Plate 64. Wagon Park

Text and photograph from Gardner's Photographic Sketchbook of the War, Vol. II. Negative by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, text and positive by Alexander Gardner.
This wagon park represents the transportation of all that portion of the Quartermaster's Department, which included the various field repair shops, carpenters, saddlers, harness-makers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, wagon builders, and the like, belonging to the Army of the Potomac. When in full operation it was a very extensive establishment, and one of much importance to the army. Thousands of mules and horses were here shod every month, and almost an equal number of disabled wagons, ambulances, &c., repaired, the rough usage to which the trains were subjected breaking down even the strongest-built army wagons. In addition to the repairs done here, there were made tables, seats, and desks, for office furniture, required by the various departments in camp. Indeed, it would be difficult to say what the Quartermaster might not have to construct or mend at a moment's notice. Sometimes Col. Pierce, the officer in charge, would find a whole division of cavalry upon his hands, in the most unexpected manner; just in from a raid or a fight, their own proper depot out of reach, and all in want of shoes to their horses and repairs to their equipments. Then there were lively times at the repair shops; harness-sewers working to distraction, and blacksmiths punishing their anvils day and night, while the cry was "still they come." At other times, while the summer campaigns were in progress, there would be little to do but keep the mules harnessed for a start, and lounge upon the ground, or around the sutler's wagon.
This train numbered about two hundred and forty wagons – no trifling command to move with precision and safety over a country almost destitute of paved roads; but when compared with the entire transportation of the army, it was a small matter. For the carriage of ordnance, commissary and quartermaster stores, the baggage of the troops, and for transporting the sick and wounded, nearly six thousand wagons and ambulances had to be put in motion, requiring at least sixty miles of road to string out upon. Moving upon dirt roads, generally cut up by the wheels of over three hundred guns, the same number of caissons, the accompanying forges and battery wagons, and a pontoon train or two – the labor required by the draught animals was excessive. As for the swearing done by the teamsters, no words can describe its amount, nor can any memory do justice to its variety and originality. But for these immense trains, and their cumbrous movements, many a battle would have remained unfought, an engagement sometimes being absolutely necessary for their preservation. One of these was the battle of Bristow Station, where the rebel army made a flank attack upon the Second Corps, hoping, by a vigorous assault, to drive our men, and cripple the army by destroying its train, moving under cover of the column of infantry.
When collected in one encampment, the sight of the vast parks of wagons was very imposing. On one occasion, two days before the battle of Bristow, almost the entire transportation of the army was accumulated in the vicinity of Bealton, covering the fields in all directions as far as the eye could reach with white covers, all stamped, with the badge of their respective corps, division and brigade.
Currently not on view
Object Name
albumen photograph
date made
Gardner, Alexander
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 17.8859 cm x 22.9659 cm; 7 1/16 in x 9 1/16 in
place made
United States: Virginia, Brandy Station
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Gardner's Sketchbook
Civil War
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Gardner's Sketchbook
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
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