Upheaval in the Confederate Commissary Department in Summer 1863

Tom Elmore

Sergeant Major
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
Prior to May 1863, every infantry and cavalry regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) had a commissary officer on its staff, known as the Assistant Commissary of Subsistence (ACS), with the rank of captain. However, on May 29, 1863, the Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office in Richmond officially disseminated General Orders #70, which abolished the office of regimental commissary, in accordance with an Act of (the Confederate) Congress. The duties were to be assumed by the regiment’s quartermaster. Each regiment could, however, retain a commissary sergeant (who could be a private or non-commissioned officer) to assist the quartermaster. Indeed, because the quartermaster was already very busy, the additional work probably fell mainly on the shoulders of the commissary sergeant of the regiment and the brigade commissary officer.

General Orders #70 did provide for the “best qualified regimental commissary” of the brigade to become an assistant to the brigade commissary officer, in particular to oversee sales made to officers, who were required to pay for their own provisions. Thus roughly a quarter of the regimental commissary officers were assured a new assignment within their department. The rest would have to be reassigned or else dropped from the rolls, at the “earliest practicable” date, but before the deadline of July 31, 1863. The timing of the order was problematic for the ANV, because it was preparing to embark on a march northward into enemy territory.

Pushback came quickly from Lt. Col. Robert G. Cole, the ANV’s chief commissary officer, presumably with the blessing of his boss, Gen. Robert E. Lee. On June 1, Cole wrote to the Adjutant and Inspector General (Lt. Col. S. Cooper), requesting the order be modified to permit cavalry regiments to retain their ACS since they conducted frequent independent operations. Cole had no issue with an additional assistant for the brigade commissary officer, but he requested that each corps and division commissary officer be allowed two such assistants. He even identified a list of 52 regimental ACS who should be retained and reappointed to the latter positions.

If accepted, Cole’s recommendation would create quite a few additional slots for former regimental commissary officers, but most still faced unemployment within a few weeks. No doubt they all had pressing concerns about their future and were scrambling to secure one of the new assistant jobs, perhaps at the expense of devoting their full attention to the imminent military campaign. While it is difficult to assess the impact of the order on commissary functions during the Gettysburg campaign, a major reorganization rarely comes off without some disruption.

Determining the fate of these former regiment commissary officers is not so easy. They were all officially dropped from the rolls of their regiment over the summer as attested in their Compiled Service Records (CSR), but even if they managed to secure a new position, as staff officers the subsequent paper trail on them becomes scarce. However, sufficient documentation exists to suggest that many of those identified on Lt. Col. Cole’s list were in fact retained by the ANV.

I have compiled a list of regimental commissary captains and what is known of their fate from their CSR and other sources, from which the following examples are drawn:

Robertson’s brigade
3rd Arkansas – Thomas H. C. Stone. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Stone be retained, and he is marked as present to June 30, 1863 as regimental ACS. He was dropped from the rolls on July 17. An application was made for his reappointment by a Maj. Mason, the commissary of Field’s division, but it was still pending as of November 1864. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
5th Texas – Robert Burns. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Burns be retained. On June 30, 1863, Burns was marked as present near Fayetteville, Pennsylvania as regimental ACS. Circa August 1863, he was appointed assistant to the brigade commissary. (By the way, Burns rode a gray horse that had belonged to his predecessor, W. D. Denney, and he also inherited the latter’s mule, named James Longstreet, which died in late 1869.) (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR; https://civilwartalk.com/threads/james-longstreet-mascot-of-hoods-texas-brigade.117480/#post-1194041)

Benning’s brigade
2nd Georgia – George W. Dillingham. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Dillingham be retained. It was evidently approved since Dillingham surrendered at Appomattox while serving as assistant to the First Corps Commissary. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Anderson’s brigade
8th Georgia – George C. Norton. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Norton be retained, and Norton received an unspecified new assignment on July 1, 1863. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Barksdale’s brigade
13th Mississippi – Robert C. Topp. On July 29, 1863, brigade commander Col. B. G. Humphreys selected Topp to assist the brigade commissary in selling rations to officers. However, Topp had been captured near Gettysburg on July 4, 1863 and sent to Johnson’s Island, Ohio, where he remained a prisoner until the end of the war. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
18th Mississippi – Thomas F. Leonard. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Leonard be retained, and by September 17, 1863, Leonard had received an unspecified reassignment. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Kershaw’s brigade
8th South Carolina – Evander McGiver Griffin. On July 29, 1863, Col. James D. Nance, commanding Kershaw’s brigade, recommended Griffin as the best qualified among his regimental commissaries to assist the brigade commissary. Griffin had been reassigned by September 17, 1863. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Wofford’s brigade
16th Georgia – William H. W. Whitehead. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Whitehead be retained, and on July 31, 1863 Whitehead was to report to Cole for an unspecified duty. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
Phillips’ Legion – Captain Andrew M. Norris, Jr. Norris may have been assigned as assistant to the brigade commissary by August 10, 1863. (CSR)

Semmes’ brigade
51st Georgia – Charles H. Parmelee. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Parmelee be retained, and by September 17, 1863, Parmelee had received an unspecified reassignment. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Armistead’s brigade
9th Virginia – George Chamberlaine. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Chamberlaine be retained, which was apparently accepted. On April 18, 1865, Chamberlaine took the parole as a commissary officer. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
38th Virginia – William B. Edmonds. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Edmonds be retained, and by the end of August 1863, Edmonds was serving with the commissary department of Maj. Gen. Pickett’s division. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR; CSR of Commissary Sergeant Henry Sneed)

Ramseur’s brigade
2nd North Carolina – Louis Hilliard. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Hilliard be retained. On August 10, 1863, Hilliard was relieved from duty with the regiment, but three days earlier was assigned to duty as assistant to the brigade commissary. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

O’Neal’s brigade
12th Alabama – A. T. Preston. On August 1, 1863, Col. Cullen A. Battle, commanding the brigade, nominated Preston to serve as assistant to the brigade commissary. Preston’s service record indicates he was reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Doles’ brigade
4th Georgia – Samuel McComb. Lt. Col. Cole recommended McComb be retained. As of September 1864, he appears as Captain, ACS on staff of a Gen. Cook (possibly Philip Cook, who succeeded Doles). (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
44th Georgia – Asbury Hull Jackson. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Jackson be retained, and evidently it was approved, because, as of February 1865, Jackson was working in the brigade commissary department. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Daniel’s brigade
53rd North Carolina – William P. Hill. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Hill be retained, and Hill’s service record indicates he was reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Hays’ brigade
5th Louisiana – Leigh Watkins. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Watkins be retained. On August 3, 1863, Watkins was nominated to become assistant to the brigade commissary officer by Brig. Gen. Harry T. Hays. Watkins was marked as present on the July-August 1863 roll as the regimental ACS. On September 17, 1863, he received an unspecified reassignment, however, on November 3, 1863 he signed a forage requisition as the 5th Louisiana ACS, a position that had been abolished. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
7th Louisiana – Frederick E. Bridge. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Bridge be retained. On July 31, 1863, Bridge was appointed to serve as the regiment’s quartermaster. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Hoke’s brigade
21st North Carolina – Ham Sheppard. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Sheppard be retained, and by September 17, 1863 Sheppard had been reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Gordon’s brigade
13th Georgia – John. H. Maugham. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Maugham be retained. Records show Maugham was eventually reassigned to assist Maj. Gen. Early’s division commissary officer, but he resigned on being elected Ordinary of Pike County, Georgia. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
26th Georgia – John J. Jelks. Jelks may have been dropped after Gettysburg. (Confederate Military History, Extended Addition, vol. 7, Georgia, pp. 755-766)
31st Georgia – John A. Walker. On August 1, 1863, Brig. Gen. J. B. Gordon recommended Walker become assistant to the brigade commissary officer. However, Walker’s service record indicates he was transferred to Columbus, Georgia on June 13, 1863. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Jones’ brigade
21st Virginia – Timothy H. Kellogg. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Kellogg be retained, and by September 17, 1863, Kellogg had been reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
44th Virginia – John T. Graves. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Graves be retained. A document dated September 22, 1863 described Graves as an assistant quartermaster. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Steuart’s Brigade
1st North Carolina – Owen Fennell. Fennell was relieved from duty and dropped from the regimental rolls on July 31, 1863. Fennell later claimed his commissary book and duplicate returns were lost (presumably taken by Federal cavalry) on the retreat from Gettysburg. (CSR)

Wright’s brigade
3rd Georgia – Thomas Mahool. On July 29, 1863 Mahool was recommended as the assistant to the brigade commissary officer by Capt. C. H. Andrews, the acting brigade commander. It was evidently approved, since Mahool held that position as of March 24, 1865. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
22nd Georgia – Jasper L. Keith. Keith was reassigned as the regiment’s quartermaster, effective June 24, 1863. (CSR)

Mahone’s brigade
6th Virginia – William B. Sherwood. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Sherwood be retained. On June 30, 1863, Sherwood signed a forage requisition at Fayetteville, Pennsylvania as the regimental ACS. On August 1, 1863, he was transferred to the brigade commissary. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Posey’s brigade
19th Mississippi – Andrew T. Owens. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Owens be retained, and by August 8, 1863, Owens had another duty assignment, possibly as assistant brigade quartermaster. (Fold3, Confederate Letters)

Perry’s brigade
5th Florida – Richard W. Reid. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Reid be retained, and by August 8, 1863, Reid was ordered to report to Gen. Lee for duty. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Thomas’ brigade
35th Georgia – Virgil L. Hopson. On July 29, 1863, Maj. Daniel T. Carraway, the commissary of Maj. Gen. Pender’s (former) division, requested Hopson be assigned as his assistant, noting the division had only been recently formed. On August 7, 1863, Hopson signed a document as the regimental ACS. By September 17, 1863, he had been reassigned to an unspecified position. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
49th Georgia – James W. Moore. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Moore be retained. By September 17, 1863, Moore had been reassigned, and on December 14, 1863, he was serving with the brigade commissary officer. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Scales’ brigade
13th North Carolina – Erasmus Decatur Scales. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Scales be retained. On June 13, 1863, Scales was reportedly appointed as the assistant brigade commissary. (CSR; To Drive the Enemy from Southern Soil, Letters of Colonel Francis Marion Parker, 30th North Carolina, p. 276)

McGowan's (Perrin’s) brigade
1st South Carolina Rifles (Orr’s) – Arthur Parker. On July 29, 1863, Maj. E. B. Hill, commissary officer of the Third Corps (and brother of Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill) requested that Parker be assigned as his assistant, noting no previous assignment had been made owing to the recent formation of the corps. (Fold3, Confederate Letters)

Lane’s brigade
7th North Carolina – Thomas Hall McKoy. Lt. Col. Cole recommended McKoy be retained, and by August 13, 1863, McKoy had been reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
28th North Carolina – Nicholas Gibbon. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Gibbon be retained, and by September 17, 1863, Gibbon had been reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Archer’s brigade
1st Tennessee – Howard W. Newman. On July 29, Newman was recommended to sell subsistence stores to brigade officers as an assistant to the brigade commissary officer, by Maj. D. R. Hankins, who might have been the latter officer. Newman’s records show he was reassigned in late September 1863 and transferred on October 1, 1863. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
7th Tennessee – William H. Atwell. Atwell was present as regimental ACS at Cashtown, Pennsylvania on June 30, 1863. On July 27, 1863, Philip C. Hungerford, Heth’s division commissary officer, recommended Capts. Atwell and Muse of the 55th Virginia to serve as his assistants. On August 1, 1863, by order of Gen. Lee, Atwell was reassigned to the division commissary department. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
14th Tennessee – Frank W. Green. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Green be retained. Circa May 1863, Green had been detailed to the Third Corps Commissary by Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; Confederate Military History, Extended Addition, vol. 10, Tennessee, p. 514)

Davis’ brigade
2nd Mississippi – Robert Henderson. Henderson prepared a forage requisition through June 30, 1863 as regimental ACS. On July 27, 1863, Col. John Stone, commanding the brigade, recommended Henderson’s appointment as assistant to the brigade commissary. By September 17, 1863, Henderson had been reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Pettigrew’s Brigade
47th North Carolina – Benjamin W. Justice. On July 26, 1863, Col. Singeltary, commanding Pettigrew’s brigade, wrote to the Secretary of War (Seddon): “Brig. Gen. Pettigrew was killed before making provision for appointment of Asst. Commissary for his Brigade agreeably to Act abolishing supernumerary officers in commissary and quartermaster depts. The limited time has nearly expired and at request of the Brigade Commissary, I have ordered Capt. B. W. Justice, ACS, 47th N.C. Regt to report to him for duty” and asked “that he secure the appointment of ACS of the Brigade. He is well qualified for the position …” By September 17, 1863, Justice had been reassigned. (CSR)

Brockenbrough’s brigade
47th Virginia – Philip C. Hungerford. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Hungerford be retained. Hungerford was dropped from regimental rolls, but apparently he became the division commissary of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth’s division. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)
55th Virginia – James H. Muse. Lt. Col. Cole recommended Muse be retained. On July 27, 1863, Philip C. Hungerford, Heth’s division commissary officer, recommended Capts. Muse and Atwell of the 7th Tennessee to serve as his assistants. By September 17, 1863, Muse had received an unspecified reassignment. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Fitz Lee’s cavalry brigade
1st Virginia Cavalry – William H. Sale. On July 31, 1863, cavalry division commissary officer Maj. W. J. Johnson requested that Sale be detailed as his assistant. On August 14, 1863, Sale had been reassigned. (Fold3, Confederate Letters; CSR)

Other Sources:
- https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=dul1.ark:/13960/t42r4kr8c;view=1up;seq=279

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Scott Brown

Jul 14, 2018
George C. Norton "was assigned to duty as A.C.S. of Anderson's brigade per special orders No. 156, Para. XII, Adjutant and Inspector General's Office, Richmond, Va., July 1, 1863."

From The Eight Georgia Volunteer Regiment, 1861-1865 , pg. 5 (Richard Michael Allen)
Jun 2, 2019
Apologies for posting several months late.

I’m really ignorant of what a commissary officer did in the Army of Northern Virginia. I’m asking in the context of my g-g grandfather. He was elected an officer in the 5th Florida infantry regiment, and going through his civil war records on microfilm see that starting on October 1, 1862 he is regularly checking out hundreds of pounds of meat and other supplies from Winchester.

My assumption is that he took on a commissary role for his regiment (or possibly brigade).

Was that a full time role, or would he also serve in a combat position?

This thread indicates the role was to be held by a captain for a regiment, but he was a 2nd lieutenant though promoted in late 1862 to a first lieutenant.

Tom Elmore

Sergeant Major
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
Soldiers were detailed away for many different types of assignments, but your ancestor does appear to have been connected with the commissary service. I am aware that Richard Irby, Commissary Captain from Company G, 18th Virginia, missed Gettysburg because he was away on an assignment to procure and ship to the army supplies sent from the Virginia counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg and Nottoway (The Captain Remembers, Richard Irby). Winchester was a major supply hub of the Confederacy in the Shenandoah Valley, so perhaps your ancestor was there to screen food supplies headed to the entire army.

He may have reported to the presumed post quartermaster at Winchester. We have the example of Quartermaster Rudolph S. Turk, assigned at Staunton, Virginia, who was responsible for manufacture and repair of wagons, caissons, ambulances, etc. (Confederate Military History, vol. III, p. 1219)

From what I gather such post assignments would be made from Richmond. I recently saw a letter addressed to the Adjutant General in Richmond from Major George C. Cabell, commanding the 18th Virginia after the charge on July 3, who pleaded for the return of at least some of the detailed men from this regiment to fill his greatly depleted command. He identified 16 from the regiment who were assigned at various hospitals as clerks, stewards or wardmasters; enrolling officers in Virginia counties; an engineer on the Danville Railroad; and so forth. One of these had been away from the regiment for two years. It seems bureaucratic inertia kept some soldiers at these distant posts for extended periods, especially if they possessed a special skill or aptitude that was valuable to the overall war effort.
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Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Jul 8, 2015
Saw a C-SPAN presentation just today from historian Peter Carmichael in which he mentions huge disruptions in food distribution system in the ANV in August/September 1863. Some units simply did not receive adequate food and clothing supplies.

According to Carmichael, food shortages may have contributed to a spike in desertions.
Jun 2, 2019
Thanks...the detail the family has long had is that he was in the 5th Florida Infantry Regiment, captured at the Wilderness, released a few months later, and rejoined the regiment. He was on both Confederate and Union rolls for the final count after Appomattox. Since there were only 53 people from the regiment left, and the regiment started with over 1,000, it seemed incredibly fortuitous that he lived through all those major battles unwounded.

The regiment's first battle was 2nd Manassas and was - like other components of the Army of Northern Virginia - in a lot of major battles with very significant casualties (much depleted at Antietam and Gettysburg).

A bit more info (I just found) indicates that he was initially detached from the regiment to a fort in south florida. The next record I see is the paperwork of what looks like commissary duty on October 1, 1862. That is a really interesting date because it was just after Antietam. Did he miss Antietam because he was still in Florida? Or on commissary duty? Or was he in the battle?

He was college educated, and a bit older than average, plus with a child and a widower. Not sure how much the latter would play into anything, but the former would probably make him a good candidate for an administrative roll.

He then checked into the hospital in Richmond on November 25, 1862 and stayed out of the army on medical furlough until the start of 1864. If he missed 2nd Manassas and Antietam, his first battle was probably Wilderness, where he was taken prisoner. He returned at the very end of 1864 and the muster rolls indicate he was in the trenches at Petersburg.


Jun 19, 2018
Thanks Tom for posting this. I had no idea Evander McIver Griffin was Brigade Commissary Officer for Kershaws Brigade. He’s my wife’s Great Uncle. Her Great Grandfather also served Peter Evans Griffin 2nd and 8th South Carolina. It’s a little unusual that it’s only 4 generations but all children were born late in life. Thanks again Mike

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