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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 265: A variety of jobs

Friday, May 20, 2011

Very often during the Civil War and, for that matter in any branch of any military service today, an individual could find him or herself today doing things that they did not enlist to do or were not trained to do (some things never change)!

Such was the case of some of the soldiers and officers of Company E of the 12th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment when they were stationed at Fort Scott from April to August in 1863.

They were infantry soldiers who found themselves constructing fortifications, being trained as artillerymen who loaded and fired cannons and witnessing an execution. Some officers were ordered to price things in a general store, and one soldier was assigned as a baker.

All of the following orders are located in the Co. E Order Book, the original of which is in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Copies are located in the research collection of Fort Scott National Historic Site.

"Headquarters, Fort Scott, Kansas

April 6, 1863.

Special Order No. 6, "Extract":

V. Co. E, 12th Regt. Kans. Vols.: Capt. Steele Commanding will take charge of the three siege guns (cannon) now in the possession of the Ordnance Officer at this Post, have the same placed in Bastion No. 3, (Lunette Henning), under the supervision of Capt. Hoelcke, Topographical Engineer in charge of the Fortifications.

VI. Capt. Steele will make himself thoroughly acquainted with all the approaches to his works (fortifications), the distance to each, the distance to each prominence to his works, to each prominent point commanded by his guns, the nature of the ground between them and his post and the most probable roads and points of attack on same. (Note: Now Capt. Steele was becoming an artillery officer probably with no extra pay!)

He will have frequent artillery drills until his men are well instructed and have never less than one artillery drill each day when the weather permits. His attention is directed to Gen. Order No. 45 Adj. Gen. Office, Washington, D.C., dated Feb. 16, 1863, the requirements of which he will ridgidly enforce obediently.

By Order of, C. W. Blair, Major 2nd K. V.

Commanding Post."

The work of constructing the fortifications and the artillery training was interrupted on May 9, 1863, when the entire garrison at Fort Scott was required to "witness punishment" and the execution of a "Union" deserter.

"Headquarters, Ft. Scott, Kans.

May 9, 1863

Orders No. 1, "Extract"

In obedience to the Gen. Order No. 13 dated Hdqrs. District of Kansas, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, May 1, 1863, promulgating (to make known) the sentence of a General Court Martial assembled at Fort Scott, Kansas, March 11, 1863, in pursuance of Special orders No. 45 from Headquarters. (Pvt.) John Summers, Co. E, 2nd Ks. Vol. Cav. Regt., will be publicly shot to death in the open space south of Fort Scott and east of the Military Road on the 13th Day on May inst. between the hours of ten o'clock a.m. and twelve o'clock noon of said day.

At half past ten o'clock of said day, the troops comprising the Garrison of this Post will be formed in full dress (uniform) and under arms on the Parade Ground of the 12th Kans. Vols. Under the direction of the senior officers present and march to the place of execution preceded by the guard and the criminal.

The execution of the foregoing order will superintended by the Officer of the Day.

The Assistant Quartermaster will make the necessary preparations for the internment of the remains.

By Order of,

Major Chas. W. Blair

Commanding Post"

Pvt. Summers was executed by a firing squad on May 13, 1863. The quartermaster department supplied the coffin and the remains of said private were buried in the prisoner's plot in the Fort Scott National Cemetery.

After witnessing the execution of Pvt. Summers, Capt. Steele and the men of Company E were ordered to return to their fatigue duty (work detail) of constructing fortifications which is described as follows:

"Headquarters, Fort Scott, Kans.

June 19. 1863

Special Order No. 7 "Extract"

XX. Capt. J. M. Steele, Co. E, 12th Kans. Vol. Inf. is hereby appointed to take charge of the fortifications in and around this post. Relieving Capt. Charles H. Haynes in charge of same and receipting to him for whatever property he has in his charge belonging thereto.

Capt. Steele will complete Lunette Blair (in the vicinity of the present post office on National Ave.) and the rifle pits as expeditiously as possible. Sergeant Chapman and corporals Greely and Shull of Blair's 2nd Kansas Battery are detailed on said fortifications and will report to Capt. Steele for orders.

By Order of

Charles W. Blair

Major, 2nd Kans. Vol.

Commanding Post"

On August 2, 1863, a council of administration consisting of three officers was established to set the price's and profit that the owner of the Post Sutler's Store could sell his merchandise for.

A Sutler's Store was like a "General Store" that was operated by a civilian who was licensed by the Army to sell sundry items to the troops.

The location of the Civil War sutler's store is unknown today, however, it was probably located in a building on or near Fort Scott National Historic Site.

"Headquarters Fort Scott, Kansas

August 2, 1863.

Special Order No. 9 "Extract"

A Council of Administration to consist of Captain Clark McKay, Co. F, 12th K.V. I, J. M. Steele, Co. E, 12th K. V. I and George W. Umberger, Co. B, 12th K.V. I; will assemble at the Post Sutlers Store at this Post on the 13th day of August 1863 at 2 o'clock p.m. for the purpose of fixing the tariff (prices) on the goods and assigning and assessing the tax on the Post Sutler, transacting such business as may be properly brought before it. The board will be governed in its action by Paragraph 195, 196 & 198 of the Revised Regulations.

By Order of Major Blair,

Jay Thompson

Capt. 3rd Wis. Cav. Regt.

Actg. Post Adjutant."

Very often, when in garrison, an individual soldier was assigned to fill a specific job. Here a soldier is assigned to the "post bakery" at Fort Scott.

Knowing how to "bake" was not necessarily a requirement. If the soldier didn't know how to bake bread, he was trained to do so on the job.

"Headquarters Ft. Scott, Kansas

August 25, 1863.

Special Order No. 9 Extract

The Commanding Officer of the Battalion of the 12th Kan. Vol. will direct (Pvt.) James W. Silvey of Co. E. of said battalion to report forthwith to Captain Herner, Commissary of Subsistence, for duty in the post bakery.

By Order of

Chas. W. Blair,

Major, Commanding Post"

It is not known how long Pvt. Silvey remained on duty at the post bakery because in September of 1863 Co. E of the 12th Kan. Vol. left Fort Scott as part of an expedition into "The Land of Misery" as the soldiers called Missouri and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches