Thursday, January 16, 2014

December 24, 1863

December 24, 1863

---John Foster now has three corps in the Army of the Ohio: the IV, the IX, and the XXIIIrd.  Gen. Grant is getting impatient with the failure to drive Longstreet and his two divisions out of Tennessee, and plans to travel to Knoxville to prod Foster into action.  Maj. Gen. Jacob Cox, commanding the XXIII Corps, writes about the dire condition of the Federal troops:

The want most felt was that of clothing and shoes. The supply of these had run very low by the time Burnside had marched through Kentucky and Tennessee to Knoxville, and almost none had been received since. Many of the soldiers were literally in rags, and none were prepared for winter when Longstreet interrupted all communication with the base of supplies. Their shoes were worn out, and this, even more than their raggedness, made winter marching out of the question. The barefooted men had to be left behind, and of those who started the more poorly shod would straggle, no matter how good their own will was or how carefully the officers tried to enforce discipline and keep their men together.

Foster begins to put his troops into motion, but progress is disjointed and slow.  In the meantime, Longstreet decides to go into winter quarters. 

---Captain Charles Francis Adams, Jr., with the Army of the Potomac, writes to his father Charles, Sr., the U.S. Ambassador in London, about his comforts and the tedium of winter duties for the cavalry:

Warrenton, Va.
Christmas evening, 1863

This evening finds me in reality in winter quarters. To-night for the first time this year I feel comfortable in my new house, the admiration of all who see it, with a fire-place, candles, chairs and table. I must describe it even if I am verbose, for not even Mrs. John D. Bates, on moving into No. 1. Boston, experienced half the satisfaction I feel in this offspring of my undeveloped architectural talent. It cost me twelve dollars in money. I bought half of a roof of a building from which the soldiers had stripped the sides. This was divided at the ridge-pole and the two sides constitute the two sides of my house, six feet high by fourteen long, the front and rear logged up, with an open fireplace in the rear, the whole covered with an old hospital tent fly, and with a floor of boards — warm, roomy and convenient, two beds, three chairs and a table, and every thing snug. Don’t talk to me of comfort! Bah!! Everything is relative. I have more real, positive, healthy comfort here than ever I did in my cushioned and carpeted room at home! So much for my room and now for my letter.

My last was from here and a week ago last Monday. It was well I wrote then, for if I had n’t, you would n’t have heard from me yet. The truth is this Brigade is in an absurd position and doing most unnecessary work. We are here at Warrenton — one brigade of cavalry — the army is at Brandy Station and Rappahannock Bridge. We have nothing near us and seem to be here theoretically to cover the railroad, practically to tempt the enemy to attack us. It is wicked to put troops in such a position. . . .

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