War of the Rebellion: Serial 017 Page 1085 Chapter XXIV. CAMPAIGN IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA.

Search Civil War Official Records

I now proceed to the third specification of the first charge. It alleges disobedience to an order, which it recites as follows:

HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD, August 29, 1862-4.30 p.m.

Major-General PORTER:

Your line of march brings you in on the 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 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.

In defense to this specification, I affirm and have, as I contend, fully proved before the court-

1st. That complete obedience to it by me was impossible, even if I had received it at the moment that it purports to have been written, that is, 4 1/2 p.m. on the 29th of August;and such complete obedience to it by me was by still stronger reasons wholly impossible; as a military movement would have been wholly inexpedient, injudicious, and improper, even if it had been possible at the hour when I had received it - that is to say, at or nearly at 6 1/2 p.m. of the 29th, when the sun had set, or was just about setting.

2nd. I affirm and contend that I have fully proved before this court that, in compliance, so far as possible, with the manifest spirit, purpose, and meaning of this order, I did take measures to carry out the spirit and to accomplish that purpose, and that those measures so taken by me were the only practicable measures for me to adopt under the circumstances, and were far more useful than any attempted literal compliance with the order by me could have been, and that any such attempt literally to obey it, made by [me] at the time when I received it, would have been nothing less than official delinquency, if not crime.

It is needless to add that, if I make out these propositions as here stated satisfactory to the court, I ask at their hands an honorable acquittal under this specification.

To being, the fundamental averment of the order upon which it all rests is entirely untrue. That averment is, that my line of march, as pursued under the join order above referred to, brought me in on the enemy's right flank. The fact is, that my line of march as so pursued brought me not in on the enemy's right flank, but did bring me in directly upon the front of a separate force of the enemy, from ten to fifteen thousand strong, of the presence of which, thus directly in my front, General Pope, when he wrote order, was wholly ignorant. He must plead this total ignorance as his sole possible justification for sending me this order, because it is abundantly in proof that if I had executed or attempted to execute the order literally, either at the moment when it was written or at the moment when it was received, by falling upon Jackson's right flank, which, as is proved, it was intended to direct me to do, then my column, moving to accomplish that object, must have suffered one of two inseparable and fatal disasters. If I had attempted to move across the country in a direct or nearly a direct line to Jackson's right, I should have been exposed to a murderous attack by the enemy posted in my front, upon the left of my advancing column, as it must then have passed along directly under the fire of that enemy as it moved toward Jackson's, through a country over which I could only