What did a Staff Officer do?

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#1
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In movies, we frequently see these nameless, expendable men following the general, and we find many references to them in books. They are the humble staff officers and staff members, and while I understand how vitally important these men were, but I don't know much at all about them. What did a day in the life of a staff officer look like?
 
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#2
I really didn't think there would be "too much" to it. So I dug in.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/military-staff

The article above explains exactly what each staff officers duties were, but these are the job titles that apparently followed a lot of higher ranking generals around:

Chief of Ordnance

Chief of artillery

Quatermaster General

Chief of commissary

Medical Director

Provost Marshal (offical in 1863)

Judge Advocate General (official in 1862)

Inspector General

Military Secretary

Aide-de-Camp

Chief of Engineers

Chief Signal officer

From what I gather, a general may have rode with some or all of these positions with him. As you can see, they handled just about everything war related except direct military orders.
 

major bill

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#3
Not every general would have had every one of the above staff officers. For example, a general commanding an infantry brigade might not need a Chief of Artillery, as an Infantry brigade might not have organic artillery.

This would especially be true if the brigade was part of a division and the division took care of some of the tasks usually assigned to a staff officer.

The use of staffs during the Civil War were still in development and some generals prefered small staffs.

I have been forced to study the development of military staffs and the development of US Army staffs several times. The subject is a bit dry. Probably 50 or 60 hours of time I will never get back.
 

Cavalry Charger

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Can I just ask was an Adjutant also considered a staff officer? My impression is that he was.

And what's the difference between that and an Aide-de-Campe?

Thanks @huskerblitz for the comprehensive list btw.
 

DaveBrt

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#9
There were really two sub-staffs -- the personal and the professional. The personal took care of the general's personal needs -- getting the HQ tents located (ADC), mustering and using the couriers (AAG), writing, recording and dispatching letters and orders (AAG), ensuring the general was fed (ADC), ensuring the HQ got packed and on the road during movement (ADC). The personal staff was usually near the general for his immediate call. ADC = Aide de camp, AAG = Assistant Adjutant General (military secretary)

The professional staff (Engineer, Commissary, Ordnance, Quartermaster, etc) acted as the connection between the general's plans and their special area of responsibility.The QM, for example, ensured that the required supplies of uniforms and fodder were requisitioned and positioned to support the general's plan of action. He would supervise the professional actions of his junior officers in his branch (ie making sure quarterly reports were filed on time and correctly) and ensured that the level below him knew their part of the operation (ie where the supply depots were and when they would be changed).

The professional staff spent much of their time during a campaign away from the general, seeing to the details of their profession (ie the engineer officer laying out lines of fortification, ensuring the bridging team got to the river at the right time and place, etc).

Generals who wanted small staffs put a lot of the work on the Chief of Staff. This position was, in the CW, more frequently found at the Department level than in the field.

As noted in an earlier post, higher HQ frequently provided some professional staff work. The regiment would not have an engineer officer, for example. But a regiment would have a quartermaster, a commissary and a surgeon.
 

Cavalry Charger

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#10
The personal took care of the general's personal needs -- getting the HQ tents located (ADC), mustering and using the couriers (AAG), writing, recording and dispatching letters and orders (AAG), ensuring the general was fed (ADC), ensuring the HQ got packed and on the road during movement (ADC). The personal staff was usually near the general for his immediate call. ADC = Aide de camp, AAG = Assistant Adjutant General (military secretary)
This is the answer to my question. Thanks @DaveBrt . Great information.
 

ucvrelics

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#12
Bottom line a Staff Officer for a General did what ever the General wanted done in those early days. Now they have spacfic area's they tend to. In todays US Army you have the S1 - S6. The ADC = Aide de camp we always called "The Dog Robber" If the General said he wanted a dog bone the aide would go steal one from a dog.
 

67th Tigers

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#13
The Army of the Potomac daily routine included 4 staff meetings.

1. Orders groups

There were three O-groups per day in the field. The set times were 1000 hrs, 1700 hrs and "after the march". For the two daytime groups the Corps HQs and every other independent command (cavalry etc.) was required to send an aide with details of the command and to take orders back to the command. The evening O-group was the main one of the day, and all corps commanders had to attend in person or send a senior staff officer if they could not attend. At the evening one the corps reported their position and status, and received their marching orders for the next day. Every staff department (QMG, ordnance, engineers, topo engrs etc.) also attended this O-gp.

2. Orderly hours

For every command there was a set orderly hour (see Army Regulations). Army of the Potomac HQ set it as 12 midday. Every subordinate HQ would have a later one, all the way down to companies (say 1300 for Corps, 1400 for divisions, 1500 for brigades, 1600 for regiments and 1700 for companies). At 12 midday orderly hour the orderly officer appointed for each corps (etc.) reports to the Adjutant-General at army HQ for orders. This is when administrative matters are dealt with, general orders promulgated etc.. These move down the system until at 1700 the company first or orderly sergeants report to the regimental adjutants.
 

Saphroneth

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#14
The way I tend to think of it is that staff officers are why a general can say "Move First Corps here and Second Corps around the flank" and this translates into the movement of what is essentially a large mobile city ten miles down the road every day while keeping it fed, watered and otherwise supplied. Their job is to fill in all the niggly little details.

This means everything from working out the routes of march for individual units (sounds simple until you try to actually do it) to making sure that every unit down to at least the level of regiment gets the appropriate ammunition, food and water.

It's worth knowing that the amount of troops considered part of "the staff" in an ACW army was quite low by global standards, which is probably an artefact of the way the prewar US Army was one where a brigade was a large concentration of strength (and a single brigade simply doesn't need as much staff work - enough food for a family of twelve for a year will do a brigade for a day, and they'll all fit down the same road without the column of march being too long).
At Waterloo Wellington's army had 83 officers and 9 men as "Personal staff" and the headquarters unit had 173 officers and 1,889 men; this is for a force about the size of the Union army at Gettysburg and does not include corps-level or division-level staff. The actual Union army at Gettysburg had a HQ unit that numbered 50 officers and 0 men; Jackson's corps at Chancellorsville listed 20 staff officers, with no figure given for Longstreet's corps and the army-level staff was a further 17 men.
 

Saphroneth

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#15
An ancilliary benefit of staff officers is that it makes it easier to manage an Orders group (O group).
If you have a structure where a division has a divisional commander, and a corps has a corps commander, then the only ways to give orders to the army are by having the upper command structure of the army head off to a meeting (not ideal) or by having it handled by dispatches (also not ideal).
But if you have that same structure and staff officers, then the staff officers for the formations can come to the O group - or take over their formations and let the commanders go to the O group.


Basically it's kind of... staff officers handle just about everything that's handled by abstraction in a video game, from converting "monetary upkeep" for a brigade into
1,642 cooked meals twice a day
~50 replacement long arms per month
Ammunition resupply, including by type if relevant
Replacement accoutrements when a musket/rifle sling breaks or boots fall apart or the like
Handling the flow of troops leaving sick or on furlough and returning from being sick or on furlough
Actually counting the number of men in the unit

Plus things like
Pathfinding
Transmitting (and often interpreting) orders
Reporting back on status


I mentioned Wellington above; Wellington was a hugely hands-on commander for the time, sometimes ordering every single battalion that went into action personally, and his staff was still pretty hefty by ACW standards.
 

jackt62

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#16
To turn the question around a bit, in the case of Lee's staff, it's what they didn't do (or didn't do effectively), as in properly writing and dispatching Lee's orders, effectively and timely communicating and obtaining instructions and intel to and from the field commands, and ensuring that reconnaissance was effectively organized and carried out.
 
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#17
Can I just ask was an Adjutant also considered a staff officer? My impression is that he was.

And what's the difference between that and an Aide-de-Campe?

Thanks @huskerblitz for the comprehensive list btw.
Traditionally on a battlefield an Aide-de-Camp was a young man on a fast horse. His job was to take messages from the commanding general to his subordinates.
In many ways it was as much a social position as a military one. He is to act as personal assistant to his commander, and it is a post often filled by nepotism.

(At Gettysburg one of General Meade's ADCs was his son, although that might make it sound like it was a safe, cushy gig it was often a lethal position. At the Battle of Eylau Marcellin Marbot relates that the two previous ADCs who had ridden out before him had not come back. Marshal Augereau, who had made Marbot one of his ADCs as a favour to his father, was reluctant to send the son of an old friend to almost certain death)
 

Cavalry Charger

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#18
Traditionally on a battlefield an Aide-de-Camp was a young man on a fast horse. His job was to take messages from the commanding general to his subordinates.
In many ways it was as much a social position as a military one. He is to act as personal assistant to his commander, and it is a post often filled by nepotism.

(At Gettysburg one of General Meade's ADCs was his son, although that might make it sound like it was a safe, cushy gig it was often a lethal position. At the Battle of Eylau Marcellin Marbot relates that the two previous ADCs who had ridden out before him had not come back. Marshal Augereau, who had made Marbot one of his ADCs as a favour to his father, was reluctant to send the son of an old friend to almost certain death)
That is so interesting and I have another little story to relate with regard to that:

The Captain I have been researching was named James A. Sayles. He was killed during the Wilson-Kautz raid at Nottaway Courthouse in Virginia. There was another Captain James Sayles I almost confused him with while doing my research who was from Rhode Island. He was also on this raid and the two men were killed within 24hrs of eachother. The second Captain Sayles died while delivering a message and was most likely acting as ADC. My Captain Sayles was caught behind the lines after leading troops into battle during the fight at Black and White's. He was originally offered a position as AAG to General Wilson, but Wilson couldn't spare him from the fight due to troop numbers. Prior to this his uncle, General Lewis Addison Grant, had wanted him to transfer to become AAG under him in the VI Corps, Army of the Potomac. His greatest desire was to be part of the cavalry so he fulfilled that aim and his duty admirably.
 

Saphroneth

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#19
To turn the question around a bit, in the case of Lee's staff, it's what they didn't do (or didn't do effectively), as in properly writing and dispatching Lee's orders, effectively and timely communicating and obtaining instructions and intel to and from the field commands, and ensuring that reconnaissance was effectively organized and carried out.
This sounds like it was likely a case of sheer overwork, at least in part. Lee's staff was, as I've noted already, not big...
 

gary

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#20
Not every general would have had every one of the above staff officers. For example, a general commanding an infantry brigade might not need a Chief of Artillery, as an Infantry brigade might not have organic artillery.

This would especially be true if the brigade was part of a division and the division took care of some of the tasks usually assigned to a staff officer.

The use of staffs during the Civil War were still in development and some generals prefered small staffs.

I have been forced to study the development of military staffs and the development of US Army staffs several times. The subject is a bit dry. Probably 50 or 60 hours of time I will never get back.
Major Bill, say it ain't so.
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