91st Pennsylvania volunteer infantry regiment, 1861-1865

The 5th corps, 3rd division, and Antietam

[source: Official Records series 1 volume 19 part 1 pages 370-373]


Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

Mr. SECRETARY: I beg leave to submit the following statement in connection with my request for a court of inquiry to investigate the subject to which the statement refers. I will endeavor to be as brief as a complete representation of the facts will admit.

On Friday, the 12th of September, 1862, being in Washington, I was sent for at 11.30 o'clock a.m. by Major-General Halleck, and asked by him if I was ready to take command of a division in the field (of new troops) to pass through Washington that day. I expressed my readiness gladly to do so, and march within an hour. I was referred to the commander of the corps of which the division was to form a part, General Porter, with whom I had two or three minutes' conversation in the street, being informed in that time that I should take command of the division as it passed through Washington that day, which it would do about 3 o'clock p.m., entering the city by the Long Bridge; that staff officers of the brigade commanders would report to me as the brigades (two in number, eight regiments, about 7,000 men) entered the city; that I should march on the road to Rockville, and would receive further orders on the march; that I must see that my command was provided with rations, forage, and requisite ammunition, and something was said about defective arms of part of the command. It was enjoined on me to keep my troops fresh on the march, and this point was dwelt upon in almost every order I received on the route. The position of our army and that of the enemy I was not informed of, nor of the degree of probability of a battle. I had no staff officers, but assumed the authority to take with me Lieut. C. McClellan, New York Volunteers, and took also my son, Mr. H. H. Humphreys, as an aide. I made application for staff officers, but could obtain none. At 3 o'clock p.m. I was ready to move, but the troops did not begin to reach the city until 7 o'clock p.m., and the First Brigade was not bivouacked near Columbia College, where I ordered them, until near midnight. The Second Brigade was not bivouacked until between midnight and morning, the last regiment reaching the ground at daybreak. Upon learning from the staff officer sent to report to me from the First Brigade, Captain Quay, assistant adjutant-general, that it had an insufficient supply of rations, I ordered that they should be obtained at daylight, that knapsacks and overcoats and surplus officers' baggage should be stored, and the brigade be prepared to march at sunrise. Colonel Allabach, commanding Second Brigade (who had no brigade staff), reported to me in person near 9 o'clock p.m., and from him I learned that his brigade had no rations whatever; that at least two regiments had arms utterly unserviceable; that there were 900 stand of arms in the brigade with nipples or hammers broken, and that they were breaking every day, and were in other respects defective. Part of this I had learned already by telegraphic dispatch from General Whipple, [page 371] and had immediately obtained authority from the ordnance officer, Captain Benton, to exchange as many as it was necessary. I took Colonel Allabach to Captain Benton and arranged that the two regiments should be supplied with new arms and accouterments from the arsenal, the regiments to march there at daylight. Colonel Allabach was ordered to send for rations as well as arms at daylight, store knapsacks, extra baggage, a large camp equipage, and be ready to march at sunrise. Both brigades were ordered to obtain as much forage as they could carry, and both drew forage. At sunrise Saturday, the 13th, I sent Lieutenant McClellan to see if my orders were complied with; he returned, informing me of the facts I have just stated in regard to the time of arrival of the regiments at their bivouac, and that none of the supplies I had ordered had yet been obtained; further, that there were other deficiencies than those I had learned, of a serious character, among them that the Second Brigade had no wagons for ammunition and no supply train, and the First Brigade but eight wagons for supply trains. Some regiments had one ambulance and others none. None of the wagons of the Second Brigade had arrived, nor did they arrive until near midday. By my representations to the chief quartermaster, Colonel Bucker, eight wagons were furnished during the day to the First Brigade. Twenty wagons were sent from Alexandria to the Second Brigade, reaching it late Saturday afternoon. Upon proceeding to the brigades, I found that one of the regiments of the Second Brigade, the one that reached bivouac at daylight, had had no rations the day before, and had none then. Its arms and those of another regiment, of the same brigade, were as unserviceable as those of the two regiments whose arms I had directed to be changed. I found this by inspection. I found a regiment of the First Brigade, the One hundred and thirty-fourth [Pennsylvania], with the same unserviceable arms, Austrian rifles; these were represented to me as unserviceable by General Tyler, commanding the brigade, and I found them to be so.

I immediately obtained authority from the War Department to change all these arms, and it was done, but not until late at night. The ammunition for the five regiments had also to be changed with the arms; nor were the rations obtained, knapsacks, overcoats, camp equipage, and private property, with which the regiments were overloaded, stored until 8 or 9 o'clock p.m. Several of the regiments had no shelter tents, but a full regulation supply of common tents, which it was impossible to transport. Some got shelter tents, others could not obtain them. I was ordered [sic] to store knapsacks, overcoats, extra camp kettles, &c., officers' baggage, and everything that would impede the march.

The Second Brigade, I was informed afterward, was on the march from near one fort to another when it received the order to march to Washington and report to me, and had left from one-half to two-thirds of its provisions, ammunition, forage, &c., at the old camp, and when it reported to me had no ammunition but what the men carried on their persons, from 50 to 60 rounds each. Finding how unprepared the command was, I first postponed the march to 9 o'clock a.m., then to noon, but afterward found it was impossible to move the command that day. I received communications during Saturday from the corps commander respecting my line of march, and enjoining upon me the great desideratum of keeping the troops fresh on the march, and to have plenty of rations and forage.

I was requested also to endeavor to obtain two squadrons of cavalry from General Heintzelman. I informed the corps commander of all I had done, and received his unqualified approval of it. It must be recollected that all these troops (except one regiment, the Ninety-first Pennsylvania [page 372] Volunteers) were new troops that had just entered the service, and that the five regiments I have noted regarded their arms as worthless. Four of the regiments had been inspected by Colonel Torbert, New Jersey Volunteers (now brigadier-general, Volunteers, I understand), under General Casey's order; and I learned from the colonels of the regiments that he had reported them worthless; in fact, he pronounced them no better than clubs. These same arms were subsequently inspected by another officer, by General Casey's order, who pronounced the same opinion upon them. Raw troops, with arms they had no confidence in, could be of no service.

I marched at daylight Sunday, the 14th of September, and reached Monocacy Depot, near Frederick, Tuesday afternoon. Here I obtained (as ordered) such supplies of rations and forage (very little of the latter) as could be obtained, and, upon sending to Frederick, found orders awaiting me to take a position in front of Frederick, to protect it, and to watch the approach from the left (from Harper's Ferry, then in possession of the enemy). On Wednesday morning, the 17th, I examined the country in front of Frederick, selected a position for the division, arranged with the military commander of Frederick to station vedettes on certain roads in advance; arranged at the telegraph office to have the earliest information from the telegraph toward Harper's Ferry, and was returning to camp to move my division to the position selected, when I received, about 3.30 o'clock p.m., orders from General McClellan to move forward. This I did immediately, and had marched 5 miles, when, at sunset, I received another order to join the army (then at Antietam) the next morning, at daylight if possible. The men were unaccustomed to marching, and were foot-sore; but I marched all night, and at an early hour the next morning was in position at Antietam, having marched more than 23 miles. I was cordially greeted by the commander of the corps and by General McClellan, both of whom fully approved all I had done.

I beg leave to return for a moment. On Friday night, as soon as I learned the condition of the division, as to rations, arms, means of transportation, and lateness of arrival, I wrote to General Cullum, chief of staff of Major-General Halleck, informing him of it, and kept him advised of everything I did on Saturday. I had in reply at least two notes, but no indication of dissatisfaction with what I had done until 4 o'clock p.m., when I received a note, written by General Halleck, stating, in substance, that if General Humphreys did not join his division in the field immediately he would be arrested for disobedience of orders. I had just finished everything it was possible for me to do; nevertheless, I examined the condition of the command to see if it was possible to move that night, but, finding it impracticable, I did not march until daylight the next morning, the hour at which I had stated to General Cullum I should march. Whether the note referred (in connection with a recent order) to the fact of my being about the Departments in the city, or to my being at my house in the city to get lunch, or to my action in supplying the division, I did not, and do not now, distinctly understand. As soon as I found we should be encamped a few days at Sharpsburg, I went to the corps commander, and, repeating what I had done, asked that if there was anything in which I had erred that [sic] he would point it out to me. I was assured that all I had done was fully approved as the very best the circumstances admitted. I then laid before him the note I had received from Major- General Halleck and stated my intention to take official action upon it. From this, however, I was dissuaded. Further, my conduct had me with unqualified approval from the army as well as the corps commander, and I was under the impression [page 373] also that the campaign was to be immediately continued, and that there was no time then for such investigations.

The reason for making, at the present time, a request for an investigation is given in the letter transmitting this statement.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. A. HUMPHREYS, Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

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revised 4 Jun 02
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