About 150 years ago, Army of the Potomac commander Ambrose Burnsides lost his job, replaced by Joe Hooker, after two debacles: the futile battle of Fredericksburg and the fruitless "Mud" March. Much drama attended the change because of internecine warfare between the commander and his direct subordinates. Detroiter Henry J. Hunt, however, wrote simply, dramatically, and dutifully of his performance in the March, and it shows how the Army might have functioned better had all of the horses been pulling in the same direction:
Report of Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, U.S. Army, Chief of Artillery.
OFFICE OF CHIEF OF ARTILLERY, Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 25, 1863.
COLONEL: I have to report, for the information of the general commanding, that for the operations of the 21st instant, to cover the passage of the army at or near Banks’ Ford, the ground was carefully reconnoitered by me, and all the positions which offered advantages for the placing of batteries selected and prepared, with as little exposure as possible of such movements as could give the enemy a clew [sic] to our designs. [Note: Hunt personally examined the ground with a view to the most advantageous, least exposed, most secretive]
The points selected were numerous, because the positions from which the enemy could bring guns to bear upon our bridges and upon the troops were not commanded by such extent of ground as would enable us to place sufficient guns to silence those batteries, and at the same time reply to those stationed at other points to bear upon them. It was, consequently, necessary that such positions should be selected, and such a number of guns placed in battery, as would at once shut up the enemy’s batteries, as they were unmasked or brought up. An overpowering force of artillery was, therefore, resolved upon. This could be afforded, notwithstanding the smallness of the reserve artillery, by drawing largely on the divisions, since, the passage once effected, these batteries could be ordered to rejoin their divisions. [Note: it was a complex task to bring "overwhelming force" to bear; if only that tactic had been followed in the campaign by infantry commanders]
My orders were, therefore, to have forty-one batteries (one hundred and eighty-four guns) in position, including those already placed opposite the town (three batteries, fourteen guns). The thirty-eight batteries were formed in three divisions: Those of the left, under Brigadier-General Hays, extended from below Falmouth to the ravine occupied by our pickets, near England’s house; the center, under Colonel Tompkins, First Rhode Island Artillery, occupied the positions extending from the Banks or Randolph house down to Hays’ line; the right division, under Capt. G.A. De Russy, Fourth Artillery, occupied the positions extending to the Ballard farm, above the Randolph house. [Note: 184 guns, 38 batteries, committed and drawn together for one purpose: victory]
The batteries received their orders, and were put in march in full time to occupy their positions by midnight of the 20th, had they not been interfered with, as usual, by general officers, who, having the rank and the power, lose sight of the general requirements of the service in executing the orders specially applying to themselves. Two of the columns were thus cut, and ordered to halt, and were halted and detained by the command, as reported to me, of General Birney. [Note: no Halleck-type temporizing here]
Notwithstanding this, Hays’ batteries were all in position before daylight, except one battery, which was replaced by a similar one. It being found that his heavy 4 1/2-inch guns might not, in consequence of the storm, be in their designated position in time, their destination was changed during the night to a position which had been previously reconnoitered, which gave a wider field of fire to the guns, but had the disadvantage of a few hundred yards increased range. [Note: despite the infantry's interference, Hunt had all ready and in order]
Tompkins’ guns were all placed in position between dawn of day and 8 a. m. De Russy’s batteries were in position by 11 o’clock at night, excepting three on the extreme right, at Ballard’s, which were delayed by a number of pontoons which had missed their road and which it was difficult, with all the aid De Russy could give, to get out of his way. These batteries, however, were all in position during the morning. They were intended as a reserve, to be used only on a contingency, not very likely to happen until the movement was well advanced. [Note: ditto, and the pontoons cause problems again! And where is there any carping about the outcome of the plan? Not here, for the report ends with just the facts. Perhaps Lincoln should have gone 'out of the box' and appointed this general to Army command ...]
HENRY J. HUNT, Brigadier-General and Chief of Artillery.
Lieut. Col. LEWIS RICHMOND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
OR, Series I, Vol. 21, pp. 752-3