Reports of corps, division, and brigade commanders in recent battle now nearly all in. Careful examination of them seems to prove that the gap in the lines through which the enemy poured, flanking and routing all of three divisions and a part of a fourth, was caused by an order of the commanding general. They prove also that there was much confusion and uncertainty in the general movements of the day, through the probability still remains very strong that but for this unfortunate order we should have gained a decisive victory.
To make the case clear to you, let me state the position of the various divisions. On the extreme left was Baird, supported by one brigade of Negley, which had moved there, leaving the remainder of division under Negley halting in rear of Brannan, through he had been ordered to move his whole force to support Baird. Next to Baird was Palmer; next to Palmer, Johnson; next to Johnson, Reynolds. At least such was the original order, but after the line was formed, a gap appearing between Johnson and Reynolds, and the latter having no reserve, inasmuch as his third brigade, Wilder's, being mounted, was detached and posted on the extreme right, under McCook, Brannan's reserve brigade was marched into this gap and fought there. Next to Reynolds, on his right, stood Brannan, and next to Brannan, in the original line, Negley. When that line was formed Wood and Van Cleve, of Crittenden's corps, were both held in reserve, while McCook with the two divisions remaining under his command, Davis' and Sheridan's, flanked on the right by Wilder's mounted infantry, was to hold the right and also to be ready to re-enforce the left when necessary. On taking Negley out to support Baird, Wood, of Crittenden's corps, was ordered to fill Negley's place and did so, having Davis closed in upon his right, as McCook maintains, though Davis tells me that there was always a space between him and Wood. However that may be, it is now certain that the fatal gap was caused by an order of Rosecrans issued at fifteen minutes before 11 a.m. [Rosecrans] had been informed by a staff officer of Thomas' that Brannan had been ordered out of the line to support the extreme left, and supposing him to have left the line accordingly, [Rosecrans] sent a written order to Wood "to close up on Reynolds and support him." When Wood received this order he was, as he says, in some doubt about obeying it, as Brannan was between him and Reynolds, and thus he could not close up on Reynolds, but supposing from the additional words, "and support him," that Reynolds must be hard pressed and in danger, he at once took his command out of the line and marched past the rear of Brannan to the rear of Reynolds' right, where he found that Reynolds needed no support. McCook endeavored to close the vacancy thus left by Wood by moving Davis to the left, but before this could be accomplished, the enemy had broken through and all was over in that part of the field.
Had Wood remained in the line, there is little reason to doubt that the partial repulse which the enemy suffered from our diminished forces later in the day would have been changed into a complete and final victory for us.
General Rosecrans says that in obeying this order Wood was guilty of an error of judgment; that he should have seen in the fact that it required him to close up on Reynolds evidence that it was based on mistaken information, and should therefore have remained where he was. To this Wood replies that he was partially of that opinion,
but that he consulted General McCook, who was with him at the
14 R R-VOL XXX, PT 1