Saturday, November 19, 1864

Near Madison Georgia

This corps turned south by Eatonton, for Milledgeville, the common objective. Each corps follows some main road, and the foragers, being kept out on the exposed flank, serve all the military uses of flankers. The main columns gather much forage and food, chiefly meat, corn, and sweet-potatoes, and it is the duty of each division and brigade quartermaster to fill his wagons as fast as the contents are issued to the troops. The wagon-trains have the right to the road always, but each wagon is required to keep closed up, so as to leave no gaps in the column. If for any purpose any wagon or group of wagons drops out of place, they have to wait for the rear. This rule is effective, for each brigade commander wants his train up at camp as soon after reaching it with his men as possible.

I see much skill and industry by the quarter-masters on the march, in trying to load their wagons with corn and fodder by the way without losing their place in column. While marching, they shift the loads of wagons, so as to have six or ten of them empty. Then, riding well ahead, they secure possession of stacks of fodder near the road, or cribs of corn, leave some men in charge, then open fences and a road back for a couple of miles, return to their trains, divert the empty wagons out of column, and conduct them rapidly to their forage, load up and regain their place in column without losing distance. I have seen ten or a dozen wagons thus loaded with corn from two or three full cribs, almost without halting. These cribs are built of logs, and roofed. The train-guard, by a lever, had raised the whole side of the crib a foot or two; the wagons drove close alongside, and the men in the cribs, lying on their backs, kicked out a wagon-load of corn in the time I have taken to describe it.

In a well-ordered and well-disciplined army, these things might be deemed irregular, but I am convinced that the ingenuity of these younger officers accomplishes many things far better than I could have ordered. Habitually we start from camp at the earliest break of dawn, and usually reach camp soon after noon. The marches vary from ten to fifteen miles a day, though sometimes on extreme flanks it is necessary to make as much as twenty. The rate of travel is regulated by the wagons; and, considering the nature of the roads, fifteen miles per day is deemed the limit.

The pontoon-trains are in like manner distributed in about equal proportions to the four corps, giving each a section of about nine hundred feet. The pontoons are of the skeleton pattern, with cotton-canvas covers, each boat, with its proportion of balks and cheeses, constituting a load for one wagon. By uniting two such sections together, we can make a bridge of eighteen hundred feet, enough for any river we have to traverse.

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