Today in History:

921 Series I Volume II- Serial 2 - First Manassas


in a run of twenty miles; or it might, by a march of forty miles, upon the Central Railroad, put a strong force at Gordonsville, the junction of the Lynchburg and Alexandria Railroads, and cut off the communication of our Manassas Gap army. The last could not be re-enforced from the south or west, except from the valley, through the Manassas Gap Railroad; nor with the Hanower Junction, in the hands of an enemy, could Richmond be re-enforced, except from the south side of James River. As a strategic, would not Hanower Junction be more valuable to an enemy than Harper's Ferry itself? Indeed, would not its possession secure Harper's Ferry? In what way can this be prevented at the least cost in men and money? I answer as follows:

About eighteen or twenty miles below Fort Lowry, and eight or ten miles below Urbana (one the reputed places of her sound debarkation), is a point from which the channel can be commanded. I forget the name of the point, but the Coast Survey chart (to be found in Richmond) will show it, and Lieutenant-Governor Montague, who lives in that county, can describe it. I am told that this chart proves that a fort at this point, in Middlesex, on the south side of the river, and one opposite to it, on the north side, would command the channel completely. Indeed, no vessel could pass up at a greater distance than one and a quarter miles from the Middlesex Point, which is within the range of rifled cannon. This being done, the enemy (if they landed with a view to a march upon Hanower Junction or Richmond) must land below the fort, which is below Urbana.

Now, at Urbana is Urbana Creek (a deep creek), bounded by marshes, which runs to within two or three miles of the Dragon Swamp, a military obstacle of the first class. A part of this distance of two or three miles was densely wooded ten years ago, and I suspect that not more than half of it is as yet cleared. On such a neck of land a small force could retard the advance of an army long enough to assemble in sufficient strength to resist it. The length, too, of the march would be thus increased some thirty miles to the junction and fifteen or twenty miles to Richmond. There would also be another advantage in these lower forts. Nearly the whole valley of the river and most valuable oyster beds would be protected. These oyster beds, without these forts, lying below Fort Lowry, will be in the enemy's hands. I know that there are some difficulties in throwing up these forts. Our steamers are in the river, but still, with a covering force, and with even a small covering force, it could be done, I presume.

On the northern neck side, the three lower counties of Richmond, Lancaster, and Northumberland could easily furnish one thousand men, without taking away the men from Fredericksburg. On the southern side the counties of Essex, Caroline, King and Queen, and Middlesex could furnish twelve or fifteen hundred men without robbing any of the present first. The men on the southern side, if placed under the command of a regular officer (such a man as Major Heth is described to be), and aided with a battery, would not only cover the fort on the Middlesex Point, but would, perhaps, resist the march of an army between Urbana Creek and the Dragon Swamp long enough to procure re-enforcements, through steamers from Fredericksburg (where there are two steamers), also to scour the country along the line of march. Unless this covering force could be commanded by a good officer, and a "regular," it would not be of much assistance; but under a good commander it might be relied upon.

I know it is presumptuous in me to offer military counsel. No man could know less of such matters. But there are topographical details