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HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
I. The following order has been received from the War Department:
II. The Second, Fifth, and Sixth Army Corps will each be consolidated into two divisions. The First and Second Divisions of the Third Corps are transferred to the Second Corps, preserving their badges and distinctive marks. The Third Division of the Third Corps is transferred permanently to the Sixth Corps. The three divisions now forming the First Corps are transferred to the Fifth Corps, preserving their badges and distinctive marks, and on joining the Fifth Corps they will be consolidated into two divisions.
The commanders of the divisions transferred to the Second, Fifth, and Sixth Corps will at once report to the commanders of those corps for instructions.
III. The Major-General commanding avails himself of the occasion to say that, in view of the reduced strength of nearly all the regiments serving in this army, the temporary reduction of the number of army corps to three is a measure imperatively demanded by the best interests of the service, and that the reasons for attaching the First and Third Corps, for the time being, to other corps were in no respect founded upon any supposed inferiority of those corps to the other corps of this army. All the corps have equally proved their valor on many fields, and all have equal claims to the confidence of the government and of the country. The First and Third Corps will retain their badges and distinctive marks, and the Major-General commanding indulges the hope that the ranks of the army will be filled at an early day, so that those corps can be reorganized. By command of Major-General Meade,
A good deal of dissatisfaction was expressed with General Meade for wiping out the First Corps, notwithstanding we were allowed to retain the corps badge in combination with that of the Fifth Corps a sop to our indignation.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS,
On relinquishing command I take occasion to express the pride and pleasure I have experienced in my connection with you and my profound regret at our separation.
Identified by its service with the history of the war, the First Corps gave at Gettysburg a crowning proof of valor and endurance, in saving from the grasp of the enemy the strong position upon which the battle was fought.
The terrible losses suffered by this corps in the conflict attest its supreme devotion to the country.
Though the corps has lost its distinctive name by the present changes, history will not be silent upon the magnitude of its services.
In his retirement from the command of the First Corps, General Newton carried with him the good-will and respect of every officer and soldier that had the honor to serve under him.
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION,
I. Immediately requisition will be made for everything necessary to equip the troops for active service in the field, including shelter tents, pioneer tools, and badges.
II. All men, including clerks, waiters, etc., must be armed and equipped. In addition to the division badge, every man will be required to have on his cap the number of his regiment.
By command of
Each company was required to be provided with an axe, and each regiment was to have five pioneers.
Tuesday, An order was received to-day from General Warren March 29. containing the following paragraph:
III. Details, unless otherwise ordered, will be for one day only, and men must eat their breakfast before leaving camp, and bring their dinner in haversacks.
What, in the name of all that was good and holy, came over the honorable major-general when he penned that paragraph about eating our breakfast and bringing our dinner was more than we could guess. This was the first instance when any solicitude was shown, after we had drawn rations, as to whether we ate them at once, or divided them into nine parts. "Bring their dinners in haversacks" pleased us immensely.
The monotony of camp life was relieved to-day by a celebration which took place in the camp of the Sixteenth Maine, in honor of the return of its colonel, who had recently escaped from Richmond.
Greased pig, sack races, and base-ball were among the list of sports marked out for the day's pleasure. We had
a good time, and as the Maine boys had learned from experience not to trust their pocket-books in reach of our substitutes, there was nothing to mar the fun. One of the Thirteenth boys succeeded in capturing the "greasy pig," so there was fresh pork in camp.
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
The General commanding the corps regrets to find that a false notion prevails with many soldiers that labor is not their duty; nevertheless the removal of filth and garbage, the making of sinks and drains, are all necessary to prevent sickness, and increase the number to stand by our sides in the day of battle. In making good roads, we make certain the timely arrival of provisions and equipage at all times, and in movements against the enemy secure the rapidity to the advance and reliability in the calculated arrival of supports and reserves.
No officer should camp in a wet and filthy place, and leave it so, or allow it to accumulate, nor be content to get his own command over a difficult place, if he does not expect to see his men failing from bad health and disease, and be left alone when he meets the enemy. Duty in all these things requires labor, with axe and pickaxe, spade and shovel. In their proper places these harmless tools contribute as much to the success of an army as the most ponderous projectile, the deadliest rifle, or the sharpest sword. There is no great soldier of ancient or modern times who succeeded more by fighting than by using his troops as laborers and mechanics. Work of such vital importance is therefore honorable to all engaged, and should be performed with as much good-will as the storming of an intrenchment.
The General commanding the corps believes with the true impulses of a soldier, and appeals to the good sense and patriotism of his command, and calls upon his officers of all grades, when engaged on working parties, to be constantly on the alert, to preserve order and regulate the apportionment of the details so the labor shall fall equally upon all, and be performed with despatch.
The experience which all will acquire in this will habituate the officers to command, and their men to obedience, and add an essential element to their morale in battle. Troops that work cheerfully, and march well, always fight well, and to the best advantage.
Working details will always be made out, and conducted according to General Orders No. 9, from these headquarters.
By command of
HEADQUARTERS FIFTH ARMY CORPS,
The granting of all leaves of absence and furloughs having been stopped, except in extreme cases, no others will be granted.
The dangerous illness or death of any relative will not hereafter be so considered. These grievous events are common to all, as much so at least to the soldier in the field as to those at home.
Soldiers and their friends should remember that they came here in their country's cause, and that the prospect of death to the latter should no more call the soldier from his duties than the greater chance to which he himself is exposed.
An extreme case can only be made out when the applicant's presence is necessary to perform some essential duty at home more important to him than the service of the country, and which no one else can attend to.
This circular will be read at the head of every camp and regiment in the command.
By order of
The winter did not pass without our receiving boxes from home; those remembrances, prepared by mothers and sisters, were filled with choice eatables, and frequently contained things to wear. These evidences of thoughtfulness of friends at home were very cheering, and as each little mess shared their contents they brought pleasure to many. There were others, besides our immediate friends, who were working for the soldier. Young ladies were busy knitting stockings and mittens and making comfortable articles of wearing apparel, which were sent out as fast as collected. These were all highly appreciated. We were not always aware who these kind friends were, though now and then a name would be found tucked away in some corner and when discovered, often started a pleasant correspondence which was not the least of the pleasures that grew out of their anxiety for the welfare of the soldiers. This noble work was carried on during the war with an unremitting labor, and a devotion that should never be forgotten while a soldier is alive to express his appreciation of the practical good that it did. Nor were the women our only friends. There were men in Boston, as well as in other parts of the State, who were untiring in their efforts in behalf of the soldiers. They not only contributed time and labor, but gave large sums of money
to help along the work that was being done by the women. It was a disinterested work for which they got nothing, not even a "thank you" from the men whose interest they had so much at heart. Soldiers were too far away without suitable opportunities for expressing the appreciation they felt at this patriotic service that was being carried on in their absence. The names of some of these men became known through our correspondence with friends, and are cherished among the recollections of that exciting period. It is difficult to estimate how much good was done by these earnest patriotic men and women to give encouragement to soldiers, or how much they did to keep alive patriotism in others. Soldiers should never forget, that without the aid of these people at home, the war could not have been successfully carried on.
On the fourth of the month we had a snow-storm that would have honored Massachusetts Bay. It was followed by rain, and then mud- the "sacred soil" of Virginia.
On the eighth we were reviewed by General Grant. Our curiosity was very great to see the new commander. This review was a new experience to us. The absence of "red tape" was one of its noticeable features. We waited in line but a short time when an officer was seen approaching at a gallop, completely outstripping the other members of his staff, who found it impossible to keep pace with him, so great was the speed. He made a complete circuit of the regiment, looking every man square in the face, returning our salute as he passed along, continuing the same rapid gait to each camp of the brigade until the work was completed. It was performed so quickly that we hardly realized that it was done. His staff came straggling along as best they could on their panting horses, to the great amusement of the boys.
This review afforded a topic for some lively conversation. It was so much different from anything we had seen before; there was such an air of business about it, and so little reaching for adulation, that it produced a good effect by inspiring confidence in the new commander.
In accordance with an Act of Congress, approved February 24, 1864, an order was issued from Army Headquarters on the 29th