Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/347

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General Joseph E. Johnston.


him. His soldierly sense informed him that Winchester was the strategic point for every purpose. There the practicable roads from west and northwest, as well as from Manassas, meet the route from Pennsylvania and Maryland. Thither, on the 15th of June, he moved his meagre force from the funnel of Harper's Ferry. On the next day Patterson crossed the Potomac. The skill with which, one month later, he eluded Patterson's army of more than thirty thousand, and hurled his own from the mountains upon McDowell, was the master-stroke of Manassas Johnston's rear column, under Kirby Smith, coming upon the field, just as Barnard Bee was falling, and Jackson's Stonewall the last Gibraltar. Just when the South Caro- lina Brigade was hardest pressed, an aide or courier of Bee, meeting Johnston, asked, '* Where are your Virginians?" " In the thickest of the fight," was the Spartan answer. It was a victory won by an army which itself barely grazed defeat, and one, therefore, difficult to pursue. But in this cursory glance one thing cannot be omitted the full credit which Johnston everywhere gives Beauregard.

The bold design submitted by the military officers, in a council of war, at Manassas in September, 1861, to concentrate at that point the strength of the Confederacy, even at the cost of leaving bare of de- fense points more remote, so that there might be taken an aggressive which would be decisive, is a matter of history. It is expressive of a brave but well balanced judgment, heedful and comprehensive, which sought to exchange risk where victory was not vital for where it was. It is true weighty reasons were given for overruling it. An army of sixty thousand soldiers was the force deemed essential to such a movement. Troops to increase the army to this number could only be furnished by taking them from other positions then threatened. This seemed to the Executive unreasonable. New troops could not be furnished because there were no arms save those which were borne by the troops then in the field. Arms were ex- pected from abroad, but had not come, and the manufacture was still undeveloped. By this council of war, a light is thrown on the mili- tary conditions, which, for succeeding months, were defensive only. In the penury of men and arms thereby revealed excessive forward- ness was not obligatory. But the defensive was one which, whenever assaulted, as at Leesburg, displayed an undismayed and impenetrable front.

At the close of the winter and opening of the spring of 1862, the time had come for Johnston to embrace in his vision and preparation,