Exalting Yourself at My Expense

Confederate officials reorganized the army forces in northern Virginia to better fit the military situation. A new Department of Northern Virginia was created, to be commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston. It consisted of three military districts:

  • The District of the Aquia (formerly the Department of Fredericksburg), which extended from Fredericksburg to the southern end of the Potomac River. It was led by Brigadier General Theophilus H. Holmes.
  • The District of the Potomac, which embraced the area around Washington, Centreville, Bull Run, and Manassas Junction. It was led by General P.G.T. Beauregard.
  • The District of the Shenandoah, which consisted of the area between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies. It was led by Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

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.

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

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

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…”

This was the second major dispute between Davis and his generals in two months; he had exchanged angry letters with Johnston in September about rank. Davis began gathering evidence to show that he had in no way impeded the Confederate war effort. The growing rift between Davis and his generals continued into November.


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