The witness continued:
I believe I have given all of the information on that point showing the reasons why General McDowell was detained in front of Washington. I wish to be understood as stating very positively that every step taken in that matter was induced, as I believe by great
reluctance, on the part of the President, so far as General McClellan was concerned. It was the manifest desire of the President and of the Secretary of War to send to General McClellan all the means in their power to enable him to make a successful campaign.
Question by the COURT. When did the enemy evacuate Centreville and Manassas?
Answer. In answer to that question I will state that I have seen an official report from General McClellan, dated Fairfax Court House, March 11, 8.30 p.m., in which he states that the rebels have left all their positions.
Question by the COURT. State in this connection the effect of the movement proposed by General McClellan by Urbana and the York River, referred to in the letter by the President dated February 3, 1862, before the evacuation of Centreville and Manassas by the enemy, and contrast it with the movement proposed by the President, stated in the same letter?
Answer. I can only give my impression or opinion in regard to this. I have never had any doubt myself that the movement proposed by the way of Urbana or the Peninsula was injudicious. It has always appeared to me that if the enemy could have know of this plan before abandoning his position on the Potomac and at Manassas those positions would not have been abandoned; on the contrary, my opinion has been constantly that the proposed movement of a large part of the force in front of Washington would have induced the enemy to make an effort to seize Washington. I have attached very great importance to the possession of Washington, not so much as a military point, but from its political position. Washington is the capital of the United States. The Government is here. The archives of the nation are all here. It is the depository of the original Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution of the United States. It is the residence of foreign ministers. These and many similar considerations give to this city a peculiar character. Its possession, even for a short time by the enemy, would have injured the cause of the country more than the loss of many battles at a distance from this point. I have always thought that the true mode of advance upon the enemy was something like that proposed by the President-keeping the army within striking distance of Washington in the effort to make an effective blow upon the enemy in his position. The details of such a movement I have not particularly thought about, having had no occasion to do so.
Question by General McDOWELL. So far as you know, what has been the character of the service rendered by General McDowell-faithful and loyal, or otherwise?
Answer. I have know General McDowell many years. I have seen him on duty in the happiest relations with that honored chief Lieutenant-General Scott. I have kept my eyes upon him since this unhappy war broke out, and not the shade of a suspicion has ever crossed my mind touching his entire loyalty. From my knowledge of General McDowell it would be impossible for me to conceive him disloyal. I regard him as a true and faithful patriot.
Question by the COURT. Viewed in a military light, state the responsibilities of the movement of the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula without leaving the force decided by the President to guard and cover Washington, if such was the fact, and the reasons which such fact would impose for detaining the corps of General McDowell in April last.
Answer. It was the opinion of the President, undoubtedly, that his order of the 8th of March, with respect to the safety of the capital, had not been complied with by General McClellan. In referring to it in his letter of the 9th of April he uses he delicate language that his instruction had been neglected. I certainly was of the same opinion; in plain terms the order had been disobeyed, and I hold it to be a military principle that whenever an officer departs from the instructions of a superior he takes upon himself the entire responsibility of all the consequences; and in the