Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/145
Reminiscences of Field Ordnance Service. 139
probably not been reached in the winter of i862-'3. Hence the consumption of ammunition in camp, and while the army was doing no serious fighting, appeared to be more than half the capacity of our arsenals to supply. This large waste of ammunition came from the want of care exercised in camp. Many soldiers thought of their cartridge-boxes only when about to go into battle. Little care was taken by many of them in camp to prevent their cartridges from get- ting wet; indeed cartridge-boxes were often cut up to mend shoes, and the question of ammunition left to be decided when an emer- gency for its use arose. In some regiments the good discipline of the Hne officers prevented or checked this waste, as it did the throw- ing away of bayonets, &c., but in a great number of cases the regi- mental discipline of officers not trained originally to war was loose in regard to these matters. To correct the evil, a system of reports was prepared, by which the exact condition of the ordnance in the hands of the men was obtained every two weeks, and the difference between the present and the preceding reports had to be accounted for, even down to every round of ammunition. Orders were issued from army headquarters providing for the inspections on which these reports were to be based, and also directing that all damage to am- munition, arms, and equipments, due to carelessness or neglect, should be charged against the men or officers who were to blame; the sum to be deducted on their next pay roll. In this way the sol- dier was held to a strict responsibility for the property in his pos- session. If he broke or threw away his bayonet, or cut up his cartridge-box, or fired away his ammunition when not in battle, or allowed it to spoil, he was made to pay for it, and so frequent and exact were the inspections that there was little room for escape from the penalty. It often seemed hard to charge such damages against the poor pittances which the private soldier received in depreciated currency, but in this as in many other cases the exigencies of the situation would not admit of the neglect or niild enforcement of this regulation. This system of reports, first adopted in the Army of Northern Virginia, was extended through the agency of General Gorgas to the other armies. The results were quite marked. The ammunition wasted or lost in the Second corps, Army of Northern Virginia, in the first three months of 1863, fell to five rounds per man, and subsequently became less. A great improvement was also made in regard to the care of equipments and bayonets.
The troops at this time were armed in a heterogeneous fashion. Many of the men had smooth bore muskets, calibre .69. Others had