Camp at Centreville, Virginia
September 27–December 31, 1861
We are still encamped quietly at this place awaiting impatiently an
attack from a cowardly foe . . .
—William Cowan McClellan
Thomas McClellan wrote to William that not only was paper money too scarce for the wealthiest men to pay their taxes, but terrible price inflation was setting in with no end in sight. This season had also been one of the worst for gathering crops, and Thomas despaired about the suffering and sadness caused by the war. William’s brother Robert joined a cavalry regiment that currently was in Alabama, while his brother John was still trying to raise a company of volunteers. Unlike William, the brothers had volunteered for service only after northern Alabama was threatened by possible invasion. State authorities in both Tennessee and Alabama were calling for more volunteers for a twelve-month period.
On September 22, the 9th Alabama moved from the area of Manassas to the village of Centreville, where the Confederate forces were concentrating. The 9th joined the 10th and 11th Alabama regiments along with the 38th Virginia, the 19th Mississippi, and the Thomas Artillery to form a brigade in Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith’s Second Division (the Virginia and Mississippi regiments would later be replaced by the 8th and 12th Alabama regiments). At the same time, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston positioned the army around the Fairfax Court House with outposts overlooking Washington, D.C., at Munson’s Hill and Mason Hill, which were commanded by Gen. J. E. B. Stuart. In support of those operations, the 9th Alabama went on picket duty and patrols that took them to Mount Vernon, Falls Church, and Fairfax (other patrols took them west along Braddock Road past Centreville toward Leesburg). At the same time, the Union army occupied a position along the heights on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, extending from Georgetown to Alexandria. By October, Johnston became concerned that the strength and efficiency of the Union army were making the Confederates’ advanced positions in Northern Virginia hazardous, and he pulled the army back toward Centreville and Dumfries.1