Tag Archives: Army of the Potomac

Wainwright’s Diary, April 7, 1864: “… we at last have [a day] of warm sunshine…”

Colonel Charles S. Wainwright opened his diary entry of April 7, 1864 providing, with no surprise, a weather report:

April 7, Thursday. After ten days of most disagreeable, wet, snowy, cold weather, we at last have one of warm sunshine; more like what one expects in this latitude for the month of April. But I have not found, and I have been here now at the opening of three springs in succession, that there is so vast a difference between Virginia and New York during the first half of April. On Monday I went up to Bealton Station to look at the batteries there; it was so very muddy, however, that I did not go about much….

Reenlistment entered Wainwright’s thoughts again.  But this time the issue was an option granted to the Army troops to join the Navy:

There are now quite a large number of men in this army applying for transfer to the navy under orders allowing all such to do so whose former calling in life fits them for that service; seven men in Phillips’s battery “E,” Massachusetts, have applied for such transfer….

In the spring of 1864, the US Navy was the largest it would be, in measure of ships and men, than anytime before World War II.  Maintaining the blockade meant putting a large number of hulls in southern waters.  And those ships didn’t sail themselves.  The Navy faced a manpower shortage, and one resolution was to recruit from the Army’s ranks.  Around this same time, the Department of the South received a suggestion to simply transfer those willing to reenlist to the Navy directly to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  Perhaps a good study waiting to be written is a comparison of Civil War and World War II personnel management in this respect.  And along those lines, we should also debunk the Lost Cause notion that “the Yankees just showed up with a bunch of men…” explanation for 1864-5.

Judging from the newspapers, New York must have run wild on Monday at the opening of their great Sanitary Fair.  It was made a general holiday; all the troops and what-not turned out, and the flags flaunted in every direction. Mary displayed all my regimental colours in the window in Fourteenth Street.

Harper’s Weekly ran an illustration of Fourteenth Street on its front page for April 9, but didn’t show Wainwright’s colors… excuse me… colours:


The paper called the event “The Metropolitan Fair.”  These “fairs” were, in my opinion, the logical predecessors of the War Bond Rallies seen in later wars.

(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 340.)

Wainwright’s Diary, April 3, 1864: “I should fear that they would ruin him as they did McClellan”

Colonel Charles S. Wainwright reported April showers to lead his diary entry on this day 150 years ago:

Culpeper Court House, April 3, Sunday.  The rain which commenced during our review on Thursday continued until Friday night; so that we are now in the full enjoyment of all mud which properly belongs to this season of the year here in Virginia as well as on the Hudson. Today we have a high wind and some little sunshine, for which I am particularly thankful as I want to go up the railroad tomorrow to look a little after my batteries there….

Recall under Hunt’s plan to consolidate the artillery, in conjunction with the Army of the Potomac’s consolidation, Wainwright commanded eight batteries.  Of those, four were part of his old First Corps brigade – Lieutenant James Stewart’s Battery B, Fourth U.S. Artillery; Captain Charles Mink’s Battery H, First New York Artillery; Captain Gilbert Reynolds’ Batteries E and L, First New York Artillery; and Captain James Cooper’s Battery B, First Pennsylvania Artillery.  Three of the batteries came from the Fifth Corps – Lieutenant Aaron Walcott’s Battery C, Massachusetts Artillery; Lieutenant Benjamin Rittenhouse’s Battery D, Fifth U.S. Artillery; and Captain Charles Phillips’ Battery E, Massachusetts Artillery.  Captain George Winsolw’s Battery D, 1st New York Light Artillery came over from the Third Corps as part of the reorganization.  In addition, 2nd Battalion, 4th New York Heavy Artillery, under Major William Arthur, serving as support to the field batteries sans any artillery of their own, rounded out Wainwright’s brigade.

Wainwright added more observations about General U.S. Grant:

General Grant, I believe, has gone off for a time. He kept himself quiet while here; was very little seen or even talked of so far as I can learn. All the newspaper reports about the immense enthusiasm for him are bosh; as well as the stories of his having forbidden sutlers in the army, his living himself on pork and beans, and such stuff. I should fear that they would ruin him as they did McClellan, by leading the people to expect too much of him, were it not that their ideas at home have come down very much within two years as to what a general can do; and there seems to be a determination now to find no fault with Grant whether or no….

Grant was off to Fort Monroe for a meeting with General Benjamin Butler.  While Wainwright made no effort to conceal his fondness for McClellan, at least in his diary, it seemed any affinity felt towards Grant was closely linked to the prospects for success of the cause.  I submit it was possible to be a “McClellan-man” while being a “Grant-man” and even a “Meade-man.”  Read into it what you will.

(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 339-40.)

Wainwright’s Diary, March 27, 1864: “… commanding the Artillery Brigade, Fifth Corps”

In his earlier diary entry, a question lingered over Colonel Charles S. Wainwright’s future.  With the Army of the Potomac’s consolidation, where would he go?  That answer came the next day, as he related in his next entry:

March 27, Sunday. My position is now pretty well settled, and I shall hereafter sign myself as commanding the Artillery Brigade, Fifth Corps, though I have yet received no order assigning me there. General [Henry] Hunt told me on Friday that [Major-General Winfield Scott] Hancock had asked for [Colonel John C.] Tidball as his chief of artillery, and that he was coming down with his regiment: this left me no choice….

No offense to Wainwright, but I would have asked for Tidball were I in Hancock’s position.


General Newton issued his farewell order on Friday, and Warren assumed command the same day; he has moved his headquarters to Culpeper, but I have not yet reported to him, being at present in a sort of independent state; my order I am expecting every hour.  Warren has issued his order consolidating the old divisions…. Warren has commenced by ordering all the stray officers out of the village: quite a number had quartered themselves in houses there even among those whose commands lay at a distance. Dr. [E.E.] Heard goes to the Artillery Reserve.

Mentioned, but not transcribed in Wainwright’s entry, was Major-General John Newton’s farewell notice:

General Orders No. 9.
Headquarters First Army Corps,
March 25, 1864.
Upon relinquishing command I take occasion to express the pride and pleasure I have experienced in my connection with you and my profound regret at our separation. Identified by its services with the history of the war the First Corps gave at Gettysburg a crowning proof of valor and endurance, in saving from the grasp of the enemy the strong position upon which the battle was fought. The terrible losses suffered by the corps in that conflict attest its supreme devotion to the country. Though the corps has lost its distinctive name by the present changes, history will not be silent upon the magnitude of its services.
John Newton,
Major-General of Volunteers.

In other news, at last Wainwright saw Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant, though not formally.

When in Culpeper yesterday I got a sight of the new Lieutenant-General as he was poking around the house he has since moved into. He is not so hard-looking a man as his photographs make him out to be, but stumpy, unmilitary, slouchy, and Western-looking; very ordinary in fact.

As for the weather:

It rained on Friday heavily a good part of the day; since then it has been clear and drying. A new order as to inspecting gains us a small step in artillery: hereafter we are to get our horses through General Hunt, and not through the corps quartermaster….

The closing matter, allowing the artillery batteries access to fresh horses in a uniform manner, matched the more evolved system for the cavalry to a degree.

(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 338; Newton’s farewell appears in OR, Series I, Volume 33, Serial 60, page 735.)