Railroad, and force you either to fight in open field with greatly inferior numbers or to retire towards Fredericksburg by way of Brentsville, to join forces with General Holmes, or to withdraw from the entrenched camp and retire by the Alexandria and Orange Railroad before the enemy could reach it.
Under these circumstances I stated you would propose, and did propose, that General Johnston should, with the bulk of his forces, say twenty thousand, unite with you, leaving from three to five thousand men to guard the passes of the Blue Ridge and to hold Patterson in check. Then, with the combined forces of General Johnston and yourself between the two lines of the enemy, attack them separately with larger masses, and thus exterminate them or drive them into the Potomac. This being done, General Johnston, with ten thousand of your forces in addition to his own, and rallying as he went those left to guard the passes, would return at once with superior numbers, say thirty-five thousand, to attack and destroy Patterson at Winchester or wherever he might be. One week from the time of leaving Winchester would be sufficient to accomplish all this. You wound then either occupy the enemy's works in front of Washington if he should abandon them, or fall back on your present positions, according to circumstances. General Johnston, having disposed of Patterson, would detach a sufficient number from his force to re-enforce Garnett and make him superior to General McClellan. Having defeated McClellan, General Garnett could then unite with Johnston, and the two cross the Potomac at the nearest point for Maryland, and, arousing the people as they proceeded, march to the of Washington, while you would attack it in front.
To these propositions respectful and earnest consideration was given by the President and the generals I have mentioned. The scheme was considered brilliant and comprehensive, but to its adoption at this time two leading objection were urged by the President and by General Lee. One was that General Johnston's force was not now sufficiently strong to allow of the withdrawal of numbers sufficient to effect your object, and at the same time leave enough to keep Patterson in check and keep him from coming down upon your left. And the other cover to allow the reasonable expectation of the accomplishment of your object; that they would immediately fall back upon their entrenchments, or, being so close to their large reserves, would be quickly re-enforced in numbers sufficient to regain the superiority of numbers, and thus defeat your purpose; that the combination might be made at a later period, when the objection would be removed by a sufficient increase of your armies and by the lengthening of the enemy's lines and increase of distance from cover and reserves for quick re-enforcement.
JAMES CHESNUT, JR.
RICHMOND, VA., August 4, 1861.
General G. T. BEAUREGARD:
MY DEAD SIR: Inclosed I transmit copies of a resolution of inquiry and the reply to it.* You will perceive that the answer was made in view of the telegram which I inclose to you, that being the only information then before me. Since that time it has been communicated to
* Not found.