Wainwright’s Diary, March 17, 1864:

I’m running behind my deadline for today’s post.  So a lot less commentary from me, and a lot more from the primary source (as it SHOULD be).

Colonel Charles S. Wainwright began his March 17, 1864 diary entry with a comment about the weather again.  But then quickly turned to the status of the army, and thence to the lingering question of the reinforcements needed by the Army of the Potomac:

March 17, Thursday. The rain still keeps off; every attempt it has made has come to nothing, and here we are close to the equinox. This has been the first spring when it was possible to begin operations early. Never were the roads finer or the weather better for marching, but never before has the army been so unready; not through any fault of its own or its general commanding, but entirely through the fault of those at Washington. There are so many interests to consult, and the political bearing of every step has to be so carefully weighed, that we are now not so far on as we should have been two months ago. It was just as easy for Mr. Lincoln to know last October how many recruits would be needed this spring as it is now, yet here he is just out with another call for 200,000 men. Had these men been raised so that they could have been sent to the army by Christmas, and had we been ordered into winter quarters by the 1st of December, all our re-enlisted men would have had their furlough by this time and the recruits would have been drilled into some shape.

This new call will make 700,000 men this winter, a vast army of themselves; enough , it seems to me, to fill up every regiment in the service to its maximum. Where the new men are I cannot conceive, and have given up trying to imagine….

Later Wainwright brought up the subject of the new Lieutenant-General again, from which he circled back discuss preparations for the upcoming campaign season:

The order is out assigning Lieutenant-General Grant to the command of the armies of the United States headquarters to be in Washington and in the field.  With him Halleck is to be a sort of chief of staff at the Washington headquarters. Sherman takes Grant’s late command of all the Western armies. Report says that Grant means to accompany his army in person. General Hunt sounds the first note of preparation, calling upon us to at once see that the batteries are fully supplied with all matérial; to increase the number of our horses to 116 and 88 for six and four-gun batteries respectively; and advising some target practice where suitable ground can be obtained….

And as for his cook problem?

At last we have got a cook, a white man American; he only got here yesterday, so I cannot say certainly how he will do, but he seems clean, and must be better than no cook at all. I do not expect anything wonderful from him, and suspect he is merely a common eating-house cook. I have told him to look around and hire a contraband to help him and to wait on table; I want him to hire the boy so he shall have control over him. We are to pay him $35 a month….

Closing the entry, Wainwright mentioned some social calls he’d made earlier in the week:

I rode to General [James] Rice’s the other day; his nuns, as he called them, had all left him but two. I have also been over to Andy Webb’s, but Mrs. Webb was absent in Washington. Webb is in command of a division in the Second Corps, which he has in beautiful order; their camps far exceeded any others I have seen in this army – especially that of the Twentieth Massachusetts. Webb told me that he had only been outside the limits of his division twice this winter. He is down on Governor Curtin for his appointments in Pennsylvania regiments, and read me a very sharp letter he had just written the Governor. I look upon Webb as one of the most conscientious, hard-working and fearless young officers that we have.

With the war nearing its third anniversary, the armies were preparing for new campaigns.  Many had already said farewell to the ladies who’d graced the camp.  In a few weeks, even the soldiers would be leaving the camps.  But heading in a different direction.

(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 332-3.)


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