No. 251. Report of Lieutenant Dilwyn V. Purington, Seventh U. S. Colored Troops, Acting Assistant Quartermaster.1
OFFICE ACTING ASSISTANT QUARTERMASTER,
SECOND DIVISION, TWENTY-FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
April 27, 1865.
CAPTAIN: In obedience to orders from the brevet brigadier-general commanding I have the honor to submit the following report of the transactions in my department during the recent campaign:
I took charge of the quartermaster’s department of this division on the 27th of March, in obedience to orders from Brigadier-General
Birney, to act for Captain A. T. Atwood, assistant quartermaster, who was away on leave of absence for thirty days. The number of teams required by the division at the time I took charge of the quartermaster’s department to complete the allowance in accordance with General Orders, Numbers 37, headquarters Armies of the United States, was eighteen. There were procured during the day, viz: From the ambulance officer, Second Division, three wagons with teams complete; from Captain F. Crain, assistant quartermaster, First Division, fifteen wagons. The wagons and teams received from Captain Crain were in a most miserable condition. The mules were poor and weakly. Thirteen of these teams were put with the supply train, and loaded with, on an average, 1,700 pounds weight. The march of the night of the 27th was an extremely wearisome one, the train moving a distance of only four miles during the whole night. The train crossed the Appomattox River at daylight on the morning of the 28th, and moved on toward Pitkin’s Station. At 11 a. m., while the engineer were repairing the road, I ordered the teams to be unhitched from the wagons, watered, and fed. For this i was censured by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard, chief quartermaster, Army of the James, but my explanation of the condition of the teams was satisfactory. The march was resumed and continued to Humphreys’ Station without any unusual occurrence other than frequent stopping of teams, breaking of harness, &c. At Humphrey’s Station the teams were rested two days. Several mules had died or given out so as to be worthless, an din consequence many of the six-mule teams were reduced to fur mules. This was particularly the case with the teams received from Captain Crain; the first night’s march had completely jaded them. At this place the supply and forage trains had been refitted. The march was resumed on the 2nd [3rd] of April by the Cox road. This road at a point near Sutherland’s Station had become nearly impassable. The trains of the Sixth Army Corps were passing at the same time with the trains of this division. I was from 6 p. m. on the 2nd [3rd] to daylight on the 3rd [4th] crossing this place.
After feeding and watering the teams the march was resumed. During the morning Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence, chief quartermaster Twenty-fourth Army Corps, then acting chief quartermaster Army of the James, sent Captain Alberger, assistant quartermaster, to assist me in getting the train along. This favor was highly appreciated as the brigade quartermasters had to exert themselves sufficiently to get the teams of their respective brigades along. Early in the day a corporal who was acting as wagon-master reported that one of the teams I had received from Captain Crain had stalled in the rear of the train, and was then about a mile in the rear. His report was that the mules were completely exhausted, and it was doubtful if the team could get along even after the wagon was emptied. As the remainder of the wagons were loaded, I ordered him to abandon the pork, and come on wight the wagon. The corporal reported to me at Farmville, on our return from Appomattox Court-House, that he had used every exertion to get the team along, but the team had become so worn out as to be unable to draw the empty wagon, and his forage and rations running out he had left it on the road. This wagon was sent for, but had been taken by some unknown person.
The train of this division arrived at Burkeville Junction on the night of the 6th an decamped near the station. About 10 p. m. I received an order from Major-General Ord, commanding army of the James, a copy of which is herewith annexed, to furnish Lieutenant Olcott, commanding Battery M, First U. S. Artillery, with eighteen horses and a six-mule team complete without wagon. By a verbal order from Colonel
Lawrence I was directed to select these animals from among the best in the train. This took the animals from six wagons, and the best that I had. The morning of the 7th I was ordered to follow the train of the Twenty-fourth Corps, and to take my wagons all along i possible. Several horses and mules were sent to me to enable me to get therm along, but they were nearly all broken-down animals and had never been worked together. A guard was left with them and under the general direction of the acting assistant quartermaster First Brigade. The next day on our arrival at Farmville I was ordered by Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence, acting chief quartermaster, to send all the unserviceable wagons to Burkeville with the animals. The number of the wagons sent was sixteen. These, in addition to the six left at Burkeville, making twenty-two, were to remain at Burkeville to recruit their strength. Three of these I was obliged to leave in camp in the neighborhood of Burkeville, under the charge of Lieutenant Brown, Twenty-fourth Army Corps, who had been ordered there for the purpose of taking charge of unserviceable wagons. The march from Appomattox Court-House to Petersburg was arduous in the extreme, a great deal of rain falling during the time occupied in making it, this making the roads muddy and heavy. Fortunately the wagons were loaded light, and by order of the brevet brigadier-general the loads were equalized throughout the train.
The First Brigade was furnished with five additional wagons, the Second Brigade with six, and the Third Brigade with four. The unserviceable train from Burkeville was left under the charge of Lieutenant M. S. Towne, regimental quartermaster, Forty-fifth U. S. Colored Troops, with directions to march by easy stages to Petersburg. He reported to me within forty-eight hours after the arrival of the main train. The teams of the division were not out of forage during the entire march, and only for a few days were the rations reduced below the authorized allowance. A forage train was placed at the head of the train daily and foraging parties sent in advance to scour the country in search of grain, which was generally found. The wagon train of this division was not in a condition to participate in such marches as were called upon to make.
On the 27th of March, when I took charge of the division, there wee in the supply train fifty-three teams and in the ammunition train twenty teams. Of these seventy-three teams not more than forty could be called serviceable. It became evident during the early part of the march that there had been a lack of energy in those who had previously had charge of the train. Wagon-masters and teamsters had been accustomed to do as they chose, and during the whole march I was obliged to personally superintend the hitching of teams.
I have now ten wagons, for which I have no serviceable animals. Requisition has, however, been made for them, and it is to be hoped that they will soon be obtained. With those and the means of transportation which I have estimated to be drawn in May, the train will be put in the best possible condition.
The total loss of mules during the march was 79; the total loss of horses was 31.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. V. PURINGTON,
Lieutenant and Regiment Q. M. Seventh U. S. Colored Troops,
and Acting Assistant Quartermaster.
Captain I. H. EVANS,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLVI, Part 1 (Serial Number 95), pp. 1231-1233 ↩