War of the Rebellion: Serial 017 Page 1076 OPERATIONS IN N.VA., W.VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

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thick darkness, the state of the road, and the extent to which it was obstructed, and that I waited for their most unfavorable report before I decided, in concurrence with the other generals, so far to depart from the strict letter of the order as to fix the hour of marching at 3 o'clock, with express order that all preparations for the movement should be before that hour completed. I this fully in evidence that this course was not adopted by me until I had myself gone forth from my tent to see whether anything better to accomplish the object of the order could possible be done.

Such having bee indisputably my conduct under the order, the only question before the court is, whether that conduct was criminal. That I was laboring to the best of my ability and judgment, in the whole transaction, to carry out the order fully, cannot be questioned. Did the event bear out the correctness of the judgment I then formed as to the best mode of executing the order? I submit to the court that every witness who has testified upon this point from actual knowledge and observation fully proves that to have started, as the order directed, at 1 o'clock, instead of starting, as I did start, at 3 o'clock, would have been, first, really to lose time in arriving at Bristoe Station, and also greatly to impair the strength and efficiency of my troops at the time of their arrival. Besides the three general officers to whom I have referred, and each of whom necessarily knew the whole state of things, General Griffin also testifies expressly to this fact. He inform the court that even at 3 o'clock, when he did move, it was so dark, and such was the state of the road, that the troops fell into confusion; and although every effort was made to get along, the column was forced to come to a half and wait for the daylight before the artillery could be extricated from the marshy ground in which it had struck fast.

I now proceed to make such citations from the testimony before the court as will fully establish all that I have stated. General Butterfield says:

The order, I believe, was for General Porter to move his force at 1 o'clock in the morning to Bristoe Station. He handed the order to General Morell and to General Sykes, who were present, and said that was a chance for a short nap, or something of that sort - I do not remember the exact words - indicating that there was but little time for preparation. General Sykes or General Morell, I do not remember which - one or both of them - spoke with regard to the fatigue our troops had endured, the darkness of the night, and the fact that, in their judgment, the troops could be of more service to start at a later hour than they could be to short at the hour named. In reply to their remark, General Porter spoke rather decidedly; that there was the order; it must be obeyed; that those who gave the order know whether the necessity of the case would warrant the exertions that had to be made to comply with it. I do not state that as his exact words, but as the substance of what he said. Captain DeKay, who brought the order, was then present, and asked some questions about the road. He stated that the road was full of teams. General Sykes, I think, suggested that it would be impossible for us to move at the hour named, if the road was full of rations; that they could not find the way. General Porter called two aides, and sent them off to investigate the condition of the road, and to ask General Pope to have the road cleared so that he could move up. When we got outside, the darkness was to apparent - to use such an expression - and it seemed to be such a matter of impossibility to move, that General Porter say, "In consideration of all the circumstances, I will fix the hour at 3 o'clock instead of 1. You will be ready to move promptly." And I subsequently wrote an order in General Porter's tent for my command to be in line to march at 3 o'clock.

Question. Do you recollect whether, at the same time, Captain DeKay said anything about having difficulty as a guide in showing the road?

Answer. I think he made some remark, that it would be very difficult in getting back; that he would have hard work to find the way. I do not remember the exact language, but it was to that effect.

Question. Were your men very much fatigued by the march of the 27th, and how far had they marched?