simply one of judgment and duty, under the circumstances by which I was surrounded. My troops had been driven back and scattered, the ground was singularly unfavorable for rallying them, a commanding officer could do little more in that forest and thicket than any other general officer. I remained until I gave orders to my troops and for the safety of the artillery and transportation. I knew that Generals Sheridan and Davis were in safety and with their men, and competent to take charge of them.
The point to be saved or lost was the position at Chattanooga. To that point the general commanding had gone. He had been not far to the left of my lines when they gave way, and as he passed by on the Dry Valley road saw me "among the broken columns trying to rally the troops." I had an order which I believe to be in force, requiring me to report to him in person in the field. As General Rosecrans, in the correction of his testimony, says he supposes I had complied with that part of the order; that we had met and I informed him I would send in Laiboldt's brigade to set matters to rights, I desire to call the attention of the Court to the terms of the order and the circumstances which preceded and followed it.
It was given after an order dispatches a few minutes before, which required me to look out for a new position farther to the left; that the exigencies of the day might be so pressing as to require the removal of all the troops from the right, involving consultation and the development of a new plan. Surely it was not to report that I had obeyed him and repeated his order to Sheridan, for that was the duty of a staff officer to perform, for which a general officer would not be taken away from his troops. And at an interview, after such pressing and important orders, nothing took place between us but a reference by myself to one of my brigades.
General Rosecrans' recollection has not served him correctly; he must have the impression from soem previous interview between us.
At the time Laiboldt went in, the testimony shows I was behind his brigade, went forward with it, and was driven back when his troops were repulsed.
Besides, if the situation was so extreme on the left, when the right was intact, as to require a personal interview, surely it was not lessened when the right was broken, and the troops marching to support the left were driven by the enemy.
If there could be a time when an interview between a general and his lieutenant was necessary, that time was then.
If I had troops which I had thought I could have reorganized in time and taken to the left, I concede that when I did not find him upon the field, it would have been my duty to have marched where the cannon yet sounded. Upon the information communicated to my by staff officers whom I met upon the field,and whose testimony is before the court, I determined to go to Chattanooga, but through Rossville, or close to it, that I might get information from General Thomas, and ascertain the situation of the place in the direction of which I had ordered my troops to move, and where I supposed the troops of Thomas would move back. I had no acquaintance with the country or the roads, neither myself nor any of my staff having ever been in Chattanooga, or nearer it than the battle-field. I was compelled to rely upon the guide of General Rosecrans, who assured me there was no other route we could take, and that the one we took led us toward Rossville. I expected to go by Rossville, or near enough to learn the situation of affairs there, until I met the troops