Friday, July 19, 1861
General Thomas Jackson had his men up and at Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad not long after dawn. They were the vanguard of General Johnston’s Confederate Army of the Shenandoah, en route to reinforce General Beauregard at Manassas. Union General Patterson, nearby, was to make Johnston think that he would be attacked if he tried to move to Manassas. After Patterson moved farther away from Johnston, however, the Confederates gave him the slip.
Eight hours after they boarded the trains, Jackson’s brigade was at Manassas. The arrival of a whole brigade from Johnston’s Army shocked General Beauregard. He figured that they would come in on the Union’s right flank. As Johnston met with his brigade commanders, he placed Jackson’s men near Blackburn’s Ford, the center of the line that only yesterday was attacked by Union troops.1
The rest of Johnston’s Army was still around Piedmont Station waiting for the trains to return from Manassas. They waited through the day and well into the night. Sometime during the day, a messenger arrived from Manassas. He bore a dispatch from Beauregard, ordering Johnston to march to Manassas via Aldie so as to come in on the right flank of the Union Army.
Johnston thought this impractical and decided to stick with his original plans, even though the waiting was incredibly irritating. Since the two armies were essentially combining their number, he began to wonder whether he or General Beauregard would be in command of the entire force. To solve this problem, he wrote to President Davis.2
Patterson’s Days are Numbered
By this time, Union General-in-Cheif Winfield Scott was certain of two things. The first was that General McDowell had not yet engaged the Confederates at Manassas and the second was that General Patterson had failed to stop the Confederates at Winchester from reinforcing the line at Manassas.
With Johnston’s Confederate Army of the Shenandoah soon to be completely out of the Shenandoah Valley, Patterson’s usefulness was at an end. He complained that his army was being dissolved by the expiration of the three months terms of enlistment. Though that was true, he had been expected to attack Johnston well before their expiration. In his defense, however, McDowell had been expected to attack and defeat Beauregard at Manassas by this time.
Things were behind schedule, it was true, but allowing Johnston to slip away was the last straw for General Scott. On this date, he drew up orders relieving General Patterson of command and replacing him with General Nathaniel P. Banks, commander of the Department of Annapolis (which would, from then on, be called the Department of Maryland). Also, General Cadwallader, former commander of the Department of Annapolis and then-current brigade commander under Patterson, was relieved.
This change would go into effect on July 27th. Until then, Patterson had little to do aside from finally realizing that Johnston had given him the slip. This he would not do until after this date.3
McClellan Wishes McClellan Commanded Every Regiment
Still feeling proud of his victory in western Virginia, Union General George McClellan received word of General Cox’s defeat at the Battle of Scary Creek. McClellan wired Washington that Cox was “checked on the Kanawha.” He claimed that it was “something between a victory and defeat,” though with the Confederates under former Virginia Governor Wise holding the field and blocking Cox’s road to Charleston, it was looking more like a defeat than anything else.
McClellan must have seen it as such as he ordered Cox to stay put while he planned to attack Wise from the north. Even this would not be good enough, complained America’s Napoleon. He begged Washington: “In heaven’s name give me some general officers who understand their profession. I give orders and find some who cannot execute them unless I stand by them. Unless I command every picket and lead every column I cannot be sure of success.”4
He could not lead every column himself, though. And, if the Battle of Rich Mountain is any testimony, he couldn’t even lead his own men into battle. Still, being the commanding General, he received the valor and glory of the victories of his subordinates.