Of the third specification guilty, of so much of the third specification as relates to his not providing means of crossing the ditch, and in this of failing in the details of his attack to make the arrangements essential to his success.
Of the charge guilty; and the court do therefore sentence the accused, the said Major General L. McLaws, to be suspended from rank and command for sixty days.
It is the opinion of the court that there are many circumstances shown by the evidence which exonerate Major General L. McLaws from any high degree of criminality in his failure to provide the ordinary means of crossing the ditch. He had many reasons for considering it a slight one, and was encouraged in this belief by the opinion of those officers in the army whose opinions should have had the most weight with him. The court acquit Major-General McLaws of any deliberate purpose to fail in any duty devolved upon him, but it is their opinion that his only fault was in failing to appreciate the full weight, and they may say the almost fearful extent, of the responsibility resting upon him as the director of an assaulting column.
II. The court was convened by order of the War Department. From the record it appears that the court adjourned on February 13, 1864, at Morristown, to meet at New Market on the 15th of the same month, and on the same day, in accordance with the suggestion of Lieutenant-General Longstreet, reassembled, and, in the absence of two members of the court who had voted at the previous session and of the accused, adjourned indefinitely. The record further shows that after the court had been organized a leave of absence was granted for thirty days, by Lieutenant-General Longstreet, to Brigadier-General Humphreys, a member of the court, under the direct orders of the War Department, and in important witness. Without reference to the merits of the case, these irregularities are fatal to the record.
III. The finding of the court upon the third specification is not sustained by the evidence. The witnesses attest the fact that the ditch at the northwest angle of the fort, where the attack was made, was not more than 4 1/2 feet deep by 8 to 10 feet wide, and that there was no necessity for artificial means to cross it. There could not, therefore, be guilt in having failed to provide such means. More-over, the finding is defective in not responding to the material allegation in the specification that the accused "failed to inform his officers that the ditch on the west side of the fort was but little obstacle to his infantry, and that the fort could be easily entered from that side with but little delay." The court should have taken cognizance of this allegation, and found upon it either for or against the accused. The finding was easy to be determined, since it appears from the evidence that the ditch on the west side was "12 to 13 feet deep." There cannot be guilt in having omitted to make statements which would not have been true. The allegation in the third specification, that the accused "failed, in the details of attack, to make arrangements essential to success," was evidently introduced as a conclusion to previous allegations, and was not issuable in itself. The court erred in finding upon it, and moreover the finding is not sustained by the evidence.
IV. The proceedings, finding, and sentence of the court are disapproved. Major-General McLaws will at once return to duty with his command.
V. The court-martial of which Major General S. B. Buckner is president is hereby dissolved.
Adjutant and Inspector General.