Question. The point of the question is, whether your delay in returning was at all occasioned by the darkness.
Answer. It was indirectly occasioned by that, inasmuch as I could have readily found our wagons train if the night had not been dark.
Question. I wish to know, supposing had passed over that road in the day-time - say the evening previous - and had been directed to return directly from Warrenton Junction that night, without having occasion to stop and make inquiries of any kind, whether the darkness was of such a character as would have delayed you in making that journey?
Answer. In answer to that, I would say that I now recall the fact that before coming to the wagon trains we lost our way.
Question. My question is based upon the supposition that you had passed over the road the evening before, and had had the acquaintance with the road which that would have given you.
Answer. if is impossible for me to answer that question. I know that, in consequence of the darkness of the night, we did lose our way. How it would have been if we had more thoroughly known the road, I cannot say.
The following is the whole of his examination by the court:
Question. In the wooded part of that road, how far could you see wagons standing still?
Answer. I do not think I could distinguish a wagon 5 yards off.
Question. How far could you have seen one in the open plain?
Answer. It was so very dark that I do not think that would have made any difference.
Question. With the night as it was, and with the wagons as they were between 12 and 1 o'clock, would the movements along that road of troops in large masses have been practicable; I mean, of course, an orderly movement?
Answer. I do not know as I should answer that question. The court are more able to draw an inference than I am. I give simply the facts. I can give my judgment of it if it is desired. I should think it would been very difficult to move a body either of infantry or of cavalry over that road at night; almost impossible. They might have been marched in file, following each other in that way.
Question. How as to artillery?
Answer. Artillery could not have been moved without moving the wagons.
Such is the concurring testimony of all the witness who speak from personal knowledge, as to the impracticability of conducting a march of troops in force over that road in the darkness of that night, between 1 and 3 o'clock. As to the railroad which General Pope seems to think might have afforded a passage for the troops, Colonel Clary and Major Fifield, who, in pursuance of the very order now under consideration, were charged with the duty of forwarding the trains from Warrenton Junction to Bristoe Station, both declare that the trains and engines were moving up and down the railroad all the night, and made the movement of troops upon the railroad in the darkness alike dangerous and impracticable. Questions were put to one of the witnesses (General Griffin) by a member of the court, to the effect whether infantry might not have passed over the road during the night if the artillery were left behind, with a proper force to bring it up afterward.
In addition to the unusual, if not unexampled, character of such a movement which appears from the testimony of the witness upon the point, it must be borne in mind that the adoption of such a course by me would have been in direct and palpable violation not only of the letter but of the whole spirit and meaning of the order which I was trying to execute. That order expressly directed me to "come forward with your whole corps, or such part of it as is with you," and to make the meaning of the order still more explicit upon this point, the postscript of the order proceeds to specified the single contingency in which two pieces of artillery only, out of the six batteries which I had with me, might be left behind. The language of the postscript is:
If Banks is now at Warrenton Junction, leave a regiment of infantry and two pieces of artillery as a guard until he comes up, with instructions to follow you immediately.