War of the Rebellion: Serial 017 Page 1075 Chapter XXIV. CAMPAIGN IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA.

Search Civil War Official Records

DEFENSE OF THE ACCUSED.

Mr. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: I stand before you, I trust, as a man who, up to the 27th of August last, was and desired to be of fair name and fame; a soldier held to be faithful, laborious, loyal, and trustworthy; prompt to honorable duty though involving personal peril, and having done some service which my country and my Government had seen fit generally to regard and to reward as meritorious.

Eminent and honorable men, fit in every way to be heard with respect, have come here before you, within the past few days, to bear upon their knowledge and their oath at least thus much of witness in my behalf and praise.

Nor do I for a moment doubt that their words, so spoken, carried with they your belief. But in some since such works were not needed to attest to you what I have been and what I was up to those two days of my life in August last, which this wicked accusation would have blackened if I had not crushed down its falsehood by my defense, even as you will, I do not doubt, in your finding, crush down its malice.

Yet a little while ago my companions in arms were taking counsel together as mu judges. Yourselves, most if not all of you, have known me well. Your eminent official law adviser, who had conducted this prosecution calmly and fairly so far as on him depended, but with the vigilance and energy which his duty demanded, himself in the recent past, when momentous events hinged on the great sway which in his high post he bore, has trusted me, and has left that his trust was in nowise betrayed.

But no more of this. I go on at once to answer these charges as they stand.

The order set forth in the first specification to the first charge bears upon its face a plain purpose and meaning. It commanded me to hasten forward as soon as possible from Warrenton Junction to Bristoe Station, in order to be ready there as early as practicable, to co-operate with my force against the enemy. Receiving this order about 10 o'clock at night, I proceeded at once to carry it into execution, to the best of my ability. I that been written by General Pop 10 miles away from me, about three and a half hours before I received it, and at too early an hour for him to know the character of the night which was coming on. The order itself proves that he did not know, when he wrote it, whether General Morell's division had yet joined me. He could, of course, know nothing of the condition of my troops, of the distance which they had marched that day, nor of their capacity to commence another march of 10 miles without any considerable interval of rest and without any delay. Still less could he know whether, when the order reached me, the roads were or were not so much obstructed as to be impracticable for masses of troops in the darkness. All these facts were fully before me and the general officers of my corps, with whom I at once consulted as to the best mode of its execution. It is abundantly in proof that their opinion was unanimous that nothing could be gained, and that much must be lost, by an attempt to start at 1 o'clock in the night. In their testimony, General Morell, General Sykes, and General Butterfield have clearly set forth the grounds upon which they arrived at that conclusion. General Butterfield testifies expressly that I was reluctant to adopt it; and in this is confirmed, so far as they speak to the point, by the whole testimony of the other generals. It is in proof that, immediately upon the receipt of the order, I sent out two officers of my staff to ascertain, if they could, in the