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

The Document

[159] The affair of Gaines’ Mill occurred on the 27th June. Several days previous to that date the indications were that a decisive battle would be fought, and the general commanding directed me to take the necessary steps to prevent the immense supplies at our depot at White House from falling into the hands of the enemy, and to have a certain amount of forage and supplies transferred to James River for the use of the army should it be found necessary to move it from the Chickahominy to that river. On the 23d of June 1 telegraphed to Colonel [160] Ingalls, the quartermaster in charge of the depot at White House, as follows:

I want you to designate some forage vessels which have on board about 25,000 bushels of oats, and 10,000 bushels of corn, and 400 tons of hay to be sent immediately to James River. Between 500,000 and 600,000 rations now afloat will be designated by Captain Bell to be sent to same place. Towing power should be got ready at once.

At the same time I telegraphed, by direction of the commanding-general, to Commodore Goldsborough to convoy these vessels to the gunboats then in James River at or near City Point. I also directed Colonel Ingalls to throw to the front by railroad and wagons (the latter to come by the way of Bottom’s Bridge) all the supplies he possibly could, so as to have a sufficient amount with the army should our lines of communication be cut.

On the 25th of June I again telegraphed to Colonel Ingalls as follows

You will have your whole command in readiness to start at any moment. Please consult with Lieutenant Nicholson, of the Navy, to have his vessels placed in such a position that he can protect our depot. There will be no attempt to turn our flank for a day or two, but from all the information we have it is supposed that Jackson will be coming down very soon.

On the 26th of June I telegraphed Colonel Ingalls as follows:

Don’t fail to send down into the broad river below West Point all the vessels in the Pamunkey that are not required soon. Three or four days’ forage and provisions are all that should be retained afloat at White House. This is a precautionary measure entirely, but must be attended to at once.

It will be seen from this that everything had been carefully considered, and every precaution taken to guard against our supplies falling into the hands of the enemy, should it be found necessary for the army to fall back on the James River. The battle of Gaines’ Mill rendered this movement necessary. On the evening of the day on which that affair occurred, in consultation with the general commanding, it was determined to put our transportation in motion for the James River with the view of saving it, and not to destroy it unless it was absolutely necessary to do so to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. Accordingly the trains were immediately started, and on the afternoon of the 29th were all safely across White Oak Swamp. Final orders were also given to Colonel Ingalls to break up the depot at White House and remove it to James River. This was most satisfactorily accomplished. All our vessels dropped down the river in safety; the rolling stock of the railroad was destroyed, and nothing was left for the enemy except the charred timbers of the White House, to which some incendiary, in positive disobedience of orders, had applied the torch.

Early the next morning the trains were again put in motion, the enemy shelling the rear, but doing little or no damage, and in the evening I had the satisfaction of seeing them parked on the banks of the James River in the vicinity of Malvern Hill. The enemy again shelled the rear of the trains at Malvern, but with little effect. In this most difficult movement every officer of our department, as far as I could ascertain, did his duty well; but I beg to call particular attention to Captain Bliss, assistant quartermaster, who was at that time serving on my staff. He was continually riding along the lines, rendering most valuable assistance in regulating the trains and preventing unnecessary alarm among the employees of the department. Captains Batchelder and Norton, and Lieutenant Tolles, acting assistant quartermaster [161], were also very efficient, and rendered important service. On our arrival at James River I found that Colonel Ingalls had arrived by water with our store vessels, and steps were immediately taken to supply the army from Haxall’s Landing. After the battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, it was decided to move down the river to Harrison’s Bar, which movement was commenced that night, and the next day found the entire army in camp at that point, with the great bulk of its transportation and material, a few wagons being delayed by the muddy roads until the 3d.

I cannot close this report without calling particular attention to the very valuable assistance which I received on all occasions from Col. Rufus Ingalls, the officer of the Quartermaster’s Department next to me in rank with the Army of the Potomac. Of indomitable energy and great resource, he was always ready and prompt in the discharge of his duty. I would beg also to recommend to favorable consideration Captain Sawtelle, assistant quartermaster, and Captain Rankin, acting assistant quartermaster, who rendered most valuable assistance during the campaign of the Peninsula. Always n responsible and important positions, they discharged their duties alike creditably to themselves and advantageously to the service.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

STEWART VAN VLIET,
Brigadier- General and Quartermaster.

Brig. Gen. R. B. MARCY, Chief of Staff.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.159-161

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006), http://www.historyofwar.org/source/acw/officialrecords/vol011chap023part1/00007_02.html


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