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“Issued by Captain J. J. Dana, assistant quartermaster, to the forces in the vicinity of Washington. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,363
“Grand total purchased by Colonel R. Ingalls, chief quartermaster, and issued and turned over by Captain J. J. Dana, assistant quartermaster, to the entire army of the Potomac and the forces around Washington. ------------------------------------ 7,176
About 3,000 horses have been turned over to the quartermaster's department by officers as unfit for service; nearly 1,500 should now be turned over also, being worn out and diseased. Respectfully submitted. “FRED. MYERS,
“Lieutenant Colonel and Quartermaster.”
This official statement, made up from the reports of the quartermasters who received and distributed the horses, exhibits the true state of the case, and gives the total number of horses received by the army of the Potomac, and the troops around Washington, during a period of eight weeks as (7,176) seven thousand one hundred and seventy-six, or (2,078) two thousand and seventy-eight less than the number stated by the Quartermaster General. Supposing that (1,500) fifteen hundred were issued to the army under General Pope previous to its return to Washington, as General Meigs states, there would still remain (578) five hundred and seventy-eight horses which he does not account for. The letter of the general-in-chief to the Secretary of War on the 28th of October, and the letter of General Meigs to the general-in-chief on the 14th of October, convey the impression that; upon my repeated applications for cavalry and artillery horses for the army of the Potomac, I had received a much greater number than was really the case. It will be seen from Colonel Myers's report that, of all the horses alluded to by General Meigs, only (3,813) three thousand eight hundred and thirteen came to the army with which I was ordered to follow and attack the enemy. Of course the remainder did not in the slightest degree contribute to the efficiency of the cavalry or artillery of the army with which I was to cross the river. Neither did they in the least facilitate any preparations for carrying out the order to advance upon the enemy, as the general-in-chief’s letter might seem to imply. fing the same period that we were receiving the horses alluded to about (3,000) three thousand of our old stock were turned into the quartermaster's department, and 1,500 more reported as in such condition that they ought to be turned in as unfit for service; thus leaving the active army some 700 short of the number required to make good existing deficiencies, to say nothing of providin remounts for men whose horses had died or been killed during the campaign an those previously dismounted. Notwithstanding all the efforts made to obtain a remount, there were, after deducting the force engaged in picketing the river, but about a thousand serviceable cavalry horses on the 21st day of October. In a letter dated October 14, 1862, the general-in-chief says: “It is also reported to me that the number of animals with your army in the field is about 31,000. It is believed that your present proportion of cavalry and of animals is much larger than that of any other of our armies.” What number of animals our other armies had I am not prepared to say, but military men in European armies have been of the opinion that an army to be efficient, while carrying on active operations in the field, should have a cavalry force equal in numbers to from one-sixth to one-fourth of the infantry force. My cavalry did not amount to one-twentieth part of the army, and hence the neces. sity of giving every one of my cavalry soldiers a serviceable horse. Cavalry may be said to constitute the antennae of an army. It scouts all the roads in front, on the flanks and in the rear of the advancing columns, and constantly feels the enemy The amount of labor falling on this arm during the Maryland campaign was excessive. To persons not familiar with the movements of troops, and the amount of transportation required for a large army marching away from water or railroad communications, the number of animals mentioned by the general-in-chief may have appeared unnecessarily large; but to a military man, who takes the trouble to enter into an accurate and detailed computation of the number of pounds of subsistence and forage required for such an army as that of the Potomac, it will be seen that the 31,000 animals were considerably less than was absolutely necessary to an advance. As we were required to move through a country which could not be depended upon for any of our supplies, it became necessary to transport everything in wagons, and to be prepared for all emergencies. I did not consider it safe to leave the river without subsistence and forage for ten days. The official returns of that date show the aggregate strength of the army for duty to have been about 110,000 men of all arms. This did not include teamsters, citizen employés, officers' servants, &c., amounting to some 12,000, which gave a total of 122,000 men. The subsistence alone of this army for ten days required for its transportation 1,830 wagons at 2,000 pounds to the wagon, and 10,980 animals. Our cavalry horses at that time amounted to 5,046, and our artillery horses to 6,836. To transport full forage for these 22,862 animals for ten days required 17,832 additional animals; and this forage would only supply the entire number (40,694) of animals with a small fraction over half allowance for the time specified. It will be observed that this estimate does not embrace the animals necessary to transport quartermasters' supplies, baggage, camp equipage, ambulances, reserve ammunition, forage for officers' horses, &c., which would greatly aug. ment the necessary transportation. It may very truly be said that we did make the march with the means at our disposal, but it will be remembered that we met with no serious opposition from the enemy; neither did we encounter delays from any other cause. The roads were in excellent condition, and the troops marched with the most commendable order and celerity. If we had met with a determined resistance from the enemy, and our progress had been very much retarded thereby, we would have consumed our supplies before they could have been renewed. A proper estimate of my responsibilities as the commander of that army did not justify me in basing my preparations for the expedition upon the supposition that I was to have an uninterrupted march. On the contrary, it was my duty to be prepared for all emergencies ; and not the least important of my responsibilities was the duty of making ample provision for supplying my men and animals with rations and forage. Rowing the solicitude of the President for an early movement, and sharing with him fully his anxiety for prompt action, on the 21st of October I telegraphed to the general-in-chief as follows:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of The PotoMAC, “October 21, 1862. “Since the receipt of the President's order to move on the enemy, I have been making every exertion to get this army supplied with clothing absolutely neces. sary for marching.
“This, I am happy to say, is now nearly accomplished. I have also, during the same time, repeatedly urged upon you the importance of supplying cavalry and artillery horses to replace those broken down by hard service, and steps have been taken to insure a prompt delivery. “Our cavalry, even when well supplied with horses, is much inferior in numbers to that of the enemy, but in efficiency has proved itself superior. So forcibly has this been impressed upon our old regiments by repeated successes, that the men are fully persuaded that they are equal to twice their number of rebel cavalry. “Exclusive of the cavalry force now engaged in picketing the river, I have not at present over about one thousand (1,000) horses for service. Officers have been sent in various directions to purchase horses, and I expect them soon. Without more cavalry horses our communications, from the moment we march, would be at the mercy of the large cavalry force of the enemy, and it would not be possible for us to cover our flanks properly, or to obtain the necessary information of the position and movements of the enemy, in such a way as to insure success. My experience has shown the necessity of a large and efficient cavalry force. “Under the foregoing circumstances, I beg leave to ask whether the President desires me to march on the enemy at once, or to await the reception of the new horses, every possible step having been taken to insure their prompt arrival. “GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
“Major General, Commanding. “Major General H. W. HALLEck,
On the same day General Halleck replied as follows:
“WASHINGTON, October 21, 1862–3 p.m.
“Your telegram of 12 m. has been submitted to the President. He directs me to say that he has no change to make in his order of the 6th instant. 2
“If you have not been, and are not now, in condition to obey it, you will be able to show such want of ability. The President does not expect impossibilities; but he is very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity. Telegraph when you will move, and on what lines you propose to march.
“H. W. HALLECK,
“General-in-Chief. “Major General GEO. B. McCLELLAN.”
From the tenor of this despatch I conceived that it was left for my judgment to decide whether or not it was possible to move with safety to the army at that time; and this responsibility I exercised with the more confidence in view of the strong assurances of his trust in me, as commander of that army, with which the President had seen fit to honor me during his last visit. The cavalry requirements, without which an advance would have been in the highest degree injudicious and unsafe, were still wanting. The country before us was an enemy's country, where the inhabitants furnished to the enemy every possible assistance; providing food for men and forage for animals, giving all information concerning our movements, and rendering every aid in their power to the enemy’s cause. It was manifest that we should find it, as we subsequently did, a hostile district, where we could derive no aid from the inhabitants that would justify disensing with the active co-operation of an efficient cavalry force. Accordingly
fixed upon the first of November as the earliest date at which the forward movement could well be commenced.
The general-in-chief, in a letter to the Secretary of War, on the 28th of October, says: “In my opinion, there has been no such want of supplies in the army under General McClellan as to prevent his compliance with the orders to advance against the enemy.” Notwithstanding this opinion, expressed by such high authority, I am compelled to say again that the delay in the reception of necessary supplies up to that date had left the army in a condition totally unfit to advance against the enemy—that an advance, under the existing circumstances, would, in my judgment, have been attended with the highest degree of peril, with great suffering and sickness among the men, and with imminent danger of being cut off from our supplies by the superior cavalry force of the enemy, and with no reasonable prospect of gaining any advantage over him. I dismiss this subject with the remark, that I have found it impossible to resist the force of my own convictions that the commander of an army who, from the time of its organization, has for eighteen months been in constant communication with its officers and men, the greater part of the time engaged in active service in the field, and who has exercised this command in many battles, must certainly be considered competent to determine whether his army is in proper condition to advance on the enemy or not; and he must necessarily possess greater facilities for forming a correct judgment in regard to the wants of his men, and the condition of his supplies, than the general-in-chief in his office at Washington city. The movement from Washington into Maryland, which culminated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, was not a part of an offensive campaign, with the object of the invasion of the enemy's territory and an attack upon his capital, but was defensive in its purposes, although offensive in its character, and would be technically called a “defensive-offensive campaign.” It was undertaken at a time when our army had experienced severe defeats, and its object was to preserve the national capital and Baltimore, to protect Pennsylvania from invasion, and to drive the enemy out of Maryland. These purposes were fully and finally accomplished by the battle of Antietam, which brought the army of the Potomac into what might be termed an accidental position on the upper Potomac. Having gained the immediate object of the campaign, the first thing to be done was to insure Maryland from a return of the enemy; the second, to prepare our own army, exhausted by a series of severe battles, destitute to a great extent of supplies, and very deficient in artillery and cavalry horses, for a definite offensive movement, and to determine upon the line of operations for a further advance. At the time of the battle of Antietam the Potomac was very low, and presented a comparatively weak line of defence unless watched by large masses of troops. The reoccupation of Harper's Ferry, and the disposition of troops above that point, rendered the line of the Potomac secure against everything except cavalry raids. No time was lost in placing the army in proper condition for an advance, and the circumstances which caused the delay after the battle of Antietam have been fully enumerated elsewhere. I never regarded Harper's Ferry or its vicinity as a proper base of operations for a movement upon Richmond. I still considered the line of the Peninsula as the true approach, but, for obvious reasons, did not make any proposal to return to it. On the 6th of October, as stated above, I was ordered by the President, through his general-in-chief, to cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy, or drive him south. Two lines were presented for my choice: 1st. Up the valley of the Shenandoah, in which case I was to have 12,000 to 15,000 additional troops. *
2d. To cross between the enemy and Washington—that is, east of the Blue Ridge—in which event I was to be re-enforced with 30,000 men. At first I determined to adopt the line of the Shenandoah, for these reasons: The Harper's Ferry and Winchester railroad and the various turnpikes converging upon Winchester afforded superior facilities for supplies. Our cavalry being weak, this line of communication could be more easily protected. There was no advantage in interposing at that time the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah between the enemy and myself. At the period in question the Potomac was still very low, and I apprehended that, if I crossed the river below Harper's Ferry, the enemy would promptly check the movement by re-crossing into Maryland, at the same time covering his rear by occupying in strong force the passes leading through the Blue Ridge from the southeast into the Shenandoah valley. I anticipated, as the result of the first course, that Lee would fight me near Winchester, if he could do so under favorable circumstances; or else that he would abandon the lower Shenandoah, and leave the army of the Potomac free to act upon some other line of operations. If he abandoned the Shenanhoah, he would naturally fall back upon his railway communications. I have since been confirmed in the belief that, if I had crossed the Potomac below Harper's Ferry in the early part of October, General Lee would have re-crossed into Maryland, As above explained, the army was not in condition to move until late in October, and in the mean time circumstances had changed. The period had arrived when a sudden and great rise of the Potomac might be looked for at any moment; the season of bad roads and difficult movements was approaching, which would naturally deter the enemy from exposing himself very far from his base, and his movements all appeared to indicate a falling back from the river towards his supplies. Under these circumstances, I felt at liberty to disregard the possibility of the enemy's re-crossing the Potomac, and determined to select the line east of the Blue Ridge, feeling convinced that it would secure me the largest accession of force, and the most cordial support of the President, whose views, from the beginning, were in favor of that line. The subject of the defence of the line of the upper Potomac, after the advance of the main army, had long occupied my attention. I desired to place Harper's Ferry and its dependencies in a strong state of defence, and frequently addressed the general-in-chief upon the subject of the erection of field-works and permanent bridges there, asking for the funds necessary to accomplish the purpose. Although I did my best to explain, as clearly as I was able, that I did not wish to erect permanent works of masonry, and that neither the works nor the permanent bridges had any reference to the advance of the army, but solely to the permanent occupation of Harper's Ferry, I could never make the general-in-chief understand my wishes, but was refused the funds necessary to erect the field-works, on the ground that there was no appropriation for the erection of permanent fortifications; and was not allowed to build the permanent bridge, on the ground that the main army could not be delayed in its movements until its completion. Of course I never thought of delaying the advance of the army for that pur
pose, and so stated repeatedly. On the 25th of October I sent to the generalin-chief the following telegram :
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of THE POTOMAC, “October 25, 1862–10.45 p.m. “As the moment is at hand for the advance of this army, a question arises for the decision of the general-in-chief, which, although perhaps impliedly decided by the President in his letter of the 13th, should be clearly presented by me, as I do not regard it as in my province to determine it.