150 years ago: Show some love for the Inspector-General

On this day 150 years ago, Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin J. Harvie, assistant inspector general the Department of the West, completed a tasking. Harvie submitted a lengthy report following an inspection of the Army of Mississippi. This was technically the “Army of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana.” By January 1863, the Army consisted of two divisions, each with two brigades. Major Generals William W. Loring and Sterling Price commanded the corps. Major General Earl Van Dorn left the command with a division’s worth of cavalry during that month, further reducing the force. For all practical purposes, this was the mobile element of Lieutenant General John Pemberton’s department.

The report was, as reports go, pretty much standard stuff. Not even enough grist for gossip. Harvie addressed the report to his boss, Colonel Charles M. Fauntleroy, Inspector-General for General Joseph E. Johnston. Harvie found the quartermaster and commissary departments in good order. Accounts appeared up to date. He did note issues securing grain, with supplies diminishing. The army called upon just over 900 wagons to move these supplies.

Harvie called the medical department “well regulated” under Dr. G.A. Moses. Sanitary conditions were “better than it has been during the past year” indicating some improvement. The entire army, save the cavalry, had received small pox vaccinations. But the army was short of medical supplies. Harvie noted, “Dr. Moses says any quantity of medical stores could be obtained from Memphis in return for cotton.” But the inspector thought such trading “unwise.”

But it is the ordnance department section of the report which interests me. Harvie called Captain L.R. Evans “an intelligent young officer, under whose direction system and order in this branch of the army seem to have been well established.” The report included a tally of the weapons in use with the army:

The total number of field guns in this army is fifty-six, as follows: One James rifled gun, caliber 3.70 inches; one Parrott rifled gun, caliber, 3.67 inches; nine Parrott rifled guns, caliber 3 inches; two 24-pounder howitzers (bronze), sixteen 12-pounder howitzers (bronze), two 12-pounder guns (bronze), twenty-five 6-pounder guns (bronze).

Harvie offered a few details of the 3.67-inch (20-pdr) Parrott.

The gun designated as Parrott rifled, caliber 3.67 inches, is of Yankee origin. It was captured in the outer intrenchments before Corinth on the 3d October, 1862, by the brigades of Brigadier-Generals Rust and Bowen. Its caliber has been named above. Its weight is 1,695 pounds. The gun with its carriage is in perfect condition. A caisson has been remodeled to convey ammunition for the piece, and horses and harness have been recently procured to transport it.

The 20-pdr, he suggested, would be of more use in the defense of Vicksburg as opposed to with the field army. Harvie noted ammunition supply of 200 rounds for each of the smoothbore guns, but didn’t provide figures for the rifled guns. And as for the other arms:

The small-arms, all of which are in the hands of the troops, number 11,438; bayonets for same, 5,854. You will observe the great deficiency in bayonets. There is also a limited deficiency in the various commands occasioned by the recent arrival of troops and return of convalescents. The arms in use are of various calibers, embracing the Mississippi rifle, caliber .54; Enfield, caliber .57; Minie, caliber .58; the musket, caliber .69, and the Belgian rifle and British musket, caliber .70.

Harvie concluded the report indicating the army numbered 20,517, of which only 12,058 were present for duty.

This reports provides a snapshot in time, showing the status of an important element of the Confederate defense in Mississippi. A simple comparison, in terms of the types of weapons, to contemporary Federal armies (I’ve discussed the artillery of the Army of the Potomac and that of the Army of the Cumberland at this same time period) puts Pemberton’s force at a severe disadvantage. The raw numbers indicate the army both understrength and under-equipped, regardless of how well directed the support departments. Again we must recall that old line about logistics and the study of war. The numbers here, you see, factor into an equation resolved on, or about, July 4, 1863.

…. And, the cannon-hunter in me looks at the weight Harvie reported for that 20-pdr Parrott. Perhaps that gun is still out there somewhere on a courthouse lawn or guarding a cemetery. Captured at Corinth and then likely later recaptured at Vicksburg – now wouldn’t that be a “storied” piece of history?