I am profoundly thankful to the President that he has interposed to restore us to each other after a separation that has been so long and painful to me. Your service, mean time, in this department is unfamiliar to me, but I doubt not that it is worthy of your own antecedents, of the character of the distinguished commander whom I now succeed, and of the fame of the able and successful chief of this important department. Comrades, new fields of duty and peril are before us. Let us hasten to make them historic with the valor and success of American arms. Our cause is a just one, approved, as we trust, by God and the civilized world. Our countrymen are spectators of our conduct. Their hearts throb in unison with our ardor, our courage, and devotion. Let us not disappoint their just expectations.
JOHN A. McCLERNAND,
HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION, THIRTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Indianola, Tex., February 23, 1864.
Captain H. G. BROWN.
Assistant Adjutant-General, U. S. Forces:
CAPTAIN: I send you inclosed Captain W. Wingett's report* of a scout made yesterday by the provost guard of this division under his command, and which through his bad management and disobedience of orders resulted unfortunately in the capture by the enemy of several of his men. My instructions to the captain, given to him in person, were for him to proceed 8 or 10 miles on the Lavaca road, keeping a good lookout for the enemy and using every precaution against surprise. Instead, however, of obeying my orders, he pushed on as far as Chicolet Bayou, 3 miles above Port Lavaca and 18 miles from here, and this, too, notwithstanding the fact that he met the enemy's pickets within 6 miles of this place, and was constantly admonished by the presence of small squads at different points on the prairie, retreating as he advanced, that he was in the vicinity of the main rebel force, which common sense should have taught him was larger than his own.
On arriving at Foster's house, he halted and professed, as I am informed by his men, to take dinner, although assured by Mr. Foster that the rebel camp was close at hand. While delaying here, he was notified by his picket that the enemy, apprised no doubt by their scouts of the smallness of his force, were advancing on him with near 100 cavalry. On receipt of this intelligence, the captain, not allowing his men to fire even a single volley, immediately ordered a hasty retreat, himself being among the first to get away toward camp. No effort appears to have been made on his part to conduct his retreat in good order; the men were left to take care of themselves and were strung out according to the speed of their horses for a mile and a half on the road; but what is still more mortifying, although the enemy's force diminished as intervals during the pursuit, was not returned, as I am informed it might have been with good effect. Captain Wingett's conduct under the circumstances is inexplicable. I have relieved him from the command of the provost guards, in which position I found
*Not found; but see Dana's report, Part I, p. 150.
26 R R-VOL XXXIV, PT II