Sketches of Four Confederate Brigade Quartermasters

Tom Elmore

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#1
The quartermaster of a brigade typically held the rank of major and served on the staff of his brigade commander, but he was also bound by the regulations of the army’s quartermaster department. He supervised the quartermasters of the regiments in his brigade, and in turn reported to the division quartermaster. He was responsible for distribution of clothing and equipment (other than ordnance and food), and for the transportation of his brigade, which could include upwards of 40 wagons and ambulances, plus drivers and animal teams. While in Pennsylvania, brigade quartermasters were busy impressing horses, mules and cattle from area farmers, besides gathering up everything else of use to the army found in the towns along their path (receipts were given in return, but these proved worthless). Quartermasters were to stay with the wagon trains in the rear, theoretically out of harm’s way. However, on one occasion during the retreat they were cornered by Federal cavalry and fought back, in what became known as the teamster’s battle, which occurred on July 6 near Williamsport, Maryland.

Major (William) Edgeworth Bird (Benning’s brigade, Hood’s division). Bird’s life is remarkably preserved in: The Granite Farm Letters, The Civil War Correspondence of Edgeworth and Sallie Bird, ed. by John Rozier (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 1988). Bird was the son of a wealthy plantation owner; together they owned 45 slaves. In 1844, he graduated from Georgetown College (now Georgetown University) in Washington, D.C. Bird was appointed brigade quartermaster on March 30, 1863, having served until that time as captain of Company E, 15th Georgia. At Gettysburg, he spent a night (July 2?) at Hood’s division hospital with the brigade’s commissary officer, Major Ballard, and helped bury Lt. Col. William Harris of the 2nd Georgia. On the retreat, he rode in a spring wagon with wounded officers of the 15th Georgia. Bird’s servant, Sam, usually accompanied him, but Sam became ill prior to the invasion and was not taken along. Bird noted that many slaves used the opportunity to escape, like Antony, “Waddell’s boy” (Col. James D. Waddell, 20th Georgia).

Major James C. Bryan (O’Neal’s brigade, Rodes’ division). In the two weeks prior to the battle, Bryan impressed 219 horses and mules, along with 42,000 pounds of corn and 49,000 pounds of hay. On the retreat, Bryan’s slave, together with seven other Blacks employed by Bryan as teamsters, were captured when Federal cavalry attacked the wagon train at Monterrey Pass (South Mountain) on the night of July 4/5. Bryan’s clerk, Private William T. Potter of the 12th Alabama, managed to escape. Bryan lost 10 of his wagons that night, including a fine rig that had been taken from Union Gen. Robert H. Milroy at the beginning of the campaign. (Kent Masterson Brown, Retreat from Gettysburg, pp. 28, 140; https://southmountaincw.wordpress.com/page/46/)

Major D. M. Hinkle (Lang’s brigade, R. H. Anderson’s division). Hinkle’s name appears often in the diary of the brigade’s commissary officer, Major Thomas C. Elder, which is not surprising since the two positions worked closely together – soldier rations and animal forage were stored in the quartermaster’s wagons. Two items are of particular note: On April 16, 1863, Gen. Lee issued a strict order against quartermasters and commissaries leaving the wagon train or supply depot to go into battle (or anywhere else for that matter). A month later, another order was issued that restricted Hinkle and Elder to one small shared tent (replacing their individual large tents) and one shared four-horse wagon, with each man permitted no more than 65 pounds of baggage apiece. (Papers of Thomas Claybrook Elder, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond.) At the start of the war every company had its own wagon and team, but the number of allotted wagons steadily declined over the course of the war, owing to attrition within units, a growing shortage of animals, wagons and manpower, and a recognition that wagon trains extending over many miles severely hampered an army’s mobility.

Major Henry Clay Deshields (Brockenbrough’s brigade, Heth’s division). A number of interesting letters by Deshields recently came to light as part of the Legacy 150 Project of the Virginia Sesquicentennial, under the direction of the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Deshields was born on April 11, 1832, in Northumberland County, Virginia. He attended the University of Virginia in 1850, and practiced law in Baltimore until the war began. He served as the quartermaster of the 40th Virginia, and for a brief period in May 1863 functioned as acting division quartermaster. On June 23, a week prior to the battle, Deshields was at Berryville, Virginia, where he was engaged in repairing wagons and ambulances, and procuring shoes and rations for the men. During the retreat, the Yankees captured seven of Deshields’s wagons, including drivers and teams. On July 6, Deshields witnessed the teamster’s battle, noting that “we lost I believe about 20 killed and wounded – among them some of our best teamsters who fought bravely,” thereby saving the army’s extensive wagon train. He died on October 16, 1884. (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/22145992)

For a list of identified Confederate quartermasters, see
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/confederate-quartermasters-at-gettysburg.129433/
 

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DaveBrt

Sergeant Major
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Mar 6, 2010
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Charlotte, NC
#3
The CS Quartermaster Regulations specify that the brigade QM was responsible for locating and supporting the brigade field hospital during battle. He was to remain aware of the battle and, if the hospital became endangered, he was to organize hands and remove the hospital to a place of safety.

Clearly, they were not expected to remain with the wagon trains during battle.
 

Tom Elmore

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#4
I can understand why a brigade QM would support the brigade field hospital, since that is where his ambulances would be directed. However, in the Union army at Gettysburg, the surgeons and assistant surgeons determined the location of their hospitals. It may also have generally been the case with the Confederate army in that battle, at least from these examples:

Senior Surgeon Arthur A. Barry, Armistead’s Brigade – before the (July 3) charge he was instructed by Gen. Armistead to establish a field hospital at a convenient point. The General said: “Doctor, the battle will begin within 15 minutes. My brigade will, must charge those heights, and the slaughter will be terrible. Go and establish your hospital at some convenient point, and be ready, for you will have much to do.” (Confederate Military History, vol. XV (Texas) and Confederate Veteran Magazine, vol. 34, p. 209)

Surgeon Legrand James Wilson, 42nd Mississippi, established a field hospital on the morning of July 1 under some trees near Willoughby Run, north of the Chambersburg Pike, and ordered the litter corps to being the wounded to that place; he sent the wounded on to the Division hospital.

Surgeon Charles G. W. MacGill, 2nd Virginia - he established a hospital at Hagerstown during the campaign.

Assistant Surgeon Lucius C. Coke, 1st NC – With Dr. Wood of 3rd NC, established a field dressing station at the foot of a hill in an abandoned farm house.
 

lelliott19

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#5
I can understand why a brigade QM would support the brigade field hospital, since that is where his ambulances would be directed. However, in the Union army at Gettysburg, the surgeons and assistant surgeons determined the location of their hospitals. It may also have generally been the case with the Confederate army in that battle, at least from these examples:

Senior Surgeon Arthur A. Barry, Armistead’s Brigade – before the (July 3) charge he was instructed by Gen. Armistead to establish a field hospital at a convenient point. The General said: “Doctor, the battle will begin within 15 minutes. My brigade will, must charge those heights, and the slaughter will be terrible. Go and establish your hospital at some convenient point, and be ready, for you will have much to do.” (Confederate Military History, vol. XV (Texas) and Confederate Veteran Magazine, vol. 34, p. 209)

Surgeon Legrand James Wilson, 42nd Mississippi, established a field hospital on the morning of July 1 under some trees near Willoughby Run, north of the Chambersburg Pike, and ordered the litter corps to being the wounded to that place; he sent the wounded on to the Division hospital.

Surgeon Charles G. W. MacGill, 2nd Virginia - he established a hospital at Hagerstown during the campaign.

Assistant Surgeon Lucius C. Coke, 1st NC – With Dr. Wood of 3rd NC, established a field dressing station at the foot of a hill in an abandoned farm house.
I agree. I believe it was the usual practice for the Brigade Surgeon to determine the location of the Field Hospital - at least for Confederate surgeons. Same in the AoT.
 


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