Wainwright’s Diary, April 21, 1864: “We have two more warning notes of a start”

Another diary entry for Colonel Charles S. Wainwright.  Another report on the weather:

April 21, Thursday. Since Monday morning we have had fine, bright sunshine.  The peach trees are in blossom, and the leaves of the earlier forest trees bursting out from the buds.  Still the snow lies white along the ridge of the Blue Mountains, and the nights continue to be cold….

I would point out the weather for April 18 through 21, 2014 has featured “fine, bright sunshine.”

My monthly returned of yesterday shew an aggregate present of 1,611… for the troops around here.  We have two more warning notes of a start, viz: the shipment of the most sick today, and the regulation of supplies to be taken at the start and the means of carrying them.  Three days full rations in havrsacks, three small in knapsacks, and ten in waggons, or sixteen days supply in all.  Ten days forage is to be taken.  How absurd such orders are!  What are the animals to do the last six days? Or are they to live on nothing? From the start they are cut off from their hay fourteen pounds, and the allowance of grain reduced two pounds, so that they may be said to be placed on half allowance.  When will our commanders give up this penny-wise-and-pound-foolish plan? If their proposed operations require sixteen days’ food for the men, they should require the same amount for the animals….

The orders Wainwright referred to were derived from reccomendations by Brigadier-General Rufus Ingalls.  In a lengthy letter to Major-General George Meade on April 13, Ingalls governed the number of wagons needed by the Army of the Potomac based on the issue of rations, ammunition, and of course forage for the horses.  Ingalls adjusted his figures, slightly, from that used as a basis for General Orders No. 100, issued on November 5, 1863.  The point of contention, from Wainwright’s perspective, was Ingalls’ estimate of ten days forge for the animals.  From the perspective of those handling the guns, the arithmetic appears some of the “two-and-two-are-five” manner.  But Ingalls’ plan relied heavily on the depot train to provide forage on the march, particularly for the cavalry.  In some ways, Ingalls was an early adopter of the “just in time” logistics practice.

Some will point out that “just in time” really means “almost late.”

(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, page 342.)