Potomac, "including that in front of Washington" was only 150 which was not enough to supply waste. That letter stated distinctly that there had been issued to the "army about the Potomac" since the battles in front of Washington 9,254 horses, that of these, 1,500 had been sent out toward Centreville to the army of General Pope.
The statement which General McClellan compares with this is a statement of the horses received by assistant quartermaster stationed at Frederick, Hagerstown, Harper's Ferry, and at Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, from the 8th of September to the date of the report, which is only 1,964 horses, 7,290 less than the number given by the Quartermaster-General as issued to the whole army defending Washington from the date of the battles of Bull run to the 11th of October.
I have no doubt that both statements are correct. They are not inconsistent. Both depend upon official reports of very different transactions. One is the whole, the other a part only of the issues.
Up General McClellan assuming command of the troops for defense of Washington, he gave orders to the chief quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac to issue no horses except upon his order. I gave instructions to the chief quartermaster of this depot to issue horses only as required by this order, that, is to issue them only upon requisitions approved by General McClellan or by the staff officers representing him. Some 11,000 horses have been thus issued, the only exception authorized by me having been a special issue of 1,000 horses to enable General Bank's cavalry to scout and picket the country in front of Washington at the time Stuart's cavalry raid made this of urgent importance.
If General McClellan will instruct the officers authorized to approve requisitions in his name to confine this approval to be made on the Upper Potomac, all the horses will be sent there till his wants are fully supplied; but if by his authority or in his name they approve requisitions for the troops in front of Washington, the horses will be issued to these troops under his direction. The whole 11,000 or 12,000 horses would have been sent to Harper's Ferry of Frederick had he so ordered.
In regard to a falling off in the quality of the horses, I can only say that the horses lately provided have been procured by contracts, and on specifications and inspection identical with those formerly used, expecting that, finding five-year-old horses liable to distemper and disease, officers providing them have generally been instructed to buy no horses under six years of age. The demand for horses has been so great lately that they have been carried off and put to service in many cases before recovered from the fatigue and exhaustion of transportation from the country by rail.
The railroads are heavily taxed and transportation has been delayed. A case is reported in which horses remained fifty hours on the cars without food or water, were taken out, issued, and put to immediate service. The horses were good when shipped, and a few days' rest and food would have recruited them, but the exigencies of the service, or perhaps carelessness and ignorance, put them to a test which no horses could bear.
I do not think that the complaint of General Pleasonton has any greater foundation than this. The same system of purchase, the same system of inspection, the same specifications, and a price fixed by public competition of bidders and contractors, as heretofore, ought to procure horses of the same quality as of old. the stock is not yet