of the 18th, and by 3 o'clock in the morning the rear guards of the two columns were on the march. I feel that I have a right to be proud of the admirable order and promptness with which the noble troops of my division marched out to meet a foe they had good reason to believe was much stronger numerically than themselves. And so I believed myself, but I felt the assurance of victory, though I did not underrate either the gallantry or skill of the enemy.
Had Kirby Smith been personally in command we should have had a battle; but it was evident to me that the actual general in command felt uncertain of the ground upon which he stood. Rains, a gallant and dashing officer, was in our immediate front, and Barton was a few miles from our right flank, while Stevenson was in supporting distance. But on arriving at Thomas' we found that the enemy had retreated in hot haste, and after a short halt the march was resumed, and the advance brigade, under De Courcy, took possession of the Gap at about 2 o'clock p.m., the rear guard of the enemy having evacuated the fortress at 10 o'clock a.m. The same afternoon the national colors were unfurled, and a national salute was fired from the summit of the Gap by De Courcy's brigade; and, by a general order, each brigade was authorized to unfurl its colors amid the roar of cannon upon the pinnacle of the mountain, for the honor belongs equally to all.
Well, the Gap is ours, and without the loss of a single life. I have since carefully examined the works, and I believe that the place could have been taken in a ten days' struggle from the front, but to have done so I should have left the bones of two-thirds of my gallant comrades to bleach upon the mountain-side, and, after all, this fastness, all stained with heroic blood, would only have been what it now is, a fortress of the Union, from whose highest peak floats the Stars and Stripes. The result secured by strategy is less brilliant than a victory obtained amid the storm and hurricane of battle, but humanity has gained all that glory has lost, and I am satisfied.
I am, and the country should be, grateful to Brigadier-Generals Spears, Baird, and Carter, and to Colonel De Courcy for their able and efficient services, and to the gallant officers and soldiers of their respective commands. Three of my brigades are commanded by brigadier-generals and the fourth by Colonel John F. De Courcy, whom I again respectfully but earnestly recommend for the commission of brigadier-general. He is an accomplished and well-trained soldier, who came from a distant land to share the fortunes of the Union in this unnatural struggle against her existence. Generosity and justice alike demand his promotion. Great credit is also due to the commanders of regiments, to whose earnest aid and cheerful compliance with every order I owe so much. I cannot but feel some regret that they had not an opportunity to acquire in the field the laurels which they are so worthy to wear. But I refer you to the reports of the commanders of separate corps for a narrative of the meritorious services of those officers.
In this connection I must mention in terms of commendation Lieutenant. Colonel Reuben Munday, with his battalion of Kentucky cavalry. This brave little band have performed the most arduous duties without a murmur, doing picket duty and acting as scouts for the entire division. They were also very efficient as advance and rear guard on the march to this place. The highest praise is also due to my personal staff for their unremitting devotion to the interests of the service, and I therefore commend Captain C. O. Joline, assistant adjutant-general; Major M. C. Garber, division quartermaster, and Captain G. M. Adams, commissary