War of the Rebellion: Serial 016 Page 0525 Chapter XXIV. CAMPAIGN IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA.

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General McDOWELL:

Failed in getting Morell over to you. After wandering about the woods for a time I withdrew him, and while doing so artillery opened upon us. My scouts could not get through. Each one found the enemy between us, and I believe some have been captured. Infantry are also in front. I am trying to get a battery, but have not succeeded as yet. From the masses of dust on our left and from reports of scouts think the enemy are moving largely in that way. Please communicate the way this messenger came. I have no cavalry or messengers now. Please let me know your designs, whether you retire or not. I cannot get water and an out of provisions. Have lost a few men from infantry firing.


Major-General Volunteers.

AUGUST 29, 6 p. m.

But Porter soon found the sounds of artillery had deceived him. The renewal of the firing toward Groveton showed that Pope's troops were still there. Piatt's brigade was then recalled, and no further preparations for retreat were made.

Next came to Porter about 5.30 o'clock a report from the right that the enemy was in full retreat and heavy sounds of musketry soon after showed that serious work had commenced near Groveton. Porter ordered Morell to make a strong reconnaissance to learn the truth. Morell, knowing the report must be false, at least as to the enemy in his front, prepared to support this reconnaissance with his whole division. While this preparation was being made came the long-delayed order, dated 4.30 p. m., to attack the enemy in flank or rear:

HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD, August 29-4.30 p. m.

Major-General PORTER:

Your line of march brings you in ont he enemy's right flank. I desire you to push forward into action at once on the enemy's flank, and, if possible, on his rear, keeping your right in communication with General Reynolds. The enemy is massed in the woods in front of us, but can be shelled out as soon, as you engage their flank. Keep heavy reserves and use your batteries, keeping well closed to your right all the time. In case you are obliged to fall back, do so to your right and rear, so as to keep you in close communication with the right wing.


Major-General, Commanding.

This order, though dated at 4.30 p. m., was not received by Porter, at Bethlehem Church, before 6.30 p. m.

The evidence before the court-martial tending to show that Porter received the "4.30" order in time to execute it is found in the testimony of the officer who carried the order, and of one of the orderlies who accompanied him. Neither of these two witnesses appears to have carried a watch, and their several statements of the time when the order was delivered were based on estimates of the time occupied by them in riding from General Pope's headquarters to the place where they found General Porter. One of them at least knew from an inspection of the order that it was dated at 4.30; he, and probably both of them, therefore assumed that it was then that they started to deliver it, and adding to that hour the estimated time occupied by them, they severally fixed the hour of delivery. It is now proved by the testimony of the officer who wrote the dispatch that "4.30" was not the hour when the messenger started, but was the hour when he began to write the dispatch, and consequently that it was after that hour that the officer started to deliver it.

It is also shown that these messengers did not and could not, if other parts of their own testimony are true, have traveled over the route