Testimony of Gen. Andrew Porter
Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 210-213
WASHINGTON, January 21, 1862.
General ANDREW PORTER sworn and examined.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. What is your position and rank in the army?
Answer. I am a brigadier general of volunteers, and at present provost marshal.
Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What position did you hold there?
Answer. I commanded the first brigade of the second division.
Question. General Hunter’s division?
Answer. Yes, sir; General Hunter was cut down almost at the first fire, and I then commanded the division.
Question. Hunter’s division was on the extreme right that day?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Will you go on and give as briefly as may be the action which that division took on the day of that battle?
Answer. I would rather refer you to my report, which was made up immediately afterwards from my notes, which I have not since read. It contains accurate details, and if I attempt to state it now I would perhaps not recollect everything.
Question. Was it in your division that the rout commenced?
Answer. I cannot tell.
Question. Were Ricketts’ and Griffin’s batteries in your division?
Answer. Griffin’s battery was in my division. Ricketts’ battery came up afterwards. I do not now recollect whose division he was in.
Question. Were you near Griffin’s battery at the time it was captured?
Answer. I was within a couple of hundred yards, I suppose. I recollect very distinctly the volley that was fired from the woods. I was far enough off to see that that part of the game was played out after that fire.
Question. You were there when that regiment from the woods opened fire?
Answer. Yes, sir; but some little way off—200 or 300 yards.
Question. Had you seen any confusion or symptoms of a rout previous to that volley?
Answer. Yes, sir. The volunteer regiments were constantly breaking. They would break, and then we would rally two or three regiments and bring them up again. The New York 14th (Brooklyn) that behaved so well was broken nearly all to pieces at the first fire. But they rallied again and went up with Griffin’s battery, and stood their ground remarkably well.
Question. Do you consider that Griffin’s battery had sufficient support at that time?
Answer. The troops were not at all reliable. If they had been reliable, and could have been kept up to their work, I should think there was sufficient support.
Question. Was the position of that battery a good position with the support it had?
Answer. That is a mere matter of opinion. I would not like to criticise the act of others. I did not put it there.
Question. You stationed it some thousand yards further in the rear, I believe?
Answer. Not a thousand yards. But I put it in a position where it did most murderous execution.
Question. And where you considered it safe?
Answer. Yes, sir; because the enemy could not have got over to it without passing over a thousand yards of ground. I know the fuses were cut for a thousand yards, and they were pretty accurate.
Question. Had these batteries been retained in an effective position and properly supported, do you think it would have made any difference in the result of the day?
Answer. That would be a mere matter of opinion.
Question. We ask your opinion as a military man.
Answer. My experience of military life is not sufficient to warrant me in setting up any opinion against officers senior to me.
Question. You had hardly any seniors upon that field, had you? All the generals in command were brigadiers, were they not?
Answer. The only brigadier there was General McDowell. I was only a colonel. General Hunter was a general officer, but he was cut down almost at the first fire.
Question. Was it the understanding among the officers of the army that General Patterson was to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester, so that he should not take part in that battle?
Answer. I cannot say; I knew nothing of that at the time, and I do not think that the officers generally had any idea of it one way or another.
Question. Up to the day of the fight?
Answer. Yes, sir; I know that some person told me that Patterson had been ordered down, but that was a mere matter of conversation from some irresponsible person who came out from Washington. I said nothing about it to anybody, for I supposed it was a state secret.
Question. Had Patterson detained Johnston in the valley of Winchester, so that no re-enforcements would have been brought down from Johnston to Beauregard, what in your opinion would have been the result of that battle?
Answer. Well, it might have ended one way or the other. Our troops could not stand the attacking of the enemy; they were played out quite early. The men were exhausted—somehow or other they seemed to have no heart in the matter. The officers were more to blame than the men. We had the enemy whipped up to 3 o’clock. Then their re-enforcements came up. Whether our men would, without that, have retained their success I do not know. The enemy had Manassas to fall back upon. They had skilful generals in command. I think we should have prevented the rout at all events.
Question. You would have prevented the rout but for the last re-enforcements that came down?
Answer. I think so.
Question. Was it not the understanding among the officers of the army that re-enforcements from Johnston had arrived during Friday or Saturday night, or prior to the battle on Sunday?
Answer. That I do not recollect. I have an impression that such was the case, but I do not recollect it distinctly. It would have been mere supposition on our part any how, for we gained no information from spies or in any other way in regard to their forces.
Question. Only from the whistling of the locomotives and the movement of die trains?
Answer. I did not hear anything of that. There were two or three hills intervening between my position and that.
Question. Was there any detention Sunday morning in your march?
Answer. Yes, sir. Our orders were to get under way at 2 or half past 2 o’clock in the morning. We got out into the road and were delayed a great while there. We were formed on the road in front of my camp. I had the reserve brigade in the rear. After some delay we then moved on some distance and halted again; and we kept pottering along, pottering along in that way, instead of being fairly on the road. It was intended that we should turn their position at daylight, as we could have done very easily but for the delay. There was a great deal of delay—very vexatious delay. I do not know what was the cause of it. The whole affair was extremely disagreeable to me. I was disgusted with the whole thing, and I asked no questions, and I did not want to know who was to blame.
Question. Suppose you had been on that road by daylight, as you say you might have easily been, and had reached your position and turned their left as early as was intended, what effect do you think it would have had?
Answer. I think it would have had a very beneficial effect.
Question. And all the time you were delayed the enemy were changing their order of battle?
Answer. No, sir; I do not think they knew where we were going to attack them. When we got to Bull Run we were left on a high point, and we could see in the distance two different columns of dust. Captain Griffin and my staff were with me. I remarked upon it. We saw it coming, but did not know whether it was General Heintzelman coming in from above, or whether it was the enemy. We rather thought it was Heintzelman, as we expected him there if he was successful. The enemy came closer while we were staying there three-quarters of an hour, probably more. We could see their guns, and could see some blue pantaloons. We could distinguish this, when Major Woodbury came to me and said we had got now to Bull Run, and suppose we go down and have a consultation. I mentioned what I had seen to them. They had not observed it before. General Hunter moved the column and started them at once forward, threw out skirmishers, but before the skirmishers on the left were deployed they were at work. The enemy had just got there then, for we saw them coming two or three miles off at first. If we had got around there first we probably would have had the position in open ground to fight them. As it was we went right out from the woods. If we had got there a little earlier we could have chosen our position there to meet them.
Question. In that case you would have flanked them?
Answer. Yes, sir; we would have got between them and their re-enforcements. The plan of the battle was admirable; it could not have been better. Every thing was as well looked to and taken care of as could be.
Question. The only fault was this delay?
Answer. It may not have been a fault.
Question. Accident, then.
Answer. The fact existed. If we had gotten off in time, as we might, we would have got in around them.
By Mr. Covode:
Question. Were not Griffin’s and Ricketts’ batteries moved too far forward to be supported by infantry?
Answer. Not with good infantry.
By Mr. Gooch :
Question. Was the battery properly supported with infantry?
Answer. As well as could be. There were one or two regiments that did as well or better than any other volunteer regiments. As I said, the Brooklyn 14th behaved remarkably well.
By Mr. Covode:
Question. Were you in a position to see the enemy that were mistaken for our troops at the time they opened on the batteries?
Answer. I saw that regiment going by in the distance. I was 200 or 300 yards off.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. What number of infantry supported those two batteries?
Answer. I cannot tell. The marines were intended for the support of Griffin’s battery in the first place. The Brooklyn 14th rallied on the battery in its first position. There was another regiment there; I do not now remember distinctly which it was. There was enough to support it if the troops had been steady. If we had had the same number of such troops as we have now they could have supported it. I know one regiment of the old regulars would have held it.
Question. How many guns were in those two batteries?
Answer. There were twelve. There were four rifled guns and two howitzers in Griffin’s battery. I do not recollect exactly about Ricketts’ battery, as it was not under my command.