running back on the pike, and passed through our men to this side of Strasburg, tore up a bridge, and thus succeeded in capturing the greater part of the artillery and a number of ordnance and medical wagons and ambulances. The men scattered on the sides, and the rout was as thorough and disgraceful as ever happened to our army.
After the utter failure of all my attempts to rally the men I went to Fisher's Hill with the hope of rallying the troops there and forming them in the trenches, but when they reached that position the only organized body of men left was the prisoners, 1,300 in number, and the provost-guard in charge of them, and I believe that the appearance of these prisoners moving back in a body alone arrested the progress of the enemy's cavalry, as it was too dark for them to discover what they were. Many of the men stopped at Fisher's Hill and went to their old camps, but no organization of them could be effected, and nothing saved us but the inability of the enemy to follow with his infantry and his expectation that we would make a stand there. The state of things was distressing and mortifying beyond measure. We had within our grasp a glorious victory, and lost it by the uncontrollable propensity of our men for plunder, in the first place, and the subsequent panic among those who had kept their place, which was without sufficient cause, for I believe that the enemy had only made the movement against us as a demonstration, hoping to protect his stores, &c., at Winchester, and that the rout of our troops was a surprise to him. I had endeavored to guard against the dangers of stopping to plunder in the camps by cautioning the division commanders and ordering them to caution their subordinates and take the most rigid measures to prevent it, and I endeavored to arrest the evil while in progress without avail. The truth is, we have very few field or company officers worth anything, almost all our good officers of that kind having been killed, wounded, or captured, and it is impossible to preserve discipline without good field an company officers.
I send you a map* of the battle-field with the surrounding country. You will see marked out on it the different routes of the several columns. The plan was a bold one and was vigorously pursued by the division commanders, and it was successful, but the victory already gained was lost by the subsequent bad conduct of the troops. The artillery throughout, from first to last, in this as well as in all the actions I have had, behaved nobly, both officers and men, and not a piece of artillery has been lost by any fault of theirs. I attribute this good conduct on their part to the vast superiority of the officers. Colonel Carter and all his battalion commanders richly deserve promotion. They not fought their guns gallantly and efficiently, but they made the most strenuous efforts to rally the infantry.
It is mortifying to me, general, to have to make these explanations of my reserves. They are due to no want of effort on my part, though it may be that I have not the capacity or judgment to prevent them. I have labored faithfully to gain success, and I have not failed to expose my person and to set an example to my men. I know that I shall have to endure censure from those who do not understand my position and difficulties, but I am still willing to make renewed efforts. If you think, however, that the interests of the service would be promoted by a change of commanders, I beg you will have no hesitation in making the change. The interests of the service are far beyond any mere personal considerations, and if they require it I am willing to surrender
*See Atlas, Plate LXXXII, Map 9.