Contracting, 1861 Style: Quinby & Robinson Send a Man to Columbus

One reason I like to review the Confederate Citizens Files is located the “small” stories that help fill out the big picture.  For example consider this jacket from the folder for the Quinby & Robinson firm based out of Memphis, Tennessee.

My “western” colleagues will immediately pick out the signature line for Major General Alexander P. Stewart below the note.  Although in this case the bill came to a paltry $75, Stewart felt the need to take time out of his busy day (February 22, 1862) and explain why Quinby & Robinson had sent the invoice.

Messrs. Quinby & Robinson had work done in several Field Post, times at this Post, by a special order of mine dated Sep. 27, 1861.  I being, at the time, Major & Chief of Arty. at Columbus.

Inside the jacket is a copy of Stewart’s order.

Specifically, on September 27, 1861, Stewart asked for technical support.

I wish you to send a workman to Columbus, this evening, prepared to ream out the vents of some field guns, to put on the seats of Pendulum Hausses, and if possible to supply Capt. R. A. Stewart with the screw bolts & nuts for which are missing in a 12 pdr. Howitzer Caisson.

Quinby & Robinson forwarded an invoice promptly on October 30 with a simple description, “Sending man to Columbus with material to work on Batteries.

The invoice does not break down per diem or transportation costs, just a single line for $75.  Not even a charge for the bolts (if indeed transferred).  One wonders what the firm of J.R. Anderson & Company might have charged!

The paper trail is unexciting.  Then again, we are looking at maintenance support, which is never exciting unless it fails – and then everyone is yelling.  But these three sheets of paper are indicators of the lack of trained ordnance personnel within the Confederate ranks at critical points.  The work called for was normally conducted by uniformed personnel.  Someone like Sergeant Burt, for instance.

But at the massive fortress growing around Columbus, Kentucky in the fall of 1861, there were few technical resources who could help with that work.  So the Confederacy reached out to private firms to provide such personnel.  Perhaps some day more information might emerge to identify the name of the individual sent to Columbus and his background.  Even better would be a record of the work or observations about the military activities.  However after 150 years, such is probably too much to hope for.

But the invoice does indicate the Confederacy lacked some important human resources.  It is one thing to produce and field the guns, and another entirely to supply and maintain them.