“‘Til The Paper Work Is Done” – Civil War Times Illustrated; 1993

Posted on Monday, November 15th, 2010

Recruiting, training and feeding millions of soldiers provided a few minor obstacles for the Federal bureaucracy. Keeping track of them all proved the real challenge.

The adage, “The work is never fin­ished “til the paper work is done,” has been around a long time. This statement is certainly true for the record keepers of the American Civil War. The Civil War has often been referred to as the first “modern’ war. One of the attributes of a modern war must certainly be the generation and processing of tremendous amounts of data, and the Civil War was the first American war in which considerable at­tention was given to that endeavor.

Large numbers of small publishing firms saw profits grow due to the print­ing of hundreds of different military business forms. It is estimated that over 200 million official forms were created in order to keep track of the personnel of the Federal army alone. The avalanche of paper requirements dwarfed the combined totals of all America’s earlier wars. Files on an indi­vidual enlisted soldier were often kept by his company, his regiment, his divi­sion, his brigade, his county, and his state. These files were then duplicated for the Federal archivists. If the volun­teer was promoted to officer status then even more records were kept on him. This was indeed the first war of the in­formation age.

A Union soldier’s paper trail began the moment he responded to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers. The patriotic civilian left his daily pur­suits and rushed to his local communi­ty’s recruiting office. Here, the prospec­tive recruit was interviewed by promi­nent citizens who were raising compa­nies. But the Union army was not prepared for the tremendous response to Lincoln’s call for volunteers. There were insufficient numbers of uniforms, accoutrements, shoes, rifles, tents, cooking equipment, and record-keeping form.

A volunteer enlistment form was quickly created and mass produced in incredible numbers. There wasn’t time to make enlistment forms which were specific even to the state from which the recruit came. These quickly made forms merely left blanks so the recruit­ing officers could fill in what state the civilian came from. The enlistment pa­pers were not concerned with much more than obtaining the man’s name, age, occupation, birthplace, and his sig­nature.

The example of the VOLUNTEER ENLISTMENT, illustrated here, is for Minor Berry, a young man who lived in the rural areas surrounding Indianapo­lis, Indiana. Private Berry enlisted into the Marion County Invincibles. The Invincibles had been organized by a wealthy Indianapolis tombstone maker, 36-year-old Valentine Jacobs. The company was soon to be designated as Company D of the 19th Indiana Volun­teer Infantry Regiment. Berry was re­cruited, along with six other enlistees, and added to Jacobs’ company. He served with the 19th Indiana and was crippled, while in action, in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 5, 1864.

An important form which was sup­posed to have been filled out at the time of enlistment was the FORM FOR EX­AMINING A RECRUIT. In the initial surge of response to put down the rebel­lion, most recruiters neglected to com­plete the medical examination and thousands of totally unfit men, as well as many adventurous women, were tak­en into the ranks of the Federal army. Once the winter of 1861-1862 slowed down the call for immediate victory, and experience showed than unfit vol­unteers were a detriment to the military, time was given to the important detail of medical examinations.

The FORM FOR EXAMINING A RECRUIT had only nine major ques­tions, and did not require a doctor. All the answers could be written down ei­ther by accepting the recruits’ truthful answers or by a brief physical examina­tion. The examiner counted fingers and teeth, thumped chests, and then signed his name completing the form, and the recruit was on his way. The questions are general and most are documentable. Some questions are quite vague. The second part of number six, for example, asks, “…have you ever had the ‘horrors’?…”

One example was a form filled out for Napoleon Chamberlain, a 28-year-old man who was employed as a pump-maker in Indianapolis. He joined Com­pany D of the 19th Indiana in February 1862. Private Chamberlain was taught the School of the Soldier and then sur­vived the regiment’s horrible slaughter at Brawner Farm, Virginia, on August 28, 1862. He participated in the regi­ment’s fighting at Antietam, and was killed not far from the Dunker Church.

Once the recruits were marched to their camps and subjected to the rigors of the military life, ate a steady diet of salt pork, and practiced poor hygiene, disease struck with savage force. Most regiments, both North and South, lost to disease anywhere from a quarter to over half of their numbers. The losses for the 19th Indiana were typical. The regiment, which started with about 1,000 soldiers on July 29, 1861, had been reduced to 750 men by January 1862.

The form that recorded such sad loss­es was the RECORD OF DEATH AND INTERMENT. This form noted the death and the burial of soldiers who had been sent north to various hospitals. The details included on this record were kept so relatives could retrieve the re­mains of loved ones. The questions are starkly brief and the answers simple and harsh.

One example was a RECORD OF DEATH   AND   INTERMENT   form filled out for Clark Horniday. Clark was a young man who stated he was eigh­teen when he enlisted in Captain Ja­cobs’ Company D in July 1861. A farm boy from Iowa, he had worked as a farm laborer in Hendricks County, just west of Indianapolis. Private Horniday did not adjust to military conditions and was relieved of duty and sent to the ‘ Ambulance Corps in July 1862. But the private’s health continued to fail and he was transferred to a hospital in Washington, DC. His condition worsened ; and he died in February 1863 of chron­ic diarrhea. The dead man’s father, William Horniday, traveled from Iowa, recovered his son, and sadly took the remains home for burial.

Many soldiers found the best way of coping with the bad food, the poor liv­ing conditions, the rigors of inclement weather, the tyranny of officers, and the terrors of combat was to desert. The military created forms to record this problem. The DESCRIPTIVE LIST OF DESERTERS is one example. This form provided authorities with a means to hunt and identify offenders. As the war progressed and the need increased for enlisted men, especially those who already had training and experience, the provost marshals’ search for deserters became increasingly important.

The example below describes John Fletcher, a 30-year-old soldier of medi­um stature, five foot nine inches tall, with blue eyes and blond hair, of light complexion. John Fletcher joined Ja­cobs’ company in July, 1861. He was born in Ohio but moved to Indianapo­lis, where he lived and was employed as a butcher in a slaughter house. Pri­vate Fletcher was wounded in a skir­mish along the Rappahannock River on August 21, 1862. He was injured by a bullet which struck the calf of his left leg. Fortunately, there was no serious damage and he convalesced in a hospi­tal in Washington, DC. While lying among the other wounded, Private Fletcher decided to desert. The DE­SCRIPTIVE LIST OF DESERTERS was filled out on Fletcher and the Provost Marshals went after him. He was found in January, 1864, and re­turned to the 19th Indiana two months later. He was severely wounded on May 5, 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness. He was sent to a hospital with gunshot wounds in the abdomen and left knee. He was discharged from the service in September, 1864.

The Federal soldiers who went into combat were faced with not only the in­credible terror of being killed or maimed, but also with the horror of be­ing captured and sent to prisons such as Libby Prison or Andersonville. When this occurred, the Federal record keepers dutifully noted it and charted the un­fortunate soldier’s situation with the MEMORANDUM FROM PRISONER OF WAR RECORDS. (See page 80.)

Gillet Darragh, a twenty-one year old boatman born in Dearborn, Indiana, joined Captain Jacobs’ company in July 1861. Private Darragh fought in the bat­tle of Brawner Farm on August 28, 1862, and was captured in the confu­sion when the 19th Indiana was ordered to fall back. Darragh was soon paroled by the Confederates and returned to his company. Two years later, still a pri­vate, he went into the battle of the Wilderness and was captured once again, near Bethesda, on June 6, 1864. But the war had changed. He was not to be exchanged. Instead he was sent to Andersonville Prison, where he en­dured seven months of hardship before being released in February 1865.

The results of combat were simply brutal. The chances of being killed or wounded were exceedingly high. The 19th Indiana suffered 199 killed and a total of 513 wounded out of 1,246 volunteers. Captain Jacobs’ Company D, which mustered 100 volunteers on July 29, 1861, had just nine survivors left in August 1864. Records were kept of each wounded soldier once he was sent to a hospital. One of the forms used was the MEDICAL DESCRIPTIVE LIST. This form detailed the patient’s injuries, his treatments, and the extent of his recovery. The MEDICAL DESCRIPTIVE LIST was filled out by a medical officer or nurse-orderly and was completed, showing the amounts of medicines provided and the evolving condition of the patient.

One example was the MEDICAL DESCRIPTIVE LIST form of John Gattenby, of Company D, 19th Indiana. Gattenby, a 27-year-old day laborer in Indianapolis, joined the regiment in July IS61. He survived the regiment’s battles at Brawner Farm, South Moun­tain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Fitzhugh’s Crossing. At the Battle of Gettysburg on July I. 1863, he was .struck by a Minnie bullet while in the act of aiming his rifle. The bullet hit his left arm, passed through it and then lodged in his chest. The slug was removed while he was in one of the nearly 160 field hospitals established after that devastating battle. Gattenby remained at a Held hospital for over a week before being transported to the General Hospital at West Philadelphia.

Medical services in 1863 had im­proved substantially since the start of the war, but they were still terribly primitive. As the MEDICAL DE­SCRIPTIVE LIST indicates, very little was actually done for Gattenby during his stay in West Philadelphia. He was provided with a clean environment and given doses of magnesium sulfate, a medicine which is still used today to fight constipation. His dressings were changed and his wound washed and kept clean. The rest of the recovery was up to him.

Private Gattenby returned to Compa­ny D and was promoted to corpo­ral just before the slaughter in the Wilderness. He survived Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant’s 1864 summer campaign. When the 19th Indiana was mustered out in August 1864, he was transferred to the re-organized 20th In­diana. Gattenby served with that regiment un­til it was mustered out in July 1865.

Soldiers who were seriously wound­ed were kept in the hospital only long enough to stabilize them for travel. The broken men were then discharged and sent home. The CERTIFICATE OF DISABILITY FOR DISCHARGE was filed out, describing the soldier’s wounds, his condition, and his release from the military. The CERTIFICATE OF DISABILITY FOR DISCHARGE was a standard form of the military and versions of it had been available even before the Civil War had begun. This form was completed in duplicate, as the military needed a separate set of docu­ments for pension applications.

One example illustrates the discharge of Private Jacob Andriek. The 18-year-old farmer joined Company D, 19th In­diana Regiment in July 1861. He was a Dutch immigrant who worked a small farm just outside Indianapolis. He was married and had two children. Private Andriek went into battle at Brawner Farm and was wounded in the back, in­juring his spine. He was placed in a hospital but did not recover. Andriek was discharged in March 1863.

Thousands of soldiers survived the problems of bad food and poor living conditions only to be killed in combat. For these men papers were completed, routinely noting the final events of their lives. One of the death certificates which were used in large numbers didn’t even have a formal name. The docu­ment just began with the words. “…I certify, on honor, that (blank — fill in the deceased’s name)…” The summer 1864 campaign in Virginia resulted in the completion of thousands of these title-less forms. A man’s final hours and death were noted on a page which also carried information about his last payday and any bills he owed the gov­ernment. Any sentences which didn’t apply were simply marked out.

The death of James Van Tooth is doc­umented by one of these forms. Van Tooth joined Captain Jacob’s company in July 1861. He was a 27-year-old brick maker who lived in Danville, In­diana, just west of Indianapolis. When he went off to war he left his younger brother to mind the brick molding busi­ness. The private survived Brawner Farm and South Mountain, only to be wounded at Antietam on September 17, 1862. He recovered, returned to the company, and was promoted to corporal in March 1863. He survived the reg­iment’s destruction at Gettysburg, when two-thirds of the I9th Indiana became casualties. Following Gettys­burg, he was promoted to sergeant. On June 1, 1864 Van Tooth was killed by artillery fire not far from Bethesda Church, in the Battle of Cold Harbor. Virginia. His death certificate was filled out by Cap­tain David Holloway.

Holloway’s signature appears on many of the regiment’s forms. He had enlisted in 1861 as a private, been promoted to officer status, commanded Company D, 19th Indiana, and then was severely wounded in the hips and legs at Gettysburg. After Gettysburg he did much of the regiment’s paper work.

After a regiment had served out its enlistment, and if its men did not vote to return to the field as veterans, its soldiers were mustered out of the military. This was a joyous occasion for the surviving veterans. The men could honorably go home, leaving behind the horrors of com­bat, the countless meals of poorly cooked rations, the nights spent in the mud and snow, and the marches in the heat and dust. The MILITARY DISCHARGE pa­pers were priceless articles. They repre­sented freedom from death and disea.se.

There also were documents of status which helped a veteran get a job.

The story of Private William Vanhoose, a soldier of the 45th Kentucky Infantry Regiment, was traced through one of these forms. This one-year regi­ment was stationed in eastern Kentucky and spent most of its tour of duty along the West Virginia, Virginia, and Ken­tucky borders. It was involved in light action during the summer and winter of 1864. The 45th Kentucky lost ten men, killed in action, and ninety who died of disease.

William Vanhoose enlisted in Octo­ber 1863. He was an under-age farm boy from Ashland, Kentucky, who con­vinced the regiment’s recruiter that he was of age. He was promoted to first sergeant when his company was rav­aged by disease, injuries, and deser­tions. After the war, Vanhoose lost his original copy of the MILITARY DIS­CHARGE and his family received a du­plicate in 1917.

These are but a few of the countless forms used by record keepers during the Civil War. Each battle, whether it or a major one such as Gettysburg, produced results which had to be recorded. The Civil War’s incredible casualties have dulled our senses to the tragedies each report represented. More than 50,000 men became casual­ties at Gettysburg in just three days. Each one of those 50,000 individuals had family, friends, loved ones, a job, property, goals, hopes, and plans for the future — and almost all those loss­es were noted in some way on a form somewhere.

The Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was quoted as saying. “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths are but a statis­tic.” The Civil War produced close to a million deaths and serious injuries. The losses are so horrifying we cannot relate to them, and the 200 million pieces of paper­work only add to the incomprehensibility of all the individual disasters that oc­curred. It is only when we scrutinize the individual records of enlisted soldiers, brave and stout Americans, both North and South that we begin to see more.

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One Response to
““‘Til The Paper Work Is Done” – Civil War Times Illustrated; 1993”

  • Glen Gattenby says: July 3rd, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Your research sheds new light on one of my ancetors John Gattenby who was the brother of James Gattenby who is my direct ancestor who served in the 7th Indiana Infantry.

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