War of the Rebellion: Serial 005 Page 0046 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.

Search Civil War Official Records

conferences ensued, in which, among other things, it was determined to collect as many canal-boats as possible, with a view to employ them largely in the transportation of the army to the Lower Chesapeake. The idea was at one time entertained by the President to use them in forming a bridge across the Potomac near Liverpool Point, in order to throw the army over at that point; but this was subsequently abandoned. It was also found by experience that it would require much time to prepare the canal-boats for use in transportation to the extent that had been anticipated.

Finally, on the 27th of February, 1862, the Secretary of War, by the authority of the President, instructed Mr. John Tucker, Assistant Secretary of War, to procure at once the necessary steamers and sailing craft to transport the Army of the Potomac to its new field of operations.

The following extract from the report of Mr. Tucker, dated April 5, will show the nature and progress of this well-executed service:

* * * * * *

I was called to Washington by telegraph on 17th January last by Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott. I was informed that Major-General McClellan wished to see me. From him I learned that he desired to know if transportation on smooth water could be obtained to move at one time, for a short distance, about 50,000 troops, 10,000 horses, 1,000 wagons, 13 batteries, and the usual equipment of such an army. He frankly stated to me that he had always supposed such a movement entirely feasible until two experienced quartermasters had recently reported it impracticable in their judgment. A few days afterwards I reported to General McClellan that I was entirely confident the transports could be commanded, and stated the mode by which his object could be accomplished. A week or two afterwards I had the honor of an interview with the President and General McClellan, when the subject was further discussed, and especially as to the time required.

I expressed the opinion that as the movement of the horses and wagons would have to be made chiefly by schooners and barges; that as each schooner would require to be properly fitted for the protection of the horses and furnished with a supply of water and forage, and each transport for the troops provided with water, I did not deem in prudent to assume that such an expedition could start within thirty days from the time the order was given.

The President and General McClellan both urgently stated the vast importance of an earlier movement. I replied that if favorable winds prevailed, and there was great dispatch in loading, the time might be materially diminished.

On the 14th of February you (Secretary of War) advertised for transports of various descriptions, inviting bids. On the 27th February I was informed that the proposed movement by water was decided upon. That evening the Quartermaster-General was informed of the decision. Directions were given to secure the transportation, and any assistance was tendered. He promptly detailed to this duty two most efficient assistants in his department. Colonel Rufus Ingalls was stationed at Annapolis, where it was then proposed to embark the troops, and Captain Herny C. Hodges was directed to meet in Philadelphia, to attend to chartering the vessels. With these arrangements I left Washington on the 28th February.

* * * * * *

I beg to hand herewith a statement, prepared by Captain Hodges, of the vessels chartered, which exhibits the prices paid and parties from whom they were taken:

113 steamers, at an average price per day ................ &215 10

188 schooners, at an average price per day ............... 24 45

88 barges, at an average price per day ................... 14 27

In thirty-seven days from the time I received the order in Washington (and most of it was accomplished in thirty days) these vessels transported from Perryville, Alexandria, and Washington to Fort Monroe (the place of departure having been changed, which caused delay) 121,500 men, 14,592 animals, 1,150 wagons, 44 batteries, 74 ambulances, besides pontoon bridges, telegraph materials, and the enormous quantity of equipage, &c., required for an army of such magnitude. The only loss of which I have heard is eight mules and nine barges, which latter went ashore in a gale within a few mils of Fort Monroe, the cargoes being saved. With this trifling exception not the slightest accident has occurred, to my knowledge.

I respectfully but confidently submit that, for economy and celerity of movement, this expedition is without a parallel on record.

* * * * * *


Assistant Secretary of War.