Sunday, July 19, 2015

July 17, 1861 - "No system, no order, no knowledge, no dash!" among Northern officers

Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South will be published July 21. As it happens, that is also the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run or, if you will, First Manassas. While Consul Bunch in Charleston began laying the groundwork for secret talks with the Confederate government (which he loathed), his friend William Howard Russell, the great war correspondent for the Times of London, was in Washington D.C. examining preparations for the battle everyone knew would be coming soon in northern Virginia.

In fact, the North is not prepared for this fight.

July 17th. I went up to General Scott s quarters, and saw some of his staff young men, some of whom knew nothing of soldiers, not even the enforcing of drill and found them reflecting, doubtless, the shades which cross the mind of the old chief, who was now seeking repose. McDowell is to advance to-morrow from Fairfax Court House, and will march some eight or ten miles to Centreville, directly in front of which, at a place called Manassas, stands the army of the Southern enemy. I look around me for a staff, and look in vain. There are a few plodding old pedants, with map and rules and compasses, who sit in small rooms and write memoranda ; and there are some ignorant and not very active young men, who loiter about the head-quarters halls, and strut up the street with brass spurs on their heels and kepis raked over their eyes as though they were soldiers, but I see no system, no order, no knowledge, no dash !

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