[Operations of the Quartermaster's Department September 2 - November 9, 1862]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
OFFICE OF CHIEF QUARTERMASTER,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., February 17, 1863.
General R. B. Marcy,
Chief of Staff, Major-General McClellan, New York City.
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 20th ultimo asking for a report of the operations of the quartermaster's department from the time I succeeded General Van Vliet to the date of transfer of the command by General McClellan.
[material covering period up to September omitted here - see OR Vol. XI, Part I, pp. 164-166]
On arrival at Yorktown and Fortress Monroe, the troops were embarked, as rapidly as our means of water transportation would allow, for Aquia and Alexandria, in order to unite with the forces under General Pope. The cavalry and means of land transportation were the last to be shipped. Much of the cavalry did not arrive until after Pope had fallen back on the defenses and had been relieved in command. Many of the baggage trains were still behind, and did not come up until this army was reorganized by General McClellan after Pope's reverses, and had reached the Antietam. Great exertions were required and made to supply the army on its march in the Maryland campaign.
So soon as General McClellan was invested with the command of the army for - the defenses of Washington - I ordered all quartermasters to make requisitions for such supplies as would be necessary to put the troops in condition to take the field. The army was then resting near its great depots. Most of the troops were well supplied for that occasion, but some commands, owing to the suddenness of the march, having left their clothing on vessels at Harrison's Landing to be brought to Alexandria, neglect, or inexperience of staff officers, subsequently were subjected to some privations.
It was at this period that General McClellan organized and put in motion a grand army that expelled the enemy from Maryland. This army moved early in September toward Frederick by way of Rockville and Urbana. I left on the 8th and joined headquarters at Rockville. Until the army reached the vicinity of railroads, it was supplied exclusively by our wagon trains direct from Washington. At that season of the year it was not difficult to do this at a distance of 20 or 30 miles from our base, the roads then being good. Our first supplies by rail came to the Monocacy, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. So soon as the bridge was finished, the depot was moved into the city of Frederick. After the battle of South Mountain, the country was opened to Hagerstown, on the Cumberland Valley Railroad, where another depot was immediately established. Soon after the battle of Antietam another was established near Harper's Ferry. The canal was navigable for supplies to near Poolesville.
With these depots the army from Williamsport to Poolesville was supplied with all its material wants, except as hereafter referred to in this report. The labor, however, of arranging and perfecting this system of transportation, of bringing to each depot the requisite amount, and the details of trains for the distribution of these vast supplies to the different portions of the army, was excessively onerous night and day. Immediately after the battle of Antietam, efforts were made to supply deficiencies in clothing and horses. Large requisitions were prepared and sent in. The artillery and cavalry required large numbers to cover losses sustained in battle, on the march, and by disease. Both of these arms were deficient when they left Washington. A most violent and destructive disease made its appearance at this time, which put nearly 4,000 animals out of service. Horses reported perfectly well one day would be dead or lame the next, and it was difficult to foresee where it would end or what number would cover the loss. They were attacked in the hoof and tongue. No one seemed able to account satisfactorily for the appearance of this disease. Animals kept at rest would recover in time, but could not be worked. I made application to send West and purchase horses at once, but it was refused on the ground that the outstanding contracts provided for enough; but they were not delivered sufficiently fast nor in sufficient numbers until late in October and early in November. I was authorized to buy 2,500 late in October, but the delivery was not completed until in November, after we had reached Warrenton.
There was great delay in receiving our clothing. The orders were promptly given by me and approved by General Meigs, but the roads were slow to transport, particularly the Cumberland Valley road. For instance, clothing ordered to Hagerstown on the 7th of October for the corps of Franklin, Porter, and Reynolds, did not arrive there until about the 18th, and by that time, of course, there were increased wants and changes in position of troops. The clothing, however, arrived in great quantities near the last of October, almost too late for issue, as the army was crossing into Virginia. We finally left 50,000 suits at Harper's Ferry, partly on the cars just arrived and partly in store.
During the whole of September and October we increased our stock of animals all in our power. In the beginning of October my records show that there was with the army immediately present under General McClellan about 3,219 baggage and supply wagons, some 7,880 artillery, 8,142 cavalry, and 6,471 team horses, and 10,392 mules, ma king some 32,885 animals in all. Many additional were absolutely necessary to move the army. (See list herewith, marked A.)
About the 1st of November following there was much improvement. My records show that, exclusive of the forces about Washington, there were 3,911 wagons, 907 ambulances, 7,139 artillery, 9,582 cavalry, and 8,693 team horses, and 12,483 mules, making 37,897 in all. (See return herewith, marked B.) This exhibits about the number on hand when General McClellan was relieved. Of course these figures show the whole number of animals for which forage had to be provided. I am aware that during October and November my returns showed a much larger number of horses on hand that were reported fit for active service by the corps commanders. Forage was necessarily provided for all, while many of the cavalry and artillery horses present were unfit for a march. Subsequently our trains were increased to near 3,000 wagons and 6,000 animals of all kinds, after the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps had joined. We could then have ten days' supply.
Near the last of October preparations were made to cross the Potomac at Berlin, a few miles below Harper's Ferry. Supplies of subsistence, forage, ordnance, and hospital stores were loaded in. our wagons to meet our wants until we should reach the Manassas Gap Railroad at Salem and Rectortown, to which points stores were sent direct from Washington and Alexandria. Our trains at this time could not carry supplies of provisions and short forage for the army, with the necessary ordnance, hospital stores, camp equipage, &c., for more than six or eight days. A wagon drawn by six mules over good roads can haul 1,200 short rations of provisions (bread, sugar, coffee, salt, and soap) and six days' rations of grain for mules. Over hilly or muddy roads the weight would be correspondingly reduced. It can thus be easily seen how far from our depots an army can be supplied by wagons. When the supplies in trains become exhausted, an army must be at or near another source of supply, as a matter of course.
The march from the Potomac at Berlin to Warrenton, where General McClellan left the army, was a magnificent spectacle of celerity and skill. It was in camp near Rectortown, on the 7th November, 1862, that the general was relieved. At this time the department was well organized. The officers had become well instructed, experienced, zealous, and practical. But for their untiring energy and implicit obedience to orders, such an army on the march, with constantly changing depots, could never have been furnished with necessary allowances.
The great success attending our marches is due in part to the intelligence, fidelity, and perseverance of the officers of the Quartermaster's Department, to whom I owe much and to whom my gratitude is due. I am bound, also, to bear testimony to the promptness of the Quartermaster-General and all his depot officers, all of whom have invariably desired to assist me all in their power. I must also call the attention of General McClellan to the merits of those officers in my department who have served at our great depots. It was on these officers we mainly relied for our supplies. Lieut.. Col. Fred. Myers, aide-de-camp and quartermaster, joined me in the march into Maryland, and has had particular charge of transportation. His services have been laborious and valuable. It was Colonel Myers who took charge of and successfully brought in the trains after Pope's defeat. I was then at Alexandria and knew the fact, though General Pope did not refer to his name at all in his report, and his services recently have not been rewarded. I feel greatly indebted to Colonel Sawtelle, to whom I have already referred. My thanks are also due to Captains Rankin, Wagner, Peirce, Pitkin, and Bliss.
I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Chief Quartermaster, Army of the Potomac.
[Annual report for fiscal year ending June 30, 1863]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
OFFICE OF CHIEF QUARTERMASTER,
Camp near Culpeper, Va., September 28, 1863.
General M. C. MEIGS.
In compliance with your General Orders, No. 13, of last July, the 22d, I have the honor to submit the following report on the operations of the quartermaster's department of the Army of the Potomac during the fiscal year ending on the 30th June, 1863:
[material covering period prior to Maryland Campaign omitted here]
General McClellan was invested on the 4th of September with the command of the "defenses of Washington." At the same time I ordered all quartermasters to draw supplies, to place their commands in marching condition, and to reorganize their trains at once.
These orders were obeyed very promptly. There was probably some 2,500 wagons conducted in by Col. Fred. Myers to Alexandria, which he saved from the recent retreat of General Pope. These, added to what had arrived from the Peninsula and what General Bucker could spare from the Washington depot, made up the train for the Maryland campaign.
It was soon ascertained that portions of the rebel army had crossed the Potomac, and had entered Maryland above Harper's [sic] Ferry. On the 5th and 6th of September our army was put in march toward Frederick City, by Rockville and Urbana.
I left Washington on the 7th instant, and joined headquarters same day at Rockville. We remained there two or three days, while our cavalry and advanced infantry and artillery commands were gaining information of the enemy and feeling of his position. Meantime General McClellan became possessed of the plans of the rebel general, and the army was pushed on through Frederick to the gorges of South Mountain, where the rebels made their first stand of any importance.
The battle of South Mountain was fought on the 13th and 14th of September. That victory opened the Cumberland Valley. The army followed rapidly, and came up with the entire rebel army in position on the heights of Sharpsburg on the 15th instant.
The battle of Antietam was fought on the 17th, and resulted in favor of our arms, freeing Maryland completely of the enemy, and compelling him to retreat into Virginia.
The army was supplied by our wagon trains exclusively, until we recaptured Frederick. The enemy had burned the railroad bridge over the Monocacy, but a depot was established on the left bank while the bridge was being rebuilt, and supplies of subsistence and forage were brought up over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; Capt. J. C. Crane, assistant quartermaster, was placed in charge. The commands within reach sent wagons to this depot for what they required. Wagon trains were also kept plying between Washington and the army until after it had passed South Mountain. A depot was next established at Hagerstown, under Capt. George H. Weeks, assistant quartermaster, and supplies of clothing, subsistence, and forage were brought over the Cumberland Valley Railroad.
These supplies came mainly from Washington, but forage and clothing were frequently brought direct from New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. After the battle of Antietam the army was assembled about Harper's Ferry. The canal was now available; with all these sources of transportation we had no embarrassment, save in the extreme slowness, in some instances, with which stores turned over to the railroad for transportation were delivered at their destinations. From this cause we were unfortunately very late in receiving clothing, and much of it arrived at Berlin too late for issue, as the army was already on its march to White Plains, Warrenton, &c.
Generally, however, the railroads did splendid service. I always found the principal officers and agents of the roads extremely obliging, courteous, and energetic.
Our wagon trains had been much increased. About the 1st of November they numbered 3,911 wagons, 8,693 horses, 12,483 mules, 907 ambulances, 7,139 artillery horses, and 9,582 cavalry. We had sufficient to haul seven days' supplies for the army, besides its baggage, camp equipage, &c. The army crossed the Potomac over pontoon bridges at Berlin the last of October ...
[material covering the period following Maryland Campaign omitted here]
I am, general, your most obedient servant,
1 US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Vol. 19/Part1 (Ser #27), pp. 94 - 98 [AotW citation 169]
2 US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Vol. 19/Part1 (Ser #27), pp. 102 - 103 [AotW citation 170]