The next subject I shall glance at is that of ambulance transportation. Previously to this war the Army of the United States had never been supplied with carriages expressly designed for the transportation of the sick and wounded. A board assembled by the Secretary of War some two years before the rebellion had adopted a four-wheeled carriage and two models of two-wheeled carriages for experiment. The four-wheeled carriage had been tested upon the plains in an expedition to New Mexico, and had been favorably reported upon by the medical officer in charge of it. The two-wheeled carriages, though a few had been built, had never been tried. Some doubts were entertained as to their suitableness for their purposes, but they were adopted and recommended as the best for "badly-wounded men." Experience, however, has shown that they are utterly unfit for any such purpose. When the present exigencies came upon us, the Quartermaster's Department lost no time in having the carriages built as rapidly as possible. They were of course ordered in the proportions recommended by the board - i. e., 5 two-wheeled to 1 four-wheeled. The two-wheeled were the basis of the system - a most unfortunate decision. It was my duty, however, to supply the Army of the Potomac with as many of these carriages as would suffice for probable necessities if they could be had. A considerable number of the two-wheeled had already been accumulated in Washington before my arrival and had been distributed to the several camps. I found them in general use as pleasure carriages for idlers and accommodation cabs for conveying officers and men from their camps to the city of Washington. A large number of them had already been broken down in this service. This was immediately stopped. An order was promulgated directing all ambulances, with the exception of 1 two-wheeled to each regiment, to be turned in to the Quartermaster's Department in Washington, and the use of that one was strictly limited to the service for which it was intended. We were enabled by his means to find out what we had and to keep most of them in order.
October 5, 1861, the depot quartermaster reported 109 two-wheeled and 12 four-wheeled ambulance in use, and 224 two-wheeled and 38 four-wheeled not in use. The unphilosophical idea of a two-wheeled being an easier carriage than a four-wheeled had been exaggerated in providing the vehicles. The quartermaster had issued 228 two-wheeled since July 1; 119 of these carriages had disappeared in a little more than three months, showing both how recklessly they had been used and how incapable they were of standing the hard work of our campaigns. December 31, 1861, there were in Washington 314 two-wheeled and 71 four-wheeled ambulances. Each regiment had its own two-wheeled in addition to these.
The two-wheeled carriages being so generally condemned, I endeavored to have a number of cacolets collected to replace them in the Army of the Potomac. The Quartermaster-General had already procured some of them, made after the French mode. They weigh 140 pounds. I thought this too heavy, and that their weight might be materially reduced without compromising their strength or durability. This I recommended to be done. Several other models were presented to me afterwards that were much lighter, and I requested the Quartermaster's Department to procure a limited number of 2 of them. I thought I had secured 200 altogether for our army, but I received but 40, and most of these not until we had reached the Chickahominy. As early as August 21, 1861, I requested the Quartermaster-General to introduce these litters in the proportion of 1 to a regiment. On the 8th of.