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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 2, Part 1 (First Manassas Campaign)


HARPER'S FERRY, VA., May 28, 1861.

Consultation on the condition of Harper's Ferry and its defenses reduced to writing.

The plan of the enemy, indicated by his movements, seems to be a cautious approach to, and entrance of, disaffected district, securing his advance, if possible, by securing the sentiments of the people. In the district to the northwest of Harper's Ferry these tactics will be the best he can follow, on account of known Union proclivities and the vicinity of the frontier.

Large bodies of troops are gathering at Carlisle and Chambersburg, the number already reported (probably exaggerated) being fifteen thousand. When ready to move they will occupy Martinsburg, crossing at Williamsport and Shepherdstown. Martinsburg is well known to be disaffected. His line, established from Martinsburg towards Shepherdstown, has an excellent base, and communications very difficult to interrupt by the Hagerstown and Cumberland roads, and very seriously threatens, not only Harper's Ferry, with its present forces and conditions, but our whole line of operations. Martinsburg is nearer to Winchester than the Ferry, and access easy. Our holding Winchester is necessary to maintain the Ferry. To hold this post, then, either as a fortress, a point d'appui, or as a condition of the defense of the Virginia Valley, we require a force of from twelve to fifteen thousand men, of which two regiments should be cavalry. The force now at the Ferry (about five thousand effectives) might remain as at present, while the main body should be posted centrally, as at Burns' Ford, on the Opequan, where a strong position might be selected, and, if necessary, defended by lines. The strengthening and re-enforcement of this force, as now constituted, seems to have ceased when most necessary. It is essential that supplies of ammunition (especially of equipments of shoes) should be forwarded in quantity, otherwise, without the arrangement designated, we are so deficient in ammunition that this force must, on the advance of the enemy, move out from the Ferry and maneuver, to prevent being shut up in a cul-de-sac.

The plan sketched above will absolutely force the enemy to very great delay and vastly extended preparations. It continually (by way of Leesburg and the eastern slope of the ridge) threatens the District of Columbia. If, however, he is beforehand with us (besides the present disastrous results), he gains what may take time, means, and men, on a similar scale, to recover.

Very respectfully,


Major of Engineers.

RICHMOND, VA., May 28, 1861.


President Confederate States of America, Goldsborough N. C.:

General Lee left for Manassas Junction this morning. Passengers just from there report all quiet. Fifteen hundred men from Fort Monroe were reported in Hampton yesterday, not molesting the people, but stealing property, &c. Ruggles, at Fredericksburg, reports that the enemy, in force, have landed six miles above Aquia. This is doubted,

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 2, Part 1 (First Manassas Campaign)
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