Confederate Tensions Rise in Northern Virginia

October 30, 1861 – Confederate officials reorganized the army forces in northern Virginia while President Jefferson Davis took issue with General P.G.T. Beauregard.

Pres. Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit:
Pres. Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit:

To better manage affairs, a new Confederate Department of Northern Virginia was created, to be commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston. It consisted of the Districts of the Aquia led by Brigadier General Theophilus H. Holmes (formerly the Department of Fredericksburg, consisting of the southern end of the Potomac River), the Potomac led by Beauregard (consisting of the area around Washington), and the Shenandoah Valley led by Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (consisting of the area between the Blue Ridge and the Allghenies).

Johnston’s army continued to be called the Army of the Potomac, not to be confused with the Federal army of the same name. Johnston’s department headquarters were at Manassas Junction.

But the new reorganization did little to cut the tension between Davis and his generals, particularly Beauregard. This tension had intensified when Davis rejected his plan to invade the North in early October. This rejection infuriated Beauregard, whom Davis tried to mollify by him by assuring that “My sole wish is to secure the independence, and peace of the Confederacy.”

Davis’s efforts ended in late October when Beauregard submitted his official report on the Battle of Manassas (i.e., Bull Run). Before Davis could read this report, excerpts had been submitted to the press that seemed to credit Beauregard for hurrying Johnston’s reinforcements to the field. They implied that Davis had delayed sending Johnston to help Beauregard, and they mentioned Davis’s rejection of Beauregard’s initial plan for an offensive without clarifying that the rejection came before the battle, not after. Davis wrote a heated letter to Beauregard:

“Yesterday my attention was called to various newspaper publications purporting to have been sent from Manassas, and to be a synopsis of your report of the battle of the 21st of July last, and in which it is represented that you have been overruled by me in your plan for a battle with the enemy south of the Potomac, for the capture of Baltimore and Washington, and the liberation of Maryland. I inquired for your long-expected report, and it has been to-day submitted to my inspection…

“With much surprise I found that the newspaper statements were sustained by the text of your report. I was surprised, because, if we did differ in opinion as to the measure and purposes of contemplated campaigns, such fact could have no appropriate place in the report of a battle; further, because it seemed to be an attempt to exalt yourself at my expense; and, especially, because no such plan as that described was submitted to me…”

The growing rift between Davis and his generals continued into November.



Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 38; (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 6421-33; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 75, 77; Lindsey, David, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 598; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 128-30, 132-33; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 366-67; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 287, 538, 776

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