terpretation of orders, motives of action, and relative degrees of responsibility for unfortunate results.
A careful consideration of all the material facts now fully established, in combination with the conflicting or inconclusive testimony last above referred to, gives rise to several diverse theories respecting the whole subject with which General Porter's case is inseparably connected. These diverse views of the subject necessarily involve in a greater or less degree the acts, motives, and responsibilities of others as well as those of the petitioner. We have considered, with great care and labor, and with our best ability, each and all of these phases in which the subject can be and has been presented, and we find that all these possible views of the subject, when examined in the light of the facts which are fully established by undisputed testimony, lead inevitably to one and the same conclusion in respect to the guilt or innocence of Fitz John Porter of the specific charges upon which he was tried and pronounced guilty by the court-martial.
Therefore, while exposing General Porter's conduct to the test of the highest degree of responsibility which recognized military principles attached to the command he held under the circumstances in which he was placed, and the orders which he had received, we are able to take that view of the whole subject which seems to involve in the least possible degree any question as to the acts, motives, or responsibility of others.
We will now proceed to give, as concisely as we are able to do, a narrative of the events which gave rise to the charges against Major General Fitz John Porter, omitting the multitude of interesting but unessential details and all facts having no necessary bearing upon his case, and limiting ourselves to a plain statement of the essential facts of the case which have been established, as we believe, by positive proof.
While the Army of the Potomac was withdrawing from its position on the James River in August, 1862, the Army of Virginia, under Major-General Pope, was ordered to hold the line of the Rappahannock, and to stand on the defensive until all the forces could be united behind that river. General Pope was given to understand that, when this concentration was effected, Major-General Halleck, the General-in-Chief, was to take the field in command of the combined armies. On the other hand, it appears that Major-General McClellan, then commanding the Army of the Potomac, was given to understand that he was to direct the operations of all forces in Virginia, as soon as they should be united.
It appears that General Pope was notified on the 25th of August that an active campaign was soon to be commenced, without waiting for a union of all the forces, and under some commander other than either of those before named. But this information appears to have been of a secret character, afterward suppressed, and not made known to General McClellan and his subordinates until five days later, when the order appeared from the War Department, depriving McClellan of the command of all his troops then between the Potomac and the Rappahannock, although leaving him in nominal command of he Army of the Potomac.
Thus General Porter, who joined General Pope's army about that time, was left under the impression, which all had previously shared, that the operations of the army were to continue of a defensive character until all the forces should be united and proper preparations made for the commencement of an offensive campaign under a general designated by the President to command the combined armies. But just then