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Among the improvements introduced into his department by Surgeon Letterman, the principal are the organization of an ambulance corps, the system of field hospitals, and the method of supplying by brigades, all of which were instituted during the Maryland campaign, and have since proved very efficient.
QUARTERMASTER'S DEPARTMENT. On assuming command of the troops in and around Washington, I appointed Captain S. Van Vliet, assistant quartermaster, (afterwards brigadier general,) chief quartermaster to my command, and gave him the necessary instructions for organizing his department, and collecting the supplies requisite for the large army then called for.
The disaster at Manassas had but recently occurred, and the army was quite destitute of quartermaster's stores. General Van Vliet, with great energy and zeal, set himself about the task of furnishing the supplies immediately necessary, and preparing to obtain the still larger amounts which would be required by the new troops, which werc moving in large numbers towards the capital. The principal depot for sup, lies in the city of Washington was under charge of Colonel D. H. Rucker, assistant quartermaster, who ably performed his duties. Lieutenant Colonel R. Ingalls, assistant quartermaster, was placed in charge of the department on the south side of the Potomac. I directed a large depot for transportation to be established at Perryville, on the left bank of the Susquehanna, a point equally accessible by rail and water. Captain C. G. Sawtelle, assistant quartermaster, was detailed to organize the camp, and performed his duties to my entire satisfaction. Captain J. J. Dana, assistant quartermaster, had immediate charge of the transportation in and about Washington, as well as of the large number of horses purchased for the use of the artillery and cavalry. The principal difficulties which General Van Vliet had to encounter arose from the inexperience of the majority of the officers of his department in the new regiments and brigades.
The necessity of attending personally to minor details rendered his duties arduous and harassing in the extreme. All obstacles, however, were surmounted by the untiring industry of the chief quartermaster and his immediate subordinates, and when the army was prepared to move the organization of the department was found to be admirable.
When it was determined to move the army to the Peninsula, the duties of providing water transportation were devolved by the Secretary of War upon his assistant, the Hon. John Tucker. The vessels were ordered to Alexandria, and Lieutenant Colonel Ingalls was placed in immediate charge of the embarkation of the troops, transportation, and material of every description. Operations of this nature, on so extensive a scale, had no parallel in the history of our country.
The arrangements of Lieutenant Colonel Ingalls were perfected with remarkable skill and energy, and the army and its materiel were embarked and transported to Fortress Monroe in a very short space of time, and entirely without loss.
During the operations on the Peninsula, until the arrival of troops at Harrisou's landing, General Van Vliet retained the position of chief quartermaster, and maintained the thorough organization and efficiency of his department. The principal depots of supplies were under the immediate charge of Lieutenant Colonels Ingalls and Sawtelle.
On the 10th of July, 1862, General Van Vliet having requested to be relieved from duty with the army of the Potomac, I appointed Lieutenant Colonel Ingalls chief quartermaster, and he continued to discharge the duties of that office during the remainder of the Peninsula and the Maryland campaigns in a manner which fully sustained the high reputation he had previously acquired.
The immediate amount of labor accomplished, often under the most difficult circumstances, the admirable system under which the duties of the department were performed, and the entire success which attended the efforts to supply so large an army, reflect the highest credit upon the officers upon whom these onerous duties devolved. The reports of General Van Vliet and Lieutenant Colonel Ingalls, with the accompanying documents, give in detail the history of the department from its organization until I was relieved from the command of the army of the Potomac.
SUBSISTENCE DEPARTMENT. On the 1st of August, 1861, Colonel H. F. Clark, commissary of subsistence, joined my staff, and at once entered upon his duties as chief commissary of the army of the Potomac. In order to realize the responsibilities pertaining to this office, as well as to form a proper estimate of the vast amount of labor which must necessarily devolve upon its occupant, it is only necessary to consider the unprepared state of the country to engage in a war of such magnitude as the present, and the lack of practical knowledge, on the part of the officers, with reference to supplying and subsisting a large, and at that time, únorganized army. Yet, notwithstanding the existence of these great obstacles, the manner in which the duties of the commissary department were discharged was such as to merit and call forth the commendation of the entire army.
During the stay of the army of the Potomac in the vicinity of Washington, prior to the Peninsula campaign, its subsistence was drawn chiefly from the depots which had been established by the commissary department at Washington, Alexandria, Forts Corcoran and Runyon. In the important task of designating and establishing depots of supplies, Colonel Clarke was ably seconded by his assistants, Colonel Amos Beckwith, commissary of subsistence, U. S. A.; Lieutenant Colonel George Bell, commissary of subsistence, U. S. A.; Lieutenant Colonel A. P. Porter, commissary of subsistence, U. S. A.; Captain Thomas Wilson, commissary of subsistence, U. S. A.; Captain Brownell Granger, commissary of subsistence, U. S. volunteers : Captain W. H. Bell, commissary of subsistence, U. S. A.; Captain J. H. Woodward, commissary of subsistence, U. S. volunteers ; and Captain W. R. Murphy, commissary of subsistence, U. S. volunteers.
For a full knowledge of the highly creditable manner in whic heach and all of the above-mentioned officers discharged their duties, I invite attention to the detailed report of Colonel Clarke. The remarks and suggestions contained in his report are worthy of attention, as affording valuable rules for the future guidance of the subsistence department in supplying armies in the field. The success of the subsistence department of the army of the Potomac was in a great measure attributable to the fact that the subsistence department at Washington made ample provision for sending supplies to the Peninsula, and that it always exercised the most intelligent foresight. It moreover gave its advice and countenance to the officers charged with its duties and reputation in the field, and those officers, I am happy to say, worked with it, and together, in perfect harmony for the public good. During the entire period that I was in command of the army of the Potomac there was no instance within my knowledge where the troops were without their rations from any fault of the officers of this department.
ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT. ' This very important branch of the service was placed under the charge of Captain C. P. Kingsbury, ordnance corps, colonel and aide-de-camp. Great difficulty existed in the proper organization of the department for the want of a sufficient number of suitable officers to perform the duties at the various headquarters and depots of supply. But far greater obstacles had to be surmounted, from the fact that the supply of small arms was totally inadequate to the demands of a large army, and a vast proportion of those furnished were of such inferior quality as to be unsatisfactory to the troops, and condemned by their officers. The supply of artillery was more abundant, but of great variety. Rifled ordnance was just coming into use, for the first time in this country, and the description of gun and kind of projectile which would prove most effective, and should, therefore, be adopted, was a mere matter of theory. To obviate these difficulties, large quantities of small arms of foreign manufacture were contracted for; private enterprise in the construction of arms and ammunition was encouraged ; and by the time the army was ordered to move to the Penin, sula the amount of ordnance and ordnance stores was ample. Much also had been done to bring the quality, both of arms and ammunition, up to the proper standard. Boards of officers were in session continually during the autumn and winter of 1861, to test the relative merits of new arms and projectiles.
The reports of these boards, confirmed by subsequent experience in the field, have done much to establish the respective claims of different inventors and manufacturers. During the campaigns of the Peninsula and Maryland the officers connected with the department were zealous and energetic, and kept the troops well supplied, notwithstanding the perplexing and arduous nature of their duties. One great source of perplexity was the fact that it had been necessary to issue arms of all varieties and calibres, giving an equal diversity in the kinds of ammunition required. Untiring watchfulness was therefore incumbent upon the officers in charge to prevent confusion and improper distribution of cartridges. Colonel Kingsbury discharged the duties of his office with great efficiency until the day of July, 1862, when his health required that he should be relieved. First Lieutenant Thomas G. Baylor, ordnance corps, succeeded him, and performed his duty during the remainder of the Peninsula and Maryland campaigns with marked ability and success.
The want of reports from Colonel Kingsbury and Lieutenant Baylor renders it impossible for me to enter at all into the details of the organization of the department.
PROVOST MARSHAL'S DEPARTMENT. Immediately after I was placed in command of the “ Division of the Potomac," I appointed Colonel Andrew Porter, 16th regiment infantry, provost marshal of Washington. All the available regular infantry, a battery and a squadron of cavalry were placed under his command, and by his energetic action he soon corrected the serious evils which existed, and restored order in the city.
When the army was about to take the field, General Porter was appointed Provost Marshal General of the army of the Potomac, and held that most innportant position until the end of the Peninsula campaign, when sickness, contracted in the untiring discharge of his duties, compelled him to ask to be relieved from the position he had so ably and energetically filled.
The Provost Marshal General's department had the charge of a class of duties which had not before, in our service, been defined and grouped under the management of a special department. The following subjects indicate the sphere of this department: suppression of marauding and depredations, and of all brawls and disturbances, preservation of good order, and suppression of disturbances beyond the limits of the camps.
Prevention of straggling on the march.
Searches, seizures and arrests. Execution of sentences of general courtsmartial, involving imprisonment or capital punishment. Enforcement of orders prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors, whether by tradesmen or sutlers, and of orders respecting passes.
Deserters from the enemy.
Major W. H. Wood, 17th United States infantry; Captain James McMillom, acting assistant adjutant general. 17th United States infantry; Captain W. T. Gentry, 17th United States infantry; Captain J. W. Forsurth, 18th United States infantry; Lieutenant J. W. Jones, 12th United States infantry; Lieutenant C. F. Trowbridge, 16th United States infantry; and Lieutenant C. D. Mehaffey, 1st United States infantry.
The provost guard was composed of the 2d United States cavalry, Major Pleasanton, and a battalion of the 8th and 17th United States infantry, Major Willard. After General Porter was relieved, Major Wood was in charge of this department until after the battle of Antietam, when Brigadier General Patrick was appointed Provost Marshal General.
COMMANDANT OF GENERAL HEADQUARTERS. When the army took the field, for the purpose of securing order and regularity in the camp of headquarters, and facilitating its movements, the office of commandant of general headquarters was created, and assigned to Major G. 0. Haller, 7th United States infantry. Six companies of infantry were placed under his orders for guard and police duty. Among the orders appended to this report is the one defining his duties, which were always satisfactorily performed.
JUDGE ADVOCATE. From August, 1861, the position of judge advocate was held by Colonel Thomas T. Gantt, aide-de-camp, until compelled by ill health to retire, at Harrison's landing, in August, 1862. His reviews of the decisions of courts-martial during this period were of great utility in correcting the practice in military courts, diffusing true notions of discipline and subordination, and setting before the army a high standard of soldierly honor. Upon the retirement of Colonel Gantt the duties of judge advocate were ably performed by Colonel Thomas M. Key, aide-de-camp.
The method of conveying intelligence and orders, invented and introduced into the service by Major Albert J. Myer, signal officer United States army, was first practically tested in large operations during the organization of the army of the Potomac.
Under the direction of Major Myer a signal corps was formed by detailing officers and men from the different regiments of volunteers and instructing them in the use of the flags by day and torches by night.
The chief signal officer was indefatigable in his exertions to render his corps effective, and it soon became available for service in every division of the army. In addition to the flags and torches, Major Myer introduced a portable insulated telegraph wire, which could be readily laid from point to point, and which could be used under the same general system. In front of Washington, and on the Lower Potomac, at any point within our lines not reached by the military telegraph, the great usefulness of this system ofsignals was made manifest. But
it was not until after the arrival of the army upon the Peninsula, and during the siege and battles of that and the Maryland campaigns that the great benefits to be derived from it on the field and under fire were fully appreciated.
There was scarcely any action or skirmish in which the signal corps did not render important services. Often under heavy fire of artillery, and not unfrequently while exposed to musketry, the officers and men of this corps gave information of the movements of the enemy, and transmitted directions for the evolutions of our own troops.
The report of the chief signal officer, with accompanying documents, will give the details of the services of this corps, and call attention to those members. of it who were particularly distinguished.
The telegraphic operations of the army of the Potomac were superintended by Major Thomas J. Eckert, and under the immediate direction of Mr. — Caldwell, who was, with a corps of operators, attached to my headquarters during the entire campaigns upon the Peninsula and in Maryland.
The services of this corps were arduous and efficient. Under the admirable arrangements of Major Eckert they were constantly provided with all the material for constructing new lines, which were rapidly established whenever the army changed position; and it was not unfrequently the case that the operatives worked under fire from the enemy's guns; yet they invariably performed all the duties required of them with great alacrity and cheerfulness, and it was seldom that I was without the means of direct telegraphic communication with the War Department and with the corps commanders.
From the organization of the army of the Potomac up to November 1, 1862, including the Peninsula and Maryland campaigns, upwards of twelve hundred (1,200) miles of military telegraph line had been constructed in connexion with the operations of the arıny, and the number of operatives and builders erployed was about two hundred, (200.)
To Professor Lowe, the intelligent and enterprising æronaut, who had the management of the balloons, I was greatly indebted for the valuable information obtained during his ascensions.
I have more than once tåken occasion to recommend the members of my staff, both general and personal, for promotion and reward. I beg leave to repeat these recommendations, and to record their names in the history of the army of the Potomac, as gallant soldiers, to whom their country owes a debt of gratitude still unpaid, for the courage, ability, and untiring zeal they displayed during the eventful campaigns in which they bore so prominent a part.
CHAPTER II. On the 15th of October the main body of the army of the Potomac was in the immediate vicinity of Washington, with detachments on the left bank of the Potomac as far down as Liverpool point, and as far up as Williamsport and its vicinity. The different divisions were posted as follows: Hooker at Budd's ferry, Lower Potomac; Heintzelman at Fort Lyon and vicinity; Franklin near the theological seminary; Blenker near Hunter's chapel; McDowell at Upton's hill and Arlington; F. J. Porter at Hall's and Miner's hills; Smith at Mackall's hill; McCall at Langley; Buell at Tenallytown, Meridian hill, Emory's chapel, &c., on the left bank of the river; Casey at Washington; Stoneman's cavalry at Washington; Hunt's artillery at Washington; Banks at Darnestown, with detachments at Point of Rocks, Sandy Hook, Williamsport, &c.; Stone at Poolesville; and Dix at Baltimore, with detachments on the Eastern Shore.