form of military investigation and report upon this precise movement of these troops at Petersburg. I have no opinion, because I do not know the facts. Certain it is that there is fault somewhere, and I think, and venture most respectfully to suggest, that it is due to yourself, the army, and the country, that the fault should be ascertained, so that the remedy may be applied either mediately or immediately by yourself or the War Department if the matter is susceptible either of amendment or correction. If the whole affair can be investigated it will be found that the plan of movement was excellent, that the strategy which drew Lee's attention to the north side of the James accomplished all that could be desired in drawing away his troops. This much I know, for a portion of this it was my business to know. Why, then, did the plan fail? Clearly for want of proper and efficient execution. Was that failure of execution inherent and irremediable in the very nature of things, and in troops engaged, or did it arise from other causes or the faults and incompetency of commanding officers of any subdivision of the army? This is the subject that, in my judgment, needs investigation. It is true that by the Articles of War, to prevent oppression by the commander upon any officer under him, a commanding general cannot order a court of inquiry upon any officer's conduct without his request, but it is clearly competent for the commander of an army to order a court of inquiry or a board of officers to investigate and report the facts relating to a given movement or occurrence in order to furnish the basis upon which the general commanding can ask for court of inquiry upon any officer, and if in the investigation of the facts of a given transaction the conduct or capacity of any officer becomes a question bearing upon the subject-matter of the inquiry, then that conduct and capacity can be investigated as incidental to the main question or investigation.
Pardon me if in urging this inquiry I am overstepping the bounds of official propriety or sphere of duty, either public or official. I am prompted by a double motive. I desire not to have this most serious reverse placed where I know it does not belong, i. e., either on the plan or strategy which preceded it; and secondly, as I raised the first regiments of negro troops, and have ever since urged their employment, I desire to have my own judgment corrected, if in the wrong. We are likely to have these troops under the last act of Congress on the draft in large numbers, and if they are to be useless it ought to be known at once. Such has not been my experience, and I am ready and willing now to take under my command the defeated division of General Burnside's colored troops, and with them to attempt any work that any troops ought to try.
Subject always to have my opinions altered by any well-ascertained facts developed in the investigation to which I have alluded which ought to affect a well-balanced mind, believe me, general,
BENJ. F. BUTLER.
CITY POINT, August 4, 1864.
Our transports were fired into yesterday at Wilcox's Landing, and to-day at Harrison's Landing. Captain Clitz, commanding gun-boat Osceola, reports that he to-day communicated with females, white, and a contraband at Wilcox's Landing, who agree in saying that an infan-
4 R R-VOL XLII, PT II