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[442] and direct, that the result did not to any great extent surprise nor in any way displease the officer in command at Harper's Ferry. But this conclusion, so much relied upon by the defence, forces the Commission to a consideration of the fact, Did Colonel Ford, under the discretionary power thus vested in him, make a proper defence of the Heights, and hold them as he should have done, until driven off by the enemy?

The evidence shows conclusively that the force upon the Heights was not well managed; that the point most pressed was weakly defended as to numbers, and after the wounding of the colonel of the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New-York infantry, it was left without a competent officer in command, Col. Ford himself not appearing nor designating any one who might have restored order and encouraged the men; that the abandonment of the Heights was premature, is clearly proved. Our forces were not driven from the hill, as full time was given to spike the guns and throw the heavier ones down the cliff, and retreat in good order to Harper's Ferry. The next day a force returning to the Heights found them unoccupied, and brought away unmolested four abandoned guns and a quantity of ammunition.

In so grave a case as this, with such disgraceful consequences, the court cannot permit an officer to shield himself behind the fact that he did as well as he could, if in so doing he exhibits a lack of military capacity. It is clear to the Commission that Col. Ford should not have been placed in command on Maryland Heights; that he conducted the defence without ability, and abandoned his position without sufficient cause, and has shown throughout such a lack of military capacity as to disqualify him, in the opinion of the commission, for a command in the service.

Colonel D. S. Miles.

The Commission has approached a consideration of this officer's conduct in connection with the surrender of Harper's Ferry with extreme reluctance. An officer who cannot appear before any earthly tribunal to answer or explain charges gravely affecting his character, who has met his death at the hands of the enemy, even upon the spot he disgracefully surrenders, is entitled to the tenderest care and most careful investigation. This the Commission has accorded Col. Miles, and in giving a decision only repeats what runs through our nine hundred pages of testimony, strangely unanimous upon the fact that Colonel Miles's incapacity, amounting to almost imbecility, led to the shameful surrender of this important post.

Early as the fifteenth of August he disobeys the orders of Major-Gen. Wool to fortify Maryland Heights. When it is surrounded and attacked by the enemy, its naturally strong positions are unimproved, and from his criminal neglect, to use the mildest term, the large force of the enemy is almost upon an equality with the small force under his command. He seems to have understood, and admitted to his officers that Maryland Heights is the key to the position, and yet he places Col. Ford in command with a feeble force, makes no effort to strengthen them by fortifications, although between the fifth and fourteenth of September there was ample time to do so; and to Colonel Ford's repeated demands for means to intrench and additional reinforcements, he makes either an inadequate return or no response at all. He gives Col. Ford a discretionary power as to when he shall abandon the Heights, the fact of abandonment having, it seems, been concluded on in his own mind. For, when this unhappy event really occurs, his only exclammation was to the effect that he feared Col. Ford had given up too soon, although he must have known that the abandonment of Maryland Heights was the surrender of Harper's Ferry. This leaving the key of the position to the keeping of Col. Ford, with discretionary power, after the arrival of that capable and courageous officer who had waived his rank to serve wherever ordered, is one of the more striking facts illustrating the incapacity of Col. Miles.

Immediately previous to and pending the siege of Harper's Ferry, he paroles rebel prisoners and permits, indeed sends them to the enemy's Headquarters. This, too, when he should have known that the lack of ammunition, the bad conduct of some of our troops, the entire absence of fortifications, and the abandonment of Maryland Heights, were important facts they could, and undoubtedly did communicate to the enemy. Sixteen of these prisoners were paroled on the thirteenth, and a pass given them in the hand-writing of Col. Miles, while a rebel officer by the name of Rouse, after an escape is retaken, and subsequently has a private interview with Col. Miles, is paroled, and after the surrender appears at the head of his men, among the first to enter Harper's Ferry.

It is not necessary to accumulate evidence from the mass that throughout scarcely affords one fact in contradiction to what each one establishes, that Col. Miles was incapable of conducting a defence so important as was this of Harper's Ferry.

The Commission would not have dwelt upon this painful subject were it not for the fact that the officer who placed this incapable in command should share in the responsibility, and in the opinion of the Commission Major-Gen. Wool is guilty to this extent of a grave disaster, and should be censured for his conduct.

The Commission has remarked freely on Col. Miles, an old officer who has been killed in the service of his country, and it cannot from any motive of delicacy, refrain from censuring those in high command, when it thinks such censure deserved. The General-in-Chief has testified that Gen. McClellan, after having received orders to repel the enemy invading the State of Maryland, marched only six miles per day, on an average, when pursuing this invading enemy. The General-in-Chief also testifies that in his opinion Gen. McClellan could and should have relieved and protected Harper's Ferry, and in this opinion the Commission fully concur.

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