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 of the Secretary of War, the assistant secretaries, and the General in Chief was never spelled out. Therefore the supply departments functioned independently and without effective coordination throughout most of the Civil War, although the situation improved after Ulysses S. Grant took command in the spring of 1864.
Logistical support was entrusted to the heads of four supply departments in Washington. The Quartermaster General was 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). Later on, boundaries changed and several geographical departments were grouped together as a military "division" headquarters.
Army depots were located in major cities: Boston, Massachusetts; New York; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; and San Francisco, California. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the chief depot and manufacturing center for clothing. Advance and temporary supply bases were established as needed to support active operations. Until 1864 most depot commanders were authorized the rank of captain who, despite the low rank and meager pay, had tremendous resources of men, money, and materiel under their 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. 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, Virginia; Staunton, Virginia; Raleigh, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Georgia; Huntsville, Alabama; Montgomery, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Little Rock, Arkansas; Alexandria, Louisiana; and San Antonio, Texas.
Most of the unit's logistical needs were handled 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; and 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 regimental level were filled by a fully qualified officer of the supply department concerned. However, experienced officers were in perpetual short supply, and many authorized positions were filled by officers and noncommissioned officers from line units or were left vacant, the duties thus being 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
The Union soldier carried about 45 pounds: musket and bayonet (14 pounds), 60 rounds of ammunition, 3 to 8 days' rations, canteen, blanket or overcoat, shelter half, ground sheet, mess gear (cup, knife, fork, spoon,
and skillet), and personal items (sewing kit, razor, letters, Bible, etc.). Confederates usually had less.
Annual Clothing Issue
Officially, the Confederate soldier was almost equally well clothed, but the Southern quartermaster was seldom able to supply the required items. Soldiers wore whatever came to hand, the home-dyed butternut jackets and trousers being characteristic items. Shortages of shoes were a constant problem.
In addition to the daily individual ration, the following were issued to every 100 men: 15 pounds of beans or peas; 10 pounds of rice or hominy; 10 pounds of green coffee or 1.5 pounds of tea; 15 pounds of sugar; 4 quarts of vinegar; 3.75 pounds of salt; 4 ounces of pepper; 30 pounds of potatoes; and, when practicable, 1 quart of molasses.
Desiccated potatoes or mixed vegetables, a dehydrated concoction referred to by soldiers as "desecrated vegetables," could be substituted for beans, peas, rice, hominy, or fresh potatoes.
Basically, the Confederates got the same ration composition as Union soldiers but often in less quantity. Much of the meat and coffee that was issued was captured or obtained from sources other than the commissary department.
The number of wagons authorized for the Union Army in August 1862 was as follows:
The number and kind of tents prescribed for the Union infantry in the field were as follows:
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