Wainwright’s Diary, January 14, 1864: “how much depends on the care of its horses”

Colonel Charles Wainwright opened his diary entry for January 14, 1864 discussing the horses that moved his batteries.

I have just got a curious report from Captain [Joel D.] Cruttenden, my quartermaster, showing the number of horses drawn by each battery in the command since we left White Oak Church.  The Fifth Maine, which started as a six-gun battery and was reduced to four guns, has drawn forty-nine horses; Cooper with four guns has drawn forty-five; while Reynolds with six guns has drawn but thirty-eight and Stewart only sixteen – a wonderful difference, showing how much depends on the care of its horses as to the efficiency of a battery.

Wainwright’s batteries left White Oak Church when starting the movement on what became the Gettysburg Campaign.  The measure of time here is from June 12, give or take, to January 14 – or seven months.   The 5th Maine Battery and Captain James H. Cooper’s Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery went through about 40% of their regulation allocation of horses in that time.  Captain Gilbert H. Reynolds’ consolidated Battery from the 1st New York Light Artillery went through around 30%.  But the regulars in Captain James Stewart’s Battery B, 4th US, required only 14%.  Recall Brigadier-General Rufus Ingalls’ predictions in June 1863.  Then consider three major campaigns, and several minor movements, and one of the war’s largest battles, took place over the seven months in question.   There’s the context for Wainwright’s comment about the care of horses.

Two years into the war, and there remains a gap in this statistic between the regulars and volunteers.  Would be interesting to see if that trend continued across the army.

Wainwright continued on, spending a full paragraph on affairs at home.  Then he discusses an additional responsibility he’d taken on:

General [Henry] Hunt has gone off on a leave of absence.  During the time he is away, I am ordered to take his place at headquarters, in addition to my other duties. I cannot say that I rejoice in the privilege of thus signing myself Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac; “le feu ne vaut pas le chandelle.” I have enough to do here without riding four miles to Brandy Station every day through these bad roads; to say nothing of leaving my own bed and the contents of all those boxes behind me if I stay over night….

Keep in mind that the reason Wainwright was selected for such duty was his rank.  In military organizations, succession of command, even temporary stays as the case here, is bound to rank, by custom, and ability only by exception.  I would submit with Wainwright, both those attributes met nicely as a replacement while Hunt took time for a deserved rest.  That he accepted the role grudgingly might also speak to Wainwright’s qualifications.

“le feu ne vaut pas le chandelle” – The flame is not worth the candle.

We don’t write like that today.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, pages 315-6.)

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2 responses to “Wainwright’s Diary, January 14, 1864: “how much depends on the care of its horses”

  1. Craig,

    Thanks for posting these excerpts from Wainwright’s diary. You put me onto the trail and I’ve since purchased the book for my own use with the Siege of Petersburg.

    Brett

  2. Pingback: Wainwright’s Diary, January 17, 1864: A fine Sunday | To the Sound of the Guns

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