Monday, August 18, 2014

the last book I ever read (Shelby Foote's The Civil War, Volume One, excerpt seven)

from The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume One: Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby Foote:

Davis in Richmond knew nothing of this. Ever since Johnston’s departure he had been urging a delay in the retrograde movement. In fact, when Virginia officials came to him with a plan for mass recruitment to turn back the invaders, Davis took heart and urged the general to hold his ground while the army was brought up to strength for an offensive, which he now referred to as “first policy.” March 10, believing that Johnston and his army still held the Manassas intrenchments, he wired: “Further assurance given to me this day that you shall be promptly and adequately re├źnforced, so as to enable you to maintain your position and resume first policy when the roads will permit.”

Johnston was not there to receive it, nor were any of his men. The cavalry rear guard had pulled out that morning, following the southward trail of the army on its way to the Rappahannock, accompanied by its general—who was already contemplating another retreat, from there back to the Rapidan. The one in progress had not gone well. One division, in an advance position, had not been informed of the movement at all, but was left to find its way out as best it could. The heavy guns were left in their emplacements, some of them not even thrown from their carriages. Supplies and equipment, including the trunks the volunteers had brought, went up in smoke. The packing plant at Thoroughfare Gap was put to the torch, along with one million pounds of meat remaining after farmers in the neighborhood had been given all they could haul away. For twenty miles around, all down the greening slopes of Bull Run Mountain, there was a smell of burning bacon, an aroma which the natives would remember through the hungry months ahead.

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