A Matter of Logistics

Infantrymen of the Army of the Potomac rarely complained of not having enough to eat, because the army usually supplied them with sufficient marching rations. (Readers may remember that Sgt. Hirst wrote to his wife that he had gained twelve pounds since leaving home.) It was normal for the troops to carry three days marching rations of hardtack, salt pork, and coffee. As far as I have been able to determine, the last time the men of the Fourteenth drew rations was on July 1st at Taneytown, so their last meal from that supply was probably eaten after the battle on Friday, July 3rd.

Imagine the growing concern the day following the astounding Union victory when the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut reached into their haversacks only to find them empty. It was still full alert with arms at the ready along the rock wall, because the Confederates had sent out a strong skirmish line toward the Emmitsburg Road to cover Lee’s preparations to withdraw his army.

So where was the supply train that carried the vital food supplies for the Fourteenth Connecticut? When the news of the fighting on July 1st reached Taneytown, the brigades of infantry left their supply trains behind and hastened toward Gettysburg. Heavy rains on July 4th made the roads impassible, so the rations for the men of the Fourteenth were probably lost in the jumbled mass of horse-drawn vehicles clogging the Taneytown Road from Taneytown to Gettysburg.

During the afternoon of Sunday, July 5, the regiment left its position at the rock wall and marched on empty stomachs about five miles down the Baltimore Pike, instead of the Taneytown Road, to the village of Two Taverns. The men remained at Two Taverns on Monday, but there was still no sign of their food.

On Tuesday, July 7th, they marched again, about ten miles to Taneytown. Forage details were sent into the village to purchase food, if any was available, on the promise of reimbursement from the Federal government, and a loyal citizen sat by his well pump selling water to the weary passing soldiers for six cents per glass. As evening came on, and the prospects of ending yet another day without food, the supply train finally appeared and rations were quickly distributed to the hungry men.

The siege upon their stomachs and morale was lifted. Now it was time to pursue the retreating Confederates.

Check This Out: A fascinating article about Gen. Alexander Hays, commander of the division of which the Fourteenth Connecticut was a part, in The Gettysburg Compiler.

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