official disclaimer was ever forwarded, and the charge thus publicly disavowed in the newspapers, by the only person on whose authority it was made, remains on the files of the Department, to the great injustice and disgrace of General Benham.
This statement is supposed to be the only one of sufficient weight to have called forth the severe censure of the Department under which General Benham is suffering, and its complete refutation would, of itself, seem to be sufficient reason why that censure should be canceled and the dismissed general restored to his rank.
This document of General Stevens is important in another respect. It shows that there was no question in the mind of any general at the conference preceding the battle about any violation of orders in the prospective fight. The subject was not alluded to. Now, General Benham expressly declares that the orders of General Hunter to him were announced to the other generals of his command. This assertion, moreover, is unquestioned. They all knew under what orders he fought. It appears, then, that while the three generals were aware of those orders, no one of them alleges that they supposed General Benham's action in ordering the battle to be a violation of them. They must be considered, therefore, to have believed his action legitimate in this respect, as he himself did. None of them supposed the battle to be in violation of General Hunter's orders. This position is substantiated by a consideration of the order of General Hunter, which General Benham is charged with violating. It is very brief, and forbids "any attempt to advance on Charleston or to attack Fort Johnson," both which prohibitions General Benham faithfully observed. It moreover enjoined him to "provide for a secure entrenched encampment, where your front can be covered by the fire of the gunboats."
This injunction he faithfully endeavored to carry out. It required him to attack a battery, which was firing into his camp, as he honestly believed; and it now appears that no one of his associate generals considered his act a violation of the instructions he had received.
Such is the bearing of the letter of General Stevens, now for the first time brought to the official notice of the President.
The other new presentation of the facts is that made in a letter already mentioned--of Colonel Hawley, Seventh Connecticut Volunteers. It speaks for itself, as a moderate, judicious, and perfectly intelligible statement of the causes of the failure of a well-planned and promising attack. Colonel Hawley's letter contains so distinct and account of the action, and of its want of success, that no comment of mine is necessary. I would observe, however, that he attributes the failure to a neglect of General Stevents to provide for the proper arrangement of his regiments in regimental column. He moreover points out the headquarters of General Stevens at the first hedge, nearly a mile from the scene of the action, and in a position in which it was impossible that he could witness or direct the advance should be observed in admitting any statements by which he has endeavored to thrown off the responsibly of concurring in it.
Moreover, Colonel Hawley, who had advanced to within 100 yards of the works when he was recalled by the aide-de-camp of General Stevens, declares that he saw no abatis or formidable ditch, and that he "attributes the failure to the adherence to the order to advance in brigade line."