December, and the first meeting of the committee was held on the 20th of the same month.
From that time until the close of April they sat nearly every day; and there were several meetings during the months of May, June, and July.
Had the committee confined their inquiries and investigations to past transactions, and considered themselves as charged with the duty of collecting and recording testimony to be used by future historians of the war, their labors might have been of value to the country; but they did not take this limited view of the scope and sphere of their operations.
In their judgment, the future as well as the past was committed to their trust.
For instance, the very first witness examined before them was General I. B. Richardson
, and the second was General S. P. Heintzelman
, and both were examined on the same day, December 24. General Richardson
's examination was short, and not very important.
The first question put to General Heintzelman
by the chairman began thus:--“We have inquired a little about the past: now we want to inquire a little about the present and the future, which is, perhaps, more important.
As you are a military man of great experience, we want some of your opinions on some matters.”
As to the “opinions” of the witness which they wanted, one or two questions and answers may suffice to show:--
Ques.--“I would inquire whether there has been any council of war among your officers and the commander-in-chief.”