Cooper had been nominated to the same grade and confirmed a few weeks previously. The nominations of myself and R. E. Lee were confirmed by Congress promptly. Each of the three had resigned his commission in the U. S. Army in accordance with the terms of the law. The other two had resigned colonelcies, but the commission which I had resigned was that of a brigadier-general. It is plain, then, that under these laws I was the officer first in rank in the Confederate Army. Two or three days after, on the 16th of May, Congress, by the second section of its act of that date, enacted-
That the five general officers provided by existing laws for the confederate States shall have the rank and denomination of "general" instead of "brigadier-general," which shall be the highest military grade known to the Confederate States. They shall be assigned to such commands and duties as the President may specially direct, and shall be entitled to the same pay, &c.
I conceive, and I submit it to the careful consideration of the Government, that this section of the act last cited operated in two ways. First. It abolished the grade of brigadier-general in the Confederate Army. Second. It at once by the mere force of the law raised the three officers already named to the rank and denomination of "general" in the Army of the Confederate States. The right, therefore, which I claim to my rank is founded on this act. Congress by its act, the President by his approval of it, at once made us generals. It is clear that such was likewise the construction of both branches of the Government. Else why were not nominations made then? It was a time of flagrant war. Either we were generals, or the Army and the country were left without such officers. Our former grade had been abolished. We were not brigadier-generals. If not generals, we were nothing, and could perform no military duties, exercise no command. I think it clear that I was a general by the plain terms of the law. It is plain from the action of the President and Congress that such was their construction, as I was at once ordered to Harper's Ferry to take the command in the Valley of Virginia, and the President soon after placed three brigadier-generals under my orders. I remained two months in the Valley, to earnestly engaged in the public service to busy myself with my own personal interests. But when the emergencies of the campaign required me to march to Manassas, and to act with another general, I appreciated a telegraphic dispatch to the President on the 20th of July, inquiring in the simplest and most direct terms what my rank was. He replied that I was a general. * The battle of Manassas Plains ensued on the next day. The President came in person to participate in it, but reached the scene of action soon after the close of the struggle. The morning after the battle he announced his purpose to elevate General Beauregard to the rank of general. He returned to Richmond on the ensuing day. The nomination was made immediately on his return, and was promptly confirmed by Congress. General Beauregard then became a general, and ranked me unless I was such by virtue of the act of Congress on the 16th of May already referred to. Yet from the time of General Beauregard's appointment to the day of the renewed nomination I continued to act as the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac under the authority of the President and of the Department of War. Thus it appears that I have the sanction of the President to my claim of rank under the
*See Series I, VOL. II, p. 985.