View Full Version : So, you got the job working in Ordnance with your company ...

A. P. Hill
06-18-2016, 03:43 AM
I just recently bought a new book for my library and have been reading through it and at this point, would like to say, if you like boring books that seem to take you hours to read through a chapter, this publication may be for you. (On the other hand if you don't, you might not like it.)

The book is "Buff Facings and Gilt Buttons" by J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr. published in 1998 by University South Carolina Press. What this book is about is the Staff and Headquarters Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia from 1861 - 1865. It covers topics such as Staff Organization, The General Staff, the Chief of Staff, Adjutant General and Inspector General, the Quartermaster, the Commissary, and the Medical Director. It delves into topics such as special Staff, Personal Staff, Staff Selection and Training, Staff Authority and Relations to the Commanding General. Then it goes into Headquarters and Headquarters Personnel, and Staff Procedures, and finally the Staff in Battle, including Intelligence and Combat functions.

The "Special Staff" considers such positions as Chief of Artillery, Chief of Ordnance, Chief of Engineers, and The Signal Corps.

While reading the section regarding the Chief of Ordnance, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information provided. I will provide a partial quote from the section that grabbed my attention.

The major duty of a Chief of Ordnance was supplying weapons and ammunition to his force. The running controversy over the proper number of cannon for the Army of Northern Virginia and whether to calculate that figure in terms of guns per man or guns per regiment seems to have been conducted by Lee, Pendleton, and Gorgas, (Chief of the Ordnance Bureau, in Richmond,) however, field ordnance officers faced the problem of supplying ammunition for the guns on hand. Keeping up with demand was difficult when one gun could fire 160 rounds in a single, relatively small action, as a horse artillery piece did at Brandy Station. It was even harder in a major battle like Gettysburg, when a pair of guns fired 200 rounds in two hours on the second day and a single gun fired 300 rounds the following day. Those figures are extreme, but consumption was still enormous - one authority estimated the Army of Northern Virginia fired 90,000 artillery rounds at Gettysburg, although that figure is almost twice what he estimated was available.

Infantry ammunition expenditure was equally high, but it was never as high as anticipated and thus not as big a problem. Individuals and specific units might fire extraordinary amounts - one veteran said his company fired 128 rounds per man while serving as skirmishers at Cross Keys - but overall consumption never met projections. The Ordnance Manual called for 200 rounds per man split between what the soldier carried on his person and what was in the trains. Ordnance returns after First Manassas showed an expenditure of 19 - 26 rounds per man, so the 200 round basic load was excessive. Gorgas calculated the infantry ammunition expenditure at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg (the highest he could find) as between 25 - 30 rounds per man and decided quite logically that a basic load of 60 rounds was sufficient if the field armies had proper procedures to reallocate ammunitions among units.

In 1863 the Ordnance Bureau issued instructions to cease the universal practice of issuing each man on the eve of battle 20 rounds over what he had in his cartridge box (i.e. 60 total rounds). That practice led to waste, since ammunition in the soldiers' pockets was easy to lose or damage. The Army of Northern Virginia had already recognized the problem of loss and spoilage - compounded by the practice of cutting up cartridge boxes to repair shoes, thus exposing all the ammunition to the elements - and instituted rigorous procedures to inspect and account for ammunition.

Ordnance officers could call for a brigade Board of Survey to decide liability in disputed cases. Once a brigade commander approved the board's finding, the ordnance officer could garnishee the soldier's wages to recoup the government's loss. ...

Eventually I'll get into reading about the personal staff ... members such as, Aides-de-Camp, Judge Advocate General, Chaplains, and Provost Marshalls. Lots of exciting reading ahead!


Hiram Lee
06-18-2016, 06:06 AM
sounds interesting