For want of a nail: McCombs and Company of Memphis

I enjoy browsing through the Confederate Citizens Files online with Fold3.  Before these were placed online, my research was directed to specific folders … usually cannon manufacturers.  But now, with easy access from my home office, I can spend time casually browsing the records.  Sure, it is the boring, gritty details of the war.  Stuff about purchases, receipts, invoices, and payments.  Like this invoice from McCombs and Company of Memphis, Tennessee:

This may be Jim Schmidt’s field, because I read that as “Dr. R. Potts,” the medical director, receiving two wood saws, a hand saw, and a dozen scissors.  Cost the Confederacy $11.75.  The Confederates paid promptly in 1861.  Here’s the check, cut the next day:

As seen from McCombs and Company’s letterhead, the vendor specialized in hardware.  Their business was at the corner of Main and Madison in Memphis (the place has changed a bit in 150 years).

The records might hold other minutia details with more stories to tell.  In April 1862 when McCombs sold a file for a buck and a quarter, they struck through the name of “Hawks, Smith, & Co.” from a few blocks over.

Hard to say if this was because McCombs ran out of stationary, or if this was perhaps referral business.  Or perhaps the purchaser made some switch.  We don’t know what kind of file this was.  But we know it was for an artillery battery.  Oh, and it cost $1.25.

I’d offer, only half in jest, that one could reconstruct the entire Confederacy by way of these records.  Detailed bookkeeping, mind you.  So don’t believe the line that the Confederacy didn’t have the administrative organization that would produce proper records.  Imagine a database tracking purchases and transactions.  Good grief, we could ascertain all the material shortages of the Southern cause down to the tack!

Indeed, when the Confederacy found itself in want of a nail…

… the purchase was recorded.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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