Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.


Report 10


SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 Volumes. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901. 



McCLELLAN'S, June 6, 1862--noon.

Secretary of War:
Has been raining, but now stopped. River still rising. All quiet to-day.
Several deserters and contrabands state that J. E. Johnston was dangerously
wounded in battle of Fair Oaks and that G. W. Smith is in command. Their
loss is stated at 10,000. I only know that it is very great, far more than




June 24, 1862--12.30 a.m.

The contrabands that came in to-day say that the troops are intending to
cross the Chickahominy the first stormy night about 20 rods below Meadow
Bridge, under cover of the woods.
Please have that section of the river well examined to-night.

Chief of Staff.



June 25, 1862--7 p.m.

New Berne, N. C.:
Reports from contrabands and deserters to-day make it probable that
Jackson's forces are coming to Richmond and that a part of Beauregard's
force have arrived at Richmond. You will please advance on Goldsborough
with all your available forces at the earliest practicable 
moment. I wish you to understand that every minute in this crisis is of
great importance. You will therefore reach Goldsborough as soon as
possible, destroying all the railroad communications in the direction of
Richmond in your power.
If possible, destroy some of the bridges on the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad
and threaten Raleigh.




July 18, 1862.

General M. C. MEIGS,
Quartermaster-General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: I was much gratified to receive your letter of the 13th, and trust
you will always give me the benefit of what suggestions you may think fit
to offer.
I had already stopped all the transportation (horses, mules, and wagons)
afloat at the fortress, where it now remains subject to my orders. Many of
the horse teams were broken up to fill up the batteries; meantime some good
artillery horses were sent from Philadelphia. So far as I can learn the
batteries have received horses, as many as were required, on demand. I
still have for issue some 200 fit for artillery and cavalry service. We
have too much cavalry for any real advantage to us.
Many were of opinion that we had too much land transportation, but it was
generally supposed we had a far greater number of wagons than an actual
inspection shows we have. We have here now about 2,000 wagons for service
with troops, engineer and supply trains; each regiment is allowed six.
There are some 106,000 men in this army present,  and Burnside is
expected to re-enforce it with thirty regiments. The operations may require
the use of considerable land carriage. I do not think we have too much. As
the matter stands now, the amount can easily and quickly be augmented or
reduced, as circumstances may render necessary. There will be no trouble if
they are kept in the proper condition and place in encampments and on
marches. They gave infinite cause for anxiety and embarrassment in the last
week of June. It is a miracle so few were lost. The spectacle at times of
entangled wagons with batteries and troops was frightful, though we reached
here in good order and spirits.
The army is a magnificent one to-day. All we require now is more men and
generals full of health and desire to go into Richmond. We must and soon
can go forward. This army must not go back one foot. The commanding general
is in excellent health and full of confidence, and is the "pride and boast"
of his men.

The Peninsula is sickly here, as it was at White House. White laborers
cannot stand the climate; we have but few; we depend on contrabands
chiefly. I have invariably made use of all fair means to increase the
number. I brought away every man, woman, and child from the Pamunkey; that
is, they took passage on our boats. I am sending along this river to
Norfolk, even to North Carolina, for colored laborers. Where the army
actually is the negroes come in to a man almost. I hope next week to have
the numbers much increased.
I am, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

Lieutenant-Colonel, Aide-de-Camp, Chief Quartermaster.



Harrison's Bar, July 21, 1862.

Brig. Gen. M. C. MEIGS,
Quartermaster. General U.S. Army:
MY DEAR GENERAL: In times of crises I always think of corresponding with
you. I do not know the amount of your influence at this time, but whether
you possess much or little, you ought now to exert all you possess to guard
the state from the dangers that threaten it.
You and I agreed in March and April, 1861, that it was proper to make war
vigorously. We agreed after the battle of Bull Run that the capital and the
North were in danger, and I doubt not you will agree with me that both are
in far greater danger now than at that time. The South has been made a unit
by the mere continuance of the war, and their antipathies have been
increased by our legislation, while the North has been made weak by divided
counsels and an ignorance on the part of most persons of the cause of the war.
This army has lost golden opportunities. If I could see you I would tell
you how we lost them; but, being lost, repining will do no good, and we
must endeavor to avoid the ruin which now threatens us.
I will tell you some things which you may regard as facts: My corps has
taken prisoners or contrabands from the enemy as many as half the number of
days in the last three months. I have not failed with eye and voice to make
searching examinations of all, and I am convinced that the officers and men
of the Southern army are at this moment much more vigorous in health and
more able for that reason to march and to fight than our army is.
The South is not deficient in plain food in abundance. It is my opinion
that their grain on hand and growing is enough for two years' supply. To
think of starving them out is simply absurd unless we can destroy their
rail and water lines of communication, when their armies would starve
simply on account of the badness of the Virginia roads in wet weather.
This army is able to hold its present position, but cannot assume the
offensive without a re-enforcement of at least 100,000 men. That is the
least number any man will estimate whose opinion is worth more than a dream.
The newspapers will tell you that the health of this army is improving. It
is only apparently improving. Comparative rest has produced a seeming
improvement during the last three weeks. I speak from no hearsay nor from
any man's theory; I go every day and inspect several regiments. If any
other officers do this I do not know their names. I find that a majority of
the generals are beginning to droop. I find the men are becoming weaker by
the day--their minds and bodies are growing weak together--and, though I
despise most theories, I will say that to pen up more than 100,000 men and
animals in a space so small that you can find no point of that space which
is one mile distant from its outside boundary on the James River in the
months of July, August, and September is to secure disease, weakness, and
nostalgia as a certain crop.
Our enemies are not fools, and they will soon find means to shut up the
James River below us or make its navigation enormously expensive to us.
They will find the means also to annoy us in other ways, and unless we
receive vast re-enforcements they will succeed in ruining this whole army,
and this army lost, the North is necessarily from that moment at the mercy
of the South.

Some persons affirm that it will have a bad moral effect or a bad
political effect to withdraw this army, but will the effect be worse than
to remain here and do nothing! We can neither operate against the enemy nor
build up our own army on this spot. Then why do we stay here?
The South has already put forth all its strength and will continue to do
so. We have not, and we must bide our time and employ our means to the best
Do you fear intervention? It will not be less to be feared if we have an
army where it can be employed than to have one where it cannot be employed.
Do you fear cost? It will cost just as much (and more if you estimate for
sickness) to maintain the army and build it up here as it would to carry it
away to a healthy district and build it up to return the whole to the James
River next October.
If the movement begins to-morrow or the next day, or even one week hence, I
think this army could be removed in safety; after that its removal would be
of doubtful possibility. If, therefore, you value the  safety of
this country do one of two things without delay, remove this army or send
to it a re-enforcement of 100,000 men.
If this army should be taken to some place between the enemy and our own
possessions, we might allege health as a motive for the movement, bid
defiance to the South, and by and by to England and France also, but by
remaining here in our present condition we submit to chance the very ark of
our safety.
Please let me hear from you.

Your friend,

P. S.--I have kept the foregoing two days to determine whether or not I
should change my opinion and retain it. I have concluded, however, to send
it; the sickliness of this country in August and September being one of the
strongest reasons for withdrawing.



HAXALL'S, August 12, 1862� 7 p.m.

General R. B. MARCY,
Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: Pickets quiet to-day. A rebel officer came down to the 
mill and called out to our pickets that if they did not fire his pickets
would not. No reply was returned.
The Port Royal received no orders today about firing at Malvern. I have
posted guards at Haxall's and Royall's.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

The boats that crossed the river last night were contrabands, that have
gone in to Harrison's Landing.


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Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Contrabands | Tags: North Carolina , Virginia , Washington
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