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[79] to the same State. I was instructed to do this, however, only when it might be done safely.1

As the enemy was nearer to our centre than that centre to either flank of the army, and another advance upon us by the Federal army not improbable on any day, it seemed to me unsafe to make the reorganization then; for it would have exposed the army to the danger of being attacked by the enemy while in the confusion incident to a general change of position by our regiments, when most of them would be unable to take their places in the line of battle.

Although displeased by the delay, the President did not take from me the discretion as to selection of time, previously given. While expressing dissatisfaction, he repeated his order in the terms in which it had first been given: to make the reorganization2 when it could be done without exposing the army to danger.

It is asserted in the “Rebellion record,” that, on the 16th of October, General Geary ascertained that the Eighth Virginia and Thirteenth and Eighteenth Mississippi infantry, and Ashby's cavalry regiments, were at Harper's Ferry, and, crossing the Potomac at that point with ten companies of Federal infantry, attacked, defeated, and drove them off. Ashby was not under my command, so that I cannot assert that his regiment was not at Harper's Ferry at the time specified; but the three infantry

1 The underscoring and phraseology are mine.

2 “To be executed as early as in your discretion it could be safely done.” --Letter of Mr. Benjamin, acting Secretary of War, December 9, 1861.

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