Duties of C.S. Ordnance Officers

It has been a while since I added something to this blog and I appreciate those of you who have thrown rocks at me for not doing so. I also value the feedback and correspondence I receive from readers outside of the 26th North Carolina who have found their way to this site and seem to like it. For the information contained in the following post I am particularly indebted to one such individual, Mr. David Jarnagin of Corinth, MS. David is co-owner of C & D Jarnagin, well known purveyor of reproduction uniforms, leather accouterments, footwear, and tinwear covering the period 1750-1865. He is also a respected expert on 19th century accouterments, leather tanning and care and co-author of the following article: http://www.jarnaginco.com/reenactor%20leather%20care%20article.pdf.

Of late David and I have swapped various bits of information on Confederate manufacturing and supply. One item he shared is this particularly interesting description of the duties of Confederate ordnance personnel, gleaned from the rare publication General orders from Adjutant and Inspector-General’s Office. Written by Colonel Josiah Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, it provides revealing insight into the duties of this obscure but valuable service function.

“Instructions to Ordnance Officers in the field:
1st. The chief of Ordnance of an army corps and ordnance officers of separate commands, will correspond with the chief of the Bureau of ordnance relative to supplies of ordnance and ordnance stores with the commands to which they are attached. Requisitions made, whether for money of stores, will be approved by the General commanding.

Colonel Josiah Gorgas, C.S.A. Image courtesy University of Alabama

Colonel Josiah Gorgas, C.S.A.
Image courtesy University of Alabama

2d. The division ordnance officers will correspond with the Chief of Ordnance of the army corps to which the divisions are attached, and obtain supplies through him. They will be responsible for the property under their charge and may have ordnance officer or military storekeeper to assist in the care and responsibility of the property.
3d. Division ordnance officers will obtain one or more wagons for each regiment in their division as ordnance wagons. These wagons will separate from the train of wagons for reserve ammunition, and will be marked with the name with name of the regiment to which they are assigned, and will be placed in charge of the ordnance sergeant of the regiment. The wagon will be covered, if possible, with painted cloth cover for security against with weather, and each wagon will be supplied with a spare tarpaulin. These wagons will habitually follow their respective regiments.
4th. On the eve of battle the division ordnance officer will, under direction of the Chief or Ordnance of the army, station the ordnance wagons at the point selected for the division field depot of ammunition under charge of his assistant; each train of brigade ammunition wagons under charge of the senior ordnance sergeant of the brigade. He will keep himself acquainted with the movements of brigades, and cause the wagons of any brigade which may be detached to follow the movements of the brigade.

Regulations specified sturdy wagons such as these to transport ammunition to the front

Regulations specified sturdy wagons such as these to transport ammunition to the front

5th. The ordnance sergeants, together with the details habitually assigned to them for their regiments, will constitute a cops devoted as well to the preservation of the captured and other ordnance stores as to the supplies of ammunition of the various regiment, to ascertain its wants and communicate with the field depot. The habitual details from each regiment should be augmented before a battle to not less than six men from each regiment. The ammunition wagons, their loads temporarily removed, will, as circumstances favor, he employed to carry to the rear such arms and other captured stores as are left upon the battle-field.
6th. Especial care must be taken in selecting competent, prompt, and efficient men for the duties of ordnance sergeants. They may be removed for cause, and new appointments ordered, on the application of the division ordnance officers, through the Chief of Ordnance of the army corps, by the Commanding General.
7th. The ammunition wagons to each regiment will not supersede the necessity for division supply trains.

Duties of Ordnance Sergeants.
1st. To obey the directions of the division ordnance officer, or of the brigade ordnance officer (if the brigade is a separate command), in all relative to care and preservation of arms, and duties connected therewith.
2nd. To take charge of all supplies, arms, and ammunition of the regiment, and make returns of the same according to “Ordnance Regulations.”
Issues to be made on written requisitions approved by the colonel, or commanding officer of the regiment; which requisitions are to be filed with his “return of property.”
3rd. To take charge of the ordnance wagon or wagons attached to each regiment, and to see that it always contains at least fifteen rounds per man of the regiment – surplus arms or accoutrements to be turned over to the brigade ordnance officer.

The bewildering variety of arms of various calibers often within the same unit placed a real strain on regimental ordnance sergeants.

The bewildering variety of arms of various calibers often within the same unit placed a real strain on regimental ordnance sergeants.

4th. To supervise the condition of the arms of the regiment, and get a detail of at least two mechanics to assist him the necessary repairs to the arms: an account of these repairs to be kept, as far as possible against each man of the regiment. Repairs to be made on the order of the colonel of the regiment.
5th. To take charge of the arms and accoutrements of the sick of the regiment in hospitals, which will be kept until the sick are sent to the general hospital, when their arms will be turned over to the brigade or division depots.
6th. In battle, it will be the duty of the ordnance sergeants to remain with the ammunition wagons, and act with the detail assigned to them from the regiments, under the orders of the ordnance officer, in supplying the troops with ammunition, collecting arms of the killed and wounded, and securing captured arms and ammunition.
J. Gorgas, Colonel, Chief of Ordnance
G. W. Randolph, Secretary of War

Thanks again, David, for sharing this great information.

By Bob Williams