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Chapter 38:

  • After the battle
  • -- the position reviewed -- condition of the army -- reorganization and supply -- visit of the President -- he approves McClellan's course -- details of supplies needed and not received -- shoes, clothing, blankets, tents, horses -- dates of receipt of supplies -- plans of advance into Virginia.

The night brought with it grave responsibilities. Whether to renew the attack on the 18th, or to defer it, even with the risk of the enemy's retirement, was the question before me.

After a night of anxious deliberation and a full and careful survey of the situation and condition of our army, the strength and position of the enemy, I concluded that the success of an attack on the 18th was not certain. I am aware of the fact that, under ordinary circumstances, a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle with less than an absolute assurance of success. At that moment — Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded — the national cause could afford no risks of defeat. One battle lost, and almost all would have been lost. Lee's army might then have marched as it pleased on Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York. It could have levied its supplies from a fertile and undevastated country; extorted tribute from wealthy and populous cities; and nowhere east of the Alleghanies was there another organized force able to arrest its march.

The following are among the considerations which led me to doubt the certainty of success in attacking before the 19th:

The troops were greatly overcome by the fatigue and exhaustion attendant upon the long-continued and severely contested battle of the 17th, together with the long day-and-night marches to which they had been subjected during the previous three days.

The supply-trains were in the rear, and many of the troops had suffered from hunger. They required rest and refreshment. [619]

One division of Sumner's and all of Hooker's corps on the right had, after fighting most valiantly for several hours, been overpowered by numbers, driven back in great disorder, and much scattered, so that they were for the time somewhat demoralized.

In Hooker's corps, according to the return made by Gen. Meade commanding, there were but 6,729 men present on the 18th; whereas on the morning of the 22d there were 13,093 men present for duty in the same corps, showing that previous to and during the battle 6,364 men were separated from their command.

Gen. Meade, in an official communication upon this subject, dated Sept. 18, 1862, says:

I enclose a field return of the corps, made this afternoon, which I desire you will lay before the commanding general. I am satisfied the great reduction in the corps since the recent engagements is not due solely to the casualties of battle, and that a considerable number of men are still in the rear, some having dropped out on the march, and many dispersing and leaving yesterday during the fight. I think the efficiency of the corps, so far as it goes, good. To resist an attack in our present strong position I think they may be depended on, and I hope they will perform duty in case we make an attack, though I do not think their morale is as good for an offensive as a defensive movement.

One division of Sumner's corps had also been overpowered, and was a good deal scattered and demoralized. It was not deemed by its corps commander in proper condition to attack the enemy vigorously the next day.

Some of the new troops on the left, although many of them fought well during the battle and are entitled to great credit, were, at the close of the action, driven back and their morale impaired.

On the morning of the 18th Gen. Burnside, as before stated, requested me to send him another division to assist in holding his position on the other side of the Antietam, and to enable him to withdraw his corps if he should be attacked by a superior force.

A large number of our heaviest and most efficient batteries had consumed all their ammunition on the 16th and 17th and it was impossible to supply them until late on the following day. [620]

Supplies of provisions and forage had to be brought up and issued, and infantry ammunition distributed.

Finally, reinforcements to the number of 14,000 men — to say nothing of troops expected from Pennsylvania-had not arrived, but were expected during the day.

The 18th was, therefore, spent in collecting the dispersed, giving rest to the fatigued, removing the wounded, burying the dead, and the necessary preparations for a renewal of the battle.

Of the reinforcements, Couch's division, marching with commendable rapidity, came up into position at a late hour in the morning. Humphreys' division of new troops, in their anxiety to participate in the battle which was raging, when they received the order to march from Frederick at about half-past 3 P. M. on the 17th, pressed forward during the entire night, and the mass of the division reached the army during the following morning. Having marched more than 23 miles after half-past 4 o'clock on the preceding afternoon, they were, of course, greatly exhausted, and needed rest and refreshment. Large reinforcements expected from Pennsylvania never arrived. During the 18th orders were given for a renewal of the attack at daylight on the 19th.

On the night of the 18th the enemy, after passing troops in the latter part of the day from the Virginia shore to their position behind Sharpsburg, as seen by our officers, suddenly formed the design of abandoning their position and retreating across the river. As their line was but a short distance from the river, the evacuation presented but little difficulty, and was effected before daylight.

About 2,700 of the enemy's dead were, under the direction of Maj. Davis, assistant inspector-general, counted and buried upon the battle-field of Antietam. A portion of their dead had been previously buried by them.

When our cavalry advance reached the river on the morning of the 19th it was discovered that nearly all the enemy's forces had crossed into Virginia during the night, their rear escaping under cover of eight batteries placed in strong positions upon the elevated bluffs on the opposite bank. Gen. Porter, commanding the 5th corps, ordered a detachment from Griffin's and Barnes's brigades, under Gen. Griffin, to cross the river at [621] dark and carry the enemy's batteries. This was gallantly done under the fire of the enemy; several guns, caissons, etc., were taken, and their supports driven back half a mile.

The information obtained during the progress of this affair indicated that the mass of the enemy had retreated on the Charlestown and Martinsburg roads towards Winchester. To verify this, and to ascertain how far the enemy had retired, Gen. Porter was authorized to detach from his corps, on the morning of the 20th, a reconnoitring party in greater force. This detachment crossed the river and advanced about a mile, when it was attacked by a large body of the enemy lying in ambush in the woods, and driven back across the river with considerable loss. This reconnoissance showed that the enemy was still in force on the Virginia bank of the Potomac: prepared to resist our further advance.

It was reported to me on the 19th that Gen. Stuart had made his appearance at Williamsport with some 4,000 cavalry and six pieces of artillery, and that 10,000 infantry were marching on the same point from the direction of Winchester. I ordered Gen. Couch to march at once with his division and a part of Pleasonton's cavalry, with Franklin's corps within supporting distance, for the purpose of endeavoring to capture this force. Gen. Couch made a prompt and rapid march to Williamsport, and attacked the enemy vigorously, but they made their escape across the river.

I despatched the following telegraphic report to the general-in-chief:

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, Sharpsburg, Sept. 19, 1862.
I have the honor to report that Maryland is entirely freed from the presence of the enemy, who has been driven across the Potomac. No fears need now be entertained for the safety of Pennsylvania. I shall at once occupy Harper's Ferry.

G. B. Mcclellan, Maj.-Gen. Commanding. Maj.-Gen. H. W. Halleck, Commanding U. S. Army.

On the following day, Sept. 20, I received this telegram from Gen. Halleck: [622]

We are still left entirely in the dark in regard to your own movements and those of the enemy. This should not be so. You should keep me advised of both, so far as you know them.

To which I answered as follows:

Sept. 20.
Your telegram of to-day is received. I telegraphed you yesterday all I knew, and had nothing more to inform you of until this evening. Williams's corps (Banks's) occupied Maryland Heights at one P. M. to-day. The rest of the army is near here, except Couch's division, which is at this moment engaged with the enemy in front of Williamsport; the enemy is retiring, via Charlestown and Martinsburg, on Winchester. He last night reoccupied Williamsport by a small force, but will be out of it by morning. I think he has a force of infantry near Shepherdstown.

I regret that you find it necessary to couch every despatch I have the honor to receive from you in a spirit of fault-finding, and that you have not yet found leisure to say one word in commendation of the recent achievements of this army, or even to allude to them.

I have abstained from giving the number of guns, colors, small arms, prisoners, etc., captured, until I could do so with some accuracy. I hope by to-morrow evening to be able to give at least an approximate statement.

On the same day I telegraphed as follows to Gen. Halleck:

Sept. 20.
As the rebel army, now on the Virginia side of the Potomac, must in a great measure be dependent for supplies of ammunition and provisions upon Richmond, I would respectfully suggest that Gen. Banks be directed to send out a cavalry force to cut their supply communication opposite Washington. This would seriously embarrass their operations, and will aid this army materially.

Maryland Heights were occupied by Gen. Williams's corps on this day, and on the 22d Gen. Sumner took possession of Harper's Ferry.

It will be remembered that at the time I was assigned to the command of the forces for the defence of the national capital, on the 2d day of Sept., 1862, the greater part of all the available troops were suffering under the disheartening influences of the serious defeat they had encountered during the brief and unfortunate campaign of Gen. Pope. Their numbers were greatly [623] reduced by casualties, their confidence was much shaken, and they had lost something of that esprit de corps which is indispensable to the efficiency of an army. Moreover, they had left behind, lost, or worn out the greater part of their clothing and camp equipage, which required renewal before they could be in proper condition to take the field again.

The intelligence that the enemy was crossing the Potomac into Maryland was received in Washington on the 4th of Sept., and the Army of the Potomac was again put in motion, under my direction, on the following day, so that but a very brief interval of time was allowed to reorganize or procure. supplies.

The sanguinary battles of South Mountain and Antietam, fought by this army a few days afterwards, with the reconnoissances immediately following, resulted in a loss to us of ten general officers, many regimental and company officers, and a large number of enlisted men, amounting in the aggregate to (15,220) fifteen thousand two hundred and twenty. Two army corps had been badly cut up, scattered, and somewhat demoralized in the action of the 17th.

In Gen. Sumner's corps alone, 41 commissioned officers and 819 enlisted men had been killed; 4 general officers, 89 other commissioned officers, and 3,708 enlisted men had been wounded, besides 548 missing; making the aggregate loss of this splendid veteran corps, in this one battle, 5,209.

In Gen. Hooker's corps the casualties of the same engagement amounted to 2,619.

The entire army had been greatly exhausted by unavoidable overwork, fatiguing marches, hunger, and want of sleep and rest, previous to the last battle.

When the enemy recrossed the Potomac into Virginia the means of transportation at my disposal were inadequate to furnish a single day's supply of subsistence in advance.

Many of the troops were new levies, some of whom had fought like veterans, but the morale of others had been a good deal impaired in those severely contested actions, and they required time to recover, as well as to acquire the necessary drill and discipline.

Under these circumstances I did not feel authorized to cross the river with the main army, over a very deep and difficult ford, in pursuit of the retreating enemy, known to be in strong force [624] on the south bank, and thereby place that stream, which was liable at any time to rise above a fording stage, between my army and its base of supply.

I telegraphed on the 22d to the general-in-chief as follows:

As soon as the exigencies of the service will admit of it this army should be reorganized. It is absolutely necessary, to secure its efficiency, that the old skeleton regiments should be filled up at once and officers appointed to supply the numerous existing vacancies. There are instances where captains are commanding regiments, and companies are without a single commissioned officer.

On the 23d the following was telegraphed to the general-in-chief:

From several different sources I learn that Gen. R. E. Lee is still opposite to my position, at Leestown, between Shepherdstown and Martinsburg, and that Gen. Jackson is on the Opequan creek, about three miles from its mouth, both with. large force. There are also indications of heavy reinforcements moving towards them from Winchester and Charlestown. I have, therefore, ordered Gen. Franklin to take position with his corps at the cross-roads about one mile northwest of Bakersville, on the Bakersville and Williamsport road, and Gen. Couch to establish his division near Downsville, leaving sufficient force at Williamsport to watch and guard the ford at that place. The fact of the enemy remaining so long in our front, and the indications of an advance of reinforcements, seem to indicate that he will give us another battle with all his available force.

As I mentioned to you before, our army has been very much reduced by casualties in the recent battles, and in my judgment all the reinforcements of old troops that can possibly be dispensed with around Washington and other places should be instantly pushed forward by rail to this army. A defeat at this juncture would be ruinous to our cause. I cannot think it possible that the enemy will bring any forces to bear upon Washington till after the question is decided here; but if he should, troops can soon be sent back from this army by rail to reinforce the garrison there.

The evidence I have that reinforcements are coming to the rebel army consists in the fact that long columns of dust extending from Winchester to Charlestown, and from Charlestown in this direction, and also troops moving this way, were seen last evening. This is corroborated by citizens. Gen. Sumner, with his corps and Williams's (Banks's), occupies Harper's Ferry and [625] the surrounding heights. I think he will be able to hold his position till reinforcements arrive.

On the 27th I made the following report:

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, Sept. 27, 1862, 10 A. M.
All the information in my possession goes to prove that the main body of the enemy is concentrated not far from Martinsburg, with some troops at Charlestown; not many in Winchester. Their movements of late have been an extension towards our right and beyond it. They are receiving reinforcements in Winchester, mainly, I think, of conscripts — perhaps entirely so.

This army is not now in condition to undertake another campaign nor to bring on another battle, unless great advantages are offered by some mistake of the enemy, or pressing military exigencies render it necessary. We are greatly deficient in officers. Many of the old regiments are reduced to mere skeletons. The new regiments need instruction. Not a day should be lost in filling the old regiments — our main dependence — and in supplying vacancies among the officers by promotion.

My present purpose is to hold the army about as it is now, rendering Harper's Ferry secure and watching the river closely, intending to attack the enemy should he attempt to cross to this side.

Our possession of Harper's Ferry gives us the great advantage of a secure debouch, but we cannot avail ourselves of it until the railroad bridge is finished, because we cannot otherwise supply a greater number of troops than we now have on the Virginia side at that point. When the river rises so that the enemy cannot cross in force, I purpose concentrating the army somewhere near Harper's Ferry, and then acting according to circumstances — viz., moving on Winchester, if from the position and attitude of the enemy we are likely to gain a great advantage by doing so, or else devoting a reasonable time to the organization of the army and instruction of the new troops, preparatory to an advance on whatever line may be determined. In any event I regard it as absolutely necessary to send new regiments at once to the old corps, for purposes of instruction, and that the old regiments be filled at once. I have no fears as to an attack on Washington by the line of Manassas. Holding Harper's Ferry, as I do, they will not run the risk of an attack on their flank and rear while they have the garrison of Washington in their front.

I rather apprehend a renewal of the attempt in Maryland, should the river remain low for a great length of time, and should they receive considerable addition to their force. I would be glad to have Peck's division as soon as possible. I am surprised that Sigel's men should have been sent to Western [626] Virginia without my knowledge. The last I heard from you on the subject was that they were at my disposition. In the last battles the enemy was undoubtedly greatly superior to us in number, and it was only by very hard fighting that we gained the advantage we did. As it was, the result was at one period very doubtful, and we had all we could do to win the day. If the enemy receives considerable reinforcements and we none, it is possible that I may have too much on my hands in the next battle. My own view of the proper policy to be pursued is to retain in Washington merely the force necessary to garrison it, and to send everything else available to reinforce this army. The railways give us the means of promptly reinforcing Washington, should it become necessary. If I am reinforced as I ask, and am allowed to take my own course, I will hold myself responsible for the safety of Washington. Several persons recently from Richmond say that there are no troops there except conscripts, and they few in number. I hope to give you details as to late battles by this evening. I am about starting again for Harper's Ferry.

G. B. McClellan, Maj.-Gen. Commanding. Maj.-Gen. Halleck, Gen — in-Chief Washington.

The work of reorganizing, drilling, and supplying the Army I began at the earliest moment. The different corps were stationed along the river in the best positions to cover and guard the fords. The great extent of the river-front from near Washington to Cumberland (some one hundred and fifty miles), together with the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was to be carefully watched and guarded, to prevent, if possible, the enemy's raids. Reconnoissances upon the Virginia side of the river, for the purpose of learning the enemy's positions and movements, were made frequently, so that our cavalry, which from the time me left Washington had performed the most laborious service, and had from the commencement been deficient in numbers, was found totally inadequate to the requirements of the army.

This overwork had broken down the greater part of the horses; disease had appeared among them, and but a very small portion of our original cavalry force was fit for service.

To such an extent had this arm become reduced that when Gen. Stuart made his raid into Pennsylvania on the 11th of October with 2,000 men, I could only mount 800 men to follow him. [627]

Harper's Ferry was occupied on the 22d, and, in order to prevent a catastrophe similar to the one which had happened to Col. Miles, I immediately ordered Maryland, Bolivar, and Loudon Heights to be strongly fortified. This was done as far as the time and means at our disposal permitted.

The main army of the enemy during this time remained in the vicinity of Martinsburg and Bunker Hill, and occupied itself in drafting and coercing every able-bodied citizen into the ranks, forcibly taking their property where it was not voluntarily offered, burning bridges, and destroying railroads.

On the first day of October his Excellency the President honored the Army of the Potomac with a visit, and remained several days, during which he went through the different encampments, reviewed the troops, and went over the battle-fields of South Mountain and Antietam. I had the opportunity during this visit to describe to him the operations of the army since the time it left Washington, and gave him my reasons for not following the enemy after he crossed the Potomac.

He was accompanied by Gen. McClernand, John W. Garrett, the Secretary of State of Illinois, and others whom I have forgotten. During the visit me had many and long consultations alone. I urged him to follow a conservative course, and supposed from the tenor of his conversation that he would do so. He more than once assured me that he was fully satisfied with my whole course from the beginning; that the only fault he could possibly find was that I was perhaps too prone to be sure that everything was ready before acting, but that my actions were all right when I started. I said to him that I thought a few experiments with those who acted before they were ready would probably convince him that in the end I consumed less time than they did. He told me that he regarded me as the only general in the service capable of organizing and commanding a large army, and that he would stand by me. We parted on the field of South Mountain, whither I had accompanied him. He said there that he did not see how we ever gained that field, and that he was sure that, if I had defended it, Lee could never have carried it.

We spent some time on the battle-field and conversed fully on the state of affairs. He told me that he was entirely satisfied with me and with all that I had done; that he would stand by [628] me against “all comers” ; that he wished me to continue my preparations for a new campaign, not to stir an inch until fully ready, and when ready to do what I thought best. He repeated that he was entirely satisfied with me; that I should be let alone; that he would stand by me. I have no doubt that he meant exactly what he said. He parted from me with the utmost cordiality. We never met again on this earth.

He had hardly reached Washington before Cox's division was taken from me and the order of Oct. 6 reached me! A singular commentary on the uncertainty of human affairs!

On the 5th of Oct. the division of Gen. Cox (about 5,000 men) was ordered from my command to Western Virginia.

On the 7th of Oct. I received the following telegram from Gen. Halleck:

Oct. 6.
I am instructed to telegraph you as follows: The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good. If you cross the river between the enemy and Washington, and cover the latter by your operation, you can be reinforced with 30,000 men. If you move up the valley of the Shenandoah not more than 12,000 or 15,000 can be sent to you. The President advises the interior line between Washington and the enemy, but does not order it. He is very desirous that your army move as soon as possible. You will immediately report what line you adopt and when you intend to cross the river; also to what point the reinforcements are to be sent. It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads. I am directed to add that the Secretary of War and the general-in-chief fully concur with the President in these instructions.

On the 10th of Oct. Stuart crossed the river at McCoy's Ferry with 2,000 cavalry and a battery of horse-artillery, on his raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania, making it necessary to use all our cavalry against him. This exhausting service completely broke down nearly all of our cavalry horses, and rendered a remount absolutely indispensable before we could advance on the enemy.

At the time I received the order of Oct. 6 to cross the river and attack the enemy the army was wholly deficient in cavalry, [629] and a large part of our troops were in want of shoes, blankets, and other indispensable articles of clothing, notwithstanding all the efforts that had been made since the battle of Antietam, and even prior to that date, to refit the army with clothing as well as horses. I at once consulted with Col. Ingalls, the chief-quartermaster, who believed that the necessary articles could be supplied in about three days. Orders were immediately issued to the different commanders who had not already sent in their requisitions to do so at once, and all the necessary steps were forthwith taken by me to insure a prompt delivery of the supplies. The requisitions were forwarded to the proper department at Washington, and I expected that the articles would reach our depots during the three days specified; but day after day elapsed, and only a small portion of the clothing arrived. Corps commanders, upon receiving notice from the quartermasters that they might expect to receive their supplies at certain dates, sent the trains for them, which, after waiting, were compelled to return empty. Several instances occurred where these trains went back and forth from the camps to the depots as often as four or five different times, without receiving their supplies, and I was informed by one corps commander that his wagon-train had travelled over one hundred and fifty miles, to and from the depots, before he succeeded in obtaining his clothing.

The corps of Gen. Franklin did not get its clothing until after it had crossed the Potomac and was moving into Virginia. Gen. Reynolds's corps was delayed a day at Berlin to complete its supplies, and Gen. Porter only completed his on reaching the vicinity of Harper's Ferry.

I made every exertion in my power, and my quartermasters did the same, to have these supplies hurried forward rapidly; and I was repeatedly told that they had filled the requisitions at Washington, and that the supplies had been forwarded. But they did not come to us, and of course were inaccessible to the army. I did not fail to make frequent representation of this condition of things to the general--in chief, and it appears that he referred the matter to the quartermaster-general, who constantly replied that the supplies had been promptly ordered. Notwithstanding this, they did not reach our depots.

The following extracts are from telegrams upon this subject: [630]

To Gen. Halleck, Oct. 11.

We have been making every effort to get supplies of clothing for this army, and Col. Ingalls has received advices that it has been forwarded by railroad; but, owing to bad management on the roads, or from some other cause, it comes in very slowly, and it will take a much longer time than was anticipated to get articles that are absolutely indispensable to the army, unless the railroad managers forward supplies more rapidly.

To Gen. Halleck, Oct. 11.

I am compelled again to call your attention to the great deficiency of shoes, and other indispensable articles of clothing, that still exists in some of the corps in this army. Upon the assurances of the chief-quartermaster, who based his calculation upon information received from Washington that clothing would be forwarded at certain times, corps commanders sent their wagons to Hagerstown and Harper's Ferry for it. It did not arrive as promised, and has not yet arrived. Unless some measures are taken to insure the prompt forwarding of these supplies, there will necessarily be a corresponding delay in getting the army ready to move, as the men cannot march without shoes. Everything has been done that can be done at these headquarters to accomplish the desired result.

To Gen. Halleck, Oct. 15.

I am using every possible exertion to get this army ready to move. It was only yesterday that a part of our shoes and clothing arrived at Hagerstown. It is being issued to the troops as rapidly as possible.

To Col. Ingalls, Oct. 15.

Gen. Franklin reports that there is by no means as much clothing as was called for at Hagerstown. I think, therefore, you had better have additional supplies! especially of shoes, forwarded to Harper's Ferry as soon as possible.

To Col. Ingalls, Oct. 16.

Gen. J. F. Reynolds just telegraphs as follows: “My quartermaster reports that there are no shoes, tents, blankets, or knapsacks at Hagerstown. He was able to procure only a complete supply of overcoats and pants, with a few socks, drawers, and coats. This leaves many of the men yet without a shoe. My requisitions call for 5,255 pairs of shoes.”

Please push the shoes and stockings up to Harper's Ferry as fast as possible.

From Gen. Sumner, Oct. 7.

I have given orders upon [631] orders about the clothing, but my officers can get nothing from Washington, and some staff officers there had the impudence to say that I had no right to sign requisitions.

From Col. Ingalls, Oct. 9.

You did right in sending clothing to Harper's Ferry. You will not be able to send too much or too quickly. We want blankets, shoes, canteens, etc., very much.

From Col. Ingalls to quartermaster in Philadelphia, Oct. 10.

Shipments to Hagerstown must be made direct through, to avoid the contemptible delays at Harrisburg. If Col. Crosman was ordered to send clothing, I hope he has sent it, for the suffering and impatience are excessive.

From Col. Ingalls, Oct. 13.

Has the clothing arrived yet? If not, do you know where it is? What clothing was taken by the rebels at Chambersburg? Did they capture any property that was en route to you? Have we not got clothing at Harrisburg? Send an agent over the road to obtain information and hurry up the supplies. Reply at once.

From Gen. Halleck, Oct. 13.

Your telegram in regard to supplies has been referred to the quartermaster-general, and he replies that everything asked for had been sent or ordered. The movement of your reinforcements by railroads has probably delayed the transportation of some portion of them. It is difficult to supply the waste of horses.

From F. Lowry, Capt. And quartermaster, Oct. 15.

I have just returned from Hagerstown, where I have been for the clothing for the corps. There was nothing there but overcoats, trousers, and a few uniform coats and socks. There were not any shoes, blankets, shirts, or shelter-tents. Will you please tell me where and when the balance can be had? Shall I send to Harper's Ferry for them to-morrow? The corps surgeon has just made a requisition for forty-five hospital-tents. There are none at Hagerstown. Will you please to inform me if I can get them at Harper's Ferry?

From Assist.-quartermaster G. W. Weeks, Oct. 15.

I want at least ten thousand (10,000) suits of clothing in addition to what I have received. It should be here now.


From A. Bliss, Capt. And Assist. Quartermaster, Oct. 22.

We have bootees, 12,000; greatcoats, 4,000; drawers and shirts are gone; blankets and stockings nearly so; 15,000 each of these four articles are wanted.

From Col. Ingalls, Oct. 24.

Please send to Capt. Bliss, at Harper's Ferry, 10,000 blankets, 12,000 caps, 5,000 overcoats, 10,000 pairs bootees, 2,000 pairs artillery and cavalry boots, 15,000 pairs stockings, 15,000 drawers, and 15,000 pants. The clothing arrives slowly. Can it not be hurried along faster? May I ask you to obtain authority for this shipment?

From Capt. Weeks, Oct. 30.

Clothing has arrived this morning. None taken by rebels. Shall I supply Franklin, and retain portions for Porter and Reynolds until called for?

The following statement, taken from a report of the chief-quartermaster with the army, will show what progress was made in supplying the army with clothing from the 1st of Sept. to the date of crossing the Potomac on the 31st of Oct., and that a greater part of the clothing did not reach our depots until after the 14th of Oct.:

Statement of clothing and equipage received at the different depots of the Army of the Potomac from Sept. 1, 1862, to Oct. 31, 1862.

Received at the depots.Drawers.Forage-caps.Stockings.Sack-coats.Cavalry-jackets.Canteens.Flannel shirts.Haversacks.Trousers (mounted).Boots.Shelter-tents.
From Sept. 1 to Oct. 610,7004,0006,2004,1903,0006,0006,2006,0004,2004,20011,100
From Oct. 6 to Oct. 1517,00011,00022,025 50010,22118,32512,9891,0006,0003,000
From Oct. 15 to Oct. 2540,00019,50065,200 1,2509,00018,8765,0002,5003,6009,000
From Oct 25 to Oct. 3130,000 30,000 1,5003,0082,2009,9005,00020,040 
Received at the depots.Camp-kettles.Mess-pans.Overcoats (foot).Artillery-jackets.Blankets.Overcoats (mounted).Felt hats.Infantry-coats.Trousers (foot).Bootees.Knit shirts.
From Sept. 1 to Oct. 67992,0303,5001,200201,2002,2002,0002,0002,000 
From Oct. 6 to Oct. 151,3022,10012,000500 8757,00012,0609,5007,0002,655
From Oct. 15 to Oct. 251,8944,50014,7701,7506,5003,500 22,50039,62052,9002,424
From Oct. 25 to Oct. 31   1,0004,3842,015 7,50025,000 11,595


Col. Ingalls, chief-quartermaster, in his report upon this subject says:

There was great delay in receiving our clothing. The orders were promptly given by me and approved by Gen. Meigs, but the roads were slow to transport, particularly the Cumberland Valley Road.

For instance, clothing ordered to Hagerstown on the 7th Oct. 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 of Sumner arrived in great quantities near the last of Oct., 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.

The causes of the reduction of our cavalry force have already been recited. The difficulty in getting new supplies from the usual sources led me to apply for and obtain authority for the cavalry and artillery officers to purchase their own horses. The following are the telegrams and letters on this subject:

To Gen. Halleck

Oct. 12.
It is absolutely necessary that some energetic means be taken to supply the cavalry of this army with remount horses. The present rate of supply is (1,050) ten hundred and fifty per week for the entire army here and in front of Washington. From this number the artillery draw for their batteries.


To Gen. Halleck

Oct. 14.
With my small cavalry force it is impossible for me to watch the line of the Potomac properly, or even make the Reconnoissances that are necessary for our movements. This makes it necessary for me to weaken my line very much by extending the infantry to guard the innumerable fords. This will continue until the river rises, and it will be next to impossible to prevent the rebel cavalry raids. My cavalry force, as I urged this morning, should be largely and immediately increased, under any hypothesis, whether to guard the river or advance on the enemy, or both.

The following was received Oct. 25, 1862, from Washington, 4.50 P. M.:

I have just received your despatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, Oct. 25, 6 P. M., 1862.
His Excellency the President:
In reply to your telegram of this date I have the honor to state that from the time this army left Washington on the 7th of Sept. my cavalry has been constantly employed in making Reconnoissances, scouting, and picketing. Since the battle of Antietam six regiments have made one trip of two hundred miles, marching fifty-five miles in one day while endeavoring to reach Stuart's cavalry. Gen. Pleasonton in his official report states that he, with the remainder of our available cavalry, while on Stuart's track marched seventy-eight miles in twenty-four hours. Besides these two remarkable expeditions, our cavalry has been engaged in picketing and scouting one hundred and fifty miles of river-front ever since the battle of Antietam, and has made repeated Reconnoissances since that time, engaging the enemy on every occasion. Indeed, it has performed harder service since the battle than before. I beg you will also consider that this same cavalry was brought from the Peninsula, where it encountered most laborious service, and was at the commencement of this campaign in low condition, and from that time to the present it has had no time to recruit.

If any instance can be found where overworked cavalry has performed more labor than mine since the battle of Antietam, I am not conscious of it.

Geo. B. Mcclellan, Maj.--Gen.


The following was received Oct. 24 from Cherry Run, 12 M.:

I have great difficulty in obtaining spies and guides without payment. Would it not be well to have sent to my acting division quartermaster, First Lieut. John S. Schutz, five hundred dollars for that purpose? Col. Williams reports, eleven (11) A. M. to-day:

I have in camp 267 horses belonging to officers and men. Of these 128 are positively and absolutely unable to leave the camp from the following causes-viz., sore tongue, grease and consequent lameness, and sore backs. For example, the 5th U. S. Cavalry has now in camp 70 horses. Of these 53 are worthless from the above causes. Out of 139 horses, the remainder, I do not believe 50 can trot eight miles. The other portion of my command, now absent on picket duty, has horses which are about in the same condition, as no selection, unless absolutely necessary, has been made. The number of sore-back horses exceedingly small; the diseases are principally grease, sore tongue. The horses which are still sound are absolutely broken down from fatigue and want of flesh. I will also remark that the men of my command are much in want of clothing.

The cavalry should therefore be changed, I think, and their number increased to 1,000, with one battery of horse-artillery. I would respectfully desire to have Col. Williams in command.

John Newton, Brig.-Gen. Commanding.

Col. Colburn telegraphed from Washington, Oct. 25:

To Gen. McClellan: I went this morning to see Gen. Halleck, and spoke to him about the bridges, etc., and also about rebuilding the road to Winchester and prolonging it to Strasburg; also about the forces to be left at Harper's Ferry, and what was to be done in the Shenandoah provided the enemy fell back. The only answer I could get was that they had nothing to do with the present campaign, and that you ought to be able to decide in the premises. There was no use of trying to explain matters to him, because he would not listen to anything. When I spoke to him about the cavalry horses he said that that was the quartermaster's business and he had nothing to do with it. I will try again, but think it no use.

The following is an extract from the official report of Col. Ingalls: [636]

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 diseases. 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-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 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.

In a letter from Gen. Meigs, written on the 14th of Oct. and addressed to the general-in-chief, it is stated: “There have been issued, therefore, to the Army of the Potomac, since the battles in front of Washington, to replace losses, (9,254) nine thousand two hundred and fifty-four horses.”

What number of horses were sent to Gen. Pope before his return to Washington I have no means of determining; but the following statement, made upon my order, by the chief-quartermaster with the army, and who had means for gaining accurate information, forces upon my mind the conclusion that the quartermaster-general was in error :

headquarters, Army of the Potomac, chief-quartermaster's office, Oct. 31, 1862.

Horses purchased Sept. 6, 1862, by Col. Ingalls, chief-quartermaster, and issued to the forces under the immediate command of Maj.-Gen. George B. McClellan1,200
Issued and turned over to the above force by Capt. J. J. Dana, assistant-quartermaster (in Washington2,261
Issued to forces at and near Washington which have since joined the command352
Total purchased by Col. Ingalls, and issued and turned over by Capt. Dana to the forces in this immediate command3,813
Issued by Capt. J. J. Dana, assistant-quartermaster, to the forces in the vicinity of Washington3,363
Grand total purchased by Col. R. Ingalls, chief-quartermaster, and issued and turned over by Capt. J. J. Dana, assistant-quartermaster, to the entire Army of the Potomac and the forces around Washington7,176


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, Lieut.-Col. 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 Gen. Pope previous to its return to Washington, as Gen. 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 Oct., and the letter of Gen. Meigs to the general-in-chief on the 14th of Oct., 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 Col. Myers's report that of all the horses alluded to by Gen. 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. [638]

During 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 providing remounts for men whose horses had died or been killed during the campaign and 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 Oct.

In a letter dated Oct. 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 necessity 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. [639]

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 employees, officers' servants, etc., 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, etc., which would greatly augment 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. [640]

Knowing 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:

Oct. 21.
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 necessary 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 number 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.

On the same day Gen. Halleck replied as follows:

Oct. 21.--Your telegram of twelve 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.

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.


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 dispensing with the active co-operation of an efficient cavalry force. Accordingly I fixed upon the 1st 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 Oct., says: “In my opinion there has been no such want of supplies in the army under Gen. 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 [642] 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.

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 Oct., as stated above, I was ordered by the [643] 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 reinforced 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 recrossing 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 Shenandoah 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, Gen. Lee would have recrossed into Maryland.

As above explained, the army was not in condition to move until late in October and in the meantime 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 [644] I felt at liberty to disregard the possibility of the enemy's, recrossing 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 purpose, and so stated repeatedly.

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