May 9, 1863: Bread, coffee, and salt

William Tecumseh Sherman

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Sherman has made it up to Hankinson’s Ferry, but he’s concerned that there’s no way they can move their armies up to the railroad over the available roads. He recommends holding up troops and limiting wagons.

Official Records:

CAMP AT HANKINSON’S FERRY, May 9,[1863]-4 a. m.
Major-General GRANT:

Yours of May 8 is received. It came too late to halt one of my brigades at the forks of the road, but I will send orders for Tuttle to remain at Willow Springs, which will cover the same point, and I advise you to issue some general order, and send it to all points, prescribing just how many wagons there shall be to each regiment, how many to each brigade,&c., on this march. There are 500 wagons across the river, and with each his an officer pressing to have it over, as if the absolute safety of the army depends on that wagon. Make some uniform and just rule, and send somebody back to regulate this matter, or your road will be crowed and jammed unless it is done.

McArthur is ready to cross over, and can escort trains out. Blair will be there to-day or to-morrow, and should remain at Hard Times still you have all the wagons and provisions you aim to secure. It is useless to push out men here till their supplies are regulated, unless you intend to live on the country.

Hillyer is doing his best, but each corps and DIVISION and brigade commander is there, urging forward his particular wagon, and the steamboat can only bring wagons is a particular ratio.

The rule I adopted was:
1. Two wagons per regiment of troops.
2. Wagons exclusively loaded with provisions and ammunition.
3. According to the discretion of the officer in charge.

I left Colonel [George A.] Stone at Hard Times, but Blair will be there to-night.

Please make a general order on this subject at once; publish it to all corps, DIVISIONS, and brigades, and let Hillyer enforce it. Stop all troops till your army is partially supplied with wagons, and then act as quickly as possible, for this road will be jammed as sure as life if you attempt to supply 50,000 men by one single road.

I will halt Steele’s DIVISION here, Tuttle’s at Willow Springs, and Blair’s at Hard Times, each ordered to keep supplied with beef and corn, and as much bread, sugar, and coffee as possible.

General Crocker moves to the front to-day.

Yours, in haste,

Grant replies that they can indeed live off the land, and that speed is the most important thing. The only food they need to bring on their supply line is hard bread, coffee, and salt.

Official Records:

ROCKY SPRINGS, MISS., May 9, 1863.
Commanding Fifteenth Army Corps:

I do not calculate upon the possibility of supplying the army with full rations from Grand Gulf. I know it will be impossible without constructing additional roads. What I do expect, however, is to get up what rations of hard bread, coffee, and salt we can, and make the country furnish the balance. We started from Bruinsburg with an average of about two days’ rations, and received no more from our own supplies for some days. Abundance was found in the mean time. Some corn meal, bacon, and vegetables were found, and an abundance of beef and mutton.

A delay would give the enemy time to re-enforce and fortify. If Blair were up now, I believe we could be in Vicksburg in seven days. The command here has an average of about three days’ rations, which could be made to last that time. You are in a country where the troops have already lived off the people for some days, and may find provisions more scarce, but as we get upon new soil they are more abundant, particularly in corn and cattle.

Bring Blair’s two brigades up as soon as possible.

The advance will move to-day to about 3 miles beyond Cayuga, and also on the Utica road. Your DIVISION at Willow Springs should also move to this place.


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