The official title of the ledger sheet is “Summary Statement of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores on hand in the Artillery Regiments in the service of the United States during the Second Quarter ending June 30th, 1863.”
The layout of this form differs little from that of the previous two quarters. So readers will be familiar with the format and presentation. Yes, some of this will be repetitive – the same batteries reporting mostly the same equipment. Though I hope readers understand the intent – that of presenting the data in a linear format so as to allow for “point in time” references. Yes, this is handy for the “what guns did they have?” or “what ammunition was on hand?” questions. Though the latter, I’d say, was more a day to day proposition. Furthermore, I think these numbers provide a glimpse back at operational and administrative procedures used during the war. Things that escaped discussion, for the most part, as we surged to understand battles, campaigns, and politics. But still a factor to consider when discussing the success or failures within the parameters of those battles, campaigns, or political actions, as the case may be.
In essence, the second quarter of 1863 should be a “copy and paste” for the most part from the first quarter. There were not a lot of major reorganizations and refits conducted between March and June of that year (well… one exception, which will be mentioned below). But what will make the second quarter of interest is what was going on operationally. And there were four major moving parts, operationally speaking, in my opinion.
During the months of April, May, and June, General U.S. Grant executed the Vicksburg Campaign. Concurrently, if not completely complementary, General Nathaniel Banks worked against Port Hudson. Those operations seemed to sponge up resources from all around the Mississippi Valley, supplanting most everything going on from the Appalachians to the Rockies.
Well save one thing… the slow starting Tullahoma Campaign out of central Tennessee. The new organization of the Army of the Cumberland would stand to the test of a major movement, though not a major battle until the following quarter.
In the east, the Chancellorsville Campaign proved a misfire for Federal efforts. That prompted some shuffling of artillery batteries within the Army of the Potomac, mostly to streamline and improve command and control of the “long arm.” Although the summary statements did not track such assignments, I will keep note of those as we discuss each battery in turn. And of course we must keep in mind those batteries were soon back on the march, going north instead of south, as the Gettysburg campaign began.
Lastly, because you know my favorite study, we must also recall the Department of the South was not exactly a dormant sector. In April, the Federals would salvage a lodgement along the coast after the defeat of the ironclads at Fort Sumter. The position on Folly Island would turn into a base to launch a major offensive on Morris Island.
So those are all things “rattling around in the box” that we call the second quarter of 1863. Notice how so much of those operations placed batteries in the field on June 30. Indeed some on the cusp of major battles. And I think this is reflected in the “date received” column of the summaries. Consider the first lines from the first page, covering the 1st US Artillery:
None of these returns were received in Washington before August. One was not posted until 1864. Mind you, these were the “regulars” and on top of that the FIRST regulars. Some of whom were operating with the modern DC commuter’s range of downtown Washington. Yet, their reports were delayed for a couple of months. So we can immediately tell the operational tempo of war affected the turning wheels of bureaucracy.
And of course that immediately calls up questions about the accuracy of those returns. If your “report as of date” is June 30 and on July 1 your battery is involved in a most vicious combat, how do you file?
A recently mentioned example to mind, consider Battery B, 4th US. The summary has the battery with 164 canister. Now was that the quantity going into action on July 1, some of which would be expended in front of the Thompson House? Or was that 164 canister after post-battle resupply? Or was that 164 canister as of November 6 when the report was received in Washington? And that for a battery operating, for a significant portion of the period, within a day’s railroad ride for any envelope addressed to Washington.
Yes, the numbers lead to questions. But at the same time, they provide a better foundation for discussion. You see, those cannon and their projectiles were not simply laying about in nice piles for the use of the army. That equipment and materials had to be supplied. SUPPLIED. A verb that is so easy to write, representing a vital supporting activity to any operation… but one often painfully difficult to enact.
Later this week, I’ll start posting the transcriptions for the second quarter. You’ll find those linked, as I post them, on the Second Quarter, 1863 page.