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Answer. It depends upon the character of the country where the troops operate, or where the battle takes place. In the immediate vicinity of my division, in my front, cavalry can operate very little; the country is too wooded.
Question. Is not that the fact generally in reference to the whole country, as far as you know it? I refer to the lines between the two respective armies.
Answer. Between their position at Centreville and our position here in front of this city?
Question. My question is a general one: whether one regiment of cavalry, such as you have, is sufficient for the number of men that you have as infantry?
Answer. That depends entirely upon the nature of the country in which you operate. If it is an open champaign country, large bodies of cavalry can operate to advantage. If it is a broken, wooded country, they cannot.
Question. What is the character of the officers generally in your division, taking them from the colonels down, in each of your regiments ? Answer. The officers are not equal in character to the men.
The men are well drilled; but the officers are not always capable.
Question. They are not capable, and they are not well drilled ?
Answer. The officers are not thoroughly acquainted with their duties. Take a general view of the officers of this army of volunteers, and they are not certainly above mediocrity.
By Mr. Julian :
Answer. Yes, sir; my whole division has gone through an examination. But the difficulty is, that if you find an officer deficient, and you give him a discharge, you cannot replace him by a better man, as a general thing.
By Mr. Odell : Question. You cannot ?
Answer. No, sir. The officers are elected, you are aware, and a man of tact will gain an election over a man of much more sterling merit as a soldier. Question. That remark confines itself to line officers, does it not ?
Answer. Field-officers are line officers. I refer to line officers who are fieldofficers, as well as to company officers.
Question. Suppose there is in your division a vacancy in a colonelcy? Answer. He must be elected. Question. By whom? Answer. That is a point I have just referred to the War Department. There is a difference of opinion between the reserve corps and the other troops that have been raised. This corps I command was raised by special act of the assembly of Pennsylvania.
Question. The States differ in relation to that matter ?
Answer. Yes, sir. There is in my division a colonel to be elected, and the lieutenant colonel thinks that if the election was made by the whole regiment he would be elected ; if it was left to the commissioned officers he would not be. I referred that question a few days ago to the War Department to decide, but I have not yet received an answer.
Question. We read in the papers that there is a commission appointed by the War Department to examine these officers.
Answer. Yes, sir; there is.
Question. Now, it has come to my knowledge that men have started out with no military knowledge, merely civilians. I took it for granted that those fellows would be shoved out when they came here and undergo the ordeal of this examination ; but I do not find that any go back home; they all stay here. How does that come about?
Answer. I receive orders to place these men again in their position ; and in one instance, after an officer had been discharged upon the recommendation of the board of examination, and another election had taken place to fill the vacancy, and the officer elected had been commissioned by the governor of the State, an order came from the War Department to reinstate the old officer who had been discharged.
Question. Discharged for incompetency?
Answer. Yes, sir. I reported to the War Department that his place had been filled by election, and the officer elected had been commissioned by the governor of the State, and was then on duty with his company, and that I should retain him on duty until I heard further from the department, not allowing this officer who had been reinstated to take his command until I heard further from the department. The department decided that the order directing this officer who had been discharged to be reinstated vacated the commission of the other; and in obedience to the order of the department, he has been put back in command, and the other turned adrift, although he had already been commissioned.
By Mr. Julian : Question. You say you are compelled to retain incompetent officers because you cannot get officers more competent ?
Answer. I did not say “compelled.” But it very often occurs that when a man is discharged for incompetency, you may not be able to get a better man in his place, and you are very apt to get a worse one. In one or two instances where this board has had the case of an officer before them, I have told them that if they recommended him to be discharged I could not replace him by as good a man. There are men now, in every division here, who are not fit to be in their position. But how they are to be replaced by good men does not so
By Mr. Odell : Question. Now one question in reference to the general attention of these officers to their duties. There are a great many officers about the city here now, and on the railroads going all over the country. Is the absence of officers from their positions a serious evil in the army here?
Answer. No, sir. You must recollect that there is a very large force here. A great many of these men left their business at, you may say, a moment's notice, six months ago—and they ask for 2 or 3, or 4 or 5, or 6 or 7 days' absence to go home and arrange some matters of that sort. I do not allow more than a certain number from each regiment to leave at a time.
Question. You have no evil of that kind to complain of in your division?
Answer. No, sir. No man can leave without my permission, and I refuse it wherever I think it is not an urgent case.
WASHINGTON, D. C., December 28, 1861. General Fitz-John PORTER sworn and examined.
By the chairman : Question. We are endeavoring to learn, in connexion with the condition of things here, how we can retrench our expenses, &c. And to do that, we desire to learn all we can in regard to the condition of our army. I will first ask you what is your military position?
Answer. I am a brigadier general of volunteers.
Question. Are you commanding a division?
Answer. With regard to these things, there is a great deal of information that I do not think ought to be known, and what I would give you with regard to the strength of my division is a totally different thing from its available strength. Many things have gone out, and given an opinion to the world with regard to our strength which is totally false. If I give you the strength of my division it would create the impression with you that I am a great deal stronger than I am.
Question. You can qualify your answer as you please. We are here clothed with authority, and of course have duties to perform. Congress has enjoined it upon us to make these inquiries, and of course it will be our duty to use our information as carefully as would the officers of the army themselves. Of course any qualification you see fit to make is altogether with you. I ask you first as to the numbers and condition of your division ? Answer. I have about 11,000 available men.
By Mr. Johnson: Question. To relieve you from all difficulty, I will inform you that we have a full report from the War Department of the numbers of the army of the Potomac?
Answer. That gives our numerical strength. Those returns do not give the men who are on extra or daily duty, cooks, attendants in hospitals, wagoners, teamsters, the men who are engaged on the necessary police of the camp; that is, cutting fuel, off getting clothing and provisions and things of that kind. We have a great many men at that; that necessarily reduces our full strength.
By the chairman :
Answer. They are available merely because they keep other men from being employed upon the absolutely necessary duties of the camp.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. Then your available force is as strong as any other force of the same number similarly situated ? Answer. Yes, sir.
By the chairman : Question. What is the condition of your men as regards health? Answer. As good if not better than any other division in the army. Question. What is their condition as regards discipline? Answer. As fine as any in the army. Question. What is the condition of the roads over there? Answer. As far as I know in excellent condition, excellent travelling condition.
Question. You have had this matter under consideration for a great while no doubt. Now, we are endeavoring to ascertain of military gentlemen what disposition they think should be made now in relation to the army. Should it retire into winter quarters, or should it attempt an enterprise to dislodge the enemy?
Answer. That is a question I cannot answer.
Answer. I decline to give a military opinion on that point. I am in possession of information in regard to intended movements—rather a portion of General McClellan's plans, a small portion only—and I decline giving any information whatever in relation to future movements, or what they ought to be. I do not think it is my business to do so, and we are forbidden by our regulations to discuss or express opinions on these matters. I have refused and have failed to express any opinion upon them in my division. I am there ready, and the division is ready, to move at a moment's notice. And when those in charge are prepared we will move. I say
is not ready to move, is not prepared to move.
Question. That, perhaps, answers the question I want.
Question. We want to know the reasons why, that we may aid you if possible.
Answer. You ask a question that I also decline to answer. I know these things will be ready, and are getting ready.
By Mr. Johnson:
Answer. I believe that everything is going forward as rapidly as it can—is progressing
By the chairman :
Answer. Not that I am aware of. I believe that General McClellan is carrying out his plans as rapidly as he possibly can. What those plans are it is not for me to say—that is, I think it better for you to get them from him.
Question. I have not asked you at all for his plans, even if you know them. I have only asked you, as a military gentleman of high experience and science, what your own opinions were with regard to the movements of the army.
Answer. I will tell you one thing; I do not think I ought to answer such a question, for this reason: I am not cognizant of what is passing throughout the army, and no man can judge what this army ought to do unless he knows all its operations throughout its various ramifications here, and knows them so as to be able to put them in connexion, one with another. There is a great deal I only get
from newspapers, which tell an immense number of falsehoods. Question. 'To be sure, you can only give an opinion upon the information you have in regard to the condition of the whole army. I had supposed that a man in high military command would be very well informed as to the condition of the whole army. I did not suppose he would know all about it, but still a great deal about it
. But, as you say you do not, we will not press that matter. Answer. I do know a great deal, I suppose; but we know very little but what we see in passing through the different divisions, and we cannot form an estimate of the condition of a division by merely riding through.
Question. Can you approximate to anything like the strength of the enemy in what is called their army of the Potomac ?
Answer. I only know from spies—mere reports, that are varied.
Answer. I do not think it is uncertain, but I think these statements are very varying
Question. And, consequently, unreliable, in your estimation ?
Answer. In some respects. At least, I form my own opinion on these various reports.
By Mr. Odell :
By Mr. Johnson:
varying channels, have you formed any opinion of your own, based upon that information, as to the strength of the enemy now immediately in front of us ?
Answer. Yes, sir; I have.
Question. Would you consider that it would be out of place to give your opinion as to their strength?
Answer. I should suppose that their strength, extending from Leesburg down to beyond the Occoquan, was about 160,000 men—something near that. I think immediately in front of us, at Centreville and Manassas, there are from 80,000 to 90,000 men. They may run down. This information continually varies. We may get information to-day, and may not get any more for two weeks; and in that time they may receive 40,000 men. I do not think their strength consists in mere numbers, but in their fortifications. Their numbers are nothing
By the chairman: Question. Then, of course, if you could get them fairly out of their fortifications you could get along with them?
Answer. If we could get them out of their fortifications we could beat them easily. But whichever party attacks the other in their fortifications would be awfully whipped.
By Mr. Odell : Question. Our line of operations is some fifteen miles in length, is it not? Answer. Yes, sir; our front line is about fifteen miles.
Question. Do you understand the confederate army to have any extensive fortifications outside of Centreville and Manassas ? Answer. I do not know of any, except at Centreville and Manassas.
By the chairman :
Answer. Yes, sir ; much longer. I know nothing of their fortifications, or anything in connexion with them, or where their strength is, anywhere south of Fairfax Station.
Question. That gives us the advantage of them, if their line is more extended than ours, does it not?
Answer. In many respects; yes, sir.
Question. It would, of course, open to military minds many ways by which their line might be turned ?
Answer. Very true. Question. Their position turned, and you consequently encounter them outside of their fortifications ? Answer. Certainly; it is never the object of any general to go
the enemy's works.
Question. I suppose not, especially when there is room enough to get around them?
Answer. Certainly. Avoid their works, if possible, and get them outside.
By Mr. Odell:
By Mr. Chandler : Question. Would it injure the efficiency of your division if your cavalry were to be reduced ?