Private and Confidential
Soldiers Home Washtn July 24/86
My dear Robertson -
Yours of 20-22nd just recd. I have read it twice and will read it again and again to see if I am right as to certain circumstances you describe being the same that I know something about.
I have no map of Antietam to send you but on my next visit to town will see if the Surveyor (?) Dept can send you one. I hope however you will not use it for the purpose you indicate - I hope so on your account as well as that of others, and myself. It may be some days before I can get the map, if I can get one for you - for I am very busy so dont be impatient about it.
As to your letter, we have not answered (?) about Porter. Circumstances have kept me out of active meddling (?) of late in his matter - my own interest, the namings of my friend and of Porter himself have forced me into a silent position, much as I am opposed to. I have lost one bill promoting me to Brig-Genl because of Porters case and will probably lose another. Porters bill will sooner or later pass of that I dont
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entertain a doubt. - It would be given if Getty and myself were to be the sufferers for the charges made against P-!
The three members of the Board of Officers who examined Porters case - Schofield, Getty, and Terry - were as well as Grant a friend to him. - This I am informed and I believe it - so was Grant as every one knows -
I have never known a man, not one who was not mixed up in this matter. A prejudiced - either by political or any relatives (?) who examined the case thoroughly who failed to conclude that Porter has been the victim of a great wrong. One of the members of the board Terry told him that he had come to a conclusion - that the court which dismissed him was right and therefore he Terry ought not to be on the board - Porter asked him if in case good testimony was introduced which proved his innocence, he Terry was so much prejudiced and to be unable to see it and do justice - Terry answered that he thought not - Then Porter objected to his being relieved. Porters own counsel, Charles M. Waleby (?) when he applied to him (?) stated that he did not believe in the case - that he would not be working with the ? ? that he was working for a just decision in defending him - Very well, said Porter, if you do not reach the conviction that I am innocent and loyal throw (?) up your brief - on this understanding - I have it
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on excellent authority not immediately - but from the counsel himself - he accepted the case. All three men became convinced of his innocence. Grant was also convinced of Porters guilt and was astounded when Porter told him that certain facts which Grant cited were not facts - Then for the first time he thoroughly studied the case - and you know the result - I knew this case from the beginning, in its main features - I never for a moment doubted Porters perfect innocence nor his abilities, and I had some reasons for my belief not generally known. But the events have fully borne out all my views - I had one special advantage - I was and am excellent friends with four men with whom I have discussed the matter - fully -frankly and plainly - to wit - Porter, Pope, McDowell, and McClellen - and I told Pope & McDowell both that they were wrong - and it did not break our friendship.
You should remember one thing - not only are politics involved - but the armies - It is a fight of this Western (?) Army against that of the Potomac. Grant, Halleck, Pope, Sherman -Logan & etc. The charge was that not only Porter - but the principal generals of A. Potomac were "disloyal," never that they entered into
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a "conspiracy" - The object was to make McClellan ? and to do all sorts of things for the other "conspirators" - The proofs of the conspiracy are found in Porters dispatches to Burnside - "secret" and disloyal to Pope & Halleck. All this was alleged by Logan in his speech against Porter - and he said it was a "warfare" on certain (?) generals! Here comes in the politics prejudice - A secret conspiracy carried on by tel.gh between Porter and Burnside by order and at the request of Burnside yet. Porter was a traitor - and Burnside a truly loyal man. All this ? is put forward and swallowed! And officers of the Army of the Potomac join in the persecution!!!
Now for your own sake - and future peace of mind. I hope that whatever you may think you will keep out of it on one side - as I have done on the other.
Porter is, and has been for over twenty years, fighting for his honor, and that he may leave an honorable name to his children. He has been ruined in health and in fortune. Never in any other matter has a breath of censure - that I know - been leveled on him. His case has been thoroughly investigated in Europe as well as in this country. And the verdict of every "investigation" has been in his favor and against his accusers - I
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am thoroughly satisfied of his innocence of all charges made openly against him - and also of his ability. I believe that history will fully vindicate him and I believe besides that every one who has come forward as an accuser will have cause to rue it. I would not give your paper to Gen Logan even if I believed Porter had done wrong, in this or that - or this other thing - if he had shown naut (sic) of capacity (?) - or of nerve - or of attention to advisors - because it is not just or right or fair - when a man is on his trial for a great alleged crime involving his life, or his honor - or the honor of his name (?) and children - to bring up other matters not pertinent to the issue - in order to create prejudice or ill will - Courts (?) wont allow it - and I am sure that when you think on it you will think it is not right - Let every ? stand on its own batteries (?) - You should have said all this long ago - at the time - or when the subject was fresh - when he remembered the circumstances and could explain them. It is too late for new matters - And I do not want to see your name mixed up with it in this way.
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Now after all this, for I want you to see my position so you may make due allowance for any thing I may say, let us get back to your letter.
1'. I saw your position at Antietam as you describe it - before - and after Burnside crossed the bridge. I dont know how it was about the every stripping (?) his center - and what would have been the result of such an attack as you mention. Very possibly it would have been all you stated - but I do know that what one sees on the spot cannot be so readily availed of with safety - as it could be from what is known afterward. I do not know for what reason McC. or Porter did not take your advice - I presume they had their reasons - McC. certainly had every motive to destroy the Confed. Army if he could do so - and it will hardly be held that Porter wanted to defeat him as it is alleged he wanted to defeat Pope. Who did he want to put in command most. I will tell you a secret which I dont want you to repeat to any body, and which you will have to accept on my authority - or reject just as you see fit. Fitch was dead wrong. When he says the sword of ? was hanging over Porters head at Antietam
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unknown to himself ! He knew it perfectly well then - and had known it before - not only before Antietam but before Popes campaign - before Porter had arrived at Fredericksburg from the Peninsula!
And Fitch was wrong in another matter - viz that Porters Corps of ? ? that was engaged hotly in the center - for the charge against Porter is that was then and strongly suged. (?) that his Corps was not fight (?) - not engaged even. Nor do I know of any assertion that he commanded any them but his own Corps - I am not fresh on this battle but the charge was and I believe is that Fitz John Porters Corps at Antietam was not engaged - and he was not fighting as he ought to be in the command of it or any thing else. The fact is that his Corps was held as the Reserve, and it was held for a purpose which however tempting the opportunity which you mention should not have been overlooked (abandoned) except in case of the certainty of what you state and also that there were no other forces that the enemy could use. As to what the people said in Sharpsburg - they also said that Lees Army was 92000 strong - they had been closely counted and estimated in their march by two prominent citizens - This was told me
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by Griffin even after the battle. Now I dont think that their army was so small as they now claim some 30,000 - and which they have been put up to claim by the wild accusations of my own people against our own generals. There was every reason to believe that the whole rebel army was before us - the same army that beat Pope, and which at that time, their accusers magnified - ? But I wont dwell on this - McC may have been deceived, and if Porter wickedly shook his head at your proposition he may have committed an error of judgment and perhaps not. I went with McC & Porter when they made the ? reconniscence, made at that battle. McC (perhaps Porter) had this information about the Army at Harpers Ferry, and the troops on the march. McC had to take in all the reports - from all parts of the field and from all sorts of persons and may have committed an error - in not acting on good (?) information but whilst that might be unfortunate - it does not to my mind prove that they a either of them were either disobedient or disloyal or cowardly. Now if there is blame, it must be from and of their politics.
You say that Lee began to ? his lines and
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it was Griffins Brigade making this movement that made (?) the crossing of the Cavalry Column on the road necessary. Griffin did what he was ordered, got fired (?) ? this ? from which we went there was accomplished.
Now at Appomattox - I spent the afternoon of April 9th with Gen Long - in his tent with several of his officers. We went over a great deal of the war, for I was honest (?) with him - I asked him about Meades failing to attack at Falling Waters. He said Yes, twice we wished badly to have you attack us, once at Falling Waters - but it is lucky for you that you didnt. We were prepared for you, as we were after Sharpsburg. We expected and hoped you would cross the river there - and left some guns for you but both Meade and McClellan were too wary to be caught in such a trap. Now every thing may have appeared very simple for Porter to cross his Corps at the time you mention - but he had no right to do so without orders from McClellan. Had he crossed a division or an Arty Corps and then been suddenly driven into the river. You must have heard the other side of the story. I never thought for a moment of blaming him for not sending more troops after Griffin.
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I rode back with him that night and I rode to the river with him and saw no sign of his "losing his head."
It was a mere dart (?) to grab the bait - I believe - & Griffin protested against it - This may not be the occurrence to which you refer but it was the same under any circumstances. Porter had no right to do more than make a mere dart - without orders - There were but few of the enemy in sight - but there were plenty near - and hoping for just what you blame Porter for not doing - so Long told me.
As to Gainess Mill, I dont know anything of the particular matter you speak of - I do know that soon after, when it was learned that Halleck was in Washtn & McClellan under a cloud - that Barnard - who talked so little and nodded so nicely with Porter, as you describe - turned tail on McClellan & Porter both, cut up his own words (?) and advice - and blamed McC for not refusing to be governed by Barnards own advice at Yorktown.
It is a long time ago and I can draw no conclusion from what Porter said or did - that Genl J. Tidball could not understand - but I do know that he fought a great battle against
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double his force - and that abroad at least they give him credit, as do many at home for splendid conduct in fighting it - Now as to Antietam Malvern, I think you make several mistakes - 1: I think you were not at McClellans ? guns which were down by the river - but near the Malvern House on the hill - where I was much of the time and where I kept all of the Arty Reserve & spare (?) Atry that I could. As you say the shells occasionally dropped ? in there - but I dont think they could reach McCs (?) Headquarters - I was there, part of the time with the signal officer in the little house at the side of the road, where it descended into the valley to go to Hariun (?) Barn via Haxall. There I received the signal dispatches which McClellan sent from a gunboat in which he was up the bend of the river, to a position where he could see the enemys movements - and all the roads from Richmond to the battlefield. (You will remember that the report at the time that he had run for safety to a gunboat on which he lay drunk.) - I was so engaged part of the time - Another part I was at the front on the line of battle, examining the condition of the men.
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...retire about 10 ½ or 11 a.m. Now a gentleman who lived in a house on the hill this side of the Antietam who when in answer to cruelty (?) I said - said "Well that accounts for the panic." I asked him what he meant - he said - I am in Sharpsburg as the federals approached and they wouldnt let me go home - On the night of this retreat the order to withdraw was given about sunset - or dark - A panic arose in the Confed. Army and I never saw anything like it! I went with Porter to the river at the time I believe you describe. 2: It was this time that the dutch (?) batteries were there and firing. I was in Kusserows battery at the time. I saw him try to cut down a man who disobeyed him, and so I recollect it. I was there before the troops crossed - I heard Porter give the order to Griffin - it was his brigade that crossed - Griffin protested. It was known there were troops in the woods beyond. The confeds. had left a number of guns in position. I had part of the Reserve Arty. there. We opened (?) most of the guns lumbered (?) up and galloped off - some were left - Porter ordered Griffin to go and get them. As I said before G. protested & Porter made the order positive but he was only to engage so far as necessary to rescue the guns. I presume
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as to ammunition for one. (Porter kept near the Res. Arty. & Tylers siege guns where I was) were together nearly all the afternoon except as I state - and when this calls for reinforcements became urgent accompanied by complaints of mvmt (?) of ANV. I told Porter that from what I had seen on the lines - I was convinced that the field would be won by the party - which at sunset had sent fresh troops - therefore I kept all the batteries I could near me - sent them off of course to replace disabled ones - and then without ANV which I ordered to be supplied from this train I had ordered upon this hill - and then kept them ready. Porter I told Porter not to withdraw or replace a man on the line so long as he had a cartridge or all his reserves would be put in before the finish came - At last the finish came it was at or about sundown. Word came from all parts of the line in our front. Porter said "The time has come" ordered in all his fresh brigades and regiments. And we gathered all the batteries even welcoming (?) Kusserows 32-pound Howitzers.
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This was the time I think when you went in - and it was not from McClellans headquarters at Haxalls - but from the near the Malvern House & Tylers siege train - I was in front of you when you ordered your battery to the left as you describe, and I never saw any thing so fine in its way as the manner in which the team of the leading ? ed? the steep bank at the side of the road, and backed against the fence - Ah! I said that will do - and galloped a little further to the front and went up the right bank when in a few minutes I heard the command "fire" behind me and recognized the voice of Corpl Train B? battery! I was in front of this ? gen (?) reg (?) and my horse went down - soon an officer of Rundles (?) battery rode up and gave me his horse. I pushed forward seven (?) batteries Porter joined me. We passed the regulars and reached the front regiments so they refuted (?) Robertis (?) Michigan. We went beyond their ? Kusserow 32-pound. We could perceive
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that the "rebs were on the run" - and Porter said thats right send the big shells after them - Then we agreed that we were successful - and that we would go at once to Haxall and tell McClellen to stay where he was by all means, even if we did have to starve for awhile, and wait to find an ammunition train, for we had won. Well! We returned at once to Malvern House now filled - house and grounds with wounded. And Porter asked me to wait a minute till he could see Genl Heinztelman. Before he could adjust (?) on he did rejoin us. We got the order to go to Harrisonburg. Its execution had already commenced under the hill - It was too late, and we did not see McC. I tell you all this so particularly because I remember it clearly - and
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had occasion to recall it, from a five years ago. And to prove (?) to Gen. that neither Fitz-John Porter - nor his corps -nor our troops were defeated there. Porters head was perfectly level and clear. He was so far from being defeated, exultant!
At Antietam I recalled to him the importance of Reserves being kept fresh - I believe it is the ? of all reason - this recollection of Malvern why he did incline to hold them in.
I have not read Grants book - looked carefully at his acct of fight at English Gregg (?) ground & Grants I am come - because I caused Nichols to have Gen Garland look particularly to Grants claims - who had not been mentioned. Gen Garland did so, and complimented him in his report. I heartily hope that your article wont be published by The Century - no matter how true. Wait and weigh and compare with others. No attention will be paid to what you say now. It is not the time - keep quiet! And remember all this letter is confidential! Burn it when read - ? Gen HJH
My officer is too tired (?) to write more