their men to unsling their knapsacks, and thus causing them to be abandoned, when there is really no necessity for it. The result is, that when the line is driven back, or if it is shifted, or if it actually advances, the knapsacks are never recovered, or, if recovered, are found to be plundered, and then at the first lull in operations a new supply of knapsacks and clothing has to be reissued. During the Peninsula Campaign, last summer, I knew this to be done no less than three times in three consecutive months, in different months in different divisions. Of course, this loss falls upon the private soldier, as there is no provision in the Regiment for a new issue or for reimbursement, and Congress should relieve him from this hardship, by providing either proper officers to command him or just compensation for losses occurring mainly through the want of such.
In the matter of pack trains, I would state that we had in all a pack train of pack-mules, 285, devoted exclusively to the transportation of small-arms ammunition and their own necessary forage. It was intended in orders that these mules should carry each an average of two and a half boxes of ammunition and a supply of grain for eight days. But it was found on trial that the class of mules we possessed could illy carry more than an average of two boxes each and a supply of forage for four days. As you are aware, we were ordered to detach mules from the ammunition-wagon trains, and thus compose the pack trains. These mules were many of them light and unfit for such service, and, when they were returned to the wagon trains, many were found with backs so sores and in such a debilitated condition that they had to be turned in for rest and treatment and others drawn in their stead. When these mules were detached from the ammunition-wagon trains, we were ordered to detach others from the supply trains, so as to make up 4-mule teams all around, and thus move everything, if possible. Had these 4-mule teams been thus constituted a sufficient time to have become broken and manageable, they would no doubt have proven tolerably serviceable. But, as it, was, they were mixed, green, and unbroken throughout all the movement, and few of them were capable of transporting more than from 1,500 to 1,600 pounds. When the order came to send forward the ammunition at all hazards, even these were broken up, for the emergency required that every wagon going to the front should have at least 6 mules to it. This stripped the supply trains almost entirely, and would have proved most disastrous had events compelled us to move such trains as a whole.
I studied the pack-mule system carefully during the recent operations, because a new system, and the result of my observation is that a pack train for ammunition would be invaluable to an army operating in a wooded country like this, provided it was organized entirely independent of the wagon trains. This would, of course, involve considerable expense, but it would be an expense amply repaid by the results produced. If not independent of the wagon trains, but composed of animals detached therefrom, then it is a nuisance and an evil, a positive curse to any moving army, which cannot be abated too speedily. Detaching mules from the wagon trains, as in the last movement, positively demoralizes all the trains, and produces at last a pack train which is practically worthless for such a purpose, because green and undisciplined. But a pack train for ammunition properly organized, composed of stout, sturdy, serviceable animals, kept for no other purpose, and disciplined to their work, will enable the Army of the Potomac to move and fight on any ground, and yet to be always thoroughly supplied with powder and ball. I would move the wagon trains as far to the front on all occasions