Report of Bvt. Major General Rufus Ingalls, U. S. Army, Chief Quartermaster Armies operating against Richmond, of operations July 1, 1864, to June 30, 1865.1
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
Washington, D. C., September 28, 1865.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit my annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1865, called for in your General Orders, Numbers 39, of July 1, of the present year. By reference to my report of last year, rendered on the 28th of August, 1864, and which you did me the honor to publish with your own, together with my report for the previous fiscal year and the Chancellorsville Campaign, it will be observed that on the 1st of July, 1864, I was on duty at City Point, Va., at the headquarters of the lieutenant-general commanding the Armies of the United States, as chief quartermaster Armies operating against Richmond. These armies were composed of the Army of the Potomac and Army of the James, and our lines extended from the north side of the James River near Richmond to the southeast of Petersburg, a distance of over twenty-five miles, along the whole length of which was almost constant skirmishing night and day. Several attempts had been made before the 1st of July to carry the enemy’s works and to find and turn his flanks, sometimes bringing on severe conflicts, but without material success on our side. I refer to the attacks of the 16th, 17th, 18th of June, and to Generals Wilson’s and Kautz’s expedition to Reams’ Station June 22 to 28, more particularly. It became manifest that the defense of Richmond and Petersburg would be as protracted and stubborn as the resources and ability of the rebel commander could render it. I proceeded, therefore, under the written orders of the lieutenant-general, to create suitable depots for receiving and storing and issuing necessary supplies for the armies. The principal depot was established at City Point, on the James, at the mouth of the Appomattox, and was made one of the most convenient, commodious, economical, and perfect ever provided for the supply of armies. I have already rendered you a special report on the 24th of June last of this depot, showing the amount of wharfage, store-houses, railroad shops, tracks, &c., with a recommendation how to dispose of the same. A secondary depot was kept up at Bermuda Hundred, and a still lesser one at Deep Bottom, more especially for the Army of the James. There was an average of some 40 steam-boats of all sorts including tugs, 75 sail vessels, and 100 barges daily in the James River, engaged in the transportation of supplies, and plying between that river and the Northern ports. With such facilities an army of 500,000 men could have been fully supplied within any reasonable distance of our base. I do not know the whole number of vessels employed in our supply. A daily line of boats was established between City Point and Washington for mail and passenger service. Besides this, our transport fleet was constantly engaged in bringing cavalry and artillery horses, mules, clothing, ammunition, subsistence, &c., and carrying back to Washington broken-down animals and other unserviceable property. The depot was placed under the charge of Colonel P. P. Pitkin, who held the position of chief quartermaster of the depot until November 7, 1864, when he resigned to accept the position of quartermaster-general of the State of Vermont, and was succeeded by Colonel George W. Bradley. Both of the gentlemen were highly experienced, vigorous, and accomplished officers, and
performed their very arduous and responsible duties with great credit to themselves and advantage to the service. The chief quartermaster at the principal depot always kept direct charge of the water transportation in James River. The other branches of the department, however, such as employes, forage, clothing, and railroad transportation, were in charge of subordinate quartermasters, selected for peculiar fitness, subject to the supervision of the chief depot quartermaster, who was required to report to me in writing every day, such as arrivals and clearances of shipping, receipts and issues of clothing, forage, &c. The chief quartermaster of each army was required to render, on or before the 25th of every month, a detailed, consolidated estimate, revised and approved by the army commander, of the supplies required for issue to the army the month following. Upon this data I prepared and submitted my estimate for the combined forces on or before the 1st of each month. This method had very many good results. It compelled all interested to ascertain the real wants of the troops, and to secure their regular and prompt supply. No quartermaster’s stores were permitted to be sent to the armies, except over my signature. The funds were generally deposited to the credit of Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel William T. Howell, on duty in my office as disbursing officer, on my requisition, and distributed by him to division and brigade quartermasters on their estimates, duly approved by the various commanders and countersigned by me. My printed orders and circulars in the hands of my subordinates prescribed the manner in which they should perform their duties on all points where the regulations and general orders were silent. An extensive repair depot was established near City Point, and placed in charge of Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel E. J. Strang, who received all serviceable animals and means of transportation from the Washington depot and made the issues to the armies, and who received from the armies unserviceable stock, wagons, ambulances, &c. and shipped back all that could not be repaired in his shops. He employed a force of about 1,800 carpenters, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, saddlers, corral hands, teamsters, laborers, and guards.
During the year ending June 30, 1865, he had repaired 3,653 army wagons and 2,414 ambulances. He had shod 19,618 horses and 31,628 mules. He received 27,116 serviceable horses and 10,893 mules, 436 wagons, and 36 ambulances. He received from the troops 16,344 unserviceable horses, 9,684 mules, 1,392 wagons, and 400 ambulances. He received also by the surrender of Lee’s army 400 horses, 1,300 mules, 101 wagons, and 99 ambulances. He issued to the troops 31,386 horses, 18,891 mules, 1,536 wagons, and 370 ambulances. He sent back for recuperation and repair 13,575 horses, 4,313 mules, 743 wagons, and 36 ambulances, besides a great amount of harness and other property. I mention these items simply to convey an idea of the duties to be performed at depots. This was only one branch. As soon as we occupied City Point, General McCallum, the able officer in charge of U. S. military railroads, had a strong construction corps on the spot prepared to rebuild the railroad up to our lines near Petersburg, and afterward as fast as the army gained ground to the southeast a temporary extension was laid close to our forces, until finally it extended to Hatcher’s Run, a distance of about nineteen miles. Along this road were stations, as described in my last report on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, where sidings and platforms were made for the prompt distribution of supplies to the different commands. This road saved much wear and tear of the wagon trains and enabled the lieutenant-general to concentrate troops rapidly at any desirable point. After the surrender of
Lee, this road–the new portion–was dismantled and the material placed in depot to be disposed of in proper time. The great field hospital at City Point has been described in other reports. It was a very perfect one for the purpose. The medical officers in charge exercised great taste and judgment in its management. There was a somewhat similar field hospital for the Army of the James at Point of Rocks, on the Appomattox. The medical department of each army had its own wharves, store-houses, transports, and hospitals, under the control of its medical officers. The ordnance and subsistence departments had special wharves and store-houses, so also had General Abbot, who had charge of siege guns and material for the entire line, all constructed by the quartermaster’s department.*
* * * * * *
On the 1st of July, 1864, there were on hand in the armies operating against Richmond means of land transportation as follows: 41,329 horses, 23,961 mules, 4,440 army wagons, 57 two-horse light wagons, and 915 ambulances.
At the beginning of the last campaign my returns show on hand as follows: 24,192 horses, 23,356 mules, 4,071 army wagons, 144 two-horse light wagons, and 907 ambulances.
After the close of the final campaign, say on May 1, 1865, the means of transportation were as follows: 33,948 horses, 25,093 mules, 4,207 army wagons, 140 two-horse light wagons, and 820 ambulances.
This property was used as prescribed in the orders of the lieutenant-general, a copy of which accompanied my last report, and most of it came to Washington with the last May and June, and was turned into the depot, as the troops were discharged, for final disposition under your orders. This transportation was in most excellent condition and rendered services of vital importance on the last grand campaign from Petersburg and Richmond to Appomattox Court-House. There were many partial movements of the armies from July 1, 1864, to the opening of the last campaign, but they did not render many new dispositions necessary in our department as to the transportation.
On the 30th of July the battle of the Mine was fought.
On the 9th of August near noon there occurred a fearful explosion in the midst of the City Point depot, killing and wounding some 250 employes and soldiers, throwing down over 600 feet in length of ware-houses, and tearing up some 180 linear feet of the wharf. It was found that a barge laden with ordnance stores had been blown up. Immense quantities of shot and shell were thrown into the air and much of it fell in the encampment of the lieutenant-general, wounding, however, only one, Colonel Babcock, of his staff. The lieutenant-general himself seems proof against the accidents of flood and field. It was assumed at the time that the explosion was the result of carelessness on the part of some one in or near the barge, but the developments made in the trial of the assassins of the late President would show that it was the dastardly work of that infernal rebel torpedo bureau in Richmond. The damages of the depot were soon repaired.
August 18 to 20, the Weldon road was seized and thereafter held. An attempt was also made on our right at Deep Bottom.
September 30, the Fifth and Ninth Corps of the Army of the Potomac were engaged at Poplar Grove Church, and the Army of the James captured Fort Harrison and one line of works.
*Some matter of detail here omitted.
December 5 , the Fifth Corps, supported by the Ninth, made a march toward Weldon. On such occasions the moving columns were generally directed in orders to be provided with a small stated allowance of subsistence, forage, and ammunition wagons and ambulances. The main trains remained parked in safe and convenient positions near the outer defenses of the City Point depot, but always loaded and fully prepared to move forward whenever and wherever needed. It was the rule, after having passed the James, in June, 1864, that each corps should generally be followed by its own trains.
On the evening of the 23rd of January, 1865, it was known that the rebels were apparently preparing to make a raid down the James with their fleet of iron-clads and wooden boats for the purpose of destroying our depots on the river, particularly that great one at City Point, where supplies had been accumulated and stores to meet the wants of the armies in case the James River and Northern ports should be closed by ice. The weather was already very inclement, and the Potomac and Delaware were then, or shortly afterwards, rendered entirely unnavigable by ice.
Early on the 24th the rebel fleet approached our obstructions, and one of the iron-clads passed them, but the one following got foul upon them. Our batteries made obstinate resistance, and blew up one of the smaller gun-boats. Our men even were led with great effort to the bank of the river, and poured volleys of musketry into the ram that had passed the obstructions. The navy at that point were not prepared at the moment for any effective resistance. Had the rebels persisted at that time they could, had they succeeded, have inflicted upon us incalculable losses, the result of which on one can pretend now to estimate; but most fortunately for us they abandoned the raid and retired to their former position. Two or three days later it was impossible for these boats to make a descent. The navy was thoroughly prepared, and I had sent, by order of the lieutenant-general, my aide-de-camp, Bvt. Captain J. W. French, Eighth Infantry, up the river with vessels laden with coal, who sunk two on the night of the 25th to fill up the gap made in the obstructions. He performed this service under the enemy’s guns with great gallantry.
Our lines were extended to Hatcher’s Run on the 7ty of February. The enemy attacked and carried Fort Stedman, within the lines of the Ninth Corps, on the morning of 25th of March, but were shortly driven out with a loss of some 4,500 killed, wounded, and prisoners. Meantime the lieutenant-general was preparing to strike the decisive blow of the whole war. The sick were sent to the rear. The different staff departments were ordered to be in readiness with all necessary supplies for the expected march. The arrangements made by me were similar to those described in my reports of other great battles. The trains were laden with ten days’ subsistence and forage and sixty rounds per man of ammunition. The troops were fully supplied with clothing, and were required to carry five days’ subsistence and forty rounds of ammunition on their persons. The trains were to remain in park as usual until the result of the attack should be known.
The movement commenced by the left on the 29th of March.
On the evening of April 1, Sheridan overthrew the enemy at Five Forks, and gave us possession of the South Side road.
On the next night and morning the Sixth Corps, under General Wright, carried the enemy’s works in its front. The enemy were driven
from his works around Petersburg and Richmond, and fled toward the Danville road. He was pursued with such vigor that our forces reached Burkeville Junction in advance of him and obliged him to attempt some other road. At Amelia Court-House he lost many of his wagons and troops. Our cavalry hung on his rear and destroyed a great amount of his transportation. The rebel army became utterly demoralized, beaten, dispirited, and was surrendered entire to the lieutenant-general, at Appomattox Court-House, on the memorable 9th of April. Immediately after the surrender I inspected the rebel trains and saw they were in a horrible condition. I gave orders for the supply of forage to the animals and that the transportation should be sent into the City Point depot. Permission had been given that all private mules and horses might be taken away by their owners. I was not greatly surprised to learn afterward that the greater portion of all the animals, particularly all the good ones, were taken away on this pretext. It was very natural to expect it, and I am told the same was observed after the surrender of other rebel armies. There finally reached the City Point depot from General Lee’s army only 400 horses, 1,300 mules, 101 wagons, and 90 ambulances. Doubtless many animals, wagons, and ambulances were loaded to Confederate officers to enable them to reach certain points, where they probably turned them over. Having made all the necessary dispositions, the lieutenant-general left on the 10th to return to City Point.
On the 3rd I had directed the superintendent of the railroad to repair it at once as far as Burkeville Junction, a distance of fifty-four miles. The gauge had to be reduced to four feet eight inches and a half from Petersburg. When the lieutenant-general and staff reached Burkeville at noon on the 11th, a special train was in waiting for us and we arrived at City Point that same night. Supplies were forwarded and the sick and wounded were taken in at once over this road. Subsequently the road was worked by the Government to Danville and Lynchburg. It is proper to record that I personally accompanied the lieutenant-general and staff on all the campaigns of the year past and was present in all the principal engagements and battles.
I remained on duty at City Point, directing the reduction of employes, the discharge of transports, and the diminution of expenses generally in the quartermaster’s department, until the 8th of May, when I received a telegraphic order from the lieutenant-general to report in person to him in Washington.
I reported accordingly on the 10th and since that date have held myself directly subject to his orders from day to day. I established an office for the settlement of outstanding accounts of the armies lately operating against Richmond and continued it until yesterday, when Colonel Howell, who was my disbursing officer, was ordered to report to you. The office is no longer necessary for that purpose.
The Treasury Department is now engaged in the settlement of my accounts, which have not been entirely settled since 1856. I request the privilege of attending to this duty before I am again assigned to any permanent station outside of this city. It is important to me and to the Government that my accounts shall be closed. I am not responsible now, according to my returns, for any public funds or property, so a better opportunity can never be presented for the settlement. I have stated to you that in addition I will cheerfully attend to any duty in this city, such as service on boards, to which you may wish to have me assigned.
With high respect, I am, your most obedient servant,
Brevet Major-General of Volunteers and
Chief Quartermaster Armies before Richmond.
Bvt. Major General M. C. MEIGS, U. S. Army,
Quartermaster-General, Washington, D. C.
[40, 42, and 46.]
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume LI, Part 1 (Serial Number 107), pp. 251-256 ↩