Financing a Costly War
Although the cause of piecing a divided nation together is one of nobility, the love of money and the evils generated therewith continue to fall back upon the pockets of the bankers. The powers of the strongest government fall prey to these men dwelling in secrecy among the dark shadows.
The correspondence and reports generated from the Quartermaster's Department to the War Department invite the belief that the President had better move fast to take the Confederate Capitol in Richmond, for only seven months has past since Fort Sumter and the government was running out of money.
By the end of 1861, Congress had authorized President Lincoln to accept the services of 500,000 volunteers while cutting back the strength of the regular army to 50,000. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs discussed this problem with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that the monies allotted his department by Congress would only feed and equip an army of 300,000.
On November 27, 1861 an approbation deficiency was already reported at the amount of $28,715,586.77. The armies in the field had already exceeded that which Congress had authorized to raise and the Quartermaster was showing his moth eaten pockets.
As Major General Ambrose Burnside was preparing for a joint army and navy expedition to the North Carolina coast, Washington failed to see how they could outfit an operation of such magnitude. Storehouses in New York, Philadelphia, and others out west could furnish materials, however, the finances were exhausted.
In reference to the Secretary of War's annual report of 1861, the armies in the field were running at the strength of 661,000 men. Meigs believed by estimation that if the war should unfortunately go on past June 30, 1863, the debt to the government would thus exceed $148,000,000 dollars.
Money matters became a continual problem for the Lincoln Administration. At the end of year 1862, the Quartermaster General would raise the question again based on the estimates given in annual reports. Another year would pass and the rebel armies still operated successfully in the field.
As President Lincoln slumped into his chair over the latest casualty reports and defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia, Meigs tried to impress his opinions on Major General Ambrose Burnside about the gravity of defeating General Robert E. Lee before the spring of 1863. He did not feel they could continue on without him defeating Lee's army once and for all.
The commander of the Army of the Potomac already stated to the President he didn't feel capable of commanding an army. The defeat at Fredericksburg was too much for him. This officer could be easily influenced to move however. When shown the necessity to continue with destroying Lee before bringing the army into winter quarters, Burnside made his mind up to attempt another crossing of the Rappahannock. The expedition was called "The Mud March" and would contribute greatly to a slow termination of the beastly slugfest.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a new feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org