Aquia, as suitable, and directed to charter and sent them from New York, if possible. The Frederick Graff is sunk already by the ice. Why cannot barges be poled in shallow water by working parties of the troops? You have regiments of lumbermen and raftsmen, and there is a limit to the power of the Quartermaster's Department to finish steamers. When a few more are sunk, it must come to hand labor. Boats will be sheathed and prepared for the ice here, as far as possible, but much more of the work of supply ought to be done by the troops themselves, and the sooner it is understood and begun the better for the Army and for the Treasury.
M. C. MEIGS,
OFFICE OF CHIEF QUARTERMASTER,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., December 25, 1862.
Brigadier General M. C. MEIGS,
Quartermaster-General, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your telegraphic dispatch of yesterday, in answer to my application to Colonel Rucker for two more light-draught boats for service at Aquia and Belle Plain. As your dispatch touched upon other matters, and as these boats are absolutely necessary, I deem it proper to submit a statement, by mail, in answer.
For the past ten days this army has suffered much for want of forage, mainly because the depots at Washington and Alexandria have failed, as usual, to put their establishment on a scale commensurate with our actual wants.
In September last, the subject was one of correspondence. I expressed then a fear that, unless energetic and immediate measures were adopted, winter would find us deficient in supply. It seemed as if the magnitude of 5,000 tons of hay, the amount I ordered to be placed in depot at Alexandria, alarmed the officers in charge. It was in September that the forage should have been provided. We had the experience of the preceding year, and still did not benefit by it. The Treasury is not depleted so much by the charter of a few light-draught boats as it is by delay and inefficient arrangements in the purchase of supplies. Oats were only 65 cents then; now they are 89 cents per bushel.
The first ten days on this line exhausted the supply of forage on hand. Since then we have been at the mercy of contractors, with a constantly increasing price. We want here now at least a twenty days' supply (6,000 tons of hay and 225,000 bushels of oats and corn), to answer for any severe weather or closing up of the Potomac. I think Captain Stoddard is now equal to the task, and has his arrangements quite perfected to insure the delivery of what we may require, but I have spared no pains to bring it about. To land this forage and other supplies requires great system and very many facilities. You are aware that the water at Aquia is shallow, and the channel narrow. At Belle Plain it is still more so, the bottom at the latter place being a very deep, soft mud, through which barges cannot be poled. In times of low water and ice nothing can be done with barges. It is only with the aid of light-draught steamers that the work can be done. I wish no expensive vessels, but cheap stern and side wheel steamers, sheathed for breaking ice when necessary. We should have four at each place for local use. This is exclusive of vessels used for other purposes. If the two applied for be sent, and those in service put in repair, there will be enough. It is