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1st Battle of Bull Run (Manassas)
New York Times
Why the Union Troops were not followed

Why the Union Troops were not Followed up by the Rebels - Letter from Gen. Beauregard

New Orleans, March 7, 1876

Dear Sir:

          I avail myself of the first opportune moment to answer your letter of the 17th ult. inquiring of me, as in command at the time, why the pursuit of the Federals immediately after their rout at the battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861, was suddenly checked and the Confederate troops recalled toward Manassas. I will first state that, though with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's consent I exercised the command during the battle, at its close, after I had ordered all the troops on the field in pursuit, I went personally to the Lewis House and relinquished that command to him. I then started at a gallop to take immediate charge of the pursuit on the Centreville turnpike, but was soon overtaken by a courier from Manassas, with a note addressed to me by Col. T. G. Rhett, of Gen. Johnston's staff, who had been left there in the morning to forward that General's troops as they might arrive by rail from Winchester. Col. Rhett thereby informed that a strong body of Federal troops had crossed the Bull Run at Union Mills Ford, on our right, and was advancing on Manassas, our depot of supplies, which had been necessarily left very weakly guarded. I hurried back to the Lewis House to communicate this important dispatch to Gen. Johnston, and both of us believing the information to be authentic, I undertook to repair to the threatened quarter with Ewell's and Holmes' brigades, at that moment near the Lewis House, where they had just arrived, too late to take part in the action. With these troops I engaged to attack the enemy vigorously before he could effect a lodgment on our side of Bull Run, but asked to be reinforced as soon as practicable by such troops as might be spared from the Centreville pursuit.

          Having reached the near vicinity of Union Mills Ford without meeting any enemy, I ascertained to my surprise that the reported hostile passage was a false alarm growing out of some movements of our own troops, (a part of Gen. D. R. Jones' brigade,) who had been thrown across the run in the morning, pursuant to my offensive plan of operations for the day, and upon their return now to the south bank of the run were mistaken, through their similarity of uniform, for the Federals. I returned to intercept the march of the two brigades who were following me toward Union Mills, and as it was quite dark when I met them, and they were greatly jaded by their long march and countermarch during that hot July day, I directed them to halt and bivouac where they were. Hearing that President Davis and Gen. Johnston had gone to Manassas, I returned and found them, between 9:30 and 10 o'clock, at my head-quarters.

          This will explain to you why the partial 'retrogade movement' to which you refer was made, and why no sustained vigorous pursuit of McDowell's Army was made that evening. Any pursuit of the Federals next day, toward their rallying point at and around the Long Bridge over the Potomac, could have led to no possible military advantage, protected as that position was by a system of field-works. No movement upon Washington by that route could have been possible, for, even if there had been no such works, the bridge - a mile in length - was commanded by Federal ships of war and a few pieces of artillery or the destruction of a small part of the bridge could have made its passage impracticable.

          Our only proper operation was to pass the Potomac above into Maryland, at or about Edward's Ferry, and march upon the rear of Washington. With the hope of undertaking such a movement, I had caused a reconnoissance of the country and shore (south of the Potomac) in that quarter to be made in the month of June, but the necessary transportation, even for the ammunition essential to such a movement, had not been provided for my forces, notwithstanding my application fot it during more than a month beforehand, nor was there twenty-four hours food at Manassas for the troops brought together for that battle.

G. T. Beauregard

Hon. John C. Ferriss, Nashville, Tenn.

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