War of the Rebellion: Serial 005 Page 0300 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.

Search Civil War Official Records

will destroy the camp, if practicable, before returning. He will make all the observations possible on the country; will, under all circumstances, keep his command well in hand, and not sacrifice them to any supposed advantage of rapid pursuit.

Having accomplished this duty, Colonel Devens will return to his present position, unless he shall see one on the Virginia side, near the river, which he can undoubtedly hold until re-enforced, and one which can be successfully held against largely superior numbers. In such case he will hold on and report.

CHAS. P. STONE,

Brigadier-General.

Great care will be used by Colonel Devens to prevent any unnecessary injury of private property, and any officer or soldier straggling from the command for curiosity or plunder will be instantly shot.

CHAS. P. STONE,

Brigadier-General.

HEADQUARTERS CORPS OF OBSERVATION,.

Poolesville, November 2, 1861.

GENERAL: The president attacks made upon me by the friends (so called), of the lamented late Colonel Baker, through the newspaper press, have made it my duty to call the attention of the major-general commanding to distinct of my orders and instructions to that officers in the affair of October 21st ultimo, more pointedly than it has been my wish to do in an official report concerning one who is no more. Painful as it may be to censure the acts of one who has gallantly died on the field of battle, justice to myself and to those who served under me requires that the full truth should be made to appear. Up to this time duties more imperative have engrossed my time. I could not, for the purpose of shielding myself from unjust popular censure, neglect the care which I owed to the comfort and well-being of the thousands of men under my command, and especially the measures necessary to the comfort and recovery of the numerous wounded in our hospitals. Meantime I have been fiercely attacked in some newspapers, which have not waited for official reports, but have seized upon every word of any friend of the late colonel who might choose to invent or color a description of the disaster. Every false statement has been pronounced to be true, unless denied by myself, who have had too many and too important duties to permit me to write to the public prints, even were such a course allowable to a soldier.

I will, in anticipation of my final report, which cannot be presented until the subordinate reports shall all come in, relate a few facts which will clearly show who was responsible for the defeat of our troops at Ball's Bluff. At 7 o'clock in the morning there were between Harrison's Island and Leesburg, on the Virginia side, only six companies of our troops, which, under the cover of two guns then on the island, of four guns on the Maryland shore, and the large infantry force there, might easily have been withdrawn even in the face of a largely-superior force, and with the means of transportation which I knew to be there. It was my strongly expressed desire that, if a respectable force should threaten, this one should be withdrawn, and Colonel Baker left me at Edwards Ferry with a full knowledge of my desire and with full power to withdraw it. He knew as well as I that should he attempt to re-enforce them his means of transportation were very limited,. and yet before he ever