War of the Rebellion: Serial 039 Page 1070 N.VA.,W.VA.,MD.,AND PA. Chapter XXXVII.

Search Civil War Official Records

advantageous to the service, although I am of the opinion that a few pack-mules, say 20 to each regiment, might be frequently of great service in taking supplies to pickets remote from depots and in foraging on the enemy. My reasons for this opinion are the following, viz:

1. It is impossible to find a sufficient number of men in the ranks of this army who have had any experience in packing mules, and packing is an art which requires actual and long experience.

2. The pack-mule system takes away largely from the effective military strength of the command. To manage properly the pack-mule train, it has been found necessary to detail at least 1 man to every 2 mules; in many cases 1 man to each mule has been detailed. To carry one day's subsistence and short rations of short forage for 410 men, the number of mules required is as follows, viz:

Pounds.

400 rations of hard bread, bacon, sugar, and coffee,

2 1/2 pounds to the ration......................... 1,000

400 rations of grain, 10 pounds to the ration...... 4,000

Total.............................................. 5,000

At 200 pounds to the mule, this takes 25 mules; this amount could be transported by two army wagons, drawn by 12 good mules, and requiring the attendance of only 2 men as teamsters, thus saving to the Government the services of 11 men and 13 mules. A pack-train of 25 mules stretches out over about 75 yards, while two 6 mule teams, closed up, occupy a space of about 26 yards. The unavoidable delays with a long pack-train are very numerous while on the march, and interfere in no small degree with the marching of the troops. The wastage in the supplies transported is much greater than when carried in wagons, particularly of grain, and when marching with a cavalry command on an expedition similar to the one lately made by a portion of this corps, it is frequently necessary to keep the packs on the mules for a long time, which increases very much the liability to sore backs. More than one-half of the mules in this corps are now temporarily unserviceable as pack-mules on account of sore backs. This is, however, in part owing to the defective shape of the pack saddles used-which are all of the McClellan pattern, and nearly all too narrow across the pommel-and the miserable quality of the saddle blankets furnished, which are much too small and mostly cotton.

I would suggest that, in view of similar expeditions being made in future, a number of copper cans be provided, holding about 2 quarts each, and made to sling across the shoulder, like the common canteen, to be filled with turpentine, and carried by the pioneer parties of each regiment, to facilitate the burning of bridges, store-houses, &c. Every such expedition should also be provided with a number of torpedoes, with proper sized augers; also a few small-sized claw crow-bars, for tearing up railroad tracks.

I am of the opinion that a command of 1,500 or 2,000 cavalry, with picked horses and an energetic commander, unencumbered by baggage trains [even of pack-mules], might penetrate still farther into the enemy's country, and inflict very serious damage on him by destroying railroad bridges, depots of supplies, &c. I think it even questionable whether any artillery should be taken, when celerity of movement is of so great importance. If taken at all, there should always be eight picked horses to each carriage. The horses lately furnished the cavalry are not of a quality to stand much hard work; many of them are too young, being under four years old. I doubt very much the economy of purchasing, at any price, horses for cavalry service under five years old.