reached the island he stated to Lieutenant Howe, Fifteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, that he should cross over with all the force at his command. At the distance I was from his position I could only judge that he was satisfied of his ability to cross in force in time to meet the enemy, for he then knew, what had not reached my ears and did not for more than half an hour afterwards, that a hostile force had approached Colonel Devens and discovered him and his command.
It has been asserted and published that Colonel Baker received an order from me to attack Leesburg on Sunday, the 20th. It is absurd. Colonel Baker did not receive an order from me of any kind on Sunday, nor any order until about 2 o'clock on Monday morning, when he resold the remainder of his brigade in readiness to march. (A copy of this order is herewith forwarded.) He was not in any manner informed of the object of the movement, which was intended solely to insure the safe return of Colonel Devens and his command, until his arrival at Edwards Ferry on Monday morning. The order, stained with blood, found in his hat has been somewhat altered either by the stains or by "fiendly" hands, which may easily happen in a pencil order; but even in that as published, and still stronger as it was written, he was to use his discretion about crossing his force or retiring that already over. The "friends" of Colonel Baker state that on his receiving that order he exclaimed, "I will obey General Stone's order, but it is my death warrant." Shame upon them to put false words in the mouth of the brave dead! Colonel Baker received that order from my own hands on the field and at his own request, that he might "have some written authority for assuming command" (I use his own words), and seemed delighted at receiving it; this after the fullest and freest explanation in person of all that was known up to that time to have transpired - a full statement of the slight means of transportation across the river, and the use that could be made of artillery and infantry form this side and from the island in covering the return of the force then over.
The change of destination of five companies of infantry which I had ordered into a strong mill on the right of Devens' line was sanctioned by Colonel Baker, whose object seems to have been not that of, under any circumstances, withdrawing our small force form the force of a could try conclusions with it, and this with a full knowledge of what he knew I must be ignorant of, viz, that the small force had been discovered and engaged. There was plenty of time for withdrawing those troops, and he alone, within reporting distance, had the power to withdraw them. Colonel Devens received notification early in the day that Colonel Baker had assumed command, but received no order or massage from him until 2.15 p. m., when he (Devens) had been pressed back to the final line of battle. That Colonel Baker was determined at all hazards to fight a battle is clear from the fact that he never advance, and never sent forward to ascertain their position until he had ordered over his force and passed over a considerable portion of it. From the time that he left me for several hours but one message was received by me directly form him, and that one was simply to state that he had decided to cross, and was increasing his means of transportation by a large boat lifted from the canal. I warned him, when I ascertained it, that I believed 4,000 troops would be opposed to him; there was still time to retire, and when he replied, " I shall not retire," I had no doubt, and I have now no doubt, that he left perfectly able to meet that force.