January 25, 1862 (Saturday)
Despite the warnings from his friends, General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard had accepted President Davis’ invitation to leave his command under General Joe Johnston near Manassas, and take up a new command under General Albert Sidney Johnston in Tennessee. The previous day, Roger Pryor, acting as liaison between the President and Beauregard, had asked the General “May I tell President you will go?” before adding his encouragement, “Say go.”
Beauregard, who had already made up his mind, said “go.” Actually, he said, “Yes, I will go. May God protect our cause.”
To his commander, General Joe Johnston, he said, “I have received a telegram from Pryor which says I must go temporarily to Columbus. Much fear is entertained of the Mississippi Valley. I have authorized him to say Yes. I will be back here as soon as possible.”
Beauregard most definitely believed that was true. He believed that he would take care of business in the west and return to Virginia for the spring campaign. Pryor, assuming President Davis would go along with it, had promised him as much.
He was also assured that the army in the west had 70,000 men. In reality, it had around 45,000. Beauregard probably didn’t fully accept that figure, but he was promised that he would be reinforced with enough men to launch an offensive campaign.
General Beauregard was not ordered to the west. He went willingly and, in all likelihood, would probably not have been ordered west by Davis. He was, however, deceived into taking the position. He went west believing he would be given the troops he wanted and would soon come back east. With those lies taken to heart, Beauregard prepared to leave for Nashville.1
Jackson’s Eleven Angry Men
Stonewall Jackson had left three brigades under General Loring in the dismal hole of Romney [now in West Virginia], thirty miles west of Winchester. Infuriated at how Loring’s troops were treated, Samuel V. Fulkerson, colonel of the 37th Virginia, wrote to two Virginia congressmen on the 23rd, hoping to get Loring’s troops from under Jackson’s command. He had even managed to convince his brigade commander, General William Taliaferro, to endorse it.
Two days later, on this date, Fulkerson and Taliaferro had convinced nine other high-ranking officers to sign a letter to General Loring, explaining their condition. Loring, of course, knew very well of their condition as he had been witness to it since he and his command arrived in Winchester in late December.
The letter to Loring was nearly identical to Fulkerson’s letter to the Virginia congressmen, with one important difference. In his letter to the congressmen, Fulkerson asked if they could “impress these considerations upon” the President and Secretary of War. When addressing General Loring, eleven officers asked him to “present the condition of your command to the War Department, and earnestly ask that it may be ordered to some more favorable position.”2
A couple of congressmen asking for a favor meant little when compared to the commander of the Army of the Northwest asking the President to look towards the welfare of his men.
General Loring would receive and act upon the letter the next day.