1862: “Now That Begins To Look Like Business”

1862_-in-their-words

January 18, 1862

I visited Washington to-day, through such rain and such mud, as no civilized country, save this, can sustain, and preserve its character for purity. Am back tonight. On my return, I find on my table the following:

General Order No. 11

Headquarters, &c.

When the time arrives for the troops of this Brigade to move, the following will be the allowance of the means of transportation:

Five wagons to the companies of a Regiment (two wagons to each company); one wagon to the Regimental Hospital.

Each wagon will carry forage for its horses. The sixty rounds of reserve ammunition will be carried in wagons. In the company wagons, will be carried rations for two or three days, company mess equipage, and officers’ baggage, which will in no case exceed the amount by regulations for baggage in the field. The forage for horses of regimental and field officers will have to be carried in their wagons. This notice is given so that soldiers and officers may be aware, that all property not above mentioned, to be preserved, had better be removed, for if the troops march, it is probable the first notice given will be the presence of wagons for loading.

By order of Brig. Gen —–

Now that begins to look like business, and if our General means to put us in the way of doing something – if it will only not prove another counterfeit cry of “wolf” – we shall be pleased. Gen. McClellan has already grown several inches in the estimation of those whose confidence began to get shaky. I do not like the expression of “for if the troops march.” It looks a little wolfy. But I shall try to think it means “go in.”

Excerpt from Alfred L. Castleman’s Journal

I wasn't able to find a photo of Dr. Castleman when I was working on this post, but here are the Surgeon and Assistant Surgeons of the 164th New York

I wasn’t able to find a photo of Dr. Castleman when I was working on this post, but here are the Surgeon and Assistant Surgeons of the 164th New York

Logistics & Medicine

Alfred L. Castleman was surgeon with the Army of the Potomac, and he was encouraged by the order for future preparations because it pointed to upcoming action. While the orders for logistics raised Castleman’s spirits, it also gives us a glimpse of preparations for the transportation of medical supplies with a campaigning army.

Logistics is an important part of army organization and campaigning. Keeping surgeons and their medical supplies near their units was an important part of first aid. Yes, the field of battlefield medicine still had much to learn and would be revolutionized by later innovations in 1862, but at the beginning of the year, it’s interesting to note the plans.

Amongst the wagons for a regiment was a special vehicle just for the regimental hospital. In 1862, it was probably just a standard wagon in which the surgeon and his assistants would pack their boxes, chests, and barrels of supplies and medicines. The army is providing this wagon – not requiring the surgeon to acquire it on his own; a clear hint that commanders were recognizing the importance of medical care on the campaigns and attempts at organized relief on the battlefields.

Mud

Isn’t Castleman’s opening sentence priceless? He’s complaining about the muddy roads and astonished that Americans maintain their cleanliness and purity in such situations.

In many wars through the centuries, it seems like the weather has favored a particular side. Mud would be the Confederacy’s ally most of the time during the Civil War. Mud hold armies in camps, waiting for the roads to dry; it would slow advances and hinder retreats.

Mud - need we say more?

Mud – need we say more?

Keep in mind that Washington D.C. was not the grand capital city as we see it today. The streets were still dirt (mud). The Capitol building was still under construction during the Civil War. So, yes, even if you were visiting Congress or the Executive Mansion, there was a chance you’d arrive with mud splatters or dusty clothes.

Historical Musings

It wasn’t just the politicians who wondered about McClellan’s plans – the commons soldiers and officers were curious too. They’d spent months perfecting their training and learning that army life just wasn’t as much fun as the “90 Day War” posters had promised. Though still imprisoned by mud and inclement weather, the Army of the Potomac was anxious for action.

Some of the regiments had seen battle in 1861, but many were completely new and longing to meet the enemy. Eventually, they would have their chance to fight – though McClellan’s plans and campaigns would be open for debate as the months of 1862 wore on.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Did you know that each horse was given a ration of 12 pounds of corn or oats per day? (Mules got 9 pounds). That’s going to take some room in the wagon…

civil war quote

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, living history enthusiast, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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One Response to 1862: “Now That Begins To Look Like Business”

  1. Pingback: 1862: “Victory Attends Us” | Gazette665

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