REVIEW OF THE JUDGE-ADVOCATE-GENERAL OF THE RECORD OF THE COURT OF INQUIRY RELATIVE TO THE EVACUATION OF WINCHESTER BY THE COMMAND OF MAJOR GENERAL R. H. MILROY.
Washington, D. C., September 17, 1863. The record of the court of inquiry recently convened and ordered to inquire into and report to the facts and circumstances in regard to the evacuation of Winchester by the command of Major General R. H. Milroy, U. S. Volunteers, has been fully reviewed by me, and I have the honor to present the following summary of facts, with the conclusions deemed to be properly deduced therefrom: The facts naturally divide themselves and will be presented under the following heads:
I. The circumstances and character of the occupation of Winchester before the attack .
II. The orders given General Milroy in reference to the evacuation. III. The circumstances of the attack .
IV. The evacuation (June 15).
V. The retreat .
I. The circumstances and character of the occupation of Winchester before the attack . At the outset of the investigation, there is encountered the important and significant fact that, from a period long prior to the evacuation of Winchester by General Milroy, there had existed a decided difference of opinion between the General-in-Chief. and Major-General Schenck as to the purpose and proper manner of occupying this post. General Schenck, having the duty assigned him to protect the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, instead of stationing guards and pickets near or along the line, believed it better to establish strong garrisons in a cordon of posts considerably to the south of the road . Winchester especially, he considered the key to the approach to a considerable section of country traversed by the road, and here he deemed it proper to station a division of about 9, 000 men, under General Milroy. On the other hand, the general-in-Chief was of the opinion that the troops should be concentrated at important points on or near the line, like Harper's Ferry, and that only a small force should be left at Winchester (and like points), as a lookout or outpost . Thus, we have as series of telegrams from General Halleck to General Schenck from the date of January 5, 1863, down to the period of the attack upon Winchester, in all of which the former conveys his views upon this subject in a decided manner and in similar terms. On January 5, he says: No attempt be made to hold Winchester against a large force of the enemy, but use it simply as an outpost, as advised in our conversation a few days ago . Isolated posts and columns are liable to be cut off.
On April 30, he telegraphs: As I have often repeated verbally and in witting, that [Winchester]is no place to fight a battle. It is merely an outpost, which should not be exposed to an attack in force .
On May 8, he telegraphs: You will maintain only a small force at Winchester as an outpost, and employ the remainder of Milroy's troops for the protection of the railroad and for operations against the enemy in West Virginia .