in view, that the troops must occupy a position from which they can reach Bull Run to-night or by morning. The indications are that the whole force of the enemy is moving in this direction at a pace that will bring them here by to-morrow night or next day. My own headquarters will be for the present with Heintzelman's corps or at this place.
This order and the Sixty-second Article of War made it the duty of McDowell to command the combined corps so long as they should continue to act together and General Pope should be absent from the field. In this interpretation of the law Generals McDowell and Porter agreed, and upon it they acted at the time. Upon McDowell devolved the responsibility of modifying the joint order as its terms authorized and as the military situation seemed imperatively to require.
The terms of the order contemplating that communication should be established with the troops on the other road, or, as General McDowell interpreted it, that line should be formed in connection with those troops, that the whole command should then halt, and that the troops must not go beyond a point from which they could reach Bull Run by that night or the next morning, and the military situation, as it then appeared to them, was briefly discussed by the two generals.
The situation was exceedingly critical. If the enemy should attack, as he seemed about ready to do, Porter's two divisions, about 9,000 men, were all the force then ready to stand between Lee's main army, just arrived on the field, and McDowell's long and weary column, or the left flank of Pope's army near Groveton. McDowell was "excessively anxious" to get King's division over on the left of Reynolds, who then occupied with his small division that exposed flank; and he quickly decided that "considerable advantages" were
"to be gained" by departing from the terms of the joint order, so far as to make no attempt to go farther toward Gainesville, and to at once form line with the troops then engaged near Groveton; and this departure from the strict letter of the joint order was evidently required by the military situation as it then appeared and as it did actually exist.
After this brief consultation the two generals rode together through the woods to the right about three-quarters of a mile toward Groveton, and made a personal examination of the ground. As soon as this was done, McDowell decided not to take the troops through these woods, but to separate his own corps from Porter's, take King's division (Ricketts following) around the woods by the Sudley Springs road, and thus put them in beyond the woods and on the left of Reynolds.
McDowell then left Porter very hurriedly, announcing his decision, as he testified, by the words, "You put your force in here, and I will take mine up the Sudley Springs road on the left of the troops engaged at that point against the enemy," or words to that effect. Even these few words, we are satisfied, Porter did not hear or did not understand, for he called, as McDowell rode away, "What shall I do?" and McDowell gave no audible answer, but only a wave of the hand. In this state of uncertainty, according to the testimony of one of General Porter's staff officers, Porter sent a message to King's division to ascertain positively if that division was ordered away by McDowell, and, if not, to give proper orders for its action with his corps, and a reply was returned by McDowell himself that he was going to the right and should take that division with him; that Porter had better stay where he was, and, if necessary to fall back, be could do so on McDowell's left.
This testimony has given rise to much controversy; but, in our opin-