Wainwright’s Diary, March 24, 1864, Part I: “The long agony is over” Army consolidation a “fixed fact”

Through the winter months of 1864, Colonel Charles C. Wainwright turned to the topic consolidation and reorganization with the same frequency as recruiting.  And in the last week of that March, all rumors about the Army of the Potomac’s organization ended when orders for the consolidation were posted.  So instead of the weather, on March 24 Wainwright began his diary entry discussing the news of the day:

March 24, Thursday. The long agony is over: consolidation is – not accomplished, but a fixed fact.  The order was issued from Washington yesterday, and from Army Headquarters today.  Bye the by I see that it is “by order of the Secretary of War,” not of General Grant, so he does not mean to fight on that ground, and quarrel with Mr. Stanton at the start.  The order consolidates the First, Second, Fifth, and Sixth Corps into two divisions each; it then transfers the First Corps to the Fifth, the First and Second Divisions of the Third Corps to the Second, and the Third Division of the Third to the Sixth.  This will give four divisions to the Second and Fifth Corps, and only three to the Sixth, but I presume will make them about equal in numbers; which does not look as if there was much truth in the reports of Hancock getting so many recruits. Hancock retains command of the Second Corps, and Sedgwick of the Sixth.  The Fifth is to be under Major-General G.K. Warren. The orders call it a temporary consolidation, and allow the divisions formed of the old First and Second Corps to retain the badges. But temporary will no doubt be be permanent; the consolidating into divisions and retaining old badges is merely a way to let them down easy, for the ting will no doubt cause a great deal of ill feeling in the First and Third Corps.

I am looked on as a sort of traitor here, for having always favoured consolidation, but I tell them that I belong to the Artillery Corps, and not to the First.  A number of general officers are relieved from duty with this army; Corps Commanders Sykes, French, and Newton, and Brigade Commanders Kenly, Spinola, and Meredith. The first is the only one I should think any loss.  The order says nothing about artillery save that [Brigadier-General Henry] Hunt will assign eight batteries to each of the three new corps; tomorrow I shall go up to see the General, get my own position fixed, and see what I can do as to securing the batteries that I want.  I still lean towards Hancock, knowing little of Warren; perhaps, too, I have a penchant for the Second Corps.  But I may not have a choice, and under any circumstances shell be most influenced by what batteries I can get….

A spoiler alert – Wainwright would go to Fifth Corps.  We see again, Wainwright offered the common sense argument in favor of consolidation.  While this amalgamation did not set well with some at the time (and even some today!), the change was necessary for the efficiency of the army’s command structure.  And the reorganization shed some of the less “needed” officers.

Wainwright also posted more observations about the new Lieutenant-General:

General Grant arrived at Culpeper today, and Halleck is with him.  We were ordered to be in readiness to turn out in rear of our camps for inspection by him, if so ordered; but no order came. From what I heard at corps headquarters this evening, there was no enthusiasm shown by the men on the arrival of their new commander. I have not seen the Lieutenant-General yet, but probably shall in the course of a few days.  I expected and rather hoped that we should have a good specimen of Virginia mud to show him when he arrived, for there was four inches of snow fell on Tuesday, more than in all the rest of the winter put together; but it is going off rapidly without rain, and as there is no frost on the ground, the water will soon sink off…

Yes, back to the weather again!

Wainwright’s diary entry for the day continued on with discussion of a proposal sent to Hunt.  As that portion of the entry relates directly to the organization and handling of artillery, and is rather lengthy, I will break at this point and save that section for a “Part II” posting.

(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 335-6.)

3 thoughts on “Wainwright’s Diary, March 24, 1864, Part I: “The long agony is over” Army consolidation a “fixed fact”

  1. Craig, as Grant arrived from Washington on March 24, he stopped first at Brandy Station where, on the depot platform, General Meade greeted the new General-in-Chief and then they both continued on the train to Culpeper, six miles southwest of Brandy. Meade (nor Grant) says nothing of Halleck being with Grant–as Wainwright reports–and it is seriously doubted “Old Brains” made the trip. I have in fact never seen any account placing General Halleck at the front in Culpeper at any time during the war. “Being out front” wasn’t his thing, as you know. Might get hurt, after all..
    Grant’s Culpeper HQ was in the John Barbour house (now gone) on West Davis Street, about two blocks from the rail depot.

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