War of the Rebellion: Serial 015 Page 0330 OPERATIONS IN N.VA., W.VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

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with the enemy near Groveton, and a battle ensued. The enemy was driven back. This battle occurred near to a point from which a section of rebel artillery-supposed to form portion of a reconnoitering party-had shelled General McDowell and checked the advance of his troops from one to two hours during the early part of the day, as they were changing direction to the right toward Manassas.

In the course of the night General King, on his own responsibility, as he testifies, and without communicating with General McDowell, retired from the battle-field to a point 2 or 3 miles east of Manassas Station.

At about 9 o'clock in the evening of the 28th General Ricketts had retired with his division from Thoroughfare Gap to Gainesville. Being informed of the intended movement of General King, General Ricketts retired with his division to the neighborhood of Manassas early in the morning of the 29th.

The grave error committed by these movements of McDowell's corps cannot be better explained than by incorporating in this report the following testimony of General Pope:

Question by the COURT. Were you aware that King's division had a fight with the enemy near evening of that day and after the fight fell back to Manassas?

Answer. It was reported to me about 8 or 9 o'clock at night on the 28th that King's division of McDowell's corps had met the enemy retreating from Centreville and after a severe fight had remained masters of the field, still interposing between Jackson's forces and the main body of the enemy. This report was brought to me by a staff officer, I think, of General King's. Upon receiving this information I stated to several of my staff officers who were present that the game was in our own hands, and that I did not see how it was possible for Jackson to escape without very heavy loss, if at all. Immediately upon receipt of this intelligence also I directed General Kearny, whose division occupied Centreville, to push forward cautiously at 1 o'clock that night in the direction of Gainesville, to drive in the pickets of the enemy, and to keep himself in close contact during the night; to rest his left on the Warrenton turnpike, and to throw his right to the north, toward the Little River, and well to the front. I directed him at the first blush of daylight to attack the enemy with his right advanced, and informed him that Hooker and Reno would be with him immediately after daylight. To my surprise and dissatisfaction I learned toward daylight on the morning of the 29th that King's division had been withdrawn in the direction of Manassas Junction, leaving open the road to Thoroughfare Gap. This withdrawal of that division made necessary a great change in the movement and the position of the troops, and was a most serious and unlooked-for mistake. I was so impressed with the necessity that division should hold its ground during the night of the 28th that I sent several orders to General King-one by his own staff officer-during that night to hold his ground at all hazards and to prevent the retreat of the enemy; and informed him that our whole force from the direction of Centreville and Manassas Junction would fall upon the enemy at daylight.

The court adopt the testimony of General Pope as a faithful statement of the facts.

Had General McDowell been present with his command at the time of these movements of his corps it could not be controverted that he would be justly held responsible for their retreat and the consequent derangement of the plan of battle then formed by General Pope.

What is the explanation of General McDowell's absence?

He went to Manassas to have a personal interview with General Pope, whom he expected to find there.

Granting the good faith of this explanation and General McDowell's honesty of purpose, the court find that he thus separated himself from his command at a critical time, without any order of his superior officer and without any imperative necessity.

It is true that in the first order sent to him and received about 4 o'clock p.m. the following paragraph occurs:

I will this evening push forward Reno to Gainesville and follow with Heintzelman,