Why does General Wheeler get so little love?


Feb 20, 2005
Inspections of Wheeler's command

2/10/65 Augusta, J G Devereux, Maj & AIG to Col Chilton, AA&IG, Richmond-I have the honor respectfully to report that in obedience to your instructions, received Mobile, 1/15/65, to inspect "all Cav commands detached from Gen Hood's army in Ga, especially Iverson's Bgde, & all Cav in Ala, "I repaired at once to Ga, as the case of Capt G. S. Cecil, acting commissary of subsistence, Iverson's Bgde, seemed to ask for prompt attention.

On my arrival I found that all the Cav detached from Gen Hood's Army had passed from Ga into SC except Gen Iverson's Div & Gen Ferguson's Bgde. Iverson's proper Bgde is not included in his Div command, but is commanded by Col Crews & incorporated in Gen Allen's Div, now in SC.

Capt Cecil's case has been investigated & the papers returned to you through Col E. J. Harvie, AA&IG, Army of Tenn.

The troops which were inspected are the -
3rd, 4th, 6th, 9th Ky Regts, mounted Infy of Gen Jos. H. Lewis' Bgde,

53rd Ala Regt, 24th Ala Bn, 11th Ga Regt, & the Roswell (Ga) Bn, of Col Hannon's Bgde, all of Iverson's Div

The rosters of these Regts are forwarded herewith, as also a list of the officers of the general staff belonging to them. Returns of the two Bgdes accompany this letter. The absent officers are accounted for on the rosters. The rosters of the Ky Bgde are imperfect because the Regimental records were inaccessible.

A circular from Gen Wheeler, copy enclosed, directing that all men absent without leave more than seven days be dropped from the rolls, has caused some misunderstanding. Should not such men be accounted for on the returns as deserted, & only officers as "dropped" who may have been absent without leave or are incompetent, deserters being accounted for on the muster rolls also?

It is remarked that the muster rolls in Hannon's Bgde are not correctly made out, & that the inspecting officer failed to affix his signature or fill out the remarks. The blank forms of returns in this Div are not all uniform with those of other troops. It is respectfully suggested that an order issue from your office prescribing the form of all service blanks, & exacting compliance with notes printed upon them all; the numbering of the columns is highly useful, & the notes might indicate in detail the information required in each column.

The headings, "extra duty," & "absent detached service," are frequently misused. Regimental cdrs & AAG’s seem not to know the manner of returning officers & men on detached duty at general Hqs. Gen Iverson fails to report all officers & men permanently on detached duty at his Hqs. The most notable defect in this Div is the want of proper organization. There are but few staff officers at the general Hqs, & none but Adjt’s & some surgeons with Regts.

Gen Iverson is detached from his own Bgde, now Crews', to command these two Bgdes in another Div, & has no general staff officers except Capt Byrd, ACS, recently assigned by order of Gen Hardee.

Col Hannon's Bgde was organized last April, but his application for staff officers was not approved, on the ground that the Bgde was serving with him is Capt Dickinson, AQM, 53rd Ala. Besides rendering more difficult the enforcement of discipline, the want of staff officers is one cause of the discontent of the people of Ga, who have been much annoyed with irregular receipts given by line officers ignorant of their duty.

In this connection it is proper to remark that the agent allowed by act of Congress (G O #54, 1864), to audit claims in each Congressional district has not appeared in Burke & Screven Counties, Ga, traversed by our Cav in Nov & Dec 1864.

This Div has never been officially organized in orders, nor has it ever been inspected, either as Div or by Bgdes; no inspection reports of any kind have been made since Sept.

The Ky troops were regularly inspected when Infy, but have been neglected since mounted. It is, therefore, not remarkable that all Dept’s of the staff are irregularly administered in some particulars.

Descriptive lists of horses are not found in Lewis' Bgde, & but imperfect ones in Hannon's.

Subsistence is issued to the commissary-Sgt’s, there being no Regimental commissaries or QMs, upon the Adjt’s' verbal statements, through the sergeant, of the number of men & officers, & provision returns & receipts are only signed two or three times a month on averaged statements, instead of morning reports. It is impossible to find the number of private animals foraged, as forage is issued on requisition for all stack as "public animals," & only signed once a month on averaged statements.

The transportation, both wagons & teams, of Lewis' Bgde, being nearly new, is in excellent condition.

Hannon's wagons are in fair order, but the teams seem weak, & are much jaded by incessant labor; they could be better groomed than they are.

No captured property, either horses, equipment, or arms, are ever turned over to the officers of the staff. Great embarrassment is occasioned in the QM & commissary Dept’s by the want of ready funds. Cav in motion must subsist on the country they occupy, & should have cash or bonded officers numerous enough to accompany detached parties.

The people of Ga can obtain much more for their produce when delivered to certain agents of the commissary Dept (Maj Cranston, at Augusta, for instance) than when it is impressed by Cav officers at schedule prices, hence arises much discontent. In the latter part of Jan commissaries in the field were paying schedule prices, when Maj Cranston was authorized to pay $14 or $15 per bushel for corn.

The efficiency of the Div is much impaired by details (see absent, detached service, most of such absentees being able-bodied men, with the best horses & arms) acting as guards, escorts, couriers, &c. Gen Iverson has two Lt’s & 62 men at his Hqs as provost guards & couriers.

I would recommend a judicious system of furloughing for this as well as all other commands, & not to be interrupted in even ordinarily active movements.

With an aggregate of 1,473, Hannon's Bgde has 38 absent with leave, while Lewis' Bgde, with 1,066, has 192.

The general orders from the A&IGO are seldom promulgated. G O #75, 1864, announcing average price of rations sold to officers, has not been received.

Capt Byrd, ACS sells pork at 75 cents per pound, fresh beef 53 cents net, & corn at $2. 25/bushel

The orders regarding the dropping of absent & incompetent officers, & the retirement of disabled officers & men, were not found at Div Hqs, nor well understood there or in Hannon's Bgde. Lists of absent officers & men are not sent to the bureau of Conscription from this Div.

Attention is invited to the evident neglect of orders & discipline by the frequent granting of permission to men to ride their horses on other than public business. In the matter of organization, Gen Beauregard's order, dated Dec 29, 1864, promising to merge those Bgdes with the largest number of absentees into those with the least, will, if executed, be very beneficial in reducing the number of commands & the necessity for more staff officers, & cause little inconvenience, as the number of Gen’ls exceeds but slightly the number of Div’s said to be in the Cav Corps.

Attention is attracted to the large proportion of mules in the Cav; fully one-quarter of this Div is mounted on them. Permit me strongly to recommend mounting all Cav on public horses, & the retention of these mules for transportation purposes.

It is believed that Div & Bgde cdrs do not give sufficient personal attention to the individuals & material of their commands. Morning reports are made but three times a month. Books & records seem to be incomplete; soldiers do not appear to be charged on the muster & pay rolls with articles lost or injured. There are no recitations in army regulations.

The health of the Div is remarkably good. the Bgde commanded by Gen Jos. H. Lewis is composed of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, & 9th Ky Regts Infy, which were mounted, both men & officers, by order of Gen Hood, on public animals, mostly horses, but many of them mules, which have been receipted for by the acting Bgde QM. The Bgde lacks about 200 horses to complete its mounting. The men who need these horses are acting as Infy.

The horse equipments are generally in good order, & were mostly issued from Gov’t workshops; a detail of the men is making up the deficiency by constructing excellent saddles.

It is gratifying to report that there are but few absentees without leave from this Bgde. Gen Lewis reports that he has never been able to effect the retirement of either officers or men for want of action at superior Hqs.

The Bgde train was so far distant that it was impossible to examine the responsibility of the officers of the staff.

The Bgde has a sufficiency of clothing, which is kept clean, & is well supplied with blankets.

There is a marked deficiency of spurs.

There are 396 serviceable & 51 unserviceable animals in the Bgde. They are in ordinary plight & ordinarily combs & brushes are much needed.

The arms of the Bgde are with few exceptions uniform in kind & caliber, & nearly all serviceable, but there is a deficiency of about one-twelfth. The condition of the arms is generally dirty. Accouterments are in good condition, but a deficiency of about one-sixth exists. Ammunition is well preserved, but not uniformly distributed.

The military bearing of the Bgde may be said to be soldierly, but their appearance, mounted & dismounted, is indifferent. Discipline is lax; men are inattentive on parade & also at drill, which is indifferently performed; officers & men need instruction in Cav tactics.

In the 2nd Ky Regt, there is a surplus of officers, but none are found to be elected since the promulgation of G O #53.

The 6th Ky Regt has eight Co’s, but originally numbered ten.

The 9th Ky has six Co’s, although it originally had ten. Two Co’s of Tenn troops were transferred by Gen Bragg, at Murfreesboro, in Dec, 1862, under the order to aggregate troops into Regts from their own States, & two others were detached by order from the A&IGO to form a Bn under Maj Desha in Western Va.

Col M. W. Hannon's command is composed of the 53rd Ala Regt, 24th Ala Bn, 11th Ga Regt, & the Roswell (Ga) Bn. It has never been permanently brigaded, but was organized by Gen Roddey, under the orders of Gen Wheeler, & originally comprised the 53rd Ala Regt, Moreland's Regt, Williams' Bn, & the 24th Ala Bn.

No staff officers have been assigned to Col Hannon.

As before mentioned, no inspection reports have been furnished-There were no blank forms found with the command The list of absentees have not been habitually forwarded to the Bureau of Conscription, because the general orders on this & other matters have not in many instances been promulgated to the command.

This Bgde has been constantly on duty for several months. Many horses have been broken down & sent to the recruiting camps at Montgomery & in the rear of the Div. There are 664 serviceable & 122 unserviceable animals in the command; many of them need shoeing.

The Bgde seems to perform picket & outpost duty with great zeal & success. The Co books & records are not generally complete, & there are no evidences of accountability for ordnance stores on the part of Regimental cdrs, nor do the men appear to be charged on the muster & pay rolls with losses of public property.

The officers appear to be intelligent, but not as efficient as greater industry would cause them to be.

Throughout the Bgde spurs are deficient.

The 53rd Ala has ten Co’s. They appear attentive on inspection, but their bearing will not be called soldierly. They dress negligently, although their clothing is sufficient & good. Personally, the Regt is cleanly.

The animals look worn, & are not very well groomed; many are puny, & only held to retain their owners in Cav service. The proportion of mules is large.

Arms are not clean enough, & there is a deficiency; the caliber & kind are not entirely uniform. Ammunition is generally well cared for. There is a deficiency of accoutrements. Horse equipment’s are in ordinary good condition; more are needed. Currycombs are deficient.

Discipline appears to be somewhat better in this than other parts of the Bgde. The Regt drills moderately well. Co descriptive lists of animals are correctly kept.

The 24th Ala Bn has three Co’s, was organized in Feb 64, & is chiefly composed of youths, who are healthy & robust, but lack a military air. They were inattentive at inspection, & do not appear to be under good discipline & here is not enough distinction between officers & men.

Many men are unarmed, but expect to be supplied soon. Such arms as were inspected are of irregular calibers, indifferent in kind, & in bad order. Some are unserviceable. There is a great deficiency in the number of accoutrements, especially of cap pouches.

Horse equipment’s are in very bad condition; currycombs are much needed. Horses are not numerous or strong, mules being greatly in excess. The animals are not well groomed. The drill is indifferently executed. Spurs are needed.

The 11th Ga Regt, originally the 30th Ga Bn (7 Co’s), is reported to have been raised to a Regt of 10 Co’s, by authority of the War Dept, from such men as could be obtained in Northeast Ga. Many deserters from other commands joined this Regt, & though some have been returned, others remain. Pvt Mitchell (properly of the 16th Ga, now a courier for Col Hannon) is one.

The Regt was organized about Oct 25, 1864, near Athens, Ga, but when ordered from there to its present station many absented themselves. About 90 officers & men appeared on inspection. They are fine-looking youths, but do not present a military appearance. Discipline is lax; most of the Capt’s are absent on detached service, & there is not enough distinction between officers & Pvt’s. The men are well clad & have a sufficiency of blankets, but are quite uncleanly.

The Regt was at first armed with Cook's Enfield, which the men do not esteem, & say are easily broken. Many have been lost & broken, but are not charged to the men. At present arms are deficient in number, not uniform in kind or caliber, some are broken, & nearly all of them dirty. Horse equipment’s are in bad order, & there is a deficiency of currycombs. The animals are mostly lean & puny, chiefly mules & but few well ground. Many are only excuses to escape Infy service.

Accouterments are deficient. Ammunition it not evenly distributed, & there is none for some calibers, as Spence's [Spencer?] rifles, a Va musket 1814, 7c.

Descriptive lists of animals are correctly kept.

The Roswell Bn being all on picket duty could not be inspected. It is composed of two Co’s, & has no field or staff. Co A is composed of men who were operatives in the mills at Roswell, Ga, & organized into a Bn of 140 men, Infy, Arty, & Cav, under the act for local defense.

When Roswell fell into the hands of the enemy Capt King, cdg Bn, was ordered to report to Gen M. J. Wright, who reorganized the local Bn into a permanent Co, ordered the pieces of Arty to be turned into the arsenal at Atlanta, & mounted the men. At the surrender of Atlanta, Capt King was ordered to report to Gen Cobb, & by him to Gen Iverson, who assigned the Co to Hannon's Bgde.

This Co was reorganized by consent of Col Browne, chief of conscription, State of Ga, at the request of Gen Cobb. The men at present in Co A have no Co’s in the field, but were all detached by the Conscript Bureau. Such as were detailed from the field deserted. Muster rolls of the reorganization were forwarded through Gen Cobb, & at the same time lists of the deserters were furnished to the Bureau of Conscription.

Though mustered as mounted, many of the men have never been mounted. Arms are deficient in number & not uniform in kind in both Co A & Co B. Co B, commanded by Capt Zachry, was mustered into service 9/1/64, by Capt King, who received authority from Gen Cobb to add a Co to his command. It is composed of youths between fifteen & eighteen years of age. It is said to be the desire of Co A to be attached to the 24th Ala Bn.

I have no means of ascertaining why Co A should not be distributed among the regular troops & Co B attached to a Regt of Ga State Reserves.

The attention of the cdg officer of the District of Ga has been invited to many of the above-mentioned deficiencies, & to the cases of certain officers who should be retired or dropped.

Gen Iverson's troops are actively engaged as scouts & on picket duty from Sister's Ferry, on the Savannah River, to the mouth of the Altamaha, the 5th Ky Regt Mtd Infy, & the Roswell (Ga) Bn being so distant & scattered that they could not be reached.

Ferguson's Bgde being on the right of the Altamaha, near Hawkinsville, & engaged on a march which would consume two weeks, with a probability of being continued much longer, could not be inspected.

It being impossible to obtain blank inspection reports in Ga or Ala, this report has been furnished without their aid. In view of the obstacles to inspecting the few troops at present in Ga I have determined to return to Ala. Letters will reach me at Mobile, in care of Gen Maury.

[Why is Chilton ordering another inspection just as Devereaux has completed his inspection?]

2/16 Richmond, R. H. Chilton, AA&IG to Col E. E. Portlock, AIG-Representations have been made from so many quarters prejudicial to the character of Wheeler's Cav as to make it desirable that an examination should be made respecting their foundation, as, if true, they are calculated (as they have been said to have done) to produce disaffection amongst the people & to bring reproach upon our arms.

Whilst so constantly engaged in front of the enemy, it is impossible to make a regular inspection, but by visiting their camps & observing their management & the degree of discipline exercised, & in passing over the country through which they have operated you can learn enough to be able to report advisedly. With large bodies of troops, especially Cav, there must occur some irregularities, growing out of straggling, but where the latter prevails to an extent which impairs the efficiency of a command, & depredations or outrages are committed indiscriminately, it is sufficient grounds upon which to suspect inefficiency. See what system is pursued to prevent straggling; what punishments, if any, have been inflicted for irregularities, & what means are adopted to supply men & animals of his command.

See & examine the inspectors upon this subject, report facts coming under your observation, or where complaints are made let them be substantiated by the proper affidavits or certificates. Abuses which can be corrected by the cdg Gen report to him for correction, advising this office of that fact. In fact, Col, your mission is to report abuses wherever found, & to correct them in so far as can be done through Dept Cdrs, with whom you will communicate upon all points over which their authority extends. As nothing of an official character has been reported respecting the Cav referred to you, will consider the rumors herein reported as merely designed to direct your attention to alleged abuses, &, found incorrect, to disabuse by a report of facts the impressions at present prevailing. Of course, the remarks & instructions are confidential, your order for the inspection being sufficient to secure you the necessary facilities.

2/16/65 Richmond -XXII While on the way to Fla per orders, Col E. E. Portlock, Jr., will make such inspection as is practicable of the Cav under Maj-Gen Wheeler, & of the reported depredations committed by that command while on the march. The QM's dept will, upon application, furnish him the necessary transportation to execute this order.
XXVI. Gen N. G. Evans is assigned to duty in Beauregard’s Dept.
XXXIII. Gen E. M. Law is assigned to duty & will report for orders to Gen Bragg, Wilmington

3/10/65 Hqs Wheeler’s Cav Corps, Near Fayetteville, NC, E. E. Portlock, Jr., Col & AIG to Col R. H. Chilton, I embrace the first opportunity which has offered to let you know that I am with Gen Wheeler's Corps (after a long & tedious trip around the flank of Sherman's army), engaged in the execution of my orders. Thus far I have seen but little to condemn & much to commend, both on the march & in action. As the command is constantly moving, I have but little opportunity to see the practical application of orders & drill, but expect to be able before I leave to give full & complete information of this command...

3/26/65 Wheeler’s Cav Corps, Near Smithfield, NC, E. E. Portlock, Col-AIG to Col R. H. Chilton, AA&IG, Richmond-Yours of the 2nd was received yesterday. I regret that it was delayed so long, but I am satisfied that my inspection & observations have served a better purpose, & will enable me to report more advisedly on the matters entrusted to me, although much time has been consumed thereby.

Gen Wheeler's wagon trains have just reached him & I shall be enabled to leave here tomorrow for Columbia, via Charlotte. Waiting for this train was necessary to week to obtain them. I shall now start south with all dispatch & use every energy in the execution of my orders.

I have seen the report made by Lt-Col Roman of his inspection of Wheeler's Cav by order of Gen Beauregard, & as it has been forwarded to you, I take this occasion to say that I differ with him in many of his opinions, for which I expect to present good & sufficient grounds, based upon personal experience & observation with this command as well as in the line of the army.

This difference of opinion is chiefly in regard to discipline & organization, matters so important to the success of an army as to induce me to make this statement before my report is forwarded that it may be known to the Dept. In reply to so much of your letter as refers to the feeling prevailing among our troops with whom I come in contact, I am glad to say that our soldiers are cheerful & in good spirits, looking hopefully for final success.

I have heard that desertions occurred among Gen Hardee's troops after the evacuation of Charleston & while on the march through NC, but this has stopped. Also, some desertions occurred among the Reserves of NC on the march from Wilmington to this place. This, too, has been stopped, & I feel that I can safely say that a healthy moral spirit pervades this army.

Among the Cav I know this to be so, & a good proof of it is noticeable in the fact that the Tenn-Ky Cav left the Coosa River in front of Sherman & marched to Savannah without a single case of desertion, although at that time Hood's march to Tenn opened to them a passage to their homes.

I shall use all possible dispatch to complete my report & forward it to you, & while I forbear to express an opinion relative to Wheeler's Cav & the depredations alleged to have been committed by them until I have completed my investigations, I think that it is due to the command to say it is as orderly, well-behaved, & gallant as any Cav I have ever seen east or west of the Ms River.

Your request relative to the feeling of the people of Ga will receive due attention & report