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Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion


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No 1: Report of Maj. McClellan, U. S. Army, commanding Army of the Potomac, dated August 4 1863

[p.85]

The following report, made on the same day by the officer then in charge of the transports, exposes the injustice of the remark in the dispatch of the General-in-Chief that “Considering the amount of transportation at your disposal, your delay is not satisfactory :”

ASSISTANT QUARTERMASTER’S OFFICE, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Harrison’s Landing, Va., August 10, 1862.

Colonel Ingalls, being himself ill, has requested me to telegraph to you concerning the state and capacity of the transports now here. On the night of the 8th I dispatched eleven steamers, principally small ones, and six schooners, with five batteries of heavy horse artillery, none of which have yet returned.

Requisition is made this morning for transportation of 1,000 cavalry to Aquia Creek. All the schooners that had been chartered for carrying horses have been long since discharged or changed into freight vessels.

A large proportion of the steamers now here are still loaded with stores, or are in the floating hospital service, engaged in removing the sick. To transport the 1,000 cavalry to-day will take all the available steamers now here not engaged in the service of the harbor. These steamers could take a large number of infantry, but are not well adapted to the carrying of horses, and much space is thus lost. Several steamers are expected hero to-day, and we are unloading schooners rapidly. Most of these are not chartered, but are being taken for the service required, at same rates of pay as other chartered schooners. If you could cause a more speedy return of the steamers sent away from here it would facilitate matters.

C. G. SAWTELLE,
Captain and Assistant Quartermaster, Commanding Depot.

General M. C. MEIGS,
Quartermaster-General U. S. Army, Washington.

Our wharf facilities at Harrison’s Landing were very limited, admitting but few vessels at one time. These were continually in use as long as there were disposable vessels, and the officers of the medical and quartermaster’s departments, with all their available forces, were incessantly occupied day and night in embarking and sending off the sick men, troops, and material.

[p.86]

Notwithstanding the repeated representations I made to the General-in-Chief that such were the facts, on the 10th I received the following

WASHINGTON, August 10, 1862—12 p. m.

The enemy is crossing the Rapidan in large force. They are fighting General Pope today. There must be no further delay in your movements. That which has already occurred was entirely unexpected, and must be satisfactorily explained. Let not a moment’s time be lost, and telegraph me daily what progress you have made in executing the order to transfer your troops.

H. W. HALLECK,
Major- General.

Maj. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN.

To which I sent this reply:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Berkeley, August 10, 1562—11.30 p. m.

Your dispatch of to-day is received. I assure you again that there has not been any unnecessary delay in carrying out your orders. You are probably laboring under some great mistake as to the amount of transportation available here. I have pushed matters to the utmost in getting off our sick and the troops you ordered to Burnside.

Colonel Ingalls has more than once informed the Quartermaster-General of the condition of our water transportation. From the fact that you directed me to keep the order secret, I took it for granted that you would take the steps necessary to provide the requisite transportation.

A large number of transports for all arms of service and for wagons should at once be sent to Yorktown and Fort Monroe.

I shall be ready to move the whole army by land the moment the sick are disposed of. You may be sure that not an hour’s delay will occur that can be avoided. I fear you do not realize the difficulty of the operation proposed.

The regiment of cavalry for Burnside has been in course of embarkation to-day and to-night. Ten steamers were required for the purpose. Twelve hundred and fifty- eight sick loaded to-day and to-night. Our means exhausted, except one vessel returning to Fort Monroe in the morning, which will take some 500 cases of slight sickness.

The present moment is probably not the proper one for me to refer to the unnecessarily harsh and unjust tone of your telegrams of late. It will, however, make no difference to my official action.

GEO. B. McCLELLAN,
Major-General, commanding.

Maj. Gen H. HALLECK, commanding U. Army.

On the 11th this report was made:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Berkeley, August 11, 1862—11.30 p. m.

The embarkation of 850 cavalry and one brigade of infantry will be completed by 2 o’clock in the morning. Five hundred sick were embarked to-day. Another vessel arrived to-night, and 600 more sick are now being embarked. I still have some 4,000 sick to dispose of. You have been grossly misled as to the amount of transportation at my disposal.

Vessels loaded to their utmost capacity with stores, and others indispensable for service here, have been reported to you as available for carrying sick and well. I am sending off all that can be unloaded at Fort Monroe, to have them return here. I repeat that I have lost no time in carrying out your orders.

GEO. McCLELLAN,
Major- General, Commanding. H. HALLECK, Commanding U.

On the same day I received the following from the quartermaster in charge of the depot:

ASSISTANT QUARTERMASTER’S OFFICE, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Harrison’s Landing, August 11, 1862.

COLONEL: In reply to the communication from General Marcy, which was referred to me by you, I have to state that there are now in this harbor no disposable [p.87] transports not already detailed, either for the use of the hospital department, for the transportation of the First New York Cavalry, or for the necessary service of the harbor. I think the steamers loading and to be loaded with cavalry could take in addition 3,000 infantry. These boats are, however, directed to leave as fast as they are loaded; some have already started. The embarkation of this cavalry regiment is going on very slowly, and it is not in my power to hurry the matter, although I have had several agents of the department and one commissioned officer at the wharf, to render all the assistance possible. The entire army is this morning turning in, to be stored on vessels, knapsacks, officers’ baggage, and other surplus property, and with our limited wharf facilities it is impossible, unless the regular issues of forage, &c., are suspended, to avoid great confusion and delay with what is already ordered to be done. Of course, if any infantry is ordered to embark on these cavalry transports, the confusion and difficulties will be increased.

I know of no boats that may be expected hero today, except the South America and Fanny Cadwallader, a propeller which was ordered to be sent back from Fort Monroe.

The transports with the artillery left for Aquia Creek on the night of the 8th and the morning of the 9th. They were ordered to return immediately.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. SAWTELLE,
Captain and Assistant Quartermaster, Commanding Depot.

Lieut. Col. RUFUS INGALLS,
Aide-de-Camp and Chief Quartermaster, Army of the Potomac.

On the 12th I received the following:

WASHINGTON, August 12, 1862—12 m.

The Quartermaster-General informs me that nearly every available steam vessel in the country is now under your control. To send more from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York would interfere with the transportation of army supplies and break up the channels of travel by which we are to bring forward the new troops. Burnside moved nearly 13,000 troops to Aquia Creek in less than two days, and his transports were immediately sent back to you. All vessels in the James River and the Chesapeake Bay were placed at your disposal, and it was supposed that 8,000 or 10,000 of your men could be transported daily.

In addition to steamers, there is a large fleet of sailing vessels which could be used as transports.

Tue bulk of your material on shore it was thought could be sent to Fort Monroe, covered by that part of the army which could not get water transportation. Such were the views of the Government here. Perhaps we were misinformed as to the facts; if so, the delay could be explained. Nothing in my telegram was intentionally harsh or unjust, but the delay was so unexpected that an explanation was required. There has been and is the most urgent necessity for dispatch, and not a single moment must be lost in getting additional troops in front of Washington.

H. HALLECK,
Major-General.

Maj. MCCLELLAN.

I telegraphed the following reply:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Berkeley, August 12, 1862—11 p. m.

Your dispatch of noon to-day received. It is positively the fact that no more men could have been embarked hence than have gone, and that no unnecessary delay has occurred. Before your orders were received Colonel Ingalls directed all available vessels to come from Monroe. Officers have been sent to take personal direction. Have heard nothing here of Burnside’s fleet.

There are some vessels at Monroe, such as Atlantic and Baltic, which draw too much to come here. Hospital accommodations exhausted this side of New York Propose filling Atlantic and Baltic with serious cases for New York, and to encamp slight cases for the present at Monroe. In this way can probably get off the 3,400 sick still on hand by day after to-morrow night.

I am sure that you have been misinformed as to the availability of vessels on hand. We cannot use heavily-loaded supply vessels for troops or animals, and such constitute the mass of those here which have been represented to you as capable of transporting this army.

I fear you will find very great delay in embarking troops and material at Yorktown and Monroe, both from want of vessels and of facilities of embarkation. At least two additional wharves should at once be built at each place. I ordered two at the latter some two weeks ago, but you countermanded the order. [p.88] I learn that wharf accommodations at Aquia are altogether inadequate for landing troops and supplies to any large extent. Not an hour should be lost in remedying this.

Great delay will ensue there from shallow water. You will find a vast deficiency in horse transports. We had nearly two hundred when we came here; I learn of only twenty provided now; they carry about 50 horses each. More hospital accommodations should be provided. We are much impeded here because our wharves are used night and day to land current supplies. At Monroe a similar difficulty will occur.

With all the facilities at Alexandria and Washington six weeks, about, were occupied in embarking this army and its material.

Burnside’s troops are not a fair criterion for rate of embarkation. All his means were in hand, his outfit specially prepared for the purpose, and his men habituated to the movement.

There shall be no unnecessary delay, but I cannot manufacture vessels. I state these difficulties from experience, and because it appears to me that we have been lately working at cross purposes because you have not been properly informed by those around you, who ought to know the inherent difficulties of such an undertaking. It is not possible for any one to place this army where you wish it, ready to move, in less than a month. If Washington is in danger now this army can scarcely arrive in time to save it. It is in much better position to do so from here than from Aquia.

Our material can only be saved by using the whole army to cover it if we are pressed. If sensibly weakened by detachments the result might be the loss of much material and many men. I will be at the telegraph office to-morrow morning to talk with you.

GEO. McCLELLAN,
Major General. HALLECK, Washington, D.

To the reasons given in the foregoing dispatch to show why General Burnside’s movement from Fort Monroe was not a fair criterion for our operations the following may he added:

He was not encumbered by either sick or wounded men. He had no cavalry, artillery, wagons, or teams. His force consisted of infantry alone, with a few ambulances and officers’ horses. His baggage was already on the transports, where it had remained since his arrival from North Carolina, and his men had only to resume their places on board.

The cavalry and artillery mentioned in my dispatches of the 7th, 10th, and 11th were sent to supply his total deficiency in those arms.

I may also repeat that the vessels used by General Burnside had not returned from Aquia Creek when the army left Harrison’s Bar.

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.85-88

web page Rickard, J (20 June 2006)



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