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BGen Andrew A Humphreys' Correspondence

Request for Court of Inquiry and Summary of Operations 12 - 18 September

A. A. Humphreys

[author biography]

March 28, 1863.

Secretary of War.

Mr. SECRETARY: I beg leave to ask your attention to the inclosed statement, and to request that my conduct in the matter may be made the subject of investigation by a court of inquiry, as soon as it can be done without withdrawing from active service in the campaign myself and other officers. I make this request because, after having been strongly recommended for promotion for services in the field by Major-General Burnside, my promotion has not taken place, and I am led to conclude that some statement prejudicial to my character as a soldier or as a man must have been made to the War Department.

As in the course of a service of thirty years I have received many marks of esteem and confidence from the highest authorities in the land, and was never censured by a superior officer but once, I have concluded that the obstacle to my promotion must originate in the same source from which that censure emanated. I refer to a note received by me from Major-General Halleck, Commander-in-Chief, about 4 o'clock p.m. on Saturday, the 13th of September, 1862, in which I was informed that if I did not immediately join my division in the field I would be arrested. As I did not, because it was impracticable, march my division before the hour named by me in a communication to Major-General Halleck's chief of staff, which I supposed to be the occasion of the note (if it did not refer to personal acts), and as I was not arrested, I had reason to conclude that a subsequent acquaintance with the circumstances had induced a change of opinion on the part of the Commander-in-Chief. Soon after joining the Army of the Potomac with my division, I brought the subject to the attention of the commander of the corps, mentioning my intention to take official action upon it. From this, however, I was dissuaded as unnecessary, since every one of my acts had received the full approval of the commander of the Corps and of the commander of the Army of the Potomac, nor did the time appear to me to be suitable for such matters, expecting, as I did, that active operations would be continued. Subsequently, during the month of October, I was intrusted with an important and difficult reconnaissance to Leetown, in face of nearly the whole army of the enemy. The duty executed with entire success, and received the cordial approbation of the Corps and Army commanders. With such marks of confidence, and absorbed in the duties of the campaign, the note of Major-General Halleck had almost entirely passed out of my remembrance. It is now recalled with a meaning attached to it that, in my opinion, renders it incumbent upon me to ask the subject be investigated. I know what my standing is in the estimation of those with whom I have been associated, and I cannot silently permit that reputation to be dimmed in the faintest degree by the expression of opinion of any one, whatever his official rank may be.

As the statement accompanying this communication is lengthy, I beg leave to add, as a synopsis of it: That, on Friday, the 12th September, about noon, I was ordered, without any previous intimation, to take command of a division of new troops, about 7,000 strong, which would pass through the city that day about 3 o'clock p.m., and march on the road to Rockville; to see that it was well supplied with rations, forage, and ammunition; that all baggage that could be dispensed with should be stored and that the command should be kept fresh on the march; that I was not informed of the position of our army or that of the enemy, or of the probability that a battle would soon take place; that I had no staff officers, and could get none at the Departments; that the troops did not begin to reach the city until 7 o'clock p.m., and did not reach their bivouac near Columbia College until from midnight to morning; that one brigade (3,600 strong) had no rations whatever and an insufficient supply of forage; that all its arms were unserviceable; that it had no wagons for ammunition and no supply train, and that its regimental wagons, five per regiment, did not arrive until near midday Saturday; that it had no ambulances, or but one per regiment; that it had not shelter-tents, but full regulation allowance of common tents, which it could not transport, and that its officers and men had a heavy supply of personal baggage; that the other brigade (3,600 strong) had an insufficient supply of rations and forage, and but eight wagons for supply train, and one ambulance per regiment; that the arms of one of the regiments were unserviceable; that the brigade had no shelter-tents, but the allowance of common tents; that officers and men had a heavy supply of personal baggage; that I made every effort possible to supply the deficiencies and march on Saturday, but found it impracticable, but that on Saturday night all deficiencies were supplied through my personal efforts, and that my command marched at daylight, Sunday, 14th September; that by orders received at Monocacy Station Tuesday evening, my command halted near Frederick during Wednesday to protect that city, marching again under new orders received at 3.30 o'clock p.m. of that day, and by additional orders continued that march during the night and was in position at Antietam at an early hour the next morning, Thursday, 18th September, having marched more than 23 miles.

With this resume of the regiment, I submit that paper, and have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.


March 28, 1863.

Secretary, of War:

Mr. SECRETARY: I beg leave to submit the following statement in connection with my request for a court of inquiry to investigate the subject to which the statement refers. I will endeavor to be as brief as a complete representation of the facts will admit.

On Friday, the 12th of September, 1862, being in Washington, I was sent for at 11.30 o'clock a.m. by Major-General Halleck, and asked by him if I was ready to take command of a division in the field (of new troops) to pass through Washington that day. I expressed my readiness gladly to do so, and march within an hour. I was referred to the commander of the corps of which the division was to form a part, General Porter, with whom I had two or three minutes' conversation in the street, being informed in that time that I should take command of the division as it passed through Washington that day, which it would do about 3 o'clock p.m., entering the city by the Long Bridge; that staff officers of the brigade commanders would report to me as the brigades (two in number, eight regiments, about 7,000 men) entered the city; that I should march on the road to Rockville, and would receive further orders on the march; that I must see that my command was provided with rations, forage, and requisite ammunition, and something was said about defective arms of part of the command. It was enjoined on me to keep my troops fresh on the march, and this point was dwelt upon in almost every order I received on the route. The position of our army and that of the enemy I was not informed of, nor of the degree of probability of a battle. I had no staff officers, but assumed the authority to take with me Lieutenant C. McClellan, New York Volunteers, and took also my son, Mr. H. H. Humphreys, as an aide. I made application for staff officers, but could obtain none. At 3 o'clock p.m. I was ready to move, but the troops did not begin to reach the city until 7 o'clock p.m., and the First Brigade was not bivouacked near Columbia College, where I ordered them, until near midnight. The Second Brigade was not bivouacked until between midnight and morning, the last regiment reaching the ground at daybreak. Upon learning from the staff officer sent to report to me from the First Brigade, Captain Quay, assistant adjutant-general, that it had an insufficient supply of rations, I ordered that they should be obtained at daylight, that knapsacks and overcoats and surplus officers' baggage should be stored, and the brigade be prepared to march at sunrise.

Colonel Allabach, commanding Second Brigade (who had no brigade staff), reported to me in person near 9 o'clock p.m., and from him I learned that this brigade had no rations whatever; that at least two regiments had arms utterly unserviceable; that there were 900 stand of arms in the brigade with nipples or hammers broken, and that they were breaking every day, and were in other respects defective. Part of this I had learned already by telegraphic dispatch from General Whipple, and had immediately obtained authority from the ordnance officer, Captain Benton, to exchange as many as it was necessary. I took Colonel Allabach to Captain Benton and arranged that the two regiments should be supplied with new arms and accouterments from the arsenal, the regiments to march there at daylight. Colonel Allabach was ordered to send for rations as well as arms at daylight, store knapsacks, extra baggage, and large camp equipage, and be ready to march at sunrise. Both brigades were ordered to obtain as much forage as they could carry, and both drew forage. At sunrise Saturday, the 13th, I sent Lieutenant McClellan to see if my orders were complied with; he returned, informing me of the facts I have just stated in regard to the time of arrival of the regiments at their bivouac, and that none of the supplies I had ordered had yet been obtained; further, that there were other deficiencies than those I had learned, of a serious character, among them that the Second Brigade had no wagons for ammunition and no supply train, and the First Brigade but eight wagons for supply train. Some regiment had one ambulance and others none. None of the wagons of the Second Brigade had arrived, nor did they arrive until near midday. By my representation to the chief quartermaster, Colonel Rucker, eight wagons were furnished during the day to the First Brigade. Twenty wagons were sent from Alexandria to the Second Brigade, reaching it late Saturday afternoon. Upon proceeding to the brigades, I found that one of the regiments of the Second Brigade, the one that reached bivouac at daylight, had been no rations the day before, and had none then. Its arms and those of another regiment, of the same brigade, were as unserviceable as those of the two regiments whose arms I had directed to be changed. I found this by inspection. I found a regiment of the First Brigade, the One hundred and thirty-fourth [Pennsylvania], with the same unserviceable arms, Austrian rifles; these were represented to me as unserviceable by General Tyler, commanding the brigade, and I found them to be so.

I immediately obtained authority from the War Department to change all these arms, and it was done, but not until late at night. The ammunition for the five regiments had also to be changed with the arms; nor were the rations obtained, knapsacks, overcoats, camp equipage, and private property, with which the regiments were overloaded, stored until 8 or 9 o'clock p.m. Several of the regiments had no shelter tents, but a full regulation supply of common tents, which it was impossible to transport. Some got shelter tents, others could not obtain them. I was ordered to store knapsacks, overcoats, extra camp kettles, &c., officers' baggage, and everything that would impede the march.

The Second Brigade, I was informed afterward, was on the march from near one fort to another when it received the order to march to Washington and report to me, and had left from one-half to two-thirds of its provisions, ammunition, forage, &c., at the old camp, and when it reported to me had no ammunition but what the men carried on their persons, from 50 to 60 rounds each. Finding how unprepared the command was, I first postponed the march to 9 o'clock a.m., then to noon, but afterward found it was impossible to move the command that day. I received communications during Saturday from the Corps commander respecting my line of march, and enjoining upon me the great desideratum of keeping the troops fresh on the march, and to have plenty of rations and forage.

I was requested also to endeavor to obtain two squadrons of cavalry from General Heintzelman. I informed the corps commander of all I had done, and received his unqualified approval of it. It must be recollected that all these troops (expect one regiment, the Ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers) were now new troops that had just entered the service, and that the five regiments I have noted regarded their arms as worthless. Four of the regiments had been inspected by Colonel Torbert, New Jersey Volunteers (now Grigadier General Volunteers, I understand), under General Casey's order; and I learned from the Colonels of the regiments that he had reported them worthless; in fact, he pronounced them no better than clubs. These same arms were subsequently inspected by another officer, by General Casey's order, who pronounced the same opinion upon them. Raw troops, with arms they had no confidence in, could be of no service.

I marched at daylight Sunday, the 14th of September, and reached Monocacy Depot, near Frederick, Tuesday afternoon. Here I obtained (as ordered) such supplies of rations and forage (very little of the latter) as could be obtained, and, upon sending to Frederick, found orders awaiting me to take a position in front of Frederick, to protect it, and to watch the approach from the left (from Harper's Ferry, then in possession of the enemy). On Wednesday morning, the 17th, I examined the country in front of Frederick, selected a position for the division, arranged with the military commander of Frederick to station vedettes on certain roads in advance; arranged at the telegraph office to have the earliest information from the telegraph toward Harper's Ferry, and was returning to camp to move my division to the position selected, when I received, about 3.30 o'clock p.m., orders from General McClellan to move forward. This I did immediately, and had marched 5 miles, when, at sunset, I received another order to join the army (then at Antietam) the next morning, at daylight if possible. Then men were unaccustomed to marching, and were foot-sore; but I marched all night, and at an early hour the next morning was in position at Antietam, having marched more than 23 miles. I was accordingly greeted by the commander of the corps and by General McClellan, both of whom fully approved all I had done.

I beg leave to return for a moment. On Friday night, as soon as I learned the condition of the division, as to rations, arms, means of transportation, and lateness of arrival, I wrote to General Cullum, chief of staff of Major-General Halleck, informing him of it, and kept him advised of everything I did on Saturday. I had in reply at least two notes, but no indication of dissatisfaction with what I had done until 4 o'clock p.m., when I received a note, written by General Halleck, stating, in substance, that if General Humphreys did not join his division in the field immediately he would be arrested for disobedience of orders. I had just finished everything it was possible for me to do; nevertheless, I examined the condition of the command to see if it was possible to move that night, but, finding it impracticable, I did not march until daylight the next morning, the hour at which I had stated to General Cullum I should march. Whether the note referred (in connection with a recent order) to the fact of my being about the Departments in the city, or to my being at my house in the city to get lunch, or to my action in supplying the division, I did not, and do not now, distinctly understand. As soon as I found we should be encamped a few days at Sharpsburg, I went to the corps commander, and, repeating what I had done, asked that if there was anything in which I had erred that he would point it out to me. I was assured that all I had done was fully approved as the very best the circumstances admitted. I then laid before him the note I had received from Major-General Halleck and stated my intention to take official action upon it. From this, however, I was dissuaded. Further, my conduct had met with unqualified approval from the Army as well as the Corps commander, and I was under the impression also that the campaign was to be immediately continued, and that there was no time then for such investigation.

The reason for making at the present time, a request for an investigation is given in the letter transmitting this statement.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

April 3, 1863.


Mr. SECRETARY: I have read, with great surprise, in the Daily Morning Chronicle of this day's date, that portion of the report of Major-General McClellan upon the battle of Antietam, in which, when giving his reasons for not renewing the battle on the morning of the 18th, he refers to the time of arrival of re-enforcements, and states:

"And Humphreys' division of new troops, fatigued with forced marches, were arriving throughout the day, and were not available until near its close."

This statement of General McClellan is irreconcilable with the facts, and I am at a loss to understand how such a misapprehension on his part could have occurred.

I have stated in a recent communication to the War Department that the evening (Tuesday) of my arrival at Monocacy Station (3 miles from Frederick) I received orders from General Porter to take a position in front of that town, to cover it, and to watch my left; that the next day, after carefully examining the approaches to the town, I had selected a position, arranged with the military governor of Frederick to post vedettes at certain points in advance, and arranged at the telegraph office to receive the earliest intelligence from the vicinity of Harper's Ferry, and was returning to camp to move my division, when, at half past 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I received orders from General McClellan to join the army; that, after having marched about 5 miles, I received, at sunset, information of the battle, and instructions to march all night, and be up with the army by daylight, if possible; that I did so, and was up with the army at an early hour the next morning.

I now beg leave to state further, that I arrived at General McClellan's headquarters not later than 7 o'clock on the morning of Thursday, the 18th, and halted my division at a suitable place near by, where those who had been unable to keep up could rejoin the command, while I reported my arrival, received instructions, ascertained what ground I should occupy, &c.

I reported to the adjutant-general (General Williams) immediately, but about fifteen minutes elapsed before I could see General McClellan. In the interview with him I stated where I had halted my division; its condition; the number of my infantry and artillery; the state of the ammunition, &c.; was informed that the question of attack that day was not yet decided upon; and was directed to move my command to the ground occupied by General Porter as soon as I could. I had been in constant communication with General McClellan during the night and early morning, and he knew within an hour the time when I would be up. During the rest of an hour an hour and a half that I gave the division before moving it again, a large part of those who had fallen out came up, making the division not less than 6,000 strong. All my artillery, eight pieces, as of course present. It is well known that even with old troops, on such a march as my new troops had just made, large numbers would be unable to keep up. It must have been anticipated, then, when the order was sent to me to be up at daylight, if possible, that I would arrive with my division of nearly 7,000 men reduced considerably in numbers; yet, when we moved to the expected field of battle, there were at least 6,000 present. Upon recurring to my morning report of the 20th September, I find that upward of 500 men, sick and others, had been left at the old camps of the regiments on the south side of the Potomac, near Washington, before the brigades reported to me; and of the 500 who were not up the morning of the 18th, 240 were sick, and were so reported on the morning of the 20th.

To resume. During this halt I remained at headquarters to receive the earliest intelligence of the decision whether the battle would be resumed. I then moved my command (delayed some thirty minutes in Keedysville by other troops), and about half past 9, or at least 10 o'clock, placed it in position, by General Porter's orders, about 400 yards in rear of Morell's division. Here it remained about an hour, when it occupied Morell's division upon his vacating it, and supported the batteries upon the height above.

General McClellan rode through or past my division on his way out from his headquarters; and it filed past him in moving down to Morell's position. Notwithstanding the long that march they had made of over 23 miles (our only forced march), the men were in good heart, and, refreshed by their rest and coffee, would have fought well. Had they been wanting in spirit, a large portion of them might have remained behind, for the night was very dark. When I saw the long line of the regiments as they field into their position, in rear of Morell, I knew the kind of men I commanded, and their conduct on the field since that time has justified my confidence in them.

Mr. Secretary, the efforts of my officers and men and of myself, that anxious night, entitled us at least to the simple justice of an exact statement.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, Vol 19, Part 1 (Antietam - Serial 27) , Pages 368 - 374


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