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1111Supply Trains

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  • tsalagibra@aol.com
    Aug 2, 2000
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      Don Myers wrote:
      "2). A couple of months ago there were some posts re: the size of the supply
      wagons. In studying Bragg's 1862 Invasion of Kentucky it states he brought
      along 20,000 shoulder arms for the volunteers he had hoped to find there.
      Probably not all were crated. But how many rifles were in a crate? How many
      crates would fit into the typical supply wagon? How many wagons would it
      take to haul all of those weapons? Did they bring ammunition for these guns?
      How long would such a supply train stretch?"

      Don,

      The following was posted on an SCV dispatch concerning supply trains and
      logistical support for an army in the field. It may give you some insights
      to your second question.

      Steve



      Blindly comparing 1860s military logistics to the present-day structure is
      misleading. 1860s armies had far, far less tail than tooth than modern
      armies do. The U.S. Army today fields only about 5% of its strength in
      hard-assed riflemen, and a slightly lesser number in armor crewmen and
      artillerymen with lanyards and projos in their hands.

      1860s quartermaster and ordnance operations were very lean, especially in
      the Confederate armies where every man possible was needed (and used) on the
      firing line. For a good summery of what it was like, read Porter
      Alexander's memoirs written for his children, "Fighting for the
      Confederacy." Some awesome stuff in there.

      What you'll typically find in the trains are the wagon drivers, with perhaps
      a wagon master per regimental train. Trains grew increasingly smaller (on
      both sides) as the War went on and the soldiers learned to get by with few
      comforts. Wagons were saved almost exclusively for ordnance and rations,
      with the latter being mostly corn or corn meal, the meat ration followed the
      army "on the hoof."

      To give an idea of the scale, consider a Confederate army corps of 10,000
      men (about average) on the march. The infantrymen and artillery batteries
      of that corps would, in columns of four, take up three miles of road space.
      Behind them would be 17 miles of wagons and ambulances. (Typically one
      driver per wagon).

      Each division in the corps (typically two) had an ambulance train of 40
      ambulances and 2 wagons. Each brigade staff had an additional 2 wagons for
      the Brigade hospital. Prescribed load for each infantryman in the Army of
      Tennessee was 200 rounds, but typically the AoT had only about 140 rounds
      per man available. 40 rounds were carried in the cartridge boxes, the
      remaining 100 rounds per man were carried in the ordnance wagons. At 100
      rounds per man, and 9,000 infantrymen, that's 900,000 cartridges.
      Cartridges came packed in boxes of 1000 rounds, so there's 900 cases of
      small arms ammunition, each weighing 98 pounds apiece. An ordnance wagon
      with a six-mule team can hold 2,000 pounds (one ton) of cargo, so that makes
      for 20 boxes of small arms ammo per wagon. 900 boxes divided by 20 boxes
      per wagon means at least 45 wagons are needed to carry the infantry reserve
      ammunition. This does not include the Artillery reserve ammunition (4
      batteries' worth) for the division...

      That same corps of 10,000 men requires 5 tons of hard tack or cornmeal per
      day. Adding meat and sundry items, that comes to about three pounds per
      man, or 15 tons _per_day_. That's eight wagons just to carry a single day's
      marching ration of bread, meat, and coffee.

      And we haven't even mentioned the forage that has to be carried along to
      feed the wagon teams, artillery horses, and staff mounts...

      Now think of the water supply. An army corps was like one of Pharoah's
      plagues when it came past your community! It sucks dry all the wells and
      cisterns that it passes by. 10,000 men at one quart per canteen equals
      2,500 gallons of water just to fill each canteen one time. Fence rails that
      took hours to craft disappeared in minutes, along with any "excess"
      livestock, poultry, etc.

      As for cooks... There were no dedicated field kitchens in either the Union
      or Confederate armies. Subsistence was issued as a lot to the individual
      company, and from there to the soldier "in kind", meaning that it was
      usually handed out to him in plain, raw form, and he was personally
      responsible for its cooking and preparation. Units typically organized in
      "mess groups" of four to eight men, with each person taking their share of
      the cooking, firewood gathering, fetching water, etc. In winter quarters,
      the orderly sergeant may establish a detail that was responsible for cooking
      for the company en masse, but this was a rotating duty just like KP in the
      Army is today. There were a few other special cases like the eve of
      Chickamauga, when Bragg ordered details established to cook three days'
      rations of boiled beef and cornbread, and this was issued to the troops just
      as they moved out for the campaign.

      Officers were authorized servants, who typically saw to their personal needs
      and cooked for them, but even this arrangement changed over time. Again,
      read Alexander's accounts in "Fighting for the Confederacy." Officers
      weren't (and still aren't) issued rations in kind, but had to provide for
      themselves whether in camp or on campaign. For the first half of the War
      they received a monetary allowance for subsistence for themselves and for a
      servant, but in early 1864 this was changed to provide for a single
      allowance via which they could purchase rations from the army commissary and
      the allowance for servants was discontinued. Again, Alexander tells the
      effect this had... many servants had to be "let go" as they couldn't be
      adequately seen after on the single subsistence allowance now in effect.

      Amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics...

      Tom
      FGLHA/Dixie Guard


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