|The War Heats
The Peninsula Campaign
|The Campaign from
Union Logistics in the Peninsula Campaign Bruce P Schoch Excellent!
Lincoln kept pushing Gen. McClellan to go into action. In
the spring of 1862 McClellan would launch the Peninsula Campaign in Northern Virginia.
Deployment to Virginia
Lt. Colonel Ingalls would be the one to transport, protect, distribute and often obtain the supplies and animals for a force of 100,000 men. Quartermasters also handled transportation, so he also had to move the 100,000 strong army along with the supplies. That is no easy task. Some of the numbers are simply mind boggling; 15,000 horses, 1,100 wagons on hundreds of steamers, schooners and barges with some roads and rail lines thrown in just to make it more interesting. The effort to transport and the army and it's supplies was the largest deployment the US military had ever undertaken. It was beyond anything that was even written about. To give you some perspective; at Waterloo Napoleon had 75,000 troops and his was not an amphibious (over water) deployment.
The depot was placed on Robert E. Lee's backyard at White House landing. Mrs. Lee was still there when the Federals moved in. There was a rail line with a bridge across the York river, that rail line went directly to Richmond. Robert E. Lee became the commander of the Confederate army he called the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1st.
The brilliant and bold Confederate cavalry officer J.E.B. Stewart took his forces on a complete circle around McClellan's army on June 12th-15th. They cut the telegraph lines and rail lines, set fire to two transport ships and snagged some supplies. Certainly if he had a good opportunity to raid the depot and army headquarters at White House he would have taken it. Regardless, Stewart's Raid was a stunning success. It caused a lot of concern for the Federals, especially McClellan.
Write up on Stuart's Ride at CivilWarHome.com (will open new window)
Evacuation of White House Depot -- Seven Days Battles
The vulnerability of the depot caused Rufus to abandon the depot at White House on June 28th, a relatively quiet day in the middle of the brutal Seven Days Battles. The Confederates were able to force a Federal retreat and protect the capitol at Richmond.
The depot evacuation to the James river was a major undertaking. Hundreds of ships and countless wagons would be required to move the huge Union supply base and hospital. Just try moving 2,500 head of cattle, much less the rest of it!
They were fortunate, Stewart's cavalry rode up to see the tents burning, the railroad stock being run into the river and the last ship leaving. White House was also burning, the cause of the the fire is unknown, but more than likely it was a Federal arsonist that lit it.
Rufus, in his report, appears to fully appreciate his good fortune in the timely evacuation of White House landing:
On the 28th of June, in execution of orders previously given by General McClellan, instructing me what to do in certain contingencies, I abandoned the White House depot, leaving no public property behind of any value or use. At the moment of departure the rebels had possession of our railroad, had cut our communications with the army, and were in march to the Pamunkey. I succeeded in removing all the transports (over four hundred) from that narrow and tortuous river without accident or delay, and conducted them immediately to Fortress Monroe, thence up James River, to meet the army on its arrival. I reached Haxalls on the evening of the 30th, some two hours before the general commanding, to whom I reported my arrival with the supplies. it was decided to take up a position on the left bank of the James a short distance below the mouth of the Appomattox, consequently on the 1st of July I established the depot at Harrisons Landing. It seems almost a miracle, our successful escape from White House. Had our vessels got entangled on the bar at Cumberland, had the enemy interrupted our passage at some of the narrow bends, the consequences to the army would have been fatal. My safe exit from York and prompt arrival on James River was most singularly opportune and providential, and I count these days of service from the 28th June to the 1st July, 1862, as the most important and valuable of my life.
The main depot would be moved across the peninsula to Harrison's Landing.
1862 A Year of Bloody Battles
The second half of the year would prove to be an especially nasty period. Second Manassas, Antietam, and Fredricksburg caused carnage that would thankfully have no equals in history.
After Antietam Lincoln would replace McClellan with Ambrose Burnside. Burnside did not want the job.
Within Ingalls' annual report would be something very unusual, he criticized a fellow officer in writing. Regarding the battle and Federal defeat of Second Manassas he said : "It is fresh in your memory how Pope's campaign resulted. Disorganized trains and wearied and dispirited troops were crowded in on Washington and Alexandria during the latter days of August." John Pope was an undistinguished topographer prior to the war. He graduated from West Point in 1842, the year before Ingalls. In covering the retreat of Pope's forces, two promising generals that Rufus knew well from the Pacific coast were killed at Chantilly, Va. Isaac Ingalls Stevens (first governor of Washington) and Phillip Kearny.
Quartermaster- General Meigs, U. S. Army, to Colonel Ingalls, U. S. Army, regarding
the method of attacking the Merrimack
should she appear off Annapolis, Md.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, March 9, 1862.
Colonel INGALLS, Quartermaster, Annapolis
Should the Merrimack, which did so much damage at Newport News, attempt anything at Annapolis, it is believed that the best defense would be an attack by a number of swift steamers, full of men, who should board her by a sadden rush, fire down through her hatches or grated deck, and throw cartridges, grenades, or shells down her smoke pipes; sacrifice the steamers in order to take the Merrimack~ If an overwhelming force can be thus thrown on board, there will be little loss of life, though the steam transports may be destroyed. Of course the steamers should be provided with ladders, planks, grapplers, and other means to board with. The Merrimack has iron sides sloping above water to a deck about 9 feet wide; said to be an iron-grated deck. Promotion, ample reward, awaits whoever takes or destroys her.
By order of the Secretary of War: M. C. MEIGS, Quartermaster- General.
You, of course, have a swift steamer outside on the lookout.
|Rufus Ingalls on the
employment and shelter of 'contrabands' (escaped slaves) during the Peninsula Campaign
in 1862. Possibly to avoid controversy he did not report his activity until
his annual report of 1863.
"White laborers were soon found to give out from sickness and exhaustion at our depots on the Peninsula. While at White House I took effective measures to secure the services of contrabands, drawn mostly from the vicinity. They proved invaluable, though we thus became encumbered with many women and children. On the evacuation of White House I took away all my colored force, and increased it very considerably while at Harrison's Landing by sending for the Peninsula I must have taken away 2,500 males. The women and children were provided for near Fortress Monroe. Many of these negroes have other situations now; but we still retain, at our depots here, some 1,250; they are industrious,obedient, and tractable. They are considered free, and obtain $20 per month for their services."
Rufus Ingalls made sure that all of the 'contrabands' that worked so hard to ensure the sucessful evacuation of the Depot were also evacuated.
Rufus Ingalls Home Page
Updated April 20, 2001 © L.R. Davis