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The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863   By:

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First Page:

THE

CONTINENTAL MONTHLY:

DEVOTED TO

LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.

VOL. IV. NOVEMBER, 1863. No. V.

THE DEFENCE AND EVACUATION OF WINCHESTER,

ON THE 15TH OF JUNE, 1863, BY THE UNION FORCES, UNDER COMMAND OF MAJOR GENERAL R. H. MILROY.

The history of many important military operations in the present war, will be recorded most correctly in the proceedings of the Courts of Inquiry and Courts Martial, which, from time to time, have been or may be organized to investigate the conduct of the parties responsible for them. The reports of commanding officers are no doubt often colored, if not by their own interests and inclinations, at least by their enthusiasm and partial view of their own purposes; and even the description of disinterested reporters and eye witnesses may be distorted and exaggerated, either by their own peculiarities of excited imagination, or from their imperfect opportunities for observation. But in cases where numerous witnesses are questioned, and cross examined under the solemnities of judicial proceeding, each one knowing that others equally well informed have been or subsequently will be interrogated on the same points, the probabilities in favor of a truthful result are very greatly enhanced.

About the middle of June last, the sudden and unexpected irruption of the rebel army under General Lee into the Shenandoah Valley, surprised and surrounded a division of our army, commanded by Major General R. H. Milroy, and compelled the evacuation of that post, in a manner and under circumstances which have elicited the severest criticism and censure of the public press. The commanding officer of these forces was placed in arrest by the General in chief of the army. No charges were made against him; but he himself demanded a court of inquiry, which was ordered by the President. That court has recently concluded its labors, and the testimony taken has been submitted to the President as the Commander in chief of the army, for his examination and decision.

Although this particular affair was one of subordinate importance, it was, nevertheless, somewhat connected with the great invasion of Pennsylvania by the rebel army last summer; and on that account, as well as from its own intrinsic interest, it is well worth the brief notice which we now propose to give it. In the general history of the war, the minute detail of such operations will necessarily be overlooked; but the interest of truth requires that the principal features and the actual result, even in these cases, should be fairly stated, and especially that the actors should receive impartial judgment at the hands of the public, with such just censure or applause as may be due to their conduct. In the tremendous operations of the war now raging around us, minor events may escape present attention; but no part of the great and bloody drama can fail to be of importance to the future student of this momentous period in our national history.

At the time of the occurrences that form the subject of the inquiry recently instituted, from which we chiefly derive the materials for this sketch, General Milroy was in the department and under the immediate command of Major General R. C. Schenck, whose headquarters were at Baltimore. The force at Winchester consisted in all of about nine thousand men, and this body had occupied that position for six months previous to the evacuation. The particular work assigned to General Milroy and his command, was to assist in guarding that important link of communication, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, against the incursions of a considerable rebel force in the valley, under the notorious leaders Imboden, Jones, and Jenkins. The forces at Winchester constituted but a part of those employed in this service. There was, of course, a considerable body of men at Harper's Ferry, with smaller bodies at Martinsburg, Romney, and New Creek, all intended to coƶperate in the protection of the railroad... Continue reading book >>


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