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nothing here. Our time is largely occupied by these applications, which are very pressing. Both officers and men are pressing for furloughs to go home, under the impression that nothing particular is going to be done.
Question. I will ask you whether, in your judgment, your men would be improved by the experience they would obtain by remaining in camp during all winter?
Answer. I do not think they would. The winter is very unfavorable for drilling. The only improvement which could be made by years of discipline of this volunteer force is in the further education of the officers in tactics, that is, in evolutions of the line and battalion movements. But the winter is a very unfavorable season for that. Some improvement, however, could be made. Officers could be made to study, and could be made to drill; and occasionally, in weather like this, the troops could be drilled in evolutions of the line. But I think the men would be dispirited and discouraged by it. Besides, there would be the large diminution that always takes place in a large army from desertion, deaths, and discharges, and from various other causes. An army is always rapidly diminishing, and it is necessary always to keep filling up by recruiting. I do not think the men would be better in the spring under any circumstances, even if they were in good spirits. The officers of the line might be improved if they had efficient working commanders, who would compel them to study, and who would drill them themselves at officers' drill.
By Mr. Chandler: Question. But generally you think it would tend to demoralize the army to put it into winter quarters?
Answer. It would demoralize them immensely, The officers would feel it. It would be almost impossible to enforce discipline. And even if the men were not discouraged, I do not think they would be improved. They understand their duties well enough now. A private is soon taught his part of his duties. There is not much for him to learn but the manual. The difficulty has been to educate the officers. But their education has been going on; it is going on now, and it could be continued somewhat during the winter. But they would be dispirited by it, and you could not make them apply themselves as much as they ought.
By the chairman:
Answer. It seems almost presumptuous for me to give an opinion upon that question. But as you ask me, I will answer you. It seems to me that there is no doubt about it: that we must, beyond all question, make a movement. I think we are largely superior to our enemies in numbers, and we have a vast superiority in artillery. And I think, from all that I can learn, that we are vastly superior to them in discipline. They are brave men, and ardent in their cause; they fight very well when we meet them. We are superior to them in discipline-about the numbers I am not so sure. From what I have seen of them, however, I am sure we are superior to them in discipline.
Question. How are they off for clothing, so far as you have been able to learn from their prisoners ?
Answer. Very badly off. We get very reliable accounts in that respect from negroes and from citizens who have seen them. There are citizens near Fairfax Court-House who see their troops there, but are not allowed to go to Centreville or Manassas. The enemy takes very extraordinary precautions to pre. vent us from learning their numbers. And if any citizen goes to Centreville or Manassas he is kept there, and not allowed to return. But these citizens see detachments of their troops. A man by the name of Webster, living a little way out of Fairfax Court-House, saw some regiments pass his house, and he gives a very reliable account of their condition as to clothing.
Question. Does your division return these fugitives to the rebels when they come in
lines ? Answer. No, sir; I never return them. I have had applications for them, but I have always said that it was not a matter that I could dispose of; that I should let the higher authorities treat of that matter.
By Mr. Julian :
By Mr. Chandler:
Answer. No, sir; I have known of none being given up by General McDowell, or in his division.
By Mr. Julian : Question. I would ask you whether the weather would be as good, or the roads in as favorable condition for marching, in March as now?
Answer. The roads are now perfectly passable. There is no objection, to-day, on the score of roads. The danger is that this weather may not last. It is very unseasonable weather-very extraordinary. We have had only one rain in nearly four weeks. The roads are far better now than we had any right to expect they would be; and they are better than they will be in March. Take one year with another, and the roads will not be in as good condition before the first of May as they are now.
By the chairman: Question. Will you state what facilities you have now for furnishing your horses with forage ?
Answer. It all comes over the railroad from Baltimore, except a very little, now and then, by a vessel which may run the blockade. There is a very little gathered up in the country here, but it is a very small percentage of the whole amount. The supply is very short. As many as ten days out of the last twenty we have had no hay, except what we gathered up in the country, and the supply there is very short. We have not been required to gather it, but we have done so when we could. When we have made requisition upon the departinent for hay, we have not been able to get it. They give the artillery and the cavalry the preference. My requisition was for private horses and for transportation in the brigade. Probably the artillery would tell you they had enough.
Question. Are you able, now, to get a sufficient quantity of forage ahead to enable you to undertake an expedition ?
Answer. I know we have not at this moment; at least, I have very good evidence to lead me to believe that at this moment we have not on hand a week's, or even three days', supply of forage for the army here. .
WASHIxGTON, D. C., December 27, 1861. General M. C. MEIGS sworn and examined.
By the chairman : Question. What facilities have you now for transportation, provided the army should move on to the enemy's lines?
Answer. You mean the army here, I suppose ?
out to give battle to the enemy along their lines anywhere, what facilities have you for providing the necessary transportation?
Answer. I cannot give you an exact statement, but I can give you an approximate one. I talked, yesterday, with General Van Vliet, the particular quartermaster of this army, and he says that he considers that they have 4,500 wagons. There are a thousand wagons, and over, constantly employed moving about the city, and there is a certain number with each regiment camping out in the environs. At Perryville, where we established a depot, I collected about 13,000 mules and horses—mostly mules, for I did not send many horses there. The most of the horses that have been sent there have been withdrawn, except some disabled horses, and some worn down sent there to recover.
There are about 2,000 wagons
there. Question. Are those in addition to the 4,500 you mentioned ?
Answer. I cannot say certainly. I should want to look at my reports before I could say certainly whether that number is in addition to those General Van Vliet spoke of or not. I think it is, but I am not sure. There were considerably over a thousand wagons here when I was called upon to provide some 300 at one time, and 200 or 300 at another. General Van Vliet includes the wagons that are up with General Banks's division, and those down in Hooker's division, and those scattered among the camps. I do not believe we can count on more than 4,500 wagons altogether as available for this army. Those at Perryville must have been included in this aggregate.
Question. Now, being a layman, as it were, I could not tell much what could be done even with that number. Your opinion would be valuable as to how far they would go. Now, suppose the army should advance south of Manassas in order to reach the railroad there; suppose that should be the direction they should take?
Answer. Manassas, I understand, is about 28 miles from here.
Question. I suppose you could make use of the Alexandria railroad to some extent on an expedition of that kind, could you not ? Answer. In
any forward movement we should have to repair the railroads behind us, and use the wagons for distribution from railroad points.
Question. And then we can hardly count upon such weather as we have had for a great while ?
Answer. It will grow colder, I suppose. It takes 500 wagons and 2,000 horses to carry the reserve ammunition—that which the men do not carry in their cartridge boxes, and the artillery do not carry in their caissons. General Van Vliet, some time ago, mentioned to me that he had orders to reserve transportation for the reserve ammunition. The men want 100 rounds of ammunition. They would carry 40 rounds in their cartridge-boxes; the other 60 rounds would be carried in their wagons.
Question. Suppose an expedition was to be fitted out to go up the York river, or the James river, for instance. How long would it take you to furnish provisions and transportation for it?
Answer. I believe the government has had employed until lately every seagoing steamer of the United States in the service. At the time we sent down the Port Royal expedition every steamer fit to go to sea was in the service.
Question. I refer more particularly of furnishing such an expedition with provisions, supposing you to have the shipping.
Answer. The provisions would follow the expedition. Provide the men, and the provisions would be furnished.
Question. They would be ready in time, you suppose ?
By Mr. Chandler:
land transportation, I suppose; that is, the moment you left the water you must have ready the wagons, and about the same transportation train as you would require on the land here to move, say 30 miles from your water base? Answer. Yes, sir.
By the chairman : Question. One thing has occurred to me. Those camps on the other side of the river are located a considerable distance away from the river ; some seven or eight miles they would average, would they not?
Answer. Yes, sir; I think so.
Question. What advantage is gained by their being located so far off from the river ?
Answer. We hold that much of the country. When our camps were nearer the enemy came up to our picket lines. We cannot throw out our pickets more than so far from camp.
Question. But suppose no movement was contemplated on Manassas, what object is there to hold that strip of country?
Answer. The enemy would have that much further to fight his way in, if he chooses to make a dash at us.
Question. And he would have that much further for his transportation ?
Question. Suppose our attitude here is to be entirely defensive; that we do not contemplate an aggressive movement upon them; would it not be cheaper to have our army lay closer to the river ?
Answer. No, sir ; I do not know as it would. We must have the wagons ready for a movement at any moment, and they are better employed in carrying provisions from the river than they would be in lying idle. Ît gives the horses daily exercise. It is not to be supposed that this army is to stand here forever. If you detach a portion to be sent somewhere else, you must have transportation ready. Some regiments were to come from Harrisburg, and they called upon me to buy 300 or 400 wagons immediately. I asked General McClellan if they could not be drawn from the Perryville depot. I considered that I had no right to detach these here, because I brought them here, and they were under the direction of the general commanding the army, and we must have his authority to move a wagon away. I knew he did not consider that he had too much transportation. The end was a request sent to the authorities at Harrisburg to send such wagons as they had with the regiments, and to hire what transportation might be necessary for their march, to be discharged at the end of the march. The colonel of a regiment, if he has his own way, will not move from the camp where he has organized, unless he has at least twenty or thirty wagons, and often more; and twenty wagons take one hundred and twenty mules and eighty horses.
Question. Do you tind difficulty in supplying this great number of horses with provender ?
Answer. Yes, sir ; we have but one route of supply now—this railroad, which is worked to its full capacity, and I was told yesterday that the horses were living from hand to mouth, as the saying is. We have not been able to get any surplus. We have too much cavalry.
Question. That was what I was going to ask you—whether, in your judgment as a military man, we could dispense, without detriment to the service, with any of these cavalry regiinents here? Answer
. I have not talked with General McClellan on the subject, and can only give you my own opinion. I do not know exactly how much we have here; but, as I find the great difficulty is to supply them with provender, and as most of the men are raw, and some of them are not very efficient, I think it probable we could do with less cavalry than we have here. The field for cavalry, I think, is in the west.
Question. We are, of course, endeavoring to trim off any unnecessary expenses where we can do so without detriment to the service. We want to ascertain about all those matters. Now, the cavalry is a very expensive arm of the service. From the nature of the country here I suppose a large amount of cavalry could not be used to advantage ?
Answer. Just over the river-between here and Centreville—the country is such that a large quantity of cavalry could not be used. I understand that beyond there the country opens out more, is more cultivated, less wooded, and cavalry can be used there if we could get the means to them to support them.
Question. Would you advise the disbanding of any of the regiments of cavalry now on hand here?
Answer. That is a very difficult matter to decide.
Question. It is a difficult question, but, of course, we must solve it. If we can dispense, without injury to the service, with anything that is supernumerary, we should like to do so?
Answer. I do not know what the men would think of that. They were enlisted as cavalry, and were promised to be mounted. Many of them are not mounted. Some time ago I talked with General McClellan, and it was determined that I should mount no more regiments until those already mounted were armed. Some that are mounted are not armed, and some that are armed are not mounted. Judging from what I have seen, I think it would create a feeling of great dissatisfaction if you undertook to dismount a cavalry regiment. And in the case of those not mounted yet, it would require great skill and prudence to keep them in good heart if you did not mount them. Whether the patriotism of the men is sufficient to stand being disappointed in the possession of the horses they have been led to expect is a question with which we must contend.
By Mr. Chandler : Question. If they are not mounted, would it not be cheaper to muster them out of the service rather than to keep them in ?
Answer. If we disband them at once, that would stop the expense accordingly.
Question. I suppose the government has the same power to dismount those men that it has in the case of regulars ?
Answer. Yes, sir; but they would probably think that it was a want of good faith towards them.
Question. Suppose you were to proffer them the position of heavy artillery.
Answer. That is what I have advised; that the cavalry not mounted be drilled as artillery, and let them garrison our forts. We have had that difficulty here, that the fortifications we have constructed have been left without garrisons. I ought not to say that, perhaps, but it has been so reported. An engineer officer told me that when General McCall's division was moved over the river, in consequence of some threatening movement at Chain Bridge, if he had not been up there the fort would have been left without garrison. He called attention to it, and a garrison was left. I know that garrisons have been changed several times. And all the time, and expense, and knowledge gained by those men in drilling as artillery, getting the range of their guns, is that much loss if they are not employed.
By the chairman :
Answer. A regiment is encamped in the neighborhood of a fortification. detail is made from that regiment to garrison the fort. When the regiment was ordered to move forward, the part garrisoning the fort moved forward with the rest. The garrison was replaced afterwards, and I suppose very quickly.
Question. You are an experienced military man, whose opinions we want to get at. Now, in your judgment, can we move forward against the enemy this winter, or must we retire into winter quarters?