Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports

The Document

No. 8.

Report of Brig. Gen. Rufus Ingalls, Chief Quartermaster, of the operations from August, 1861, to September 2, 1862.


Camp near Falmouth, Va., February 17, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 20th ultimo, asking for a report of the operations of the quartermaster’s department from the time I succeeded General Van Vliet to the date of transfer of the command by General McClellan.

I desire to state that I have been connected with this army from its first organization; that I was chief quartermaster on the south side of the Potomac while our forces were in front of Washington until March last, when I took charge at Alexandria of the embarkation of the army to the Peninsula; that I followed it there and established successively [165] depots of supply, first at Fortress Monroe, afterwards at Cheeseman’s Creek, Yorktown, Wormley’s, and Queen’s Creeks, Franklin’s Landing, opposite West Point, Eltham, Cumberland, and White House, on the York and Pamunkey Rivers, and Harrison’s Landing, on the James.

It is presumed that my predecessor’s report will explain the methods and principles on which the quartermaster’s department was organized. Operations so extensive and important as the rapid and successful embarkation of such an army, with all its vast equipments, its transfer to the Peninsula, and its supply while there, under its many vicissitudes, had scarcely any parallel in history, certainly no precedent in our country. Several of our depots had to be established under many embarrassments. At Cheeseman’s Creek the harbor was exceedingly small, the channel was narrow, and the water at low tide was very shallow. The roads leading to Yorktown were fearfully muddy and full of quicksand. Still the army was mainly supplied from that point until the evacuation of Yorktown. Wharves were constructed of canal-boats and barges, vessels towed in and out at flood tides, the roads were corduroyed, and the depot was made quite equal to meet all requirements. The depot at White House was made very perfect and efficient. Ten or twelve barge wharves were constructed for use of the various staff departments. The railroad was put in thorough repair, and the army on the Chickahominy was kept well supplied.

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 Haxall’s 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 Harrison’s 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.

On the 10th of July following I was announced the chief quartermaster in place of General Van Vliet, who retired at his own request, and who while with this army rendered arduous and responsible service, and from whom I parted with sincere regret. The battles before Richmond during the latter part of June rendered a reorganization of the quartermaster’s department necessary. Inspections were immediately made, and reports obtained of all means of transportation, clothing, and forage on hand with the troops, and prompt measures were adopted at once to supply all deficiencies and necessary wants. It appears from my records that on the 20th following there were present with the army about 3,100 wagons for baggage and supplies, 350ambulances, 7,000 cavalry, 5,000 artillery, and 5,000 team horses and 8,000 mules. Upon the river was a large fleet of transports, having on board an abundance [166] of supplies of all kinds. The army was then perfectly equipped so far as I observed, and, was in condition, except in point of numbers—of which I was not the judge—to move forward.

The withdrawal of the army having been ordered early in August, preparations were perfected to secure our trains from attack by the enemy while evacuating the place and at same time from obstructing the passage of our troops. One corps having been thrown across the Chickahominy near its mouth over a pontoon bridge of some 2,000 feet in length, the supply trains were then driven over without delay, and sent forward rapidly on the roads to Yorktown and Fortress Monroe. After having given all proper orders in regard to the breaking up of the depot I left with the general commanding, and supervised the withdrawal of the trains. The march was conducted with great order and celerity, without the loss or abandonment of any public property of any further use. The fleet of transports was conducted to Fortress Monroe by Lieut. Col. C. G. Sawtelle, assistant quartermaster, in a most skillful and successful manner. This officer broke up the depot at Harrison’s Landing on the morning of the 16th of August, the same day the general commanding left by land and moved toward the Chickahominy. Colonel Sawtelle performed this duty with marked ability, and rendered most valuable assistance in the evacuation of White house, and constantly since to the present time.

On arrival at Yorktown and Fortress Monroe the troops were embarked as rapidly as our means of water transportation would allow for Aquia and Alexandria, in order to unite with the forces under General Pope. The cavalry and means of land transportation were the last to be shipped. Much of the cavalry did not arrive until after Pope had fallen back on the defenses and had been relieved in command. Many of the baggage trains were still behind, and did not come up until this army was reorganized by General McClellan after Pope’s reverses, and had reached the Antietam. Great exertions were required and made to supply the army on its march in the Maryland campaign.

* * * * * * *

I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Chief Quartermaster Army of the Potomac.

Brig. Gen. R. B. MARCY,

Chief of Staff Major. General McClellan, Kew York City.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.164-166

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006),

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