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Friday, May 6, 2016

Necessity of War

Saturday, October 18, 2008

One might think that by its title, this column is going to be about weapons or soldiers in the Civil War. However, that conclusion would be wrong.

One of the many military sayings, the origin of which has been lost in the pages of the past, that was valid in the Civil War and for any war, even today, is that "An army marches on its stomach!" In other words a key ingredient to the success of any army is the fact that it must be supplied with food or rations for the troops.

In October of 1864, Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis had an efficient supply system that consisted of very good commissary, subsistence and quartermaster departments that supplied the troops with the necessities to wage war. Most of these troops were "volunteer regiments" and a few units of the Regular United States Army.

However, when Governor Carney activated all of the militia to assist in defending Kansas from the Confederate invasion of General Price's Army of Missouri the demand for rations often exceeded the supply or means to transport them to the militia troops.

The following documents describe this difficulty and are located on Pages 94-96 in Series I, Vol. 41, Part IV Correspondence of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Hdqrs. 3rd Brigade, 1st Div., Army of the Border,

Near the Blue (River), Oct. 18, 1864.

Major Gen. S. R. Curtis,

Commanding Department of Kansas;

General: I send Captain Clark and my quartermaster, lieutenant Leland, with some wagons to Kansas City for subsistence and stores, which are very much needed in my command, most of my men being without overcoats or blankets and having but a limited supply of cooking utensils.

I trust you will give directions that they be supplied with everything that is absolutely necessary.

I am sorry to have to report to you that on my march from Westport and since I have been in camp here the militia have passed to the number of several hundred returning to Kansas and apparently men who have been armed by the government with splendid carbines and revolvers. This is a burning shame and an outrage upon the government, both state and national. I sincerely trust that some steps may be taken to stop this defection from the ranks, else our army will melt away like snow in midsummer. I deemed it my duty to call your attention to this fact which has, perhaps, not been reported to you.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, you obedient servant.

Charles W. Blair

Colonel Commanding."

"Camp Charlot, October 18, 1864.

Captain Ruggles:

Send 10,000 rations as quickly as possible to General Deitzler at Independence, (Mo.). Turn them over to Colonel Ford's Quartermaster at that place.

By command of Major General Curtis:

C. S. Charlot,

Major and Assistant Adjutant General."

"Headquarters Army of the Border,

Camp Charlot, Oct.18, 1864.

Major General Deitzler,


You must see to having your commissaries attend to provisions (rations).

That is always the first thing I urge on my officers, knowing it is to often delayed. The post commissaries at Leavenworth and Kansas City are trying to fill requisitions, but they must be greatly embarrassed. Local commissaries must pick up provisions by the way. I am told your troops at Shawnee had no coffee. Surely some regimental or division quartermaster must be at fault. I have news of the rebels taking Harding's little force at Glasgow on the 15th. I hope telegraphic lines are open and operators ready to communicate between us.

S. R. Curtis,

Major General."

"Camp Charlot, Oct.18, 1864.

General Deitzler,

I have ordered 10,000 rations to be sent as soon as possible to Ford's assistant quartermaster; also ordered Blair's forces to move forward to reinforce you. Have sent telegraph dispatch, which (I) trust has reached you. Am very anxious to hear from Smith's scout. Give me every item of news.

S. R. Curtis,

Major General."

"Independence, Oct.18, 1864.

Major General Curtis:

Dispatch received. Colonel Ford will send for supplies today. No news from the front. Major Smith not returned, Colonel Ford has sent scouts out on the Warrensburg, Lone Jack and Lexington Roads. If Price is coming this way as indicated in your dispatches yesterday we ought to feel him within twenty-four hours.

George W. Deitzler,

Major General Kansas State Militia."

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches