150 Years Ago: Ordnance rewards reaped from battlefield victory at Chancellorsville

On this day (May 20) 150 years ago, Lieutenant Colonel Briscoe G. Baldwin, Chief of Ordnance for the Army of Northern Virginia, offered this report on ordnance recovered from the field at Chancellorsville:

I have the honor to report the following as the principal captures in the recent engagements near Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville:

Artillery.–Five 12-pounder Napoleons, seven 3-inch rifles, one 10-pounder Parrott, nine caissons, four rear parts of caissons, three battery wagons, two forges, 1,500 rounds artillery ammunition, a large lot of artillery harness, and a large lot of wheels, axles, ammunition chests, &c.

Infantry.–Nineteen thousand five hundred muskets and rifles (29,500 collected, 10,000 admitted dropped by our men, leaving 19,500 captured), 8,000 cartridge-boxes, 4,000 cap-pouches, 11,500 knapsacks, 300,000 rounds infantry ammunition.

I have carefully confined myself to what has been reported as collected and counted. This, of course, is considerably less than the amount actually captured, as a number of unarmed men supplied themselves with arms, accouterments, &c., and the army generally helped themselves from the cartridge-boxes of the enemy. Also every day small lots of muskets and rifles are brought-in, and without doubt quite a number of arms, &c., are retained in regimental ordnance wagons for future contingencies and not reported.

A large quantity of lead has been and is now being collected from the battle-fields.

Respectfully submitted. Briscoe G. Baldwin, Lieut. Col. and Chief of Ordnance, Army of Northern Virginia.

Balance thirteen captured guns against eight guns lost on Marye’s Heights. However, I would point out that on the other side of the line, Brigadier Henry Hunt reported losing fourteen guns. (Maybe that unrecoverable gun is still out there at Chancellorsville?) Nor was the exchange of much qualitative advantage. The Confederates lost two 3-inch rifles (likely Tredegar types), three 12-pdr howitzers, and three 12-pdr Napoleons.

But 19,500 muskets? That’s enough to equip a third again more men than the army had engaged in the battle. And how much of the lead “collected on the battlefield” would then be transported from Spotsylvania County, Virginia to Adams County, Pennsylvania?

(Lt. Col. Baldwin’s report is from OR, Series I, Volume 25, Part 1, Serial 39, pages 818-9.)

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3 responses to “150 Years Ago: Ordnance rewards reaped from battlefield victory at Chancellorsville

  1. That part about 10,000 dropped by their own men is interesting. Also, the collection of lead… cherry-picking unused and used ball and minie? Good stuff, Craig. This is the stuff we simply don’t see elsewhere!

    • The 10k number is conveniently close to the number of KIA/WIA from the battle. But I assume by the wording this accounts for those who might drop a broken or non-preferable weapon.

  2. I have often wondered what happened to the soldiers who, in panic, dropped their arm’s when they fled away from the enemy. Was they punished for dropping their arm’s ? And what about replenish them with new arms ? Was there enough arm’s in reserve for that ?

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