which they supposed they had taken. Moreover, it was proved by unquestionable testimony that since the court-martial trial one of these witnesses had made statements and admissions inconsistent with and contradictory of his former testimony, and the other witness confessed before us that recently he had deliberately made false statements in regard to the route taken while carrying the dispatch. We have therefore felt compelled to lay the testimony of these witnesses out of the case. An attempt was made to support these witnesses by the testimony of another person, who, as it was alleged, also accompanied, as an orderly, the officer charged with the dispatch, but his testimony was so completely broken down by cross-examination that we regard it as entitled to no weight whatever.
On the other hand, the testimony of General Sykes, Lieutenant-Colonel Locke, Captain Montieth, Lieutenant Ingham, and Lieutenant Weld before the court-martial that the order in question was not delivered until about sundown, either a little before or a little after that hour, has now been supported by a new and entirely independent witness, Captain Randol, and has been singularly confirmed by the production, for the first time, of the dispatch from Porter to McDowell, dated 6 p. m., the terms of which utterly forbid the supposition that at that time Porter had received the order.
The moment this order was received Porter sent his chief of staff, Colonel Locke, to General Morell, with orders to make the attack at once. He then wrote and sent a reply to Pope, and immediately rode to the front. On his arrival there Morell had about completed his preparations for the attack under the previous order to make a reconnaissance, but darkness had already come on. It was evidently impossible to accomplish any good that night, for, even if Morell might have begun the attack before dark, Sykes could not have been got into line after the order was received. The contest at Groveton had already so far spent its force as to derive no possible aid from Morell's attack. The order was based upon conditions manifestly erroneous and directed what was impossible to be done. To push Morell's division against the enemy in the dark would have been in no sense obedience to that order. Porter wisely ordered the preparations to cease, and the troops were put into position to pass the night, picketing in all directions, for Porter had but a few mounted men, and the enemy had 2,500 cavalry near his flank.
About this time, when darkness had come on, the rear of McDowell's column of weary troops was passing by the rear of Porter's column, still several miles from their destined place on the field. The Union army was not even yet ready for battle.
The accompanying maps, marked board maps, Nos. 2 and 3, exhibit substantially the military situation at the time the 4.30 p. m. order was issued, and that which was then understood by General Pope to exist, as explained to the court-martial upon the trial of General Porter.
We believe this plain and simple narrative of the events of the 29th of August clearly shows the true character of General Porter's conduct during that time. We are unable to find in that conduct anything subject to criticism, much less deserving of censure or condemnation.
Porter's duty that afternoon was too plain and simple to admit of discussion. It was to hold his position and cover the deployment of McDowell's troops until the latter, or some of them, should get into line; then to connect with them as far as might be necessary and practicable, and then, in the absence of further orders, to act in concert with those troops and others to the right.