Wainwright’s Diary, February 4, 1864: The Colonel requests leave to recruit

For his diary entry of February 4, 1864, Colonel Charles S. Wainwright lead off with some personal matters – request for leave, for purposes of supervising recruiting:

Culpeper Court House, February 4, Thursday.  On Tuesday I sent up an application to be ordered on recruiting service for twenty days in order that I might look after my party, and took the application up to General [Seth] Williams himself, who kindly spoke to [General John] Sedgwick about it while I was still there.  General Sedgwick said that it would have to go up to Washington, but that he would approve it; so Williams recommended me to get a ten-days’ leave meantime, as I wanted to get off at once.  This General [John] Newton has given me, and I start tomorrow….

The details of the process sound silly.  To take this leave, which was technically in the line of duty, Wainwright received approval for ten days by going to his corps commander.  For the longer absence period, officials in Washington had to see the paperwork.  Much of this was in place to block abuses seen earlier in the war.   And I would add the “silly” process is not far off that used today for key leaders who request leave.  Maybe not so silly after all.

On the first of the month the President ordered a draft for 500,000 men to be made on the first of March if the quotas are not filled before that time.  This is an increase on his original call, and will give my party a better chance, as some of the districts had nearly filled their quotas on the first call.

Here again is a ready point to compare Federal and Confederate systems in regards to conscription and recruitment.

I have been a good deal troubled about court-martialing some of my men.  Formerly I could hold a garrison court, and General [John] Reynolds used to order my grievous cases before some of the division courts. Now all regimental and garrison courts are done away with; the field officers of each regiment present are to constitute a court for trial of such cases in their own rights as formerly came before these courts.  But I have no field officers of any of the regiments to which my batteries belong, except “L” and “H,” and so I cannot hold such courts….

Again, administrative details.  But the sort of thing we readers, researchers, and historians need to take into account.  The nature of the Army’s organization left Wainwright’s regiment, the 1st New York Light Artillery, was spread out across a couple of theaters.  The notion of pulling in field officers to run such courts was impractical.  So justice was delayed.  Put yourself in the shoes of a soldier accused of a violation.  Instead of a quick and speedy trial, the matter lingered overhead.  On the flip side, commanders also preferred to prosecute these matters in short order.  Particularly with actions that might pick at unit discipline or cohesion.

(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 318-9.)


3 thoughts on “Wainwright’s Diary, February 4, 1864: The Colonel requests leave to recruit

  1. When considering Col. Charles Wainwright was of course assigned to the 1st Corps, some may wonder why Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, 6th Corps Commander was positioned in Wainwright’s chain of command as the army’s approving officer for Wainwright’s leave–which of course began at Culpeper.

    During those long periods when the army’s commander was in Washington conferring with Administration officials; or when General Meade was testifying before Congress; and when Meade was home in Philadelphia recovering from an illness, it fell upon the senior corps commander to discharge the duties of the army’s commanding general.

    So much of the time during the winter of 1863-1864, General John Sedgwick assumed army commander responsibilities from his 6th Corps Headquarters at “Farley Plantation,” near Welford’s Ford, on the Hazel River.

    And two days from now, on February 6, General Sedgwick was in fact serving in the role as the Army of the Potomac’s Commanding General when the decision was made in Washington for a portion of the army to attack across Morton’s Ford on the Rapidan..

    And it was General Sedgwick’s dismissive reaction to that order, “after the fact,” which placed him in extreme hot water with the Secretary of War–and almost got Sedgwick relieved in the process.

    I suppose we can look at it this way: If John Sedgwick would have been relieved, he would have returned to his home in Cornwall Hollow and survived the war..

    But as we know, it did not turn out that way.

  2. […] But by the summer of 1863, batteries were no longer grouped at the division level, but rather at the corps in a single artillery brigade.  Yet the staffing among the artillerists had not matched that evolution.  In some cases, as with Colonel Charles Wainwright, a field grade officer was in the position to perform the role of corps artillery chief.  But as we have seen from his diary entries, even then he was short of staff officers. Not even enough to support a court-martial. […]

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