Ricketts' division, which had been forced back from Thoroughfare Gap by the heavy forces of the enemy advancing to support Jackson.
As soon as I found that the enemy had been brought to a halt and was being vigorously attacked along Warrenton turnpike I sent orders to McDowell to advance rapidly on our left and attack the enemy on his flank, extending his right to meet Reynolds' left, and to Fitz John Porter to keep the right well closed on McDowell's left and to attack the enemy in flank and rear while he was pushed in front. This would have made the line of battle of McDowell and Porter at right angles to that of the other forces engaged. The action raged furiously all day, McDowell, although previously in rear of Porter, bringing his whole corps on the field in the afternoon and taking a conspicuous part in that day's operations.
To my surprise and disappointment I received late in the afternoon from Porter a note saying that his advance had met the enemy on the flank in some force, and that he was retiring upon Manassas Junction, without attacking the enemy or coming to the assistance of our other forces, although they were engaged in a furious action only 2 miles distant and in full hearing of him. A portion of his force fell back toward Manassas, and he remained, as he afterward informed me, where he was, looking at the enemy during the whole of the afternoon of Friday and part of Friday night passing down in plain view to re-enforce the troops under Jackson without an effort to prevent it or to assist us. One, at least, of his brigades, under General Griffin, got around to Centreville and remained there during the whole of the next day's battle without coming on the field, though in full view of it, while General Griffin himself spent the day in making ill-natured strictures upon the general commanding (see paper marked D) the action in the presence of a promiscuous assemblage.
Darkness closed the action on Friday, the enemy being driven back from his position by Heintzelman's corps and Reno, concluded by a furious attack along the turnpike by King's division, of McDowell's corps, leaving his dead and wounded on the field.
I do not hesitate to say that if the corps of Porter had attacked the enemy on the flank on the afternoon of Friday, as he had my written order (marked B) to do, we should have crushed Jackson before the forces under Lee could have reached him. Why he did not do so I cannot understand.
Our men, much worn down by hard service and continuous fighting for many days previous, and very short of provisions, rested on their arms. Our horses had had no forage for two days. I had telegraphed and written urgently for rations and forage to be sent us, but on Saturday morning before the action was resumed I received a letter (marked A) from General Franklin, written the day previous at Alexandria, stating to me that he had been directed by General McClellan to inform me that rations and forage for my command would be loaded into the cars and available wagons as soon as I would send a cavalry escort to Alexandria to bring them up. All hope of being able to maintain my position, whether victorious or not, vanished with this letter. My cavalry was utterly broken down by long and constant service in the face of the enemy, and, bad as they were, could not be spared from the front, even [if] there had been time to go back 30 miles to Alexandria and await the loading of trains. At the time this letter was written Alexandria was swarming with troops and my whole army interposed between that place and the enemy. I at once understood that we must, if possible, finish what we had to do that day, as night