Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Inaction at Leesburg

"The enemy appears to be aiming at Leesburg," Brigadier General G.T. Beauregard informed Jefferson Davis June 22. "I have sent another regiment there. Cannot Calhoun's battery, at Charleston, with the horses, be ordered there forthwith?"

Though the battery he had referenced was designated for Joe Johnston's command, Beauregard wasn't quite up to his old tricks of expanding his army at the expense of another commander. With the Union occupying a position between Vienna and Ball's Cross-Roads (Ballston) ever since the mistake at Vienna (though on the same day the commander of that force, Daniel Tyler, was strenuously arguing with Irvin McDowell about holding the position) and with Johnston falling back from Harper's Ferry, Beauregard needed to keep the two Union armies from uniting to crush the Confederate force at Manassas Junction.

Keeping the Virginia bank of the Potomac River at Leesburg would make such a union more difficult and would at least give Beauregard more advanced warning. That's why he had sent the 4th South Carolina Regiment under Colonel J.E.B. Sloan to reinforce Eppa Hunton's 8th Virginia. But after the fine work of the West Point Battery of the previous day, Beauregard needed some artillery of his own to feel secure.

And it wasn't for lack of suggesting that Colonel Charles P. Stone's men remained on the Maryland side of the Potomac. Since the Rockville Expedition had begun almost two weeks before, only Robert Patterson's failure to move his army to Harper's Ferry had obsessed Stone more than the missed opportunity to seize Leesburg.

"I deem it very important that that country be occupied, so as to save the crops of the many loyal citizens there, and prevent the enemy seizing them and gaining advantage of the supplies," Stone reported to Colonel Townsend. But Stone regrettably did "not feel at liberty until some communication comes from General Patterson, showing his disposition and those of the enemy."

But Stone wasn't just encountering problems with other peoples' armies, he was having trouble with his own men. The day before he had given orders for the 2nd Battalion of District of Columbia militia to be returned to the city from Seneca Mills and disbanded. Stone doesn't specify what exactly troubled the men, only that they had "forgotten themselves so far as to request that the battalion be relieved of duty." The 2nd Battalion hadn't seen any of the action that the units further up river had seen, and they hadn't had the comforts of the 8th Battalion at Tenleytown. The greatest complaint of every soldier was boredom and the militia was not supposed to be activated more than 30 days anyway.

But on June 22, he rescinded the order. He explained: "Later in the day, such urgent appeals were made were made to me by all the officers of the battalion, that I consented to suspend the order directing its return." But it didn't stop him for asking for "a small regiment or large battalion" to replace it, so he would have enough troops to move on Leesburg - with Patterson's help.

And he had one more need before he could take Leesburg: "I respectfully renew my application for more field pieces or mountain howitzers."

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