#13 – Lt. John P. Hawkins

13 02 2008

Report of Lieut. John P. Hawkins, Acting Commissary of Subsistence, U.S. Army, of the subsistence of the Army from July 16 to 22

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 343-344

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 2, 1861

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report on the part performed by myself in connection with the commissary department subsisting the Army recently in the field under Brigadier-General McDowell:

On the evening of the 17th July I procured from Captain Symonds, commissary of subsistence at Alexandria, Va., a lot of provisions equal in bulk to fifty-six wagon loads, being in the principal parts of the ration equal to 64,700 rations, and in coffee and sugar a little over 70,000 rations. After some delay in getting the train started, occasioned by refractory teamsters, I at last got under way, and proceeded to join the main body of the Army at Fairfax Court-House, which I reached by 7 o’clock next morning, having traveled all night. Shortly after my arrival there the Army commenced the move towards Centreville, and its progress was so slow that the train was delayed there till evening before trying to make any move towards accompanying the troops. At this place Captain Clarke, C. S., relieved me from the charge of all the train excepting fourteen wagons with assorted loads, and with these, at about 4 p.m., I proceeded towards Centreville, via the Braddock road. The troops of my division (Fifth) were reached about 9 p.m., and as there was an immediate necessity for the distribution of the rations, they were divided out as rapidly as possible, without waiting for provision returns or any formal papers, beyond a return of the troops of the different organizations of the division, in order to give out to each its pro rata share of the whole amount. The troops marched on the 16th from the Potomac, carrying three days’ rations in their haversacks. The rations issued by me from my stores were for about two days and a half, commencing on the 19th. Subsequently, Lieutenant Curtis, of the Commissary Department, turned over to me additional stores sufficient to make a three days’ supply for the division, ending on the evening of the 21st.

In addition to the supplies in wagons, I took charge of, from Alexandria, ninety head of beef cattle, at estimated weight equal to 48,600 rations (deducting fifty per cent. gross). A portion of these was turned over to me for distribution to the Fifth Division and to Colonel Willcox’s brigade. On the evening of the 19th, by direction of Captain Clarke, C. S., I started on my return to Alexandria, with twenty-five wagons, to procure more supplies. I reached there on the morning of the 20th, but by reason of vexatious delays was unable to get the train loaded and on the way before 2 o’clock the next day, when I started with it to join the Army, and would have been able to have done so by 12 o’clock that night, but was ordered to return when within three miles of Centreville. The wagons all reached Alexandria safely on the morning of the 22d.

I have mentioned in my report that the troops started on the march with three days’ rations in their haversacks, but from that amount are to be deducted the coffee, sugar, beans, and rice, for the reason that, no transportation being allowed, the camp-kettles and mess-pans were not taken along. (I speak only of the Fifth Division, which obeyed the order literally.) So there were no means for the proper preparation of these parts of the ration, and they were in reality of but little account to the soldiers. In future marches without transportation, I would respectfully recommend that the bread and meat rations be increased, or that the order for the march should prescribe a certain number of camp-kettles to be carried by hand by each company, sufficient to make coffee and soup in.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


First Lieutenant, Second Infantry, A. C. S.

Capt. H. F. CLARKE,

Commissary of Subsistence, Washington, D. C.



One response

14 02 2008
Food, Glorious Food « Bull Runnings

[…] acting commissaries of subsistence in McDowell’s army.  Check out a juicy tidbit at the end of Hawkins’s report, which gives some insight into why the three days rations with which the troops left camp didn’t […]


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