HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
September 8, 1864.
General S. WILLIAMS:
As the authorized consolidation of this corps cannot practically go into effect until the report for the last month are completed without delaying their execution, and as I find considerable difficulties attending the consolidation to make it as I think for the good of the service, I have decided to suspend any further action during the temporary absence of General Meade and lay the whole subject at some length before him for his reconsideration. Another reason for this delay is the amount ar labor our new position gives us in making defenses, constructing roads, drains, walls, &c.
HISTORY OF THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE FIRST AND FIFTH CORPS.
In pursuance of General Orders, Numbers 10, headquarters Army of the Potomac, march 24, 1864,* the First and Fifth Corps were reduced each to two divisions and united in one, to be called the Fifth Army Corps. This was unpalatable to some,as it compelled a reduction of the number of brigades and divisions, and this, together with the return of officers absent during the winter, compelled Generals Ayres and Cutler, who has long commanded divisions, to go back to the command of brigades. It is also probable the appointment of myself, junior in years to many of the generals under me, produced unpleasant reflections in their minds. Added to this was there construction of the staff of the consolidated corps. In these matters my position was not an apparently easy one, especially as I had not the selection of my generals or the power of doing otherwise than to assign them according to their rank. My corps staff was also taken from the ranking officers in the different departments left with me. The corps was trenched along the railroad from Alexandria to Mitchells' Station, a distance of from sixty to seventy miles, and was only assembled in the vicinity of Culpeper on the 2nd of May. The nest day we began this campaign, remarkable above all others for its length and destruction of life. The new organization had not fairly begun to work before the losses in battle began to disturb it, and from that time to this almost every day's casualties required a new construction to meet the hour, again to be overthrown by the next battle.
The second day's battle in the Wilderness deprived my, by his death, of General Wadsworth (nest to myself in rank), commanding one of the new divisions formed out of the First Corps, and wounds lost me General Baxter, commanding a brigade of the other division of the First Corps. Colonel McCandless, commanding a brigade in the old Fifth Corps, was wounded at Spotsylvania Court-House. The command of General Wandsworth's division fell to General Cutler. In the battle of May 8, near Spotsylvania, a severe wound deprived me of General Robinson, commanding the other division of the old First Corps, and for a time the adjutant-general of the corps, Colonel Locke, and Colonel A. W. Denison, commanding Maryland Brigade. This left General Robinson's division without a general officer. I therefore assigned one brigade temporarily to the division commanded by General Cutler, one to that commanded by General Crawford, and retained the Maryland Brigade under my own immediate direction, as I also
*See Vol. XXXIII., P.722.