previous next

Doc. 11.-evacuation of Winchester.

Major-General Milroy's report.

Baltimore, June 30, 1863.
Colonel: I have been compelled by the exigencies of public duties connected with my late command to defer until this time a report of the recent operations about Winchester. Having no reports from brigade commanders and not even an opportunity of conferring with them, I am still unable to give a detailed report. A sense of duty to myself and to the officers and soldiers which I had the honor to command requires that I should submit some general statements.

I occupied Winchester with my command on the twenty-fifth of December last, and continued in its occupancy until Monday morning, the fifteenth instant, when, for reasons which will appear in the sequel of this report, I was compelled to evacuate it. When I first occupied Winchester, the valley of the Shenandoah, from Staunton to Strasburgh, was occupied by the rebel General Jones, with a force variously estimated at from five to six thousand men, and constituted principally of cavalry. Imboden at the same time occupied the Cacapon Valley with a force composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, estimated at one thousand five hundred men. These were the only forces by which I was in danger of being assailed, unless by a force from Lee's [29] army, which it was supposed would be prevented from hostile demonstrations in my direction by the army of the Potomac. The object in occupying Winchester was to observe and hold in check the rebel forces in the valley and to secure the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad against depredations. Late in March, in pursuance of an order issued upon my own suggestion, I stationed the Third brigade of my division, consisting of the Sixth regiment Maryland volunteer infantry, Sixty-seventh regiment Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, First regiment New-York volunteer cavalry, and the Baltimore battery, at Berryville, Colonel McReynolds, of the First New-York cavalry, commanding. My instructions to Col. McReynolds were to keep open our communication with Harper's Ferry, and to watch the passes of the Blue Ridge (Snicker's and Ashby's Gaps) and the fords of the Shenandoah River known as Snicker's and Berry's. To this end he was to cause to be diligently scouted, the country between him and those localities, and as far south as Millwood. I was expressly instructed to undertake no offensive operations in force. Acting in accordance with these instructions, I kept my forces well in hand in the vicinities of Berryville and Winchester, except that during the expedition of General Jones into West-Virginia, by order from your headquarters, I sent portions of them into that State. During my occupancy of Winchester, I almost continually kept out heavy cavalry scouts on the Front Royal road as far as Front Royal, and on the Strasburgh road as far as Strasburgh. My cavalry frequently drove the enemy's pickets as far up the valley as Woodstock, and I held almost undisputed possession of the valley as far as Strasburgh until about the first of June. By means of these cavalry expeditions, and information furnished me by Union citizens, I kept continually posted as to the rebel forces in the valley under Jones and Imboden, and was at no time deceived as to their numbers or movements. About the first of June the enemy became bolder, and small detachments of his cavalry were met as far down the valley as Middletown. On Friday, the twelfth day of June, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there had been any accumulation of rebel forces in my front, I sent out two strong reconnoitring parties, one on the Strasburgh and the other on the Front Royal road. The one on the Strasburgh road consisted of the Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, Thirteenth Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry, and one section of battery L, Fifth regiment artillery, under command of Col. Shawl, of the Eighty-seventh regiment Pennsylvania volunteer infantry. This reconnoissance was conducted with energy, in pursuance of instructions, and its results were in every way satisfactory. The expedition proceeded up the valley, the cavalry in advance, but within supporting distance of the infantry and artillery, until it had arrived within two miles of Middletown, at which place a. messenger from Major Kerwin, who was in command of the cavalry, announced to Colonel Shawl that a superior force of cavalry of the enemy had been discovered in line of battle immediately north of Middletown. The infantry and artillery were immediately concealed, the former in a dense grove to the right and within one hundred yards of the road, and the latter behind a ridge. Our cavalry retired skirmishing with the enemy, until he was drawn within reach of the fire of the infantry. Upon the first fire of our infantry, the enemy retreated precipitately, followed by our cavalry, which pursued beyond Middletown.

In this affair the enemy lost fifty (as has since been ascertained) in killed and wounded, and we took thirty-seven prisoners. Colonel Shawl remained on the ground an hour, during which time his cavalry scoured the country in every direction, but could detect no traces of an accumulation of rebel forces. The prisoners taken all belonged to the Maryland battalion and Fourteenth regiment Virginia cavalry, troops which had been in the valley and on picket-duty during the whole period of my occupancy of Winchester. Besides, separate examinations of the prisoners disclosed that there was no accumulation of rebel forces there. Col. Shawl made his report to me about seven o'clock in the evening, and it relieved me from all apprehensions of an attack from the Strasburgh road. It is now known that no portion of Lee's army approached Winchester from that direction.

The reconnaissance of the Front Royal road was abortive. The expedition consisted of the Twelfth Pennsylvania cavalry, about four hundred strong, under command of Lieut.-Col. Moss. It returned to Winchester about three o'clock in the afternoon of Friday. Its commanding officer reported, that at Cedarville, a place twelve miles from Winchester, he had encountered a large force of the enemy, composed of cavalry, infantry, and artillery. It did not appear, however, that he had placed himself in a position to ascertain the number or character of the force which he had encountered, or exercised the usual and necessary efforts to obtain that essential information. Officers of his command and reliable scouts, who were present, gave contradictory reports.

This report was discredited by myself and by Gen. Elliott my second in command. There was nothing in the report which indicated the presence of Gen. Lee's army. It was supposed that the force on the Front Royal road could not be other than the enemy which we had faced during the occupancy of Winchester, or that the anticipated cavalry raid of Gen. Stuart was in progress, against either or both of which combined I could have held my position. I deemed it impossible that Lee's army, with its immense artillery and baggage trains, could have escaped from the army of the Potomac and crossed the Blue Ridge through Ashby's, Chester, and Thornton gaps in concentric columns. The movement must have occupied five or six days, and notice of its being in progress could have been conveyed to me from General Hooker's headquarters in five [30] minutes; for telegraphic communication still existed between Baltimore and Winchester.

On Friday night I doubled my pickets and kept out strong cavalry patrols on the leading roads, and I also sent a messenger to Colonel Mc-Reynolds at Berryville notifying him that the enemy was reported to be in considerable force in the Front Royal road. I instructed him to keep a strong party of observation in the direction of Milwood; to place his command in readiness to move at a moment's warning; if attacked by a superior force, to fall back upon Winchester by the route which he might deem most practicable, and that if his command should be needed at Winchester he would be notified by four discharges from the large guns at the main fort at Winchester.

The whole forces under my command at this time were: First brigade, Brigadier-General Elliott commanding: One Hundred and Tenth regiment O. V. I., Col. Keifer; One Hundred and Sixteenth regiment O. V. I., Colonel Washburn; One Hundred and Twenty-second regiment O. V. I., Col. Ball; One Hundred and Twenty-third regiment O. V. I., Col. Wilson; Thirteenth regiment Pennsylvania cavalry, Col. Gallagher; Twelfth regiment Pennsylvania cavalry, Lieut.-Col. Moss; battery L, Fifth regiment artillery, First Lieut. Randolph. Second brigade, Colonel Ely, Eighteenth Connecticut, commanding: Eighty-seventh regiment Pa. V. I., Colonel Shawl; Twelfth regiment Va. V. I., Col. Klunk; Eighteenth regiment Conn. V. I., Lieut.-Col. Nichols; Fifth regiment Md. V. I., Capt. Holton; battery D, First Virginia artillery, Capt. Carlin; company K, First Virginia cavalry, Lieut. Dawson; companies D and E, Third Virginia cavalry, Capt. White.

The composition of the Third brigade, Colonel McReynolds commanding, is above given.

The heavy guns of the principal fort, consisting of four twenty-pound Parrotts and two twenty-four-pound howitzers, were served by a company of the Fourteenth Massachusetts heavy artillery, commanded by Captain Martin.

The command numbered, according to Friday morning's return, six thousand nine hundred men. On Saturday morning, at a few minutes before eight o'clock, my cavalry patrols on the Front Royal road reported that the enemy was approaching in force.

Deeming it advisable that under the circumstances the whole command should be united at Winchester, I gave Colonel McReynolds the concerted signal above stated. I immediately sent forward on the Front Royal and Strasburgh roads forces to observe and report the forces and movements of the enemy. That on the Front Royal road consisted of the Twelfth Pennsylvania cavalry, Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania infantry, Eighteenth Connecticut infantry, Fifth Maryland infantry, and one section of battery L Fifth regiment artillery, Col. Ely commanding. A little over a mile from Winchester this force encountered a battery of the enemy located in a wood at the right of the Front Royal road. After a short artillery skirmish, Col. Ely retired his command to near the junction of the Front Royal and Strasburgh roads, immediately south and adjoining Winchester. The enemy did not pursue in force. Occasionally, during the day, small detachments of rebel cavalry approached from that direction, but were driven off by our infantry pickets, which were well protected and directed to remain at their posts and act as skirmishers.

The force on the Strasburgh road consisted of the One Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred and Twenty-third Ohio and Twelfth Virginia infantry, and Thirteenth Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry, and Carlin's battery, Brig.-Gen. Elliott commanding.

A little to the west and adjoining Winchester is a high ridge, which extends from the town south for over a mile to Mill Creek, which is known as Applepie Ridge. Around the southern terminus of this ridge the creek and a millrace wind across the Strasburgh road, and from thence in a northern direction across the Front Royal road, and north of that road to the Hollingsworth mills, where the race terminates and the creek takes an abrupt eastern course. The whole length of the race is about two miles. The creek and race combined afford a strong protection against cavalry, and for that reason, and the additional one that stone fences and other covers abound in its vicinity, they had been adopted as a portion of my infantry picket-line. The force above designated, except two sections of Carlin's battery stationed on the southern extremity of the ridge above described, proceeded up the Strasburgh road to within a short distance of Kearnstown, where it remained, encountering no enemy, except occasional parties of skirmishers, until about two o'clock P. M., when Brig.-General Elliott, through Lieut. Alexander, of his staff, re ported to me at the place where two sections of Carlin's battery were in position, that he could find no enemy in his front, but that there were indications that the enemy was massing his forces on our left, in the vicinity of the Front Royal road. I then directed Gen. Elliott to retire his force on the Strasburgh road back of the creek and race above described, so as to put it in a position to support Col. Ely on the Front Royal road, or the forces at the forts, as exigency might require. While this order was being executed, and when Gen. Elliott's command had arrived at within six hundred yards of the creek and race, a considerable force of the enemy's infantry, in two lines of battle, displayed itself to our right, with the apparent intention to flank and cut off our retiring troops. I estimated the force of the enemy then in sight at two thousand. The two sections of Carlin's battery on the ridge as above stated commanded the position of the enemy, and immediately opened on him with sufficient effect to throw him into confusion, when the One Hundred and Tenth regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, Col. Keifer, and One Hundred and Twenty-third regiment Ohio volunteer infantry, Col. Wilson, charged upon [31] him and drove him back in disorder, with considerable loss. Simultaneously the Twelfth Virginia infantry, Col. Klunk, engaged a large body of the enemy's skirmishers in a wood south of the ridge, and on the opposite side of the creek and race, and after holding them in check two hours, being outflanked and greatly outnumbered, retired. Our whole force which had been advanced on the Strasburgh road, retired behind the creek and race above described. That creek and race then constituted the line of our forces in front of the town, and was held by Col. Ely, with a portion of his brigade, on the Front Royal road, and by Gen. Elliott, with a portion of his brigade, on the Strasburgh road. The remainder of my forces were in the forts immediately north of the town.

Immediately after our forces had retired from the Strasburgh road to the Winchester side of the creek and race, the enemy advanced his skirmishers, and brisk skirmishing ensued until dark. About five o'clock in the evening the enemy advanced and took possession of a picket post surrounded by a stone wall on the south, east, and west, and which commanded the Strasburgh road, from which they were dislodged by two companies of the Twelfth Virginia volunteer infantry. In this affair, which occurred about six o'clock in the evening, we captured a prisoner, from whom I learned that he belonged to Hay's Louisiana brigade, which was a part of Ewell's corps, the whole of which, and also that of Longstreet, was in our immediate vicinity. A deserter, who came in shortly afterward, confirmed his statement. This was the first intimation that I received that Lee's army had quietly retired before the lines of the army of the Potomac and performed a five or six days march. Telegraphic communication with my headquarters continued until twelve o'clock M. on Saturday. The Blue Ridge screened the operations of Lee's army from me. I had always relied with implicit confidence upon receiving timely notice by telegraph of its advance in my direction. On Saturday, under the cover of night, I withdrew my forces on the Strasburgh and Front Royal roads, in front of Winchester, to the southern suburbs of the town, under orders to retire to the forts north of the town at two o'clock in the morning. Colonel McReynolds arrived with his command between nine and ten o'clock P. M., and was assigned to the star fort, immediately north of the main fortification. At this time it was evident that at least two corps of Lee's army, numbering not less than fifty thousand men, and abundantly supplied with artillery, were in my immediate vicinity, and that my retreat by the Martinsburgh and Berryville roads was cut off.

I still hoped that there had been some corresponding action of the army of the Potomac, and that if I could sustain myself for twenty-four hours I would be relieved.

Early on Sunday morning detachments of cavalry were sent out on the Berryville and Martinsburgh roads, but were driven back by the enemy's skirmishers and sharp-shooters. From seven o'clock on Sunday morning until four o'clock in the afternoon detachments from the Eighteenth Connecticut, Fifth Maryland, and Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, under the direction of Colonel Ely, continually skirmished with the enemy in front of the forts and east of the town, between the Front Royal and Martinsburgh roads. During this skirmishing the rebels took possession of a large brick dwelling, surrounded by dense shrubbery, on the Berryville road, about half a mile from Winchester. Our skirmishers attached and carried the house, killing one officer and five men, and capturing eleven prisoners. At one time during the day the rebels in considerable numbers appeared in the town, but were driven out by the Eighteenth Connecticut and Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania volunteer infantry. On Sunday morning General Elliott, with a portion of his brigade, Carlin's battery, and the Twelfth Virginia volunteer infantry, took position on the ridge above described, about a quarter of a mile south of the Romney road. He had frequent and sometimes severe skirmishes. The enemy did not, however, at any time appear before him in force.

In consequence of the overwhelming masses of the enemy about me, I kept my forces during the day well in hand, and in immediate connection with the forts. As early as Saturday evening, after I learned the presence of Lee's army in force, I made up my mind to act entirely on the defensive, economize my forces, wait until the enemy had massed himself for the final attack, and then, unless relieved, force my way through what might appear to be the weakest portion of his lines.

My belief was superinduced by the manoeuvres of the enemy on Saturday, and by the grounds that the real attack would come from the Romney road. Early on Sunday morning I ordered Captain Morgan, of the Twelfth Pennsylvania cavalry, with a detachment of two companies of that regiment, to proceed out the Pughtown road as far as Pughtown, if practicable, thence across to the Romney road, and by that road back to the forts. I instructed him to carefully observe the disposition and forces of the enemy, if any, in that direction. That officer returned with his command to the forts about two o'clock P. M., and reported that he had made the round indicated without meeting or detecting any traces of an enemy in that direction. Immediately west of and parallel with the ridge on which the main fortification is constructed, and about two thousand yards distant therefrom, is another range, known as Flint Ridge, on which there was in process of construction a line of earthworks which commanded the Pughtown and Romney roads, and all the approaches from the west. These works were occupied on Sunday by the One Hundred and Tenth and part of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio volunteer infantry, and battery L, Fifth regiment artillery, under Colonel Keifer. The report of Captain Morgan relieved me from all apprehension of an immediate attack in that direction, and induced [32] me to turn my attention to the approaches in other directions. I am still at a loss to know how Captain Morgan could have made the tour which he reported without seeing or encountering the enemy, for within two hours after he made the report the enemy opened upon me from the west with at least four full batteries, some of his guns being of the longest range, under cover of which fire he precipitated a column at least ten thousand strong upon the outwork held by Colonel Keifer, which, after a stubborn resistance, he carried. This outwork was commanded by the guns of the main and star forts, which were immediately brought to bear upon the enemy, driving him from the position and affording a protection to Colonel Keifer's command, under which it retreated, with small loss, to the main fort. The guns at the fort, and the Baltimore battery, Captain Alexander, at the star fort, and Carlin's battery, immediately south of the main fort, engaged the enemy's guns, and an artillery contest ensued which was maintained with energy on both sides until eight o'clock in the evening. During its progress I massed my troops in the main and star forts, and in the rifle-pits in front of them. To my regret, the enemy made no effort to take my position by assault. About nine o'clock in the evening I convened a council of war, consisting of Brigadier-General Elliott, commanding First brigade, Colonel Ely, commanding Second brigade, and Colonel McReynolds, commanding Third brigade.

Before stating the result of this council, it is proper that I should state the circumstances by which we were surrounded. It was certain that Lee had eluded the army of the Potomac, and was at liberty to use his whole force against us without hindrance from any source. Our position at Winchester, although affording facilities for defence which would enable an inferior to maintain itself against a superior number for a limited time, could not be successfully defended by the limited means at my command against such an army as surrounded me. Six principal roads, known in the army as the Romney, Pughtown, Martinsburgh, Berryville, Front Royal, and Strasburgh roads, lead into the town. The names of these roads indicate their courses. They are all intersected and connected by cross-roads in close proximity to the town. Cavalry and artillery can approach the town and the forts from any direction. We had but one day's rations left, and our artillery ammunition was almost entirely expended. On Monday morning the enemy could have brought one hundred guns to bear on us, to which we could have made no reply. Precedents which have occurred during this rebellion and in other countries would have justified a capitulation; but I thought, and my comrades in council thought, that we owed our lives to the Government rather than make such a degrading concession to rebels in arms against its authority.

The propositions concluded upon in that council were, that in consequence of the entire exhaustion of artillery ammunition, it was impossible to hold the forts against the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and that a further prolongation of the defence could only result in sacrificing the lives of our soldiers without any practical benefit to the country; that we owed it to the honor of the Federal arms to make an effort to force our way through the lines of the beleaguering foe; that the artillery and wagons should be abandoned, and the division, brigade, and regimental quartermasters instructed to bring away all public horses; and that the brigades, in the order of their numbers, should march from the forts at one o'clock in the morning, carrying with them their arms and the usual supply of ammunition. The Thirteenth Pennsylvania cavalry was attached to the Third brigade. The forts were evacuated at the time designated, and immediately thereafter the cannon spiked, and the ammunition which could not be carried by the men thrown into the cisterns of the forts. The column proceeded through a ravine, avoiding the town of Winchester, about one mile, until it struck the Martinsburgh road. It then proceeded up the Martinsburgh road to where a road leads from it to Summit Station, about four miles and a half from Winchester; when I received a message from General Elliott that he was attacked by the enemy's skirmishers. I had heard the firing and was riding forward. The enemy was on elevated ground, in a wood east of the road and a field east of and adjoining the wood. This occurred between three and four o'clock in the morning. General Elliott immediately filed the One Hundred and Twenty-third, the One Hundred and Tenth, and One Hundred and Twenty second Ohio regiments to the left, and formed them in line of battle west of and in front of the woods in which the enemy was posted. He then advanced the One Hundred and Tenth Ohio, Col. Keifer, into the woods to feel of the enemy. This regiment soon became actively engaged, and was immediately supported with the One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio, which promptly took its position on the right of the One Hundred and Tenth. It soon became evident that the enemy was present in considerable force, with at least two batteries of artillery. It was evident, however, that a retreat could not be effected except under cover of a heavy contest with him. The One Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio maintained the contest for over an hour, occasionally falling back, but in the main driving the enemy. They captured one of the enemy's caissons, and silenced two of his guns by killing his gunners and artillery horses. Although immediately under the guns of the enemy, they preserved their lines, and kept up an incessant, heavy, and murderous fire of musketry, under the effect of which the enemy's right flank fell into disorder and recoiled. During this contest Colonel Keifer especially distinguished himself by the display of the qualities of a brave soldier and a judicious and skilful officer.

About the time the contest commenced on my left, by my orders, the Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania volunteer infantry, Colonel Shawl, advanced [33] against the enemy's left, but was soon driven back. I then supported the Eighty-seventh by the Eighteenth Connecticut, and the two regiments, under Colonel Ely, again advanced into the woods, but were again driven back. I then supported Colonel Ely with the One Hundred and Twenty-third Ohio, and again advanced the line, but it was repulsed with inconsiderable loss, the range of the enemy's guns being so elevated as to render his artillery inefficient. At this time a signal gun fired at Winchester announced the approach of the enemy in my rear. Colonel Ely's command was again rallied and formed in line of battle west of the Martinsburgh road, and that officer again directed to engage the enemy. At this time the One Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio volunteer infantry regiments were still maintaining their fire on the left with unabating energy. I then gave instructions that my forces unengaged and trains should retreat under cover of the contest, taking the Martinsburgh road. for a short distance and then turning to the right. I instructed my staff-officers, except Captain Baird, who was engaged with the One Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio volunteer infantry on my left, to diligently carry these instructions. They were conveyed to Colonel Washburn, commanding the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio volunteer infantry; Col. Klunk, commanding the Twelfth Virginia volunteer infantry; Major Adams, commanding First New-York cavalry; and Major Titus, commanding Twelfth Pennsylvania cavalry. These forces immediately marched, but instead of taking the road indicated, took a road which leads to the left through Bath, in Morgan County. They were followed by considerable bodies of the Eighteenth Connecticut and Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, and some stragglers from the One Hundred and Twenty-third, One Hundred and Tenth, and One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio volunteer infantry. Colonel Ely was instructed to fall back and retreat as soon as the troops had passed his rear. Major McGee and Captain Palmer, of my staff, who were at different times, despatched to Colonel McReynolds with his instructions, each separately reported that they could not find that officer or any part of his command, except Major Adams, with the First New-York cavalry. It was supposed that during the battle he had retreated to the right of the Martinsburgh road. About the time that I had given the directions above indicated, my horse was shot from under me. Some time intervened before I could be remounted. When remounted, I went in the direction of the One Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio volunteer infantry, and met them falling back by the Martinsburgh road. The retreat was now in full progress, the two columns' by different routes, and it was impossible to unite them. I proceeded with the One Hundred and Tenth and One Hundred and Twenty-second Ohio volunteer infantry regiments, and fragments of other regiments which followed after them. This portion of the command, by way of Smithfield, arrived at Harper's Ferry late in the afternoon of Monday. I was not pursued. The column that proceeded in the direction of Bath crossed the Potomac at Hancock, and subsequently massed at Bloody Run, in Bedford County, Pa., two thousand seven hundred strong.

Having no report from Col. McReynolds, I am unable to state the operations of his brigade on Monday morning. That officer arrived at Harper's Ferry about twelve M. on Monday, unaccompanied by any considerable portion of his command.

The Sixth Maryland infantry regiment, attached to his brigade, arrived at that place Monday evening, almost intact. His other infantry regiment, the Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania, was principally captured. I have learned that while Colonel Ely was endeavoring to retreat in pursuance of directions, he was surrounded and compelled to surrender, with the greater portion of the command which he led in the last charge.

The force which we encountered on Monday morning in our front was Johnson's division of Ewell's corps, from eight to ten thousand strong. The whole number of my division which have reported at Harper's Ferry and Bloody Run and other places exceeds five thousand. The stragglers scattered through the country are perhaps a thousand. My loss in killed and wounded cannot be large. It is not my object at this time to bestow praise or cast censure, but I feel it to be my duty to say, that during the late operations near Winchester, generally the officers and men under my command conducted themselves with distinguished gallantry, and deserve well of the country. If they could be again united (as they should be) under their appropriate brigade and regimental organizations, they would be formidable on any field. It is proper that I should here refer again to the instructions under which I occupied Winchester. They were not materially changed from those above given, until Thursday, twelve o'clock at night, when I received from Colonel Piatt, at Harper's Ferry, the following telegram:

In accordance with orders from Halleck, received from headquarters, at Baltimore, to-day, you will immediately take steps to remove your command from Winchester to Harper's Ferry. You will, without delay, call in Colonel McReynolds, and such other outposts not necessary for observation at the front. Send back your heavy guns, surplus ammunition and subsistence, retaining only such force and arms as will constitute what General Halleck designates as a lookout, which can readily and without inconvenience, fall back to Harper's Ferry.

don Piatt, Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief of Staff.

I immediately telegraphed to Major-General Schenck, as follows:

I have the place well protected, and am well prepared to hold it, as General Tyler and Colonel Piatt will inform you, and I can, and would hold it, if permitted to do so, against any force the rebels can afford to bring against me, and I exceedingly [34] regret the prospect of having to give it up. It will be cruel to abandon the loyal people in this country to the rebel fiends again.

R. H. Milroy, Major-General.

Early on Friday morning, the twelfth of June, I received this telegram:

Baltimore, June 12, one o'clock A. M., 1863.
Major-General R. H. Milroy:
Lieutenant-Colonel Piatt, as I learn by copy of despatch sent me, which he forwarded to you from Harper's Ferry, misunderstood me, and somewhat exceeded his instructions. You will make all the required preparations for withdrawing, but hold your position in the mean time. Be ready for movement, but await further orders. I doubt the propriety calling in McReynolds's brigade at once. If you should fall back to Harper's Ferry, he will be in part on the way and cover your flank. But use your discretion as to any order to him. Below, I give you a copy of the telegram of the General-in-Chief. Nothing heard since. Give me constant information.

Robert C. Schenck, Major-General, Commanding.

copy of General Halleck's telegram.

Harper's Ferry is the important place. Winchester is of no importance other than a look-out. The Winchester troops, except enough to serve as a look-out, should be withdrawn to Harper's Ferry. No large amount of supplies should be left in any exposed position.

H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief.

Late on Friday evening I received a despatch from General Schenck, which is lost, but which was in substance as follows: A dispatch just received from Colonel Don Piatt says, “I read Halleck's last despatch by the light of his of the thirtieth April, and considered it a positive order to fall back to Harper's Ferry, and I so ordered Milroy. I have been on the ground and gave it advisedly. Milroy cannot move from his present position in presence of the enemy. He has not transportation enough to move in face of the enemy, and he has not cavalry he can rely upon, to scout beyond Strasburgh.” What are your facilities for transportation?

This telegram I immediately answered as follows:

I can at any time, if not cut off from Martinsburgh, have sufficient transportation to take all public stores from here in six hours.

R. H. Milroy, Major-General.

Late on Friday night, June the twelfth, perhaps about ten o'clock, I sent Major-General Schenck this despatch, to wit:

The Twelfth Pennsylvania cavalry had a slight skirmish with a rebel cavalry force of about five hundred, twelve miles from here, on the Front Royal road, this afternoon. The Thirteenth Pennsylvania cavalry and Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania infantry, with one section of artillery, had a splendid little skirmish with some four hundred rebel cavalry this side of Middletown, at the same time. The Thirteenth skirmished with the rebels a short time, and drew them into an ambuscade of the Eighty-seventh and artillery. Eight of the rebels were killed, and a number wounded, and thirty-seven, including a captain and two lieutenants, taken prisoners. No casualties on our side. The enemy is probably approaching in some force. Please state specifically whether I am to abandon this place or not.

R. H. Milroy, Major-General.

To this communication no reply was received.1 It is clear that I received no order to evacuate Winchester, except that of Colonel Piatt, which was annulled by the telegram of Major-General Schenck, received on Friday, the twelfth. The telegram above copied of the General-in-Chief was before me, but that is advisory in its tone, and I, in common with General Schenck, did not construe it as amounting to an order, or as indicating that immediate compliance was intended. I rather considered it as indicating the course which should be pursued upon an emergency yet to happen. This telegram, although sent as late as Thursday, the eleventh, must have been written in the absence of all knowledge of the impending emergency; otherwise language calculated to hasten my action would have been used. The language contained in my telegram, expressive of my confidence in my ability to hold Winchester was used with reference to any contingency which would probably happen. I did not mean that I could hold it against such an army as that which I knew to be at the disposal of General Lee, and it was no part of my duty to watch the movements of that army. My limited cavalry force did not enable me to scout beyond the Blue Ridge.

That army was faced, however, by the army of the Potomac, between the headquarters of which and my own, by way of Washington, a continuous line of telegraphic communication existed. I believed that Lee could not move his large army with its immense artillery and baggage trains, and perform a six days march in my direction unless I received timely notice of the important fact. The immense cavalry force at the disposal of General Hooker strengthened this confidence. Therefore, on Friday, when I perceived indications of the approach of the enemy in some force on the Front Royal road, I felt confident that it was composed of the forces which I had faced, or that the expected cavalry expedition of General Stuart was in progress. Acting upon this belief, I regarded it as my duty to remain at my post at Winchester.

Lee's army in parallel columns once across the passes of the Blue Ridge from the direction of [35] Front Royal, it was impossible for me to retreat upon either Martinsburgh or Harper's Ferry. without encountering it. I could not at any time after Friday, have retreated without encountering it. And I had no knowledge of its presence, as above stated, until late on Saturday, when I learned it from prisoners. After all, it may well be doubted, whether the three days delay, and the loss which my presence at Winchester occasioned the rebel army, were not worth to the country the sacrifice which they cost it.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully,

Your most obedient servant,

R. H. Milroy, Major-General. Lieutenant-Colonel don Piatt, Chief of Staff, Eighth A. C.

Lieutenant H. E. Alexander's account.

Baltimore, June 18, 1863.
As there have been conflicting accounts relative to the termination of the fight at Winchester, I beg to give a statement which I think may be relied on, as what I shall relate came either under my personal observation, or from first hands.

On Saturday morning the rebels were reported by our scouts as marching on Berryville. The brigade commanded by Colonel McReynolds, consisting of the Sixth Maryland regiment, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania, First New-York cavalry, and one battery, immediately fell back toward Winchester, as ordered by General Milroy, proceeding by way of Smithfield and Martinsburgh road.

I was placed with my section, supported by part of the Sixth Maryland infantry and the cavalry, in one of the fortifications on the south side, which had been erected by Captain Alexander, and was fortunate enough to hold them in check for two hours, giving the advance time to get ahead. We then moved off, and, marching fast, caught up to them.

The rebel cavalry pursued us, and came up at the Opequon, eight miles from Winchester, after marching twenty miles. Here we had a skirmish. The formation of the road would not permit us to fire until they were within fifty yards, and so the fire was more destructive.

We succeeded in beating them back, and some prisoners captured by the cavalry stated that the two discharges of canister had killed a dozen and wounded over thirty. We arrived in Winchester at night unmolested, and camped in the star fort on the north side of the town, a small work about two hundred feet in diameter.

There had been heavy fighting at Winchester during the day. The rebels made five charges and were repulsed.

On Sunday there was skirmishing all around the town, but the rebels appeared in very small force, leading us to believe that they intended to march for Martinsburgh.

One of the sections of the battery was out during the whole day, under Lieutenant Leary, supported by two regiments, the whole under General Elliott, and kept back the entire line of rebel skirmishers by a display of scientific practice which called forth General Elliott's admiration.

To understand the battle of Sunday evening, it will be necessary to state that there are three ranges of hills on the north of Winchester. The first range was occupied by three forts. That to the left was the main fort, with twenty-pounder Parrotts, where General Milroy was with most of the command.

The middle was the star fort, where our brigade was, and on the right, on the hill, commanding all the others, was an unfinished work. Had this last been finished, the whole rebel force could not have taken us. The second range of hills was occupied by battery D, First Virginia artillery, Captain Carsen, on the left, and battery L, Fifth United States regulars, Lieutenant Randolph commanding.

The latter was on the hill immediately opposite us, and was supported by the Fifth Maryland regiment. On the third range the rebels were. As the men and horses of battery L were feeding, at nine P. M., the rebels opened upon them with two batteries, one of which was twenty-pounders.

They fought for half an hour, and then the rebels charged with a large body of men and drove the Fifth Maryland back. The Fifth Maryland behaved with great bravery. They formed half-way down the hill, and charged up and drove the rebels back again some distance.

We could see the whole, as we were within one thousand five hundred yards, and yet could not render assistance. The rebels, however, drove them back, and Randolph spiked three of his five guns. Nearly all his horses were shot. As soon as the coast was clear we opened on them with at first two guns and then four guns.

There was not space on one side of the fort to work more. They answered the large fort for some time, but then brought their whole four batteries, amounting to twenty-four guns, to bear upon us, and then the fighting began. This was about seven P. M. We fired as accurately as we could.

They attempted three times to take a position, and each time we drove them away, blowing up at one time a limber, then a caisson, and dismounting two guns. They had an excellent range, and fired well.

The balls came flying all around the fort and over our heads, but only one man was wounded, and one man flung down by the wind of a ball. We lost five horses. We returned the compliment as well as we could, and succeeded by half-past 9 P. M. in causing them to cease firing.

Shortly after that they tried to storm the large fort, but were repulsed. We expected them to storm our works, and the infantry were drawn up inside and in the rifle-pits outside, and I don't think ten thousand men could have taker us, from the calmness and firmness which the Sixth Maryland evinced. [36]

I cannot speak too highly of the coolness and bravery of the men of the battery. Though it was the first time they had been under fire, not a man flinched, but they fought without excitement, and as coolly and regularly as if on drill, jesting and talking as if it were mere pastime.

About this time it became too dark to see, and we ceased firing. We found that we had not more than twenty rounds per gun left, and no more could be had. Our scouts also reported that the rebels were moving their heaviest guns around through the hollow to the high ground on the right, where they could command us, and shell us out easily.

The other batteries were in the same want of ammunition, and General Milroy determined to spike the guns and mount the cannoneers on the off-horses, and cut our way through. The other two brigades started first, and the third brigade brought up the rear. When we got five miles from Winchester the rebels opened on us with four pieces of artillery.

Our infantry and cavalry moved up and charged them desperately. As our cannoneers were unarmed, our captain ordered them to move up as close as they could safely, and then to take to the woods separately and make for the Ferry or any point on the river.

The First New-York cavalry, a fine organization, charged upon the guns. Finally the infantry and cavalry succeeded in capturing two guns, which were turned upon the others and drove them back. As they could not be carried off, they were disabled.

Our men rode up behind the cavalry through the open field, under the fire of the artillery, and then broke from the cover of the woods. We all thus became separated.

Another account.

bloody Run, Pa., June 22, 1863.
Permit me, sir, if you please, to lay before your readers a true account of the recent battles around Winchester, Va. I have carefully watched the accounts written by different correspondents thus far, and am utterly surprised at the vagueness of some, the falsity of others, and the imperfection of all. The battles of Winchester were of no small moment, deciding as they did the fate of the Great Valley, as well as the fate of Western Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Could Winchester and neighboring towns have still been held in spite of the desperate courage and efforts of the enemy, Martinsburgh and Cumberland, Pennsylvania and Maryland, the railroads, canals, and public buildings would have been likewise secure. How immense the stakes we were playing for at Winchester! Then it is important as a matter of public interest and historic record that the true history of the whole matter be published. The skirmishing in front of our works opened the ball on Friday evening, June twelfth. Saturday morning it was resumed, and kept up hotly all day, the enemy still showing themselves, in small force only, in a sort of semicircle in front. A part of our forces were then at Berryville, and were signalled to return to Winchester, Saturday morning. They succeeded in reaching us late Saturday evening. By this time fighting had commenced at Bunker Hill, eleven miles north-east of Winchester, on the Martinsburgh road. Here Major W. T. Morris was commanding detachments from the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio V. I., Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, and First New-York cavalry. There, at about five o'clock Saturday evening, the scouts came in and reported the advance of a large force of rebels. Our force there was securely lodged in a large brick church, and were less than two hundred strong. But they immediately marched forth to meet the enemy, and met him shortly in such numbers as they never expected.

Instead of finding it to be only the advance-guard of the enemy, as they at first supposed, they came upon a force of over two thousand infantry and cavalry together. The fight immediately commenced, and our handful of heroes fought with a stubborn energy and determination unsurpassed in any action of like magnitude. Judge of the numbers of the respective parties, when it is actually the case that company A, of the One Hundred and Sixteenth O. V. I., lost forty-seven men in killed, wounded, and missing within half an hour's time. The loss of gallant company I, of the same regiment, was hardly less. The whole party fought well, as their losses prove. Three commissioned officers and over one hundred men were left on the field, when the shattered remnants were forced to retreat. They were soon safe within the brick church, and from port-holes they had made through the walls of the sacred edifice they poured death and dismay into the ranks of the enemy who had crowded up and striven in vain to gain admission. The doors were effectually barricaded. Every volley from within sent some wretches quivering to their dread account, while the rebel bullets pattered as harmlessly against the strong walls of the holy citadel as the drops of rain that come down silently at night upon the homestead roof. But death lurked around them. The night was setting in. Milroy had left them to shift for themselves. Morning would bring destruction. Escape seemed impossible. What was to be done? The coolness and courage of Major Morris saved them. When the firing had ceased, in the stillness and darkness of the midnight hour, the brave old Major led his men out as silently as a funeral train, and brought them safely to Winchester on Sunday morning. I have seen no parallel for this action and retreat in the history of the whole war, and yet, such is the partiality or ignorance of some, not a single word has before been written concerning these almost Spartan heroes.

By Sunday morning the forces had arrived from Berryville, Bunker Hill, and intermediate points. They had all to fight their way through to Winchester. The dark woods in the direction of Strasburgh and Front Royal were turning gray with the hordes of rebels who were pouring in upon us. Whatever officers may have [37] thought, the men were convinced by this time, of two things — namely, that we were surrounded, and that the force was overwhelming. Before this, every one said, “It was only Jenkins or Imboden;” but when we considered all these things, and had the additional evidence of the regiments which skirmished with the enemy Sunday forenoon, we had no doubt that the brave desperate legions of Stonewall Jackson were again in the valley. Deserters had come in as early as Friday, and reported that even then we were skirmishing with the advance-guard of a rebel corps numbering over thirty thousand. General Milroy ought to have known this. Who can say that he had any right to rest satisfied with partial information concerning a force sufficient to overwhelm and destroy him? I care not what others say; I know our effective force was less than eight thousand. Why, we had only ten regiments of infantry, and some of these the merest fragments. Of the cavalry, here or elsewhere, I have nothing to say. That some of them, especially the First New-York, did their duty, I will not deny, but that they deserve the fulsome praise that has been so copiously lavished upon them, I most emphatically deny.

On Sunday, it will be remembered that the enemy never fired a single cannon during the forenoon, and not even till late in the afternoon. Every one was in suspense all day. That this dread silence meant something, all deeply felt, but what was the strategy progressing none seemed able to discover. One sharp, discerning glance then would have done more harm to the enemy than the fire of a whole brigade. One sharp eye then would have been of more value than a battery. But alas for us I no such eye was there so to glance for us.

The Ohio regiments have hardly been mentioned in connection with the skirmishing in front. The One Hundred and Twenty-second, One Hundred and Twenty-third, and One Hundred and Tenth, all took a large share, indeed, the principal part in the fighting of Saturday and Sunday. These noble regiments manoeuvred from morning till night, during two successive days, driving the enemy at the point of the bayonet out of their rifle-pits, and from behind stone-fences. It was as close hand-to-hand work as could be, sometimes skirmisher to skirmisher, and at others two whole brigades driving like two mad streams together. Ohio lost severely in men in all the fights in front, but she gained new lustre and renown for her already glorious history. Sunday evening, at half-past 4 o'clock, the “main fort” had four heavy siege-guns working effectually upon the enemy wherever he dared to show himself. The “star fort” had a battery of smaller but well-managed guns; while away over to the right and west the “regular battery” was stationed, firing occasionally as opportunity was afforded. This fort was supported by company C, <*> the One Hundred and Sixteenth O. V. I., and the One Hundred and Tenth O. V. I. Below the fort, west, and beyond a ravine, was a wood, and in that lurked a secret danger of which no one yet even dreamed. The flag was floating proudly above the “main fort;” the brave and dauntless form of Milroy could now be seen resting fifty feet up on the flag-pole — an exhibition of coolness and courage unsurpassed in the annals of all history. There, too, had he been for two days. Away down the valley in front heavy skirmishing was going on. Every eye was turned that way, when on a sudden came a boom of cannon, and a rush of shell, as if hell itself had burst its bolts and bars and was bringing fire and tempests on the world. Every eye was turned west. Twenty rebel cannon were throwing shot and shell into the regular battery. In less than five minutes the roar of cannon was exchanged for the sharp rattle of musketry, as we saw the fort stormed, taken, and the rebel flag floating over it!

If an angel had descended from heaven, and told us of this five minutes before, we would not have believed it. As quick as thought the new position was bristling with cannon, and then commenced a fire of artillery, such as your correspondent never beheld before. Now came an order from General Milroy for the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio volunteer infantry and Eighth Pennsylvania to go to the support of our battery, (meaning the one just taken,) and when Colonel Washburn told the officer who brought the order that the fort was taken, “Go anyhow!” was the answer, and we started, right across the fields, in the face of the enemy's guns, for half a mile, the two regiments proceeded, and the order to charge the batteries had been given, when, to the surprise of every one, General Milroy ordered us to march back, and up into the main fort.

Railroad iron, shells, and musketry followed us thickly, clear across the field, but, mirabcile dictu, not a man was hurt. All the force was now gathered into the main fort, except small detachments left to guard the star fort, and battery D, First Virginia artillery. The whole fire of the enemy was now directed, with very little interruption, toward our main fort. There still sat the intrepid but unfortunate General upon his elevated seat, the shells shrieking and whistling around him, and yet as calm and unmoved as if he were quietly taking his siesta at home. The firing all the evening was like the mingled. roar of ten thousand thunders, and only closed when night set in. Every one knows now what followed — the retreat, in the darkness of night, with every thing left behind except men and animals; hundreds of wagons, immense commissary and government stores, some dozen large sutler stores, all the private baggage, books and papers of both officers and men; in a word, provisions enough to feed ten thousand men for two months, and clothing enough for the same number for six months. I feel confident that the above estimates are correct.

The attack on the Martinsburgh road, our defeat and retreat, have been so variously reported, that at this late day I feel no disposition to contradict any of them. Gross injustice has been done the Ohio regiments which were engaged in [38] that desperate and unequal fight. I have seen scarcely any mention of them, and yet the One Hundred and Twenty-second, One Hundred and Twenty-third, and One Hundred and Tenth Ohio were all in the thickest of the fight, charged the enemy repeatedly, and came out in good order, but with heavy loss. Why, the whole three regiments are not now as large as any one of them before the fight. Colonel Washburn, of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio, deserves all credit for the good order with which he brought off his regiment. While you might have seen some colonels and majors straggling hither and thither, the whole field and staff of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio came through as they should. Thus it will be seen that Ohio did take some part in the fight. The One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio had three companies completely destroyed; while the other three Ohio regiments took the most conspicuous places in the fight.

J. M. D.

Letter to the President of the United States,

Explanatory of the Evidence before the Court of Inquiry relative to the Evacuation of Winchester, Va., by the Command of Major-General R. H. Milroy.
To His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States:
sir: Under Special Order No. 346, from the War Department, a court of inquiry was detailed, by your authority, “to inquire into the facts and circumstances connected with the recent evacuation of Winchester.” This order was subsequently so amended as to make it the duty of the court to report the facts without expressing any opinion upon them.

As I was in command of the forces which evacuated Winchester, my reputation and usefulness may be affected by the result of this investigation. Right and justice, therefore, require that you the Commander-in-Chief of the army of the United States, should read the brief remarks which I now have the honor to submit, in explanation of the testimony taken before the Court of Inquiry.

The evacuation of Winchester took place about two o'clock, on the morning of Monday, June fifteenth, 1863, and “the facts and circumstances” connected with that event were all comprised within the three preceding days, beginning with Friday, the twelfth.

Whether Winchester was or was not an important post, was a question not submitted to my judgment. It was determined by my superior officer, whose orders it was my duty to obey.

The orders received by me on Friday morning, June twelfth, 1863, from Major-General Schenck, my immediate commander, were as follows: “You will make all required preparations for withdrawing, but hold your position in the mean time. Be ready for movement, but await further orders,”

This emphatic command irresistibly implied that, in case of necessity, further orders would be given; and it now appears, by the testimony of Major-Gen. Schenck, that on Saturday night he did attempt to give me the proper orders; but as the lines had been cut, the despatch was not received. Gen. Schenck testifies distinctly that I did not disobey any of his commands.

In the same order above quoted, Gen. Schenck further says: “I doubt the propriety of calling in McReynolds's brigade at once. If you should fall back to Harper's Ferry, he will be in part on your way, and cover your flank. But use your discretion as to any order to him.” In the exercise of this discretion, I ordered Col. McReynolds, on Saturday morning, June thirteenth, to join me at Winchester. At this time there was no information of the approach of Lee's forces, nor any thought of evacuating the post. The object was to concentrate, in order to repel an attack either of the forces under Imboden, Jones, and Jenkins, or of Stuart's cavalry, then expected to appear in the valley. Colonel McReynolds left Berryville on the morning of the thirteenth, and, by a circuitous route of thirty miles, reached Winchester about ten o'clock that night. In the mean time, at about six o'clock that afternoon, I learned from prisoners and deserters that Ewell's and Longstreet's corps of Lee's army were in front of me. This was the first intimation I had received of the fact, and it brought to my mind, for the first time, the consideration of the necessity of evacuating the post. To have left with my forces before the arrival of Col. McReynolds would have exposed the whole Third brigade to capture, and would certainly have brought me into conflict with the <*>y in the absence of one third of my command. Thus divided, my forces would have been destroyed or captured in detail. The enemy had followed Colonel McReynolds in force, and on the same day had attached our forces at Bunker's Hill, on the Martinsburgh road.

My line of communication with Major-General Schenck was not cut until some time on Saturday evening. Down to that moment he could at any time have ordered me to retreat, and might have communicated any information which he deemed important. As his orders of the day before were not changed in any particular, while it was all the time in his power to have modified them, I had the continuing command of my superior officer to remain at Winchester, at least down to the time when communication by telegraph was cut off.

Every thing is necessarily left to the discretion of a commander when suddenly and unexpectedly surrounded on all sides by the enemy in overwhelming force, and with no orders adapted to the emergency. Colonel McReynolds found the Berryville road occupied by the enemy on Saturday, so that he could not march directly to Wincester. He had been followed also on his circuitous route, and the enemy was probably on the Martinsburgh road. It is doubtful whether I could have marched by either of those roads on Saturday night without a serious engagement under great disadvantages. But even if I could have done so, I did not and could not know why [39] General Schenck had withheld any orders during Friday and Saturday, while the telegraph was in operation. Was it not reasonable for me to suppose that General Hooker would intercept the march of Lee's army, or that General Schenck would in some way provide for relieving me? No one could have anticipated, as I certainly did not, that Lee's army could have escaped the army of the Potomac, and penetrated the Shenandoah valley as far as Winchester, without timely notice of it being given to me through General Schenck at Baltimore. It is in proof that my small force of cavalry was most actively and industriously engaged in reconnoitring; but it was impossible for them to push their reconnoissances beyond the Blue Ridge, and they had no suspicion of the presence of any other enemy but those under Imboden, Jones, and Jenkins, whom they had long watched and thwarted in the valley.

Under these circumstances, I deemed it wise and prudent to await the developments of Sunday, the fourteenth. If I should not during that day receive orders, or be relieved, I knew that the enemy would be compelled to reveal his purposes, and in some measure to mass his forces, so that I could then best determine how and when to cut my way through his lines. Accordingly, on Sunday night, after the enemy had massed his forces, and made an attack from the west, a council of war was held by my order; and it was therein resolved that the Martinsburgh road, being commanded by the guns of the forts, and being apparently open, offered the best route for a retreat upon Harper's Ferry, and that it was indispensable for the safety of the command to evacuate the place during the night, or in the early morning. But the enemy's pickets were within two hundred yards of our lines; and in order to escape without his notice, it was necessary to abandon the guns and wagons, which could not have been brought away, without so much noise in descending the rocky hills from the forts as to defeat the indispensable purpose of secrecy. The precautions adopted by the council of war were successful. We eluded the enemy, who surrounded us on three sides, and marched four and a half miles before encountering any of his forces. Then, after a sharp engagement of one hour, we succeeded in passing the enemy, and most of my forces escaped.

A single view of the situation will make the matter too clear for a moment's doubt.

On Friday, I had the plain, clear, direct, and positive order of General Schenck, commanding me to remain at Winchester, and await further orders. There was no known change of circumstances, after I received that order, until Saturday afternoon, when the prisoner was taken. But at that time the Third brigade, under a signal given in the morning, was on the march to Winchester, and reached that place at ten o'clock at night. They had then marched thirty miles on Saturday, and required all Saturday night for rest and refreshment. I could not have left Winchester, at the earliest possible date, till Sunday morning, and then it would have been improper to do so by daylight. I waited, therefore, till Sunday night, and then called a council of war. We left at two in the morning of Monday; and as we left in darkness, so we had to do so in quietness, as the one was as essential as the other to effect our escape. We, therefore, left every thing that went on wheels. Weighed against the lives of my brave men, they were less than nothing.

I do not suppose it necessary to defend the act of finally retreating from Winchester, although I had no orders to do so. It is now apparent to all men, that the alternative was between retreating or remaining to surrender. The only matter upon which there can be any inquiry, is as to the manner of the retreat — the energy, the watchfulness, the skill and success with which it was conducted. The severe fighting of Sunday, vigorously maintained through the whole day, had checked, if not crippled the enemy, and had doubtless served to mislead him as to my designs. He fully expected to find me in Winchester on Monday morning. Having succeeded in making this impression upon him, and thus allayed his suspicions as well as his vigilance, that time was the most favorable that could possibly have been selected for the retreat. No skill or precaution on my part, however, could have enabled me to evade the enemy where we met him on Monday morning. He was posted in a position to command both roads, at the point where the one leading to Summit Point diverges from the Martinsburgh road. Here we fought him until we heard a signal gun in the direction of Winchester, and two sections of the enemy's artillery, on the road from that place, were seen in hot pursuit of us. I then ordered the march to be continued, and the larger part of my forces went in different directions from the field of battle.

The result of this engagement would have been far different if my orders had been obeyed, or my example followed. When the retreat commenced, we anticipated the attack from the rear. But as soon as I heard the firing in front, I hastened to the scene of action. In passing along the line I found Colonel McReynolds some distance in advance of his brigade, and ordered him to return and hurry up his forces to the front. It was not my intention to continue the engagement longer than was necessary to enable all my forces to pass away. While I was actively engaged in front, I sent back no less than three different orders for the Third brigade to come up; but neither of my aids could find Colonel McReynolds on the field, nor any part of his command, except the First New-York cavalry. In consequence of this failure — waiting for the Third brigade to come up — I held my forces in the fight longer, and lost more men of the First and Second brigades than would have been necessary, if my orders had been promptly obeyed. The regiments of the Third brigade were separated, and though they were not in the engagement, they lost as many as the other brigades, and escaped by different routes from the scene of this action. Whatever irregularities and losses [40] occurred during the march are attributable to the failure on the part of this brigade to respond to my commands. You will find the testimony sufficiently clear on this point; although, I regret to say, the court denied my request to summon and examine two of the colonels commanding regiments in the Third brigade, who allege that their commanding officer gave them no orders, and was not seen by them on the field.

Notwithstanding this unfortunate occurrence at the critical moment of my retreat, by which my plans were somewhat thwarted, out of the six thousand nine hundred brave and effective men who started from Winchester, upward of six thousand have been ascertained by General Schenck to be now on duty. Upward of two thousand men have been paroled by the enemy; but these consist of the sick and disabled who were left at Winchester, in addition to those who were taken in the engagement on the morning of the retreat.

A great misapprehension has existed in the public mind, and has been promoted by reckless correspondents of the public press, in reference to the amount of public property abandoned and lost on the retreat from Winchester. You will see by the testimony that the stores on hand were extremely small. My ammunition was nearly exhausted, the men were on half-rations, and a large portion of the wagons had already been sent away in pursuance of my orders, to be prepared for evacuation. It was my intention, and orders were given accordingly, to keep always on hand five days supply of ammunition and subsistence. Fortunately the latest requisitions of my ordnance officer, for some reason unknown to me, had not been filled, and even this small amount was saved to the Government.

If the investigation made by the Court of Inquiry has not been full and satisfactory upon all points, it is not from any deficiency on my part. Anxious to lay open the whole transaction, even to its minutiae, I earnestly urged the Court to summon and examine many other officers, who bore a conspicuous part in the retreat from Winchester, as well as others who could throw light on the general subject. The Court refused to grant my application, doubtless because they were satisfied that I had made my justification complete. I think I may assume that no Court would refuse to hear the testimony of some of the principal actors in the events under examination, so long as any room for censure remained against him who desired additional evidence.

So far, I may have no right to complain of the decision of the Court; but in another rejected application, I think I have. At the commencement of the investigation, immediately upon the organization of the Court, the General-in-Chief of the army sent in, as testimony, copies of several telegrams, addressed by him to Major-General Schenck, in which he speaks of me most disrespectfully and unjustly, and with imputations not true in fact. I asked the Court to summon Major-General Halleck; and as they required a statement of what a witness was expected to prove, I filed the paper, which, with others of the same kind, will be found appended to this letter. These papers were all indorsed and returned to me, as will be seen, with a refusal to hear the testimony.

If it was admissible for the General-in-Chief to introduce his telegrams, charging me at some time with having been “on a stampede,” it was certainly legitimate for me to call that officer, and inquire the occasion to which he referred, in order that I might prove, as I certainly could, the falsity of his information. The imputation conveyed in the words of Gen. Halleck, and perpetuated in the record of this Court, is highly disreputable to a soldier; and the most obvious principles of justice require that I should be permitted to refute it. If the substance of these telegrams be not a proper subject of investigation by the Court, then the introduction of them was calculated to serve no other purpose but to create a prejudice, and do me a wrong which I could have no opportunity to repel.

In another telegram put in evidence before the Court, I am charged with “madness” by the General-in-Chief, for sending part of my forces on a certain expedition in the valley. I could easily show that this “madness” would have resulted in the capture of the enemy's camp, with a large amount of supplies, which had been left exposed by the withdrawal of his forces into Western Virginia. But this affair had no connection with the evacuation of Winchester, and the incorporation of this telegram into the record is calculated unjustly to injure my reputation, without serving any public purpose.

In another telegram, likewise made a part of the record, I am charged with a failure to protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Harper's Ferry, when I never had any command there; also with incompetency in this respect, when, with my forces at Winchester, I successfully guarded that road for six months, so that during that period the enemy never touched it, within the limits of my command.

Gen. Halleck's telegram, of the fifteenth June, containing another ungenerous thrust at me, might well have been omitted from the record, inasmuch as it was written after the evacuation, and could not have the slightest bearing on the investigation. But it is quite as legitimate as the others, its only possible effect being to throw into the scale against me the weight of General Halleck's personal enmity.

On the twenty-seventh of June last, I was placed in arrest by order of the General-in-Chief. No charges have been preferred against me, unless the splenetic and censorious telegrams of that officer, above referred to, can be considered such. Since the commencement of this war, no officer of my rank has been subjected to the indignity of an arrest, without the exhibition of charges to justify it. I have not yet been relieved from this arrest; and the peculiar phraseology of the articles of war seems to render it doubtful whether the expiration of the time limited for making charges operates to give me that relief. I entered the army at the beginning [41] of the war; and, until my arrest, I have never asked for leave of absence, nor been one day off duty. It has been my greatest pleasure continuously and faithfully to perform a soldier's part in defence of my country. I confess the humiliation I feel, that the first period of rest allowed me has been one of implied censure, if not of disgrace.

I am very confident that an impartial examination of the record of this Court will show nothing to justify the treatment I have received. But, at all events, I have the proud satisfaction of knowing that I have not failed, in any instance, to give my best energies of mind and body to the service. Even in the defence and final evacuation of Winchester, (although, with timely and correct information, I would have acted differently,) yet I am sure that the holding of that place, and the engagement there, gave us the information we could not otherwise have obtained, developed the plans and purposes of the enemy, checked and delayed his advance into Maryland for three days, and by these means enabled the army of the Potomac to follow with timely resistance, and to prevent the loss of millions of property, which would otherwise have fallen into his hands. The inconsiderable loss suffered at Winchester was a trifle compared with these advantages; and so far from feeling that I am chargeable with any error in judgment, or failure in duty, I shall ever, in my own bosom, enjoy a conscience without self-reproach, and wholly void of any just offence to my country.

I have caused this letter to be printed for your convenience, and ask the privilege of publishing it, together with my official report made to Major-General Schenck, which has not yet been permitted to be made public.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R. H. Milroy, Major-General U. S. V. John Jolliffe, Fred. P. Stanton, Counsel.
Washington City, D. C., Sept. 10, 1863.


Major-General Milroy requests the Court to summon, in his behalf, Major-General Joseph Hooker, who, at the time of the evacuation of Winchester, was in command of the army of the Potomac.

The facts expected to be proved by this witness are: First, That he communicated information of the enemy's movements toward the valley of Virginia as early as the twenty-eighth May last to the General-in-chief, and suggested the propriety of sending General Stahl's cavalry to that valley. Secondly, The value and importance of the check given to the enemy by the holding of Winchester during the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth of June, and its effect in saving Harrisburgh, and probably other important cities of the Union. It is believed that the testimony will clearly show that the aforesaid holding of Winchester was of far greater value than the amount of any losses incurred in the defence and evacuation of that post.

R. H. Milroy, Major-General U. S. V. August 22, 1863.

Indorsed: The Court does not feel authorized by the order under which it is acting to enter into the investigation suggested by the within communication.

Robert N. Scott, Captain Fourth U. S. Infantry, Judge-Advocate. April 29, 1863.

To Brig.-Gen. Barry, President of the Court of Inquiry, convened under Order No. 346.
I have learned directly from Colonel Horn, and indirectly from Colonel Staunton, that neither of those officers received any orders from Colonel McReynolds at the time of the engagement, on the morning of the fifteenth June last. I respectfully ask that they may be examined, together with some officer of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania cavalry.

R. H. Milroy, Major-General U. S. Vols. September 7, 1863.

The Court is of the opinion that the testimony above alluded to is not requisite to enable it to comply fully with the orders under which it is now acting.

Robert N. Scott, Captain Fourth U. S. Infantry, Judge-Advocate. September 7, 1863.

To the Court of Inquiry convened by Order No. 346.
Major-General Milroy supposing that the change of order under which the Court is acting may in some measure modify its views of the testimony to be received, again asks that Major-General Hooker may be summoned to give evidence upon the points already stated.

He also asks that Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief of the army, may be summoned for the purpose of explaining the telegrams introduced at the beginning of the examination, in which he suggests that Major-General Milroy is on “another stampede.” It is proper that the General-in-Chief should be required to say when and where Major-General Milroy was guilty of stampeding. Other similar insinuations are contained in the said telegrams, which a due regard to the military reputation of General Milroy requires should be explained. It is also desired that Major-General Halleck shall testify as to the failure to communicate information of the approach of Lee's army, with peremptory orders for the evacuation of Winchester.

R. H. Milroy, Major-General U. S. Vols. September 8, 1863.

Indorsed: Respectfully returned to Major-General Milroy. This Court of Inquiry does not consider that the order under which it is acting authorizes the investigation suggested by this communication.

Robert N. Scott, Captain Fourth U. S. Infantry, Judge-Advocate. September 8, 1863.

1 My telegraph operator at Winchester had just commenced receiving a cipher despatch Saturday, the thirteenth, when the wire was cut between that and Martinsburgh by the rebels, and nothing could be made of what was received.

I have since learned from General Schenck that that dispatch was an order to me to fall back Immediately to Harper's Ferry.

R. H. Milroy, Major-General.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Winchester, Va. (Virginia, United States) (74)
Front Royal (Virginia, United States) (21)
Martinsburg (West Virginia, United States) (19)
Strasburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (18)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (17)
Berryville (Virginia, United States) (10)
Baltimore, Md. (Maryland, United States) (6)
Middletown (Virginia, United States) (5)
Winchester (Tennessee, United States) (4)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (4)
West Virginia (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Washington (United States) (3)
Romney (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Pughtown (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Ohio (Ohio, United States) (3)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (3)
Bunker Hill (West Virginia, United States) (3)
United States (United States) (2)
Smithfield, W. Va. (West Virginia, United States) (2)
Bloody Run, Bedford County, Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Berkeley Springs (West Virginia, United States) (2)
Woodstock, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Thornton Gap (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Summit Station (Ohio, United States) (1)
Summit Point (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Staunton, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Shenandoah (United States) (1)
Ohio (United States) (1)
New York (New York, United States) (1)
Milwood (Missouri, United States) (1)
Millwood (Virginia, United States) (1)
Harrisburgh (Ohio, United States) (1)
Hancock, Md. (Maryland, United States) (1)
Doherty (Missouri, United States) (1)
Cumberland County (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Chester Gap (Virginia, United States) (1)
Cedarville (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: