If you have followed my blog for any length of time you know of my Civil War reenactment and interest. My reenacting took place in a Confederate Artillery unit. On the field there were of course the infantry and mostly dismounted Calvary units. But on the actual Fields of battle in the real war there were many more men engaged in the important behind the lines endeavors that are seldom mentioned. Supply was a very necessary and unglamorous duty. Food had to be provided and ammunition did not magically appear in the men’s ammo pouches. Cannons had to be supplied, medical equipment and medicine delivered.
For the first time in the history of warfare the railroad played a important part. However the track only ran from place to place and battles were fought many miles away. Therefore the supply corps was a very necessary element of both armies. Can you imagine the size of the supply dept? Horses for example, need fodder in the form of hay and grain. Officers horses, Calvary horses, artillery horses, ambulance and horses of every kind had to be feed. Now I suppose most people think these animals could forge in fields and roadsides. No so, it would be impossible to feed that many animals off the land. This fodder had to be hauled from the northern farms and fields. hundreds of miles to the front lines. It took countless wagons to just supply this one important commodity. Then consider this the animals hauling this grain and fodder also need to be fed.
The southern armies were not so fortunate as the union they had not the supply base and equipment.The best they could hope for was to intercept what union supplies they could. It was often said the best supply corps for the Confederacy was the union army. Many Confederate Calvary units were devoted to raiding the union supply lines. Nathan Bedford Forest and John Mosby were particularly adept at this type of raiding. The rail lines were targets of choice as their routes were limited to the tracks. Many troops were diverted from combat to guard duty along the lines and wagon routes.
My wife has a friend whose husband has some of his family history in which his great great grandfather was wounded while delivering hardtack. Hardtack is a particularly unappetizing cracker made of unleavened flour and water which was a staple of combat troops. Often times weevils infested the crackers which the men hailed as extra protein. For the north air-tights (canned goods) were often available.
What I wanted to call attention to here is the fact that for every man in combat there were up to five more behind the lines supporting him. There were engineers, medical personal, supply and repairmen of all types. There were telegraph linemen and operators, signal men, map makers, and even balloon conservationist.
During my reenactment days at Fort Taejon Ca. on the Confederate side of the field we had a field hospital. They put up a field hospital with a couple of operating tables. Between battles demonstrations were given with narratives. The people who set up the display were nurses and EMT’s from Bakersfield. On one occasion they ran a wounded solider in on a stretcher and transferred him onto the table in the process of placing him on the table in the bustle and confusion of activity he dropped his leg through a hole in the table at the knee while a nurse straightened out his leg slipped a artificial leg in to place. In the hustle of activity it was announced they had to amputate. Husky guys restrained his torso while the Dr. and nurses cleaned and cut and sawed away. the poor soul gave a convincing preform-ace while blood was spurting from a rubber tube and palm pump. When they would snatch the leg off the table and throw it aside while fighting to control the bleeding women in the crowd would be almost fainting. It was very real looking they also did the same thing with a chest wound with a rubber chest piece that spurted blood. the nurses would be all bloody after the show it was really a eye opener as to how barbaric surgery was in those days.
This type of unsung hero has served in every war through out history. A army simply cannot live off the land theire always has to be source of supply from somewhere. So hats off to the grunts who keep the fighting men going.
Marching off somewhere near on sore feet, ramblingbob