Wainwright’s Diary, April 28, 1864: “we should howl in unison”

For once, Colonel Charles S. Wainwright started his diary entry without mention of the weather.  Instead, he announced meager success on his “waggon” lobbying efforts:

April 28, 1864, Thursday. We have got back one more waggon for each battery, which gives us three for forage instead of two; still we ought to have one more, for though I have taken eight from the ammunition train to carry forage for the batteries in, we shall be loaded too heavily should the roads be bad at the start, and will have to set out with some on the carriages. One forage waggon is to march with each battery. I have had all my train out for inspection. It looked very well; the mules are good and in capital order, the waggons all nearly painted, and new covers marked with cross cannon and the corps badge.

My train now comprises 103 army waggons and eleven ambulances, and 781 horses and mules; the grand total of carriages of all sorts is 225, which when on the march, allowing fifteen yards to each, will cover just about two miles of road….

And what forced the commander’s hand and loosened the constriction on “waggons”?

[Brigadier-General Henry] Hunt writes me that the howl with regard to their losing one waggon per battery was universal, and thinks that with a little practice, so that we should “howl in unison,” we might really be able to accomplish something. There is just where the trouble has lain; several I think most, of the artillery officers have heretofore leaned towards their corps commander, and for their own advancement have sought to please him; they have identified themselves with the corps to which they were attached rather than with the arm in which they belong….

Interesting observation about relations between artillery officers and their corps commanders.  Were he around to comment today, I think Hunt would quickly point out the installation of field grade officers, to head the artillery brigades assigned to the corps, would alleviate much of that problem.

Wainwright next looked to an issue, while not directly impacting his artillery batteries, did play against the strength of the Army of the Potomac – expiration of enlistments.  Wainwright feared “short timer” attitudes as the army entered the campaign:

We are entering on this campaign with the term of quite a number of the regiments almost out. The question arises, how will these men behave when they have only a few weeks to serve before going home? Meade has considered it of sufficient importance to issue an order on the subject, exhorting them “not to suffer the honourable fame they have won to be tarnished by acts of insubordination”, at the same time warning them that “extreme measures” will be resorted to to stop any such trouble if necessary.

But, as for the artillery of the Fifth Corps, Wainwright was ready.  And elsewhere across the country other formations were nearing readiness:

Yesterday I notified both General Hunt and Warren that all my preparations were complete, and I was ready to move at any time…. Lieutenant-Colonel [Cyrus] Comstock, Grant’s senior aide-de-camp, was expected back from Chattanooga last night with information as to the state of readiness in Sherman’s army.  Burnside’s corps did embark according to the rumours in my last entry, and disembarked on Monday at Alexandria. He is to relieve the half of this corps now guarding the railroad; but after all the fuss made about him, and his big corps it is not to be supposed that he will remain there all summer….

In regard to poor Burnside, not like Wainwright was a gifted prognosticator.  Though I would like to listen to a gifted historian flesh out the reasons Burnside was there in the spring of 1864.  There were justifications – valid, though we might not consider them well grounded.  Anything besides “what ifing” the situation to a logical dead end.

Wainwright touched next upon reports of the Sanitary Commission Fair in New York… and that ceremonial sword:

The great fair is over in New York. The sword goes to Grant; McClellan was ahead at the close of the public subscribing, but afterward they claim to have received $1,000 from somewhere outside the city in votes for Grant; it was given by the Union League in New York, who presented that in this way they are supporting the Union.  All the ladies engaged in it are completely used up; many of them sick; and at least one Mrs. D. D. Field, has died from sickness brought on while there.

Wainwright closed with an interesting observation from one of his employees back in New York:

Lydia, my black cook, who did not want me to come and fight for the freedom of the slaves, now says that she “wishes a pestilence would carry the all off if they are to be set free without any means of being taken care of; for then they would fall by the hand of the Lord; now they are falling by the hand of men”….

There’s a springboard for a “what if.”  And one of far greater importance than Burnside’s command of a corps.

(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 344-5.)