Many of these incidents, not deemed essential to the proper understanding of the main features of the battle of February 15, were omitted in my original report, but are now given as parts of its history. In my original report I gave the after operations in the battle of February 15, and shall now pass over all the events occurring until the council of general officers, held on the night of the 15th. The lodgment of the enemy's force in the rifle pits of General Buckner's extreme right, late in the evening of the 15th of February, induced General Floyd to call a meeting of general officers at my headquarters on that night.
We had fought the battle of the 15th to open the way thought the enemy's line of investment to retire to the interior. The battle had occupied the day, and we were until about 12 o'clock that night bringing in the wounded. At about 1 o'clock we had all the commanders of regiments and brigades assembled, and given orders to the entire command to be under arms at 4 o'clock, to march out on the road leading towards Charlotte. I had given instructions to Major Haynes, my commissary, and Major Jones, my quartermaster, immediately after our evacuation of the place to burn all their stores.
About 3 o'clock (perhaps a little earlier) we received intelligence from the troops in the trenches that they heard dogs barking around on the outside of our lines and they thought the enemy were reinvesting our position. General Floyd immediately directed me to send out scouts to ascertain the fact. This duty was performed; when the scouts returned they reported the enemy in large force occupying his original positions and closing up the routes to the interior. Not being satisfied with the truth of the report, I directed Colonel Forrest to send out a second set of scouts, and at the same time directed him to send two intelligent men up the bank of the river, to examine a valley of overflowed ground lying to the rear and right of the enemy's position, and if the valley of overflowed ground could be crossed by infantry and cavalry, and to ascertain if the enemy's forces reached the river bank.
The one set of scouts returned and confirmed the previous reports, viz, that the woods were full of the enemy, occupying all of his previous positions in great numbers. The scouts sent up the river to examine the overflow reported that he overflowed valley was not practicable for infantry; that the soft mud was about half-leg deep, and that the water was about saddle-skirt deep to the horses, and that there was a good deal of drift in the way. We then sent for a citizen, whose name is not remembered, said to know that part of the country well, and asked his opinion. He confirmed the reports of the river scouts. In addition to the depth of the water, the weather was intensely cold. Many of the troops were frost-bitten, and they could not have stood a passage through a sect of water.
With these facts all before Generals Floyd, Buckner, and myself (the two former having remained at my quarters all the intervening while), General Floyd said:" Well, gentlemen, what is best now to be done?" Neither General Buckner nor myself having answered promptly, General Floyd repeated his inquiry, addressing himself to me by name. My reply was that it was difficult to determine what was best to be done, but that I was in favor of cutting our way out. He then asked General Buckner what he thought we ought to do. General Buckner said his command was so worn down, cut up, and demoralized that he could not make another fight; that he thought we would lose three-fourths of the command we had left in cutting our was out, and that it was wrong; that no officer had the right to sacrifice three-fourths of the command to save one-fourth; that we had fought the enemy from the trenches, we