May 25, 1862.
General Banks fell back yesterday from Strasburg to Winchester. To-day he has been driven from Winchester toward Harper's Ferry. You must direct your attention to falling upon the enemy at whatever place you can find him with all speed. McDowell will also operate toward the same object with his force. You must not stop for supplies, but seize what you need and push rapidly forward; the object being to cut off and capture this rebel force in the Shenandoah.
EDWIN M. STANTON.
WASHINGTON, May 27, 1862.
Major-General FREMONT, Petersburg, Va.:
General Banks was defeated, and forced to cross the Potomac at Williamsport, which he accomplished with no great loss of troops or stores. Well conducted retreat; brought off all his guns and 500 wagons. The enemy threatened General Geary at Thoroughfare Gap, on the Manassas Gap Railroad, yesterday, but whether in large or small force is not definitely know, nor is the present position of the enemy known. General McDowell has a strong force concentrated at Manassas to pursue the enemy and cut off his retreat, if he can be overtaken. Harper's Ferry strongly occupied by our fresh troops and artillery, and no enemy known to be on the Lower Shenandoah. It is desirable that you move with celerity to prevent the escape of the enemy.
EDWIN M. STANTON.
Secretary of War.
MAY 27, 1862-9.58 p.m.
I see that you are at Moorefield. You were expressly ordered to march to Harrisonburg. What does this mean?
HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD,
May 28, 1862-6 a.m. (Received 10.50 a.m.)
My troops were not in condition to execute your order otherwise than has been done. They have marched day and night to do it. The men had so little to eat that many were weak for want of food, and were so reported by the chief surgeon. Having for main object, as stated in your telegram, the relief of General Banks, the line of march followed was a necessity. In executing any order received I take it for granted that I am to exercise discretion concerning its literal execution, according to circumstances. If I am to understand that literal obedience to orders is required, please say so. I have no desire to exercise any power which you do not think belongs of necessity to my position in the field.
J. C. FREMONT.