[Inclosure Numbers 14.]
116 FOURTH STREET, NEW YORK, January 10, 1863.
Hon . JOSEPH HOLT,
DEAR SIR: In my interview with you on Saturday last, when I brought you from the President the papers relating to the case of General Benham, you will remember that there was among them a letter of General I. I. Stevens, printed in the New York Times of July 22, 1862, of which you suggested to me that some authentication was necessary.
I have now the satisfaction of transmitting herewith the original of that document, which, as you suggested, was possible had been preserved in the New York Times office. I know not whether any authentication of such an original is important, but I add the depositions of Mr. Wilson, the managing editor, and of Mr. Fuller, the intimate friend and correspondent of General Stevens, in this city, authenticating the signature and proving the publication from this manuscript in the Times of that date.
Your kindness in permitting me on the occasion of that interview to direct your attention to some of the points of General Benham's case, emboldens me, as the friend perhaps most familiar with the facts of his defense, to beg that your particular attention may be direction to this document, as well as to another of much consequence, the letter and map of Colonel Hawley, of Seventh Connecticut Regiment. The facts in these two letters are new, and have never hitherto been laid before the authorities, though General Benham has been anxious to secure some attention to them. They are believed to be not only important, but, if carefully considered, absolutely decisive on all the important points of the alleged charged against him. Your kindness will, I trust, permit me to point out their bearing.
The main charge against him, so far as General Benham is informed, for his defense labors under the disadvantage of having no formal or accurate knowledge of what the charges are, is contained in two letters of General Hunter to the War Department, copies of which, with some notes of General Benham upon them, I left with you. The principal accusation contained in these letters is, that General Benham was warned on the evening before the battle, in a conference of the three generals on James Island, that he was about to fight a battle "in violation of orders."
This charge General Hunter presents on the authority of a report of General Stevens, respecting the facts of his own defeat. This concurrence of superior and subordinate officers in charging upon General Benham a willful and clear violation of orders was, it is believed, the only and sufficient ground dismount from the roll of brigadiers.
Upon the publication, however, of his report and letter to General Hunter, General Stevens made haste to correct his statement, and to disclaim, by this publication, the imputation which has thus, in his name, been cast upon General Benham. In the printed letter, the authenticated original of which I now send, he declares this charge to have been a mistake, and that the orders under which General Benham was acting were not a subject before the conference.
This statement agrees that of General Benham himself, and of Commodore Drayton, the impartial naval officer who witnessed the interview to which the charge refers, in a letter which is among those submitted by the President. The charge rests only on General Stevens' authority, and his disclaimer of it is believed to be an absolute and complete refutation of this most serious charge. At the same time no