War of the Rebellion: Serial 016 Page 0522 OPERATIONS IN N. VA.,W. VA.,AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

Search Civil War Official Records

ion, the question whether that message was or was not sent is unimportant. If it was sent it did not differ in substance from the instructions which General McDowell testifies he had previously given to General Porter, "You put your force in here," &c. Neither could be construed as directing what Porter's action should be, but only as deciding that he should continue on that line while McDowell would take his own troops to another part of the field.

There appears to have been an understanding, derived either from previous conversation or from the terms of the joint order, that when McDowell's did get King's division on the other side of the woods Morell's division on the right of Porter's corps should make such connection or establish such communication with that of King as might be practicable through the woods. None of them then knew how wide was that belt of woods, nor what was its character beyond where they had reconnoitered, nor whether the ground beyond was in possession of the enemy.

When the two generals had started to take that ride to the right Morell's troops had been ordered to follow them, and Griffin's brigade had led off after its pickets had been called in. After McDowell took his departure this movement was continued for some time and until Griffin had crossed the railroad and reached a point near half way across the belt of woods and where the forest became dense. There the movement was arrested. This movement might have meant an attempt to stretch out Morell's line through the woods so as to connect with King's on the right or a completion of the deployment for an attack upon the enemy in front. General Porter explained it as intended for an immediate attack upon the enemy if he found he could keep King in support, and that he only desisted upon being informed that King was going away. But the attack would have been a rash one under the circumstances even with King's support. Soon after this scouts were sent on through the woods to look for King, Reynolds, Sigel, or some body of Union troops in the direction where artillery firing was heard.

Presently Griffin was withdrawn to the south side of the railroad. The enemy's artillery opened on his troops during this latter movement and was replied to by one of Morell's batteries, but few shots being fired on either side. The Morrell's division was put in defensive order to hold the ground then occupied and under cover from the enemy's artillery. The scouts sent through the woods ran upon the enemy's pickets and were driven back. This effort to get scouts through the woods was repeated from time to time until late in the afternoon, but every effort failed. The scouts were all driven back or captured. As it turned out, this resulted from the fact that King's division did not get up on the right of the woods at all. That division reached a point some distance in the rear of its position in the line about 4.30 p. m., and then, after some marching and counter-marching, was sent northward to the Warrenton pike. Thus the gap in the line which McDowell's troops were to occupy remained open all the afternoon and the margin of the timber remained in possession of the enemy's pickets.

These failures to connect or to communicate directly along the front were reported by Porter to McDowell by way of the Sudley Springs road, on which McDowell had gone. The reports were made in at least four different written dispatches, which have been preserved. The hour was named in only one, apparently the latest, sent at 6 o'clock in the evening. Two reports-one about 4 o'clock and the other about 6.30 p. m.-were sent to General Pope direct. Both of these were received by him, but have not been preserved.