Wainwright’s Diary, April 24, 1864: “With the warm days have come clouds of rumours”

With April coming to a close, Colonel Charles Wainwright began his diary on this day in 1864 with a notation about pleasant weather, yet predicting storms rising from the south:

April 24, Sunday. Spring is upon us now, almost at a jump. The last three days have been fit for June; fires are abandoned and replaced by open doors and windows. Today the air is heavy with the moisture of a strong south wind, betokening rain.

But he went on to point out gathering clouds… not not the type hanging in the sky…

With the warm days have come clouds of rumours as to the spring campaign and all that is to be done. The newspapers are full of dark hints, principally meant to make the public believe that the editors and correspondents know more than other people; which is all bosh. Every officer returning from Washington brings down his pockets full; quartermasters, having more transportation than anyone else, bring the most and the biggest.  But among them all I have yet to see the man bold enough to attempt predicting what the first move of this army will be. One report says that Burnside’s corps has left Annapolis, in steamers for somewhere; another that Baldy Smith, of whom Grant is said to have the very highest opinion, is getting up a strong army on the Peninsula. Common sense would say that these two were to make one command, to advance on Richmond from the James while we looked after Lee here; but then common sense has always been the rarest of the military qualities at Washington, and one cannot well imagine Burnside and Smith acting together after all the trouble that had at the time of and after the “mud march.”….

As of that April, Grant’s objectives were set, but not communicated down the ranks. We, with the luxury of 150 years distance, know Grant was to focus on the Confederate forces in the field and hold Richmond as a secondary objective.

The burr under Wainwright’s saddle remained – wagons… or as he put it “waggons.”

I have figured out our transportation allowance, which is about as absurd as it well can be.  I often wonder whether General Meade himself apportions the waggons or whether it is done by Ingalls; also, whether whoever draws up these orders has a special spite against artillery horses, or is utterly ignorant.  The order allows one waggon to each battery for baggage, mess furniture, desks and the like, and three waggons for subsistence, and forage.  Ten days’ small stores and one day’s meat for 140 men, about the average of my batteries, will with its forage take up one waggon (Captain Cruttenden says more), which leaves us two waggons to carry ten days’ forage for 120 horses, or 6,000 pounds per waggon, beside the forage for its own teams!  Five days’ forage is all we can possibly manage, and then the loads will be very heavy at the start.  As for loading five days’ more on my artillery carriages, I can’t and won’t do it.  Such absurdities as this take away all my pleasure and pride in my command.  I wrote it all out for Hunt and sent it up to him.  He replies in a most characteristic note, beginning: “The Jews of old were required to make brick without straw; anybody could do that if not responsible for the quality of the bricks delivered. You lose one waggon and are required to increase the forage carried from seven days to ten.  Now that beats the Jews.”  Hunt is evidently discouraged, and beginning to give up all hope of our ever getting what is right….

In Ingalls defense, there was a lot to the logistic and transportation system which escaped Wainwright’s notice. Sending meat to the front “on the hoof,” for instance, would greatly reduce the need for rolling stock.  For greatest efficiency, military logistics must be arranged at the highest practical level.  Simply determining the needs of one battery, then multiplying that times the number of batteries in the army would introduce many inefficient allocations.  And those, multiplied across the army, would translate to burdensome trains and other impediments to movement.  And in the spring of 1864, the army needed no additional impediments.

However, as Wainwright argued with vigor, logistic efficiency does not always bring “freedom from want” in the ranks.

(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 342-4.)