Captain Powell heard Colonel Miles state just after the evacuation, "It was well; the next charge the enemy made they would have driven our forces from the mountain and got possession of the siege guns, and turned them upon us at Harper's Ferry."
The conduct of both Colonel Miles and Colonel Ford when they were together shows that Colonel Miles had ordered Colonel Ford to evacuate Maryland Heights. They met and were in friendly conversation just as Colonel Ford came down and by the pontoon bridge. Colonel Sammon, Major Steiner, and Captain McGrath saw Colonel Miles and Colonel Ford together shortly after the evacuation, and their relations were evidently pleasant and friendly. Major Russell saw Colonel Ford at Colonel Miles' headquarters that evening, as late as 9 o'clock, in friendly conversation. Mrs. Brown: "I heard Colonel Miles tell you (Colonel Ford) that your men would have to fall back to the Ferry; they could not hold the heights; the thing was impossible; the rebel force was too strong. You rose to your feet and swore you would be dammed if you could not hold it, provided he would send re-enforcements. He said he had sent all he could spare." This must have been a few minutes before the remarks of Colonel Miles testified to by Major Steiner. It was at the same place, and as Colonel Miles was leaving. The most truthful testimony of a hundred witnesses, including Colonel Ford himself, and all his officers, could not present it fully and clearly. After all had been told that they could tell you, still, the half would have been left untold. He acted, as all commanders must act, in view of the facts as they were then presented to him. He did the best he could; angels can do no more.
Not one witness casts a shade of doubt or imputation upon the courage and coolness and capacity, the patriotism or the honor, of Colonel Ford. Not one man states that he did not make the best use he could of the means he had at his command, and the very best disposition that could be made of his forces. Not one witness testifies that he was ever absent for a moment from his post of duty, or negligent or backward in the discharge of his duty. He was always, at all times and in every place, eager and anxious to discharge his whole duty to his country in his command. Not one witness doubts the clearness of his intellect and his general ability as a commander of his regiment. Not one witness doubts, in the least, but that he was and is an honest, truthful, honorable, and faithful officer. Where, then, is there room left for censure, or for anything else than praise? He fought bravely and wisely and well, but was overpowered by superior numbers with superior advantages, and, under the order of his commanding officer from whom it should have been given, he left a position that might have been made nearly impregnable if properly fortified and manned, but which was nearly defenseless. He regrets that he was compelled to do so; regrets the sad results of his withdrawing from the heights and the discomfiture of his forces, but knows that he has done his whole duty. He obeyed every order of his commanding officer promptly and fully. What duty did he omit or neglect to discharge? At what moment was he absent from his post? At what time was he ever found remiss, or careless, or negligent, or off his guard, or taken by surprise? Never. He, therefore, claims it as his right that this tribunal certify the Government that the evacuation of Maryland Heights was not caused or produced by any misconduct or omission of duty on his part; that in the service assigned to him he did faithfully and wisely and carefully and well his duty, and his whole duty, and is now, as he always has been, a meritorious officer. Defense! He needs no defense.