To Rufus Saxton

War Department, May 25, 1862—4.15 P.M.

General Saxton, Harper’s Ferry: If Banks reaches Martinsburg, is he any the better for it? Will not the enemy cut him off from thence to Harper’s Ferry? Have you sent anything to meet him and assist him at Martinsburg? This is an inquiry, not an order.

A. LINCOLN.

A telegram from Saxton at Harper’s Ferry, received at 2:25 P.M., described Banks as “hotly pressed and in full retreat toward Martinsburg. There is a panic. . . .”.  Saxton’s reply to Lincoln’s questions received at 6 P.M., was as follows: “General Banks cannot reach Harper’s Ferry from Martinsburg. He had two lines of retreat—one to Harper’s Ferry, one to Martinsburg. He took the latter. . . . It is 19 miles from Winchester to Martinsburg, and 23 miles from here to Martinsburg, and 11 or 12 from Williamsport. His only chance is to go there. We could do nothing to assist him, as we could not ascertain line of retreat until it was too late. The whole force here does not amount to over 2,500 men, and 1,000 of these did not get ready to march before 12 o’clock to-day. I am looking anxiously for artillery.”

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