Such was the condition of things when I was directed by the commanding general to evacuate East Tennessee, with a view of effecting a junction with him. The authority to give such an order had been conferred, and it was my duty to obey. Having passed the limits of my department, I continued without restrictions to exercise over my troops the proper administrative duties of my position. In this I was guided by a wish to render every assistance in my power to the commanding general; and I flatter myself that my conduct of the duties will not compare unfavorably with the conduct even of the commanding general himself. I usurped no authority belonging to others.
Even in discharging the duties of administration from which the commanding general refused to relieve me, I deferred in every doubtful case to himself. In no case did I order an officer from my command without first referring the case to the commanding general, except in those instances where officers had become superfluous in my command from the repeated organizations through which it passed after it had come within his reach. I then ordered a few who were out of position here to field where they had originally been assigned by the War Department, and where their services might be of use to the country. The principle which has uniformly guided my action is that all parts of the contingent, so to speak, which I brought to this army, and which were necessary to complete its organizations, came under the general system of government of the Army of Tennessee, but when from any cause an officer of my department ceased to be a necessary part of the contingent, he received orders from me as a department commander, and not as commander of a corps in the Army of Tennessee. This happened when on the reduction of my command to a division, the medical director of the Department of East Tennessee and the military court of my department were rendered needless with this army. When this occurred, I sent them back to the Department of East Tennessee, where their services might be useful.
The principle on which I have acted was but recently practically sustained by the commanding general, when, on an application of Colonel Hodge for a part of his brigade left back in Virginia, he directed a reference of the subject to me. It was about the same time recognized by the War Department, when an officer was directed to report to me, and did report to me at this place, to relieve Colonel Hodge in the command of Preston's cavalry.
If the commanding general will permit himself to look dispassionately at everything that precedes, I think he must reach the conclusion of every unprejudiced mind, that not only under the authority of the War Department, but under his own orders, which forced upon me duties which I sought to avoid, I was compelled to act as I have done. I confess that I thought complications would arise, but I little thought that the "conflict" and "confusion" which he so confidently promised could not take place, would first arise in my receiving a rebuke for complying with his orders. Under the supposition that the department was merged, lost, "broken up," his orders to me would have been valid, and I would have been compelled to administer the department as he ordered. My commendation for such obedience is a rebuke in language of the most mandatory style.
But, as afterward appeared, the department was not "broken up." It was left intact, subordinated only for a specific purpose. The ad-