Wheels of Battle
VILE, stinking, and miserable was all Aquia Creek, said Dr. Steiner--a town of wharves and mushrooming tents. Here the army kept ten days' provisions in advance. Six mules drew large and small trains of covered wagons; their going and coming was constant, they transported stores to various parts of the army. About 60,000 horses ate 800 tons of forage daily; the men required 700 tons of food. Government provisions came from Alexandria on some twenty-five vessels, besides many others engaged in delivering forage. Goods bound for Falmouth, the distributing depot, went from Aquia Creek by rail.
The commission set up headquarters on a hillside--living quarters, kitchen, dining room, storehouses, and stable; workers and guests found themselves as much at home as "pigs in a sty." Dr. I. N. Kerlin knew no end of interruptions--perhaps a half-drowned man, then one with a stomachache, and now three ladies in the kitchen clamoring to go to bed. There were deserving cases to feed and there were parasites--"bespectacled sutlers and chubby newsmen"--to keep from the trough. A dozen doctors added to the din, arguing the "eternal nigger question." In days of battle "straggling wounded soldiers and a heavy percentage of clericals, doctorates, and hospital stewards" filled the lodge. Such was the pressure, said Kerlin, that the commission's demand for a "weakly" report seemed very unjust.