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Can It Get Worse?


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General Rufus Ingalls

Winter Quarters at Brandy Station, Virginia.  As Chief Quartermaster of the army he had his pick of the horses from the thousands that were supplied to the army.  This one is a particularly handsome animal.


January 1863 would see yet another change of command for the Army of the Potomac.  General Joseph Hooker would be the third commander of the huge army.  He would wisely choose to retain the invaluable assistance of the Chief Quartermaster, Brigadier General Rufus Ingalls.

By 1863 Rufus would have well trained and competent people to help him transport and supply the large army.  Early in the war there were very few 'professional' quartermasters.  Now Rufus could with, justifiable pride, report: "It was almost as easy to maneuver the trains as the troops."


Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia took a bold step into Union territory in late June.   One reason is that northern Virginia had suffered from both armies and the land was pretty well picked clean of useful supplies, especially food..   Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was where the events and armies happend to converge into the decisive battle of the war. 

The rumor among the Confederates that shoes were stored in the town may have been the spark that lit the fuse.  The Confederate army was woefully short of shoes and no shoes on a march makes for very uncomfortable troops. 

Robert E. Lee was at a disadvantage with his cavalry missing.  JEB Stuart had taken his troopers around the Army of the Potomac again, but this time he failed as the eyes of the army.  Along part of his ride they were within a very short distance of Washington.  They managed to capture a Union wagon train that was without escort.   The prize was not worth Lee's lack of intelligence from his cavalry. 


How to Deal With Mobile Warehouses in a Battlefield?

A marauding enemy or a retreating army does put unique requirements on the warehousemen.  A bunch of wagons in the wrong place will be a problem.

Ingalls' annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1863 details how he managed the on-hand supply of the huge army:

"In a forward movement our trains are never in the way of the troops; on the contrary, each corps has its train which follows it on the march, and which forms its indispensable, movable magazine of supplies. Wagon trains should never be permitted to approach within the range of battle-fields. They should be parked in safe and convenient places out of risk, and well guarded. Troops should go forward to battle lightly loaded, and without wagons except for extra ammunition. If they are successful, the trains can be brought up very quickly. If defeated, they will find an unobstructed road, and will get back to their wagons soon enough.

At the great battle of Gettysburg I had the trains of the whole army parked at Westminster, on the Baltimore Branch Railroad and pike, at a distance of 25 miles from the field, guarded by cavalry and artillery. It would appear that the Army of the Cumberland could not have observed this essential rule, since reports show a great loss of trains during the recent conflicts between Chickamauga and Chattanooga. "


During the battle of Chancellorsville General Hooker was injured while standing in the doorway of the Chancellor house.   That day the following messages were sent; one to William Rankin, Depot Quartermaster from Rufus Ingalls.  The gravity of his concern is obvious by the tone of the message.  Confederate General Stonewall Jackson would be wounded by friendly fire the same day.


May 4, 1863 - 12 m.


At Old Headquarters Army of the Potomac:

Do not come up here yourself. Perhaps no one had better come just yet. Keep quiet; do not make any excitement. We are in great trouble, but we shall fight out. Do not communicate with Washington on the subject.

RUFUS INGALLS, Chief Quartermaster.


May 4, 1863 - 3.10 p. m.

Major-General HOOKER:

We have news here that the enemy had reoccupied heights above Fredericksburg. Is that so?



May 4, 1863 - 4.20 p. m.

His Excellency the PRESIDENT:

I am informed that it is so, but attach no importance to it.

JOSEPH HOOKER, Major-General.


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Updated May 24, 2001 L.R. Davis