action on an unforeseen event which was unprovided for, and I therefore respectfully ask, whether in the absence of the commander his staff officers have any right to issue orders upon an unforeseen and unprovided-for contingency, in his name, and to order dispositions which he can know nothing of until they are carried out, irrespective of the officer next in rank present in the vicinity?
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. S. RIPLEY,
HDQRS. DEPT. OF S. CAROLINA, GEORGIA, AND FLORIDA,
Charleston, S. C., October 1, 1864.
This letter has been delayed at my headquarters because General Beauregard, who was ordered by the President to investigate the whole matter referred to by Brigadier-General Ripley, desired to examine this with other documents. Before leaving Charleston on the morning of the 17th, I had conferred fully with my senior assistant adjutant and inspector general, Major Lay, who was fully informed of my views, and to whom I had given such directions as I thought would obviate all difficulties, and provide for any contingency likely to arise during the few hours I expected to be absent. I was but 21 miles from Charleston, at Summerville, on the South Carolina Railroad, and had directed that I be sent for immediately if any emergency arose requiring it. During my brief absence General Ripley advised Major Lay to issue orders to other district commanders for movement of troops, which was done, and did not intimate any unwillingness to obey similar orders himself. When perfectly proper orders, in accordance with my instructions and such as I would have given had I been present, were sent him he not only refused to receive and obey them, but came in person to my headquarters, very much excited, and in violent, rude, and insulting manner and language, accompanied with threats to Major Lay, refused to obey or receive orders from my headquarters.
As General Beauregard has, by order of the President, investigated the whole manner and is now on his way with a record of the whole correspondence to lay before His Excellency the result of his investigation, I will not comment further on this letter than to add that if General Ripley's views are correct, the officer commanding this department can never leave his permanent headquarters to visit other portions of the department without danger of confusion and conflict of orders, and can feel no assurance that his orders will be obeyed.
OCTOBER 7, 1864.
Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War in connection with the report* of General Beauregard on the same subject.
According to long practice in the army, no person in the military service has a right to go behind the order of a staff officer who
*See p. 632.