Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August 7, 1863 (Saturday): Moving an Army

Union Wagons at Petersburg

Washington, D. C., August 7, 1863
Major-General MEADE,
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
    GENERAL: I inclose herewith a copy of General Orders, Numbers 274, in advance of printed copies. This order is based on that of General Taylor in moving from the Rio Grande on Monterey, but the allowance is more liberal, and yet, I have no doubt, many will consider it niggardly, being so much below that formerly permitted to the Army of the Potomac. I am satisfied, however, from the experience of General Grant in Mississippi, and of General West in his march from California to New Mexico, that there is no necessity for the large trains heretofore allowed, and for which there is no parallel in European warfare. I am satisfied, moreover, that when our armies become accustomed to this allowance, it may be still further reduced without any serious inconvenience.
    One thing is certain, we must reduce our transportation or give up all idea of competing with the enemy in the field. Napoleon very correctly estimated the effective strength of an army by its numbers multiplied by its mobility; that is, 10,000 men who could march 20 miles per day as equal to 20,000 men who could march only 10 miles per day. Unless we an reduce our impedimenta very considerably, we can equal the enemy only by a vast superiority in numbers.
    While your army is inactive this matter should be thoroughly studied, and the land transportation reduced to a much lower standard. By comparison with other armies now in the field, and our armies in the Mexican war, as well as with European armies in campaign. I am satisfied a very great reduction can be made in the transportation of the Army of the Potomac, and moreover, until this reduction is actually made, we can expect no decided successes in the field by that army, no matter how much heroic bravery it may exhibit on the battle-field. I understand from General Ingalls that a very great reduction of transportation has been made within the last month.
     During this extreme heat, troops and animals should be moved as little as possible.
      Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

      H. W. HALLECK,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Page 13.

Logistical insufficiency is a problem, but so is excess.  The Army of the Potomac was so well supplied with wagons and supplies it was not able to move as rapidly as the Army of Northern Virginia.  Halleck applies one of Napoleon's maxims to the situation and comes to a conclusion which the remainder of the war would bear out.  Mobility was more to be desired than comfort. 

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