Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/579
Notes and Queries. 569
"It became my duty to take charge of the railroad from Harris- burg to Baltimore, and while so engaged an incident occurred in my office which impressed me greatly at the time, and which it has always seemed to me should atone to a great extent for any errors General Porter may have committed, if any, at a later period of the war. It was to a great extent through him, in my judgment, that the services of General George H. Thomas were secured to the side of the Union. General Thomas, then Major Thomas, was stationed at Carlisle Barracks. There were at the same time two other Majors of the army stationed at the same place — I have forgotten their names, but that is immaterial, for the records of the War Department will show — when an order was received from the War Department by a messenger, who came across the country, directing Major Porter to send the troops then at Carlisle to Washington, with directions to have them cut their way through. It is the language of this order which makes me say that this was at one of the darkest periods of the war. The capital of the nation was menaced by an enemy camp- ing within a few miles of it, and had but a handful of men for its protection. Porter, with a quick perception of the gravity of the situation and showing a thorough knowledge of the fitness of the man for the duty to be performed, selected Thomas from the three Majors, and ordered him to report to him at my office in Harrisburg, that being Porter's headquarters.
"Thomas arrived there promptly the same evening. When in- formed of the duty to be performed, Thomas hesitated, and then began a conversation between the two officers, which continued until morning, and made a lasting impression on my mind. Thomas argued against the war, taking the ground that the trouble had been brought upon the country by the abolitionists of the North, and that while deploring it as sincerely as any man could, the South had just cause for complaint. Porter took the position that he, Thomas, as a soldier, had no right to look at the cause of the trouble, but as an officer of the United States army it was his duty to defend his flag whenever it was attacked, whether by foes from without or from within. Porter pleaded as zealously, as eloquently, as I have ever heard any man plead a cause in which his whole heart was engaged, and it was this pleading which caused Thomas to arrive at a de- cision.
" I do not say that Thomas refused to obey his orders, but I do say that he hesitated and would much have preferred that the duty