U.S. Army Bureau System

Bureau chiefs and heads of staff departments were responsible for various aspects of the Army's administration and logistics and reported directly to the Secretary of War. The division of responsibility and authority over them among the Secretary of War, the Assistant Secretaries, and the General in Chief was never specified. The supply departments functioned independently and without effective coordination throughout most of the Civil War, though much improved after Grant took command.

Logistical support was entrusted to the heads of four supply departments in Washington: the Quartermaster General, responsible for clothing and equipment, forage, animals, transportation, and housing; the Commissary General for rations; the Chief of Ordnance for weapons, ammunition, and miscellaneous related equipment; and the Surgeon General for medical supplies, evacuation, treatment, and hospitalization of the wounded.

For other support there were the Adjutant General, the Inspector General, the Paymaster General, the Judge Advocate General, the Chief of Engineers, and the Chief of Topographical Engineers.

The military department was the basic organizational unit for administrative and logistical purposes, and the commander of each department controlled the support in that area with no intervening level between his departmental headquarters and the bureau chiefs in Washington. There were six departments when the war started (East, West, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, and Pacific); however, later on, boundaries changed and several geographical departments might be grouped together as a military "division" headquarters.

Army depots were located in major cities: Boston, New York, Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Philadelphia was the chief depot and manufacturing center for clothing. Advanced and temporary supply bases were established as needed to support active operations. Until 1864 most depots were authorized the rank of captain as commander, who despite his low rank


and meager pay had tremendous resources of men, money, and materiel under his control. There were a few exceptions, notably Col. Daniel H. Rucker at the Washington Quartermaster Depot and Col. George D. Ramsay at the Washington Arsenal. The primary function of the depots was to procure supplies and prepare them for use in the field by repacking, assembling, or other similar tasks.

Procurement was decentralized. Purchases were made on the market by low-bid contract in the major cities and producing areas by depot officers. Flour and some other commodities were procured closer to the troops when possible. Cattle were contracted for at specific points, and major beef depots were maintained at Washington (on the grounds of the unfinished Washington Monument); Alexandria, Virginia; and Louisville, Kentucky. The Subsistence Department developed a highly effective system of moving cattle on the hoof to the immediate rear of the armies in the field to be slaughtered by brigade butchers and issued to the troops the day before consumption.

The Confederate Army used a similar system with depots at Richmond; Staunton; Raleigh; Atlanta; Columbus, Georgia; Huntsville; Montgomery; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock; Alexandria, Louisiana; and San Antonio.

Supply Operations

Most unit logistics was accomplished at the regimental level. The regimental quartermaster was normally a line lieutenant designated by the regimental commander. His duties included submitting requisitions for all quartermaster supplies and transport; accounting for regimental property including tents, camp equipment, extra clothing, wagons, forage, and animals; issuing supplies; and managing the regimental trains. The regimental commissary officer, also designated from the line, requisitioned, accounted for, and issued rations. The regimental ordnance officer had similar duties regarding arms and ammunition and managed the movement of the unit ammunition train.

In theory, logistical staff positions above the regiment were filled by a fully qualified officer of the supply department concerned. However, experienced officers were in perpetual short supply: many authorized positions were filled by officers and noncommissioned officers from the line units or left vacant with the duties performed by someone in addition to his own. This problem existed in both armies, where inexperience and ignorance of logistical principles and procedures generally reduced levels of support.


The Soldier's Load: About 45 lbs. (Union)-musket and bayonet (14 lbs.); 60 rounds; 3-8 days' rations; canteen, blanket, or overcoat; shelter half; ground sheet; mess gear (cup, knife, fork, spoon, and skillet); personal items (sewing kit, razor, letters, Bible, etc.). Confederates usually had less, about 30 lbs.

Official U.S. Ration: 20 oz. fresh or salted beef or 12 oz. pork or bacon; 18 oz. flour or 20 oz. cornmeal (bread in lieu if possible); 1.6 oz. rice, .64 oz. beans, or 1.5 oz. dried potatoes; 1.6 oz. coffee or .24 oz. tea; 2.4 oz. sugar; .54 oz. salt; and .32 gill vinegar.

Union Marching Ration: 16 oz. "hardtack," 12 oz. salt pork, or 4 oz. fresh meat; 1 oz. coffee; 3 oz. sugar; and salt.

Confederate Ration: Basically the same but with slightly more sugar and less meat, coffee, vinegar, and salt and seldom issued in full. For the Army of Northern Virginia usually half of meat issued and coffee available only when captured or exchanged through the lines for sugar and tobacco. During the Maryland Campaign foraging was disappointing, so Confederate soldiers supplemented the issue ration with corn from the fields and fruit from the orchards.

Forage: Each horse required 14 lbs. hay and 12 lbs. grain per day; mules needed the same amount of hay and 9 lbs. grain. No other item was so bulky and difficult to transport.

Union Annual Clothing Issue: 2 caps, 1 hat, 2 dress coats, 3 pr. trousers, 3 flannel shirts, 3 flannel drawers, 4 pr. stockings, and 4 pr. bootees (high-top shoes). Artillerymen and cavalrymen were issued jackets and boots instead of bootees. Allowance = $42.

Confederate: Officially, the Confederate soldier was almost equally well clothed; but the Quartermaster was seldom able to supply the required items and soldiers wore whatever came to hand, the home-dyed butternut jackets and trousers being characteristic items. Shortages of shoes were a constant problem.

Tents: The Sibley (tepee) held 20 men, feet to center pole; early in the war, the Union introduced the tent de' Abri (shelter half) used by the French Army and called "dog" tent by witty soldiers-now called pup tent.

Baggage: Enlisted men of both armies were required to carry their own. Union order of September 1862 limited officers to blankets, one small valise or carpet bag, and an ordinary mess


kit. Confederate standards allowed generals 80 lbs., field officers 65 lbs., and captains and subalterns 50 lbs.

Wagons: The Union's standard 6-mule Army wagon could haul 4,000 lbs. on good roads in the best of conditions but seldom exceeded 2,000 (with 4 mules 1,800 lbs.) at a rate of 12-24 miles a day. Confederates often used 4-mule wagons with smaller capacity.

The Army of the Potomac authorized wagons as follows:

Corps headquarters 4
Division and brigade headquarters 3
Regiment of infantry 6
Artillery battery and cavalry 3

One wagon per regiment was reserved for hospital stores and one for grain for officers' horses.

The Army of Northern Virginia used 4-mule wagons as follows:

Division headquarters 3
Brigade headquarters 2
Regiment headquarters 1
Regiment's medical stores 1
Regiment's ammunition 1
Per 100 men for baggage, camp equipment, rations, etc. 1

Numbers of supply wagons per 1,000 men:

Army of the Potomac (1862) 29
Jackson in the Valley (1862) 7
Army of Northern Virginia (1863) 28
Army of the Potomac (1864) 36
Sherman's March to the Sea (1864) 40
Napoleon's standard 12.5



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Last updated 25 August 2006