Scott Plans a Diversion in Force; Lee is Somewhat Unemployed

Saturday, June 8, 1861

Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott had long been evolving his plans against Harpers Ferry and finally, they were coming together. General Patterson was beginning his movements from Chambersburg to Greencastle in southern Pennsylvania. To aide the troops in Pennsylvania, Scott added a regiment from Rhode Island, which, along with its attached battery, numbered 1,200. These men were under Colonel Ambrose Burnside, an Army veteran who served in the West and more recently worked for the Illinois Central Railroad under George McClellan. Patterson would have nearly 9,000 men under his command.

Not only was Scott sending Burnside, but he was also organizing a diversion under Colonel Charles Stone of the 14th US Infantry. Stone, based in Washington, was to move with his Regular Army regiment, plus several regiments of District of Columbia Militia (about 2,500 in all), to Edwards Ferry, and then, if practicable, to Leesburg, Virginia.

Both Patterson and Stone were to share information with each other and, perhaps sometime in the future, join together as needed. Scott wished for Stone to move in two days. Patterson, while already making some moves, was to hold and await further orders with two brigades at Greencastle.1


Lee Is Unemployed

Virginia’s state troops were officially transfered to the Confederate army on this date. All regiments, volunteer and militia, present and future, were under the orders of the Confederate government. Any officers serving those units would also be “under the direction and control of the President.”

Since General Robert E. Lee was in command of all Virginia troops, and suddenly there were no Virginia troops (officially speaking, of course), Lee found himself out of a job. Other officers, like Col. Thomas Jackson, retained their commands, but there being no place into which Lee could transfer, he no longer retained an official position, though he was now a Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army.

This was all just technically speaking. Lee would be retained in Richmond as a military advisor to President Davis and Governor Letcher until they could find a command for him.2

One of the first acts of the Confederate Secretary of War Jno. Withers was to establish General Robert Garnett as commander of all Confederate troops in northwestern Virginia. Lee alluded to this the previous day, ordering Garnett to proceed to Beverly with 4,000 troops.3

Neither Lee nor Richmond were pleased by the surprise route of Porterfield’s men at Philippi. Perhaps the fate of Garnett would be brighter.

Garnett, however, did not believe that it would be. The night before he left Richmond, he quietly confided in a staff officer, “They have not given me an adequate force. I can do nothing. They have sent me to my death.”4

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p670-671 (dispatch to Patterson), p104-105 (dispatch to Stone). []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p911-912. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p915. []
  4. A Diary from Dixie by Mary Boykin Chestnut. []
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Scott Plans a Diversion in Force; Lee is Somewhat Unemployed by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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