Charges and Specifications Exhibited Against Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, of the Volunteers of the U. S. Army,
by
B. S. Roberts, brigadier-general of U. S. Volunteers, and inspector-general of Major-General Pope's Army of Virginia.

 

CHARGE 1st.--Violation of the Ninth Article of War.

Specification 1st.--In this, that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, of the volunteers of the United States, having received a lawful order, on or about the 27th August, 1862, while at or near Warrenton Junction, in Virginia, from Maj. Gen. John Pope, his superior and commanding officer, in the following figures and letters, to wit:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF VIRGINIA,
Bristoe Station, August 27, 1862--6.30 p.m.

Maj. Gen. F. J. PORTER,
Warrenton Junction:

GENERAL: The major-general commanding directs that you start at 1 o'clock to-night, and come forward with your whole corps, or such part of it as is with you, so as to be here by daylight to-morrow morning. Hooker has had s very severe action with the enemy, with a loss of about 300 killed and wounded. The enemy has been driven back, but is retiring along the railroad. We must drive him from Manassas, and clear the country between that place and Gainesville, where McDowell is. If Morell has not joined you, send word to him to push forward immediately; also send word to Banks to hurry forward with all speed, to take your place at Warrenton Junction. It is necessary, on all accounts, that you should be here by daylight. I send an officer with this dispatch, who will conduct you to this place. Be sure to send word to Banks, who is on the road from Fayetteville, probably in the direction of Bealeton. Say to Banks, also, that he had best run back the railroad trains to this side of Cedar Run. If he is not with you, write him to that effect.

By command of Major-General Pope:
GEO. D. RUGGLES,
Colonel and Chief of Staff.

P. S.--If Banks is not at Warrenton Junction, leave a regiment of infantry and two pieces of artillery as a guard till he comes up, with instructions to follow you immediately. If Banks is not at the junction, instruct Colonel Clary to run the train back to this side of Cedar Run, and post a regiment and section of artillery with it.

By command of Major-General Pope:
GEO. D. RUGGLES,
Colonel and Chief of Staff--

Did then and there disobey the said order, being at the time in the face of the enemy. This at or near Warrenton, in the State of Virginia, on or about the 28th of August, 1862.

Specification 2d.--In this, that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, being in front of the enemy, at Manassas, Va., on or about the morning of August 29, 1862, did receive from Maj. Gen. John Pope, his superior and commanding officer, a lawful order, in the following letters and figures, to wit:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF VIRGINIA,
Centreville, August 29, 1862.

Generals McDOWELL and PORTER:

You will please move forward with your joint commands toward Gainesville. I sent General Porter written orders to that effect an hour and a half ago. Heintzelman, Sigel, and Reno are moving on the Warrenton turnpike, and must now be not far from Gainesville. I desire that, as soon as communication is established between this force and your own, the whole command shall halt. It may be necessary to fall back behind Bull Run, at Centreville, to-night. I presume it will be so on account of our supplies. I have sent no orders of any description to Ricketts, and none to interfere in any way with the movements of McDowell's troops, except what I sent by his aide-de-camp last night, which were to hold his position on the Warrenton pike until the troops from here should fall on the enemy's flank and rear. I do not even know Ricketts' position, as I have not been able to find out where General McDowell was until a late hour this morning. General McDowell will take immediate steps to communicate with General Ricketts, and instruct him to join the other divisions of his corps as soon as practicable. If any considerable advantages are to be gained by departing from this order, it will not be strictly carried out. One thing must be held in view: that the troops must occupy a position from which they can reach Bull Run to-night or by morning. The indications are that the whole force of the enemy is moving in this direction at a pace that will bring them here by to-morrow night or the next day. My own headquarters will for the present be with Heintzelman's corps, or at this place.

JOHN POPE,
Major-General, Commanding--

Which order the said Major-General Porter did then and there disobey. This at or near Manassas, in the State of Virginia, on or about the 29th of August, 1862.

Specification 3d.--In this, that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, having been in front of the enemy during the battle of Manassas, on Friday, the 29th of August, 1862, did on that day receive from Maj. Gen. John Pope, his superior and commanding officer, a ]awful order, in the following letters and figures, to wit:

HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD,
August 29, 1862--4.30 p.m.

Major-General PORTER:

Your line of march brings you in on the enemy's right flank. I desire you to push forward into action at once on the enemy's flank, and, if possible, on his rear, keeping your right in communication with General Reynolds. The enemy is massed in the woods in front of us, but can be shelled out as soon as you engage their flank. Keep heavy reserves, and use your batteries, keeping well closed to your right all the time. In case you are obliged to fall back, do so to your right and rear, so as to keep you in close communication with the right wing.

JOHN POPE,
Major-General, Commanding--

Which said order the said Major-General Porter did then and there disobey, and did fail to push forward his forces into action either on the enemy's flank or rear, and in all other respects did fail to obey said order. This at or hear Manassas, in the State of Virginia, on or about the 29th of August, 1862.

Specification 4th.--In that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, being at or near Manassas Junction, on the night of the 29th August, 1862, did receive from Maj. Gen. John Pope, his superior and commanding officer, a lawful order, in figures and words as follows, to wit:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF VIRGINIA,.
In the Field, near Bull Run, August 29, 1862--8.50 p.m.

Maj. Gen. F. J. PORTER:

GENERAL: Immediately upon receipt of this order, the precise hour of receiving which you will acknowledge, you will march your command to the field of battle of to-day, and report to me in person for orders. You are to understand that you are expected to comply strictly with this order, and to be present on the field within three hours after its reception, or after daybreak to-morrow morning.

JOHN POPE,
Major-General, Commanding--

And the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter did then and there disobey the said order, and did permit one of the brigades of his command to march to Centreville--out of the way of the field of battle--and there to remain during the entire day of Saturday, the 30th of August. This at or near Manassas Station, in the State of Virginia, on the 29th and 30th days of August, 1862.

Specification 5th.--In this, that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, being at or near Manassas Station, in the State of Virginia., on the night of the 29th August, 1862, and having received from his superior commanding officer, Maj. Gen. John Pope, the lawful order set forth in specification fourth to this charge, did then and there disobey the same, and did permit one other brigade attached to his command--being the brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. A. S. Piatt---to march to Centreville, and did thereby greatly delay the arrival of the said General Piatt's brigade on the field of battle of Manassas, on Saturday, the 30th August, 1862. This at or near Manassas, in the State of Virginia, on or about the 29th day of August, 1862.

B. S. ROBERTS,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers and Inspector-General of Pope's Army.

CHARGE 2d.--Violation of the Fifty-second Article of War.

Specification 1st.--In this, that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, during the battle of Manassas, on Friday, the 29th August, 1862, and while within sight of the field and in full hearing of its artillery, did receive from Maj. Gen. John Pope, his superior and commanding officer, a lawful order to attack the enemy, in the following figures and letters, to wit:

HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD,
August 29, 1862--4.30 p.m.

Major-General PORTER:

Your line of march brings you in on the enemy's right flank. I desire you to push forward into action at once on the enemy s flank, and, if possible, on his rear, keeping your right in communication with General Reynolds. The enemy is massed in the woods in front of us, but can be shelled out as soon as you engage their flank. Keep heavy reserves, and use your batteries, keeping well closed to your right all the time. In case you are obliged to fall back, do so to your right and rear, so as to keep you in close communication with the right wing.

JOHN POPE,
Major-General, Commanding

Which said order the said Major-General Porter did then and there shamefully disobey, and did retreat from advancing forces of the enemy without any attempt to engage them, or to aid the troops who were already fighting greatly superior numbers, and were relying on the flank attack he was thus ordered to make to secure a decisive victory, and to capture the enemy's army, a result which must have followed from said flank attack, had it been made by the said General Porter in compliance with the said order, which he so shamefully disobeyed. This at or near Manassas, in the State of Virginia, on or about the 29th of August, 1862.

Specification 2d.--In this, that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, being with his army corps, on Friday, the 29th August, 1862, between Manassas Station and the field of a battle then pending between the forces of the United States and those of the rebels, and within sound of the guns and in the presence of the enemy, and knowing that a severe action of great consequence was being fought, and that the aid of his corps was greatly needed, did fail all day to bring it on to the field, and did shamefully fall back and retreat from the advance of the enemy, without any attempt to give them battle, and without knowing the forces from which he shamefully retreated. This near Manassas Station, in the State of Virginia, on the 29th of August, 1862.

Specification 3d.--In that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, being with his army corps near the field of battle of Manassas, on the 29th August, 1862, while a severe action was being fought by the troops of Major-General Pope's command, and being in the belief that the troops of the said General Pope were sustaining defeat and retiring from the field, did shamefully fail to go to the aid of the said troops and general, and did shamefully retreat away and fall back with his army to the Manassas Junction, and leave to the disasters of a presumed defeat the said army, and did fail, by any attempt, to attack the enemy, to aid in averting the misfortunes of a disaster that would have endangered the safety of the capital of the country. This at or near Manassas Station, in the State of Virginia, on the 29th day of August, 1862.

Specification 4th.--In this, that the said Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, on the field of battle of Manassas, on Saturday, the 30th August, 1862, having received a lawful order from his superior officer and commanding general, Maj. Gen. John Pope, to engage the enemy's lines and to carry a position near their center, and to take an annoying battery there posted did proceed in the execution of that order with unnecessary slowness, and, by delays, give the enemy opportunities to watch and know his movements and to prepare to meet his attack; and did finally so feebly fall upon the enemy's lines as to make little or no impression on the same, and did fall back and draw away his forces unnecessarily, and without making any of the great personal efforts to rally his troops or to keep their lines, or to inspire his troops to meet the sacrifices and to make the resistance demanded by the importance of his position, and the momentous consequences and disasters of a retreat at so critical a juncture of the day.

B. S. ROBERTS,
Brigadier-General Volunteers and Inspector-General Pope' s Army.

After the reading of the foregoing charges and specifications was concluded, the judge-advocate said: The last specification (specification 4th, under charge 2d) is withdrawn, as it is my purpose to offer no proof under it.

The accused asked if that specification was to be entered upon the record, the judge-advocate having notified the court of its withdrawal.

The JUDGE-ADVOCATE. It is necessarily a part of the record, because a copy was made out and served upon General Porter before I had consulted with the witnesses and decided that I should offer no testimony under it. I cannot now mutilate the record; but I enter upon the record a formal withdrawal, and that is an end to that specification. There is, therefore, no plea necessary to it.

The accused then submitted the following paper as the basis of objection to the court proceeding further in the case:

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 3, 1862.

There is a question of form, possibly involving important matter of law, to which I now, upon my own reflections and the advice of my counsel, deem it proper respectfully to ask the consideration of the court.

The charges and specifications furnished to me are signed by B. S. Roberts, brigadier-general of volunteers and inspector-general of Pope's army. The order convening a military commission in my case recited that the subject-matter of its investigation was charges preferred against me by Maj. Gen. John Pope.

I desire to be informed whether, under these circumstances, the charges before this court, signed, as above stated, by an officer of General Pope's staff, whose official character as such appears as part of his signature, be or be not, in the judgment of the court, in contemplation of law, charges preferred by Major-General Pope, or by his order, so as to make the presentation of them his act.
Should the court hold this to be the legal fact, then, as the court is aware, the order convening this court is not legal, in view of the provision of the statute of 1830, which requires the court, in such a case, to be convened by the President of the United States, and not, as this court is convened, by order of the General-in-Chief.

The determination of this question now may prevent embarrassment and delay hereafter, and in that view solely I now present it, and not with the slightest purpose of taking any exception to any member of the court.

F. J. PORTER,
Major-general.

The JUDGE-ADVOCATE. The accused refers to the order appointing a military commission, in which it was recited that it was to try charges preferred by Major-General Pope. In point of fact, no charges ever were preferred by him. That commission was dissolved, and this general court-martial appointed, by virtue of this order:

SPECIAL ORDERS No. 362.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Washington, November 25, 1862.

The military commission ordered to assemble on the 20th instant, by Special Orders, No. 350, November 17, 1862, from Headquarters of the Army, is hereby dissolved, and a general court-martial is hereby appointed, to meet in this city on the 27th instant, or as soon thereafter as practicable, for the trial of Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter, U.S. Volunteers.

There is no reference to the charges, or by whom they are preferred, in the order appointing this court.

The ACCUSED. The question raised by the paper just read by the accused is that, perhaps, in point of legal effect these charges, although signed by Brigadier-General Roberts, as inspector-general of Pope's army, are to be considered as charges preferred by General Pope himself. We desire to have that question disposed of.

The JUDGE-ADVOCATE. There is no reference in the order appointing this court to General Pope at all. I wish to state distinctly that Major-General Pope is not the prosecutor in this case, nor has he preferred these charges, nor do I present them as being preferred by him.
The room was then cleared, and the court proceeded to deliberate with closed doors.

After some time the doors were reopened.

The judge-advocate stated the decision of the court to be as follows: The court determine that they will overrule the objection; that the court is properly organized, and that the accused shall plead to the charges and specifications.

Whereupon the accused entered the following plea:

To Specification 1st, CHARGE 1st, "Not guilty."
To Specification 2d, CHARGE 1st, "Not guilty."
To Specification 3d, CHARGE 1st, "Not guilty."
To Specification 4th, CHARGE 1st, "Not guilty."
To Specification 5th, CHARGE 1st, "Not guilty."
And to the CHARGE, "Not guilty."
To Specification 1st, CHARGE 2d, "Not guilty."
To Specification 2d, CHARGE 2d, "Not guilty."
To Specification 3d, CHARGE 2d, "Not guilty."
And to the CHARGE, "Not guilty."

The judge-advocate stated that there were no witnesses now in attendance.
Whereupon the court adjourned to 11 a.m. to-morrow.

Source:  Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

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