ferry was easily turned from western Virginia. United States troops operating from Grafton could advance southeastward and by a shorter march than that to Harpers Ferry could reach Staunton and the upper valley of the Shenandoah. In the larger strategy of a Southern war, railway communications in Kentucky and Tennessee might be interrupted by an armed force based on the westernmost counties of Virginia.

Sentiment was divided in this wide area, which was potentially a source of considerable man-power either for or against Virginia. Many of the settlers had come down from Pennsylvania, were of different racial stock from the people of the eastern part of the state, lacked their long tradition of states' rights, and were inimical to slavery. Their delegates in the convention, with few exceptions, had been Union men and had left Richmond after the ordinance of secession had been passed. Some of these delegates were now agitating for resistance to the state government. Side by side with these politicians and their supporters, especially in the agricultural counties, were groups of slave-holding planters whose interests p503 and views were substantially those of Tidewater and Midland Virginia.88

Which side was to control, and which army was to occupy this disputed section? Strategically, were the Federals to utilize the B. and O. for troop movements, so that Ohio and New York would march southward to the same drum-beat; or could Virginia hold that railroad and force the East and the West to fight separate campaigns? Would Virginia have to fight on the Rappahannock and the Shenandoah, or could she guard the Potomac and the Ohio? These were heavy questions; in their consequences perhaps the most portentous that arose in Virginia after secession had been determined upon. For it was the loss of military control in the western counties that made possible the separatist movement which dismembered the territory of the Old Dominion and definitely reduced her to a secondary place in a restored Union. Had her western counties been saved, Virginia would today be the twentieth state in area and in population the ninth.a

When Lee had first come to Richmond almost all the reports from western Virginia were favorable. Men of standing wrote that the volunteers were mustering, and that if they were supplied with arms promptly they believed they could keep the discontented element in hand.89 "We are full of the war spirit," one volunteer wrote from Kanawha County, "and are determined to do our duty in defence of the glorious old commonwealth."90 Finding that nothing had been done to secure western Virginia, except to warn the president of the B. and O. not to permit the Federals to use the line for military purposes,91 Lee proceeded to rally the doubtful counties before he issued the general call for volunteers. On April 29‑30 he designated officers to undertake the organization of troops at Wheeling, in the lower Kanawha Valley, and at Grafton.92 A few days later Colonel George A. Porterfield, a man of influence in that section, was dispatched to Grafton to take command, with authority to accept five regiments of volunteers. Grafton was strategically most important. Located 175 miles west of Harpers Ferry by rail, on the main line of the p504 B. & O., it was the junction for the line to Parkersburg and, in addition, was the logical base for an advance southeastward to the head of the Shenandoah Valley. Porterfield was told to co-operate with the officials of the B. & O., who were supposed to be sympathetic, and he was instructed not to interfere with the peaceable operation of the road.93

Optimism did not last long. By May 6 the bulk of the news from western Virginia became distinctly unfavorable. Jackson reported much disaffection in that section and urged that troops be sent there.94 Other information was to the same effect, especially from Grafton, where the people were said to be verging on a state of "actual rebellion" against the authority of Virginia, and were confidently expecting Federal support from Pennsylvania and Ohio.95 Lee was very much concerned at this, but aside from ordering arms hurried forward, he felt that he could do little. The dispatch of troops from eastern Virginia, in his opinion, would irritate rather than conciliate, and would be accepted as evidence of a purpose to influence the free action of the people in voting on the ratification of secession at the election about a fortnight thereafter. As for throwing troops into western Virginia from Harpers Ferry, he doubtless reasoned, quite apart from the safety of the machinery at the arsenal, that if that position were lost, the northwestern counties would certainly be, but that if Harpers Ferry were held, service on the B. & O. was under control and the northwest might perhaps be recovered.96 To this view he held in the face of strong appeals for a more aggressive policy, but he began to ponder the possibility of raising troops in the loyal border counties to stimulate the weak-hearted and to silence their disaffected neighbors to the westward.97 Much importance was attached to what might be accomplished by Colonel Porterfield, who reached Grafton on May 14.98

The date of Porterfield's arrival at Grafton was approximately that on which Lee took up in detail the final aspect of Virginia's defensive preparations, that, namely, of disposing the state's enlarged forces to meet the Federal offensive. With Norfolk and p505 Harpers Ferry reasonably well strengthened, he decided he must proceed to concentrate more troops at Manassas Junction,99 where a small force under General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.P. Saint George Cocke had been placed by Letcher before Lee took command. He did not believe that Alexandria and the nearby country would speedily be occupied by the Federals, and he was vindicated in this opinion. Despite endless rumors and many fears100 of a Federal advance, an informal truce had been agreed upon in front of Alexandria and, as late as May 13, was respected by both sides.101 On May 6, however, Lee had warned General Cocke to prepare for an attack directed from Alexandria,102 because both he and Cocke reasoned that the Federals would certainly attempt to turn Harpers Ferry by way of Manassas Junction. Such an advance would encounter no large streams, once the undefended Potomac was crossed. It could be made by at least two good roads through a country that presented no serious natural obstacles. And if it reached the line Chantilly-Centreville-Manassas Junction, distant only twenty miles from Washington and Alexandria, it would command the railways and the roads leading to Harpers Ferry and to Winchester. Simple seizure of the Manassas Gap Railroad, leading from Manassas Junction to Strasburg, not only would deprive the Confederate forces at Harpers Ferry of all direct railway connection with Richmond,103 but would similarly cut off the scant force that was trying to rally the states' rights men in northwestern Virginia. Once Harpers Ferry and the lower valley fell into the enemy's hands the only approach to Grafton would be by road over the mountains from Staunton. This will be apparent from the sketch on the following page.

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Lee did not believe that as good a soldier as General Scott would overlook such opportunities, military and political, as the p506 occupation of the Manassas Gap Railroad would offer. As quickly as he could, Lee now began to dispatch additional officers and men to General Cocke for use at Manassas Junction, the point where the Manassas Gap Railroad joined the Orange and Alexandria. In this effort Lee was vigorously seconded by Cocke, who represented the highest of Virginia traditions.104 An old West Point graduate, a rich planter of fine character, devoted to Virginia, General Cocke performed a service during the first months of the war for which he had never received just recognition.105

Every effort that Lee made to strengthen Virginia's hold on her exposed northern frontier was seconded with the greatest energy by Colonel Jackson at Harpers Ferry. While the machinery was being moved106 Jackson was collecting troops from the lower p507 Shenandoah Valley and was drilling them zealously. Reinforced by volunteers from Kentucky and Maryland and by units that Lee sent forward, he had raised his force to 4500 by May 11.107 Jackson saw a constant threat to Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights across the Potomac, and without waiting for orders he promptly occupied and fortified that position. Lee was perturbed lest Maryland should take offense at this invasion of her territory, and he cautioned Jackson against inviting an attack he was not strong enough to resist. The question was settled, tacitly, by entrusting the works on Maryland soil to volunteers from that state and to the Kentuckians, who had come to Harpers Ferry without orders and were a quasi-independent force. Jackson carefully omitted from his order-book all instructions for the seizure of the heights.108 Thanks to his diligence and military judgment, it became apparent that Harpers Ferry not only was measurably safe, as Lee had believed for some days, but that, in certain eventualities, the troops there might be utilized to meet an offensive directed against it by way of Manassas Junction.109

From the northern end of the line to the eastern Lee had to turn his attention at this stage of the military preparations, for there had been hints of friction between the army and the navy at Norfolk and some suggestions that the commanding officer, Brigadier General Walter Gwynn, was submerged in detail.110 To adjust these troubles, and to ascertain the condition of the defenses, Lee left Richmond on May 16, for the first time since he had arrived on April 22, and made a thorough inspection of Norfolk.111 He found the situation confused and unsatisfactory. Progress on the fortifications was slow.112 Hastening back to Richmond as soon as he was convinced that he had found the p508 trouble, he relieved General Gwynn, who had not seen regular military service since 1832. In his place Lee put Brigadier General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Benjamin Huger, a comrade of Mexican days and, as Lee wrote, "an officer of great merit."113 Under General Huger's direction, the construction and arming of the batteries went on with less delay.

On May 23 Lee had been in command one month, and that day the voters of Virginia went to the polls to pass on the ordnance of secession.114 It was conceded that they would ratify it overwhelmingly.115 And after that, every one believed, invasion would come quickly. Little was known of the mobilization of the United States and in detail that little was not accurate. It was apparent, however, that the greatly superior forces of the North could advance simultaneously from four directions — from the line of the Ohio into western Virginia, from Maryland into the Shenandoah Valley, from Washington to Manassas, and from Hampton Roads on Norfolk or on Richmond. Lee's preparations shows that he had all these possibilities in mind, though he perhaps did not believe the attack from the Ohio would materialize so quickly as it did.

Was Virginia ready for the shock? Along the tidal rivers raw earthworks broke the green landscape, and straining men were putting heavy guns in battery. At Norfolk confusion still reigned, though at the navy yard there was great activity. At Gloucester Point the defenders of the York felt secure, while across that beautiful stream sentinels paced the very parapets the British had thrown up at Yorktown in 1781. Between the York and the James, John Bankhead Magruder116 was busying himself in drawing a defensive line that had previously been decided upon. Jackson at Harpers Ferry and the commanders at Norfolk and p509 on the Manassas line saw their numbers increasing daily. In Richmond the crowds overflowed the once-quiet city of John Marshall.117 The departments were working furiously; the confines of the old fair grounds echoed all day to grounded arms and to sharp orders of command. South Carolinians and French-speaking Creoles from New Orleans swaggered past porches whence Virginia girls observed them with wide, admiring eyes. Munitions were being shipped hourly, cobblers were turning to the manufacture of harness, and feminine fingers were fashioning knapsacks. The state arsenal, expanded quickly, was preparing cartridges, and the mustered wheelwrights of the whole section were preparing gun carriages. Lee's own headquarters were busy, visited by returned officers eager to offer their services to Virginia, and besieged by an army of civilians seeking contracts.118 Everywhere in Virginia the boys were leaving home or else were chafing under regulations that forbade them to enlist until they were eighteen. Many of the younger married men and not a few in early middle life were volunteering also. New companies met periodically for drill and instruction till their ranks were filled and their orders were received to proceed to one of the rendezvous in the state. Then there would be a day of roses and tears, of farewells and cheers, and General Lee would be notified that another company was available for Manassas Junction or for Harpers Ferry. By the middle of May, preparation, excitement, and confidence were in the air, and from confusion order was gradually emerging. But as yet war was in the picturesque stage, when uniforms were new and hopes were high, when youth saw only the glamour and none of the misery of the conflict that was about to open.


The Author's Notes:

1 O. R., 51, part 2, pp24, 37; IV O. R., 1, 231, 272.

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2 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 164.

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3 O. R., 2, 927.

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4 Report of the adjutant general, IV O. R., 1, 382 ff.; O. R., 2, 940. The figures 143,000, in the adjutant general's report, include 12,000 volunteers.

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5 Ordinances Adopted in Secret Session, pp7‑8, 9‑11.

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6 Ordinances Adopted in Secret Session, pp11‑12.

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7 Ordinances Adopted in Secret Session, 19; Taylor's Four Years, 11; Taylor's General Lee, 22‑23, Richmond Enquirer, May 10, 1861, p3, col. 7; O. R., 2, 797. On June 29, 1861, after the Virginia troops had been incorporated in the Confederate States army, the War Department refused to accept any more men unless for three years or the war, IV O. R., 1, 411‑12, but in the crisis just before the first battle of Manassas, President Davis set this ruling aside (O. R., 51, part 2, p177).

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8 Richmond Enquirer, May 10, 1861, p3, col. 7; O. R., 2, 797, 798‑99, 801, 802, 803, 806, 807, 808, 813, and 823. Besides the towns mentioned, Lynchburg, Staunton, and Abingdon were named as mobilization centres. For the Eastern Shore, see O. R., 51, part 2, pp117, 162. For western Virginia, see infra, pp502‑3.

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9 III O. R., 1, 146.

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10 Cf. Lee to P. St. George Cocke; O. R., 2, 813.

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11 O. R., 51, part 2, pp88‑89. For a good case of ingenious recruiting, see Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Angus W. McDonald to L. P. Walker, O. R., 2, 952‑53.

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12 O. R., 2, 810.

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13 John Tyler to Mrs. Gardiner, 2 Letters and Times of the Tylers, 644.

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14 Jones, 484.

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15 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 159.

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16 Its remaining officers were discharged as of Sept. 1, 1861; Richmond Examiner, Aug. 31, 1861; p2, col. 5.

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17 Virginia provided that where volunteers did not equal 10 per cent of the total population of a county, the residue had to be supplied by the militia; O. R., 5, 817, 888. In several emergencies later in the year when sufficient volunteers were not at hand, the militia were called out en masse, though in at least one instance this aroused some local resentment (O. R., 2, 859; O. R., 51, part 2, 145, 158‑59, 172, 180).

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18 O. R., 51, part 2, pp21‑22; F. H. Smith: Virginia Military Institute, 179, 181. For the later history of Camp Lee, located at the fair grounds on the present site of the Broad Street Terminal, see 26 S. H. S. P., 241‑45. By June 2 every disposable drillmaster in the state was on duty (Garnett to Cocke, June 2, 1861; Cocke MSS.). For the artillery camp at Richmond College, see F. S. Daniel: Richmond Howitzers in the War, 12‑14.

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19 For descriptions of Lee's appearance at Camp Lee, see Miss Brock, 50; Mrs. Chesnut, 72.

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20 Miss Brock, 29, 33, 35, 36.

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21 O. R., 2, 781, 829, 851‑52.

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22 O. R., 51, part 2, p56. See infra, p501.

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23 O. R., 2, 895; infra, p522.

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24 O. R., 51, part 2, p123.

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25 IV O. R., 1, 240‑41, 405‑6; O. R., 51, part 2, pp37, 163; Richmond Enquirer, May 3, 1861, p3, col. 7, May 7, p3, col. 6, May 14, p3, col. 6; MS. Executive Papers of Va., E. C. Marshall to John Letcher, May 8, 1861; O. R., 2, 831, 858, 866, 937; Doc. XXVI, Va. Convention of 1861, p7; Ordinances Adopted in Secret Session, 53‑54, 55‑56.

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26 D. H. Wood to Colonel Dodamead, July 8, 1861; MS. Ga‑ga‑1‑37, Confederate Museum, Richmond, Va.

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27 Lee's Report, O. R., 2, 928.

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28 Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1861, pp27, 28, 35.

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29 O. R., 2, 928. For the adjutant general's figures, see ibid., 940. The adjutant general must have counted volunteer companies that did not enlist or were disbanded, together with all arms in the hands of western Virginia companies who refused to acquiesce in secession.

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30 Adjutant general's report, IV O. R., 1, 382 ff. It is impossible to be precise as to the number of small arms. There were 62,190 as of Oct. 1, 1860, to which number 5000 were subsequently added by purchase, but some of these 67,190 were doubtless issued early in 1861 to certain of the 5000 volunteers who had arms when mustered in.

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31 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 182‑83.

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32 Ordinances Adopted in Secret Session, 27.

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33 Cocke MSS.; O. R., 2, 26‑27.

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34 O. R., 2, 854.

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35 O. R., 2, 847.

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36 O. R., 2, 832‑33, 836.

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37 O. R., 51, part 2, p111.

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38 O. R., 2, 52.

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39 O. R., 2, 922.

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40 E.g., O. R., 2, 788, 794.

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41 O. R., 2, 835, 858. "Altered" muskets were flint-lock weapons changed to use percussion caps.

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42 J. Ryland in Alfred Bagby: King and Queen County, Virginia, 225.

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43 O. R., 2, 822.

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44 O. R., 2, 806, 814‑15, 825.

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45 IV O. R., I, 356; Candler: Confederate Records of Georgia, 3, 89‑90.

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46 O. R., 2, 877.

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47 Endorsement of R. S. Garnett on requisition of P. St. George Cocke, May 31, 1861; Cocke MSS.

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48 O. R., 2, 928; 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 164‑65; cf. IV O. R., 1, 354.

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49 R. M Johnston: Bull Run, Its Strategy and Tactics (cited hereafter as Johnston's Bull Run), 7.

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50 Adjutant general's report, IV O. R., 1, 382 ff.

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51 Lee to J. A. Early, O. R., 2, 835. Cf. Lee to T. J. Jackson, ibid., 836.

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52 O. R., 2, 851‑52, 905; IV O. R., 1, 356. For examples of the manner in which cavalry equipment was improvised, see Early in O. R., 2, 912, and O. R., 51, part 2, p111.

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53 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 164.

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54 O. R., 51, part 2, pp41, 48, 53; O. R., 2, 809, 894; 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 128.

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55 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 165.

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56 Adjutant general's report, IV O. R., 1, 382 ff.

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57 O. R., 51, part 2, p19.

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58 See supra, p483 and O. R., 2, 804, 836, 881, 891, 943; O. R., 51, part 2, p88; 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 136, 166; IV O. R., 1, 314; Cocke MSS., April 30, 1861.

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59 Adjutant general's report, IV O. R., 1, 382 ff.; F. H. Smith: Virginia Military Institute, 173.

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60 Adjutant general's report, loc. cit.

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61 Cf. O. R., 51, part 2, pp49, 58‑59; Daniel Ruggles to P. St. George Cocke, May 16, 1861, Cocke MSS.

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62 O. R., 2, 873; O. R., 51, part 2, pp92, 102.

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63 Cf. J. B. Magruder to R. E. Lee, April 29, 1861; O. R., 2, 789‑90.

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64 Lee report, O. R., 2, 928.

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65 O. R., 2, 100.

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66 These figures are of July 18, 1861; II N. O. R., 2, 77; cf. O. R., 51, part 2, pp45‑46, 49, 71; O. R., 2, 876, 898, 1008‑9; N. O. R., 5, 806; 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 128.

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67 B. H. Wise; Henry A. Wise, 65, 316‑17.

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68 O. R., 2, 839; cf. H. Heth to P. St. George Cocke, May 28, 1861; Cocke MSS.

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69 O. R., 2, 34.

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70 O. R., 51, part 2, p100.

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71 E.g., W. H. Fry to P. St. George Cocke, June 4, 1861; Cocke MSS. For the specifications for officers' uniforms, see IV O. R., 1, 369.

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72 O. R., 2, 784.

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73 Johnston's Bull Run, 9.

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74 O. R., 2, 914; cf. Magruder's G. O. no. 25, Par. 5, June 20, 1861; O. R., 51, part 2, p144.

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75 MS. H‑15‑1, Confederate Museum.

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76 Cf. J. E. Johnston to S. Cooper, July 28, 1861; O. R., 2, 1105; O. R., 5, 768; O. R., 51, part 2, pp203‑4; cf. ibid., 196; IV O. R., 1, 885.

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77 For the efforts to procure medical supplies, see O. R., 51, part 2, pp55‑61.

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78 IV O. R., 1, 231, 232, 272.

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79 O. R., 2, 792.

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80 O. R., 51, part 2, pp56, 73, 82; O. R., 2, 798; Lee to Cocke, May 7, 1861; Cocke MSS.

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81 O. R., 2, 813; O. R., 51, part 2, p72.

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82 O. R., 51, part 2, pp66‑69.

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83 O. R., 2, 827; Richmond Enquirer, May 14, 1861, p3, col. 6.

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84 M. J. Wright: General Officers of the Confederate Army, 46‑47.

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85 He used a printed letterhead "Headquarters of the Virginia Forces"; Cocke MSS.; cf. Lee to Colonel A. Beckley, Aug. 8, Aug. 24, 1861; Taylor MSS.; T. T. Fauntleroy to Lee, Aug. 17, 1861; O. R., 51, part 2, p239; O. R., 5, 807; Richmond Examiner, Aug. 31, 1861, p2, col. 5.

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86 Cf. Lee to E. K. Smith, May 14, 1861; O. R., 2, 840; May 21, 1861, ibid., 860.

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87 O. R., 2, 838; IV O. R., 1, 374; O. R., 51, part 2, pp152‑53, 167.

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88 Cf. John Letcher to Geo. W. Summers, May 10, 1861; 1 S. H. S. P., 457‑58.

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89 O. R., 51, part 2, pp23, 25, 29, 31.

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90 T. L. Broun to Annie Broun, April 24, 1861; MS. B‑18‑11, Confederate Museum.

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91 Letcher to J. W. Garrett, April 21, 1861; O. R., 51, part 2, p21.

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92 O. R., 2, 788, 790‑91; cf. Lee to J. M. Mason, May 21, 1861; O. R., 2, 860.

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93 O. R., 2, 802‑3.

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94 O. R., 2, 807, 810, 833.

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95 O. R., 2, 827; O. R., 51, part 2, 75.

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96 Cf. O. R., 2, 827, 830, 840.

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97 Inferred from Lee to F. M. Boykin, May 13, 1861; O. R., 2, 837‑38.

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98 O. R., 2, 843, 848, 849.

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99 Lee to P. St. George Cocke, May 15, 1861; O. R., 2, 845.º

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100 Cf. O. R., 2, 776, 777, 778, 779, 785, 795, 796, 806; Lee to Cocke, April 29, 1861; Garnett to Cocke, May 3, 1861; Cocke MSS.; O. R., 51, part 2, pp50, 66.

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101 O. R., 2, 842‑43; cf. O. R., 51, part 2, p54.

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102 O. R., 2, 806.

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103 There is, unfortunately, no adequate large-scale contemporary map for all this part of Virginia. Perhaps the best is that on Plates CXXXVI, CXXXVII, and CXLII in the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (cited hereafter as O. R. Atlas), but for the relative importance of the roads, this has to be supplemented by ibid., Plates V and XXVII. It should be remembered in all studies of these operations (1) that the road via Leesburg was too much exposed in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry to be a safe line of advance, and (2) that the existing (1934) railroad from Winchester to Staunton and Lexington had not then been constructed.

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104 O. R., 2, 806, 817, 819, 821, 824, 828, 831‑32, 841, 842, 845, 860; O. R., 51, part 2, p78, 79, 82; Lee to Cocke, May 9, 10, 1861; Garnett to Cocke, May 3, 1861; J. A. Early to Cocke, May 25, June 7, 1861; Cocke MSS. Cocke's first headquarters were at Culpeper Courthouse. Troops were sent there, drilled, and then sent to Manassas. Cf. J. A. Washington to Cocke, May 12, 1861; Cocke MSS.

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105 General Cocke had been named on the staff of Governor Wise on Dec. 2, 1859; and on April 21, 1861, had been made commanding officer on the line of the Potomac. Cocke MSS.; O. R., 51, part 2, p21. Cf. C. A. Evans, editor: Confederate Military History (cited hereafter as C. M. H.), 3, 587.

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106 All the machinery and stores at Harpers Ferry, except some seasoned gun stocks, were safely removed before the place was evacuated. For the details and the subsequent (p507)disposal of the machinery, see O. R., 2, 785‑86; O. R., 51, part 2, pp34, 53, 98, 99‑100, 134, 155; IV O. R., 1, 358, 379, 468 ff., 476, 491; Doc. XL, Virginia Convention of 1861, p129 ff.; 11 Calendar Virginia State Papers, 151, 181‑82.

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107 O. R., 2, 832‑33. For the later arrival of troops from Georgia and of more volunteers from Kentucky, see O. R., 51, part 2, pp135, 137.

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108 Jackson's MS. Order-Book, Confederate Museum; O. R., 2, 32, 793‑94, 797, 806‑7, 809, 810, 814, 822, 824, 825, 826, 832‑33, 836, 840, 849, 856; O. R., 51, part 2, pp66, 71‑72, 78, 79, 86, 91, 92.

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109 See infra, p536.

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110 O. R., 2, 808‑9; O. R., 51, part 2, p64.

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111 Lee to Mrs. Lee, May 16, 1861; R. E. Lee, Jr., 31; Jones, 169; O. R., 51, part 2, pp92, 96.

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112 On the afternoon of May 18 the Federal steamer Monticello bombarded the unfinished works at Sewell's Point. No guns were in position to answer this fire, nor were any placed until the next afternoon. O. R., 2, 33; O. R., 51, part 2, p95.

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113 O. R., 51, part 2, pp 102, 106; O. R., 2, 867.

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114 For Lee's G. O. 17, directing how the vote of the soldiers should be taken, see Richmond Whig, May 18, 1861, p3, col. 3.

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115 The provision for a referendum is in Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia of 1861, pp24‑25. The geographical distribution of the vote in the election is analyzed in H. T. Shanks: The Secession Movement in Virginia, 1847‑1861, p204 ff. The poll, as estimated by Governor Letcher, was: For ratification of the ordinance of secession, 125,950; against ratification, 20,373. (IIº Calendar Virginia State Papers, 155.)

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116 Magruder had first been assigned to command the artillery around Richmond, O. R., 51, part 2, p53, and then had served for a short time in general command of all Virginia forces in and around the capital city. Richmond Enquirer, May 10, 1861, p3, col. 7.

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117 De Leon, 86‑87.

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118 Hood, 17.


Thayer's Note:

a Virginia would today be the twentieth state in area and in population the ninth: when Freeman was writing, of course, in 1934. In 2000 (official U. S. Census Figures: PDF document), she would have been twenty-first in area, but still ninth in population.


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