Within Hearing of the Enemy’s Guns

The feud between Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General P.G.T. Beauregard, which had begun in October, continued into this month. When Beauregard submitted his official report on the Battle of Bull Run, Davis had written to him expressing annoyance that Beauregard had allegedly glorified his role in the battle at Davis’s expense. Beauregard published his response in the Richmond Whig under the headline “Centreville, Virginia, –within hearing of the Enemy’s guns.”

Beauregard stated that “my attention has been called to the unfortunate controversy” between he and the president. The general continued: “If certain minds cannot understand the difference between patriotism, the highest civic virtue, and office seeking, the lowest civic occupation, I pity them from the bottom of my heart.” Beauregard made it clear that once the Confederacy had secured its independence, he would not seek public office and would hopefully retire in peace.

Meanwhile, Davis was still looking to refute Beauregard’s claim that Davis had impeded the Confederate army’s intended move on Washington after Bull Run. The president wrote Beauregard’s superior, General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Department of Northern Virginia:

“Reports have been, and are being, widely circulated to the effect that I prevented General Beauregard from pursuing the enemy after the battle of Manassas, and had subsequently restrained him from advancing upon Washington City. Though such statements may have been made merely for my injury, and in that view might be postponed to a more convenient season, they have acquired importance from the fact that they have served to create distrust, to excite disappointment, and must embarrass the Administration in its further efforts to reenforce the armies of the Potomac, and generally to provide for the public defense.

“For these public considerations, I call upon you, as the commanding general, and as a party to all the conferences held by me on the 21st and 22nd of July, to say whether I obstructed the pursuit of the enemy after the victory at Manassas, or have ever objected to an advance or other active operation which it was feasible for the army to undertake.”

While waiting for Johnston to respond, Davis also sought advice on military strategy from Generals Robert E. Lee and Samuel Cooper. Davis, a graduate of West Point and former U.S. secretary of war, resented growing charges of military incompetence from fellow Confederates. Johnston responded a week later:

“To the first question I reply, No. The pursuit was ‘obstructed’ by the enemy’s troops at Centreville, as I have stated in my official report… To the second question I reply that it has never been feasible for the army to advance farther than it has done–to the line of Fairfax Court-House… After a conference at Fairfax Court-House with the three senior general officers, you announced it to be impracticable to give this army the strength which those officers considered necessary to enable it to resume the offensive. Upon which I drew it back to its present position.”

Davis wrote to Johnston stating that although the army at Manassas Junction had gained many recruits since July, “we are restricted in our capacity to reinforce by want of arms.” Davis hoped to expand the army, “but you must remember that our wants greatly exceed our resources.”

The controversy between Davis and Beauregard eventually waned, but the animosity between the two men was permanent.


  • Catton, Bruce and Long, E.B. (ed.), Terrible Swift Sword: Centennial History of the Civil War Book 2. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. (Kindle Edition), 1963.
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes. Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889.
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.

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