It having been decided to move the army by way of Fredericksburg on the Aquia and Fredericksburg Railroad, I was directed by you, on November 13, to proceed to Washington, and thence to Aquia and Belle Plain, and to make all necessary and proper arrangements for the supply of the army by that route.
On the 16th, in company with Generals Woodbury and Haupt, I went to Aquia and Belle Plain on a reconnaissance. We found the old wharf and entire depot a mass of ruins, and the interior of the country still in the hands of the enemy.
It was decided to erect temporary landings at both Aquia and Belle Plain, to land supplies and haul them to the army will wagons on its arrival, while permanent arrangements on a proper scale could be made. The plan was most successfully executed.
I returned to Belle Point about the 19th, and joined your headquarters, near Falmouth, where you had just arrived.
Supplies of subsistence and forage were landed at Aquia and Belle Plain, and were ready for delivery as soon as the wagons arrived.
The wharves were constructed of barges and trestle work, and answered every purpose. Meantime the depot at Aquia was made as spacious and commodious as any one we have ever had. Large wharves were constructed and store-houses erected to accommodate all departments. I placed Captain T. E. Hall, assistant quartermaster of volunteers, in charge, with several other officers to assist him. Captain Hall was finally succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel A. Thompson, assistant quartermaster and aide-de-camp, and afterward by Lieutenant-Colonel Painter. Frequent inspections were made by myself and Colonels Sawtelle and Myers.
General Haupt placed Mr. W. W. Wright at Aquia as superintendent of the railroad. His management was vigorous and most business like and efficient. Entrepots or stations were established along the line of the road at convenient points for the delivery of supplies, the principal one having been at Falmouth, under Captain L. H. Peirce, assistant quartermaster of volunteers. His duties were very laborious and responsible, and he performed them with signal credit.
The depot at Belle Plain was kept up all winter, under Captain P. P. Pitkin, assistant quartermaster of volunteers, who for more than two years past has exhibited remarkable energy, sagacity, and untiring zeal as a depot quartermaster.
Most of the Eleventh Corps and a portion of the cavalry were supplied from a depot on Aquia Creek, at Hope Landing. This place was under Captain J. G. C. Lee most of the time. Captain Lee proved himself to be a most excellent officer.
It will be seen that to supply so large an army from these points required not only a perfect system but also great labor. Take, for instance, the item of forage; the full allowance required the daily receipt, distribution, and issue of some 800 tons of grain and hay. In addition, were subsistence, ordnance, hospital, and quartermaster's stores generally. It was difficult to provide hay enough during early winter. The contracts were ample, but contractors found it difficult to find transports sufficient, besides the weather was unpropitious; but after the beginning of February the full ration was furnished. I am aware of no time when there was suffering among the troops and animals for want of any supplies which I had the power to provide.
The battle of Fredericksburg was fought on December 13, 1862. Before the battle, arrangements had been made to send all surplus property to the rear, to free our depot, in order that they might be abandoned at once without loss, and to put all our necessary supplies of forage, sub-