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Keeping Track of Oats, Pencils, and Hammers in the Union Army
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[22nd MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEER INFANTRY]. Partially Printed Document Signed by William H. Steele as acting regimental quartermaster. Monthly Return of Quartermaster’s Stores. City Point, Virginia, September 30, 1864. 8 pp.

Inventory #21264.10       Price: $75


I certify, on honor, that the foregoing Return exhibits a true and correct statement of all the Property which has come into my hands, on account of the Quartermaster’s Department, during the month ending on the 30th of September, 1864. W. H. Steele.

Historical Background

Keeping track of the property of massive armies in distant locations was a challenge for the Union in the American Civil War. To record the whereabouts of millions of men, animals, weapons, ammunition, equipment, food, clothing, shelters, and other supplies, the quartermaster’s department created a regimental reporting system. These and other efforts dramatically expanded both the military and civilian bureaucracy, centered at Washington, D.C.

This monthly return for the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, assembled and signed by 1st lieutenant William H. Steele, illustrates the army’s and government’s attempt to keep track of fuel, forage, stationery, furniture, means of transportation, veterinary medicine, tools, and other materials.

During September 1864, the regiment used 4,200 pounds of oats and 3,000 pounds of hay, likely the regiment’s 2 horses and perhaps for some supply animals. It also used 8 pieces of letter paper, 2 of note paper, 100 letter envelopes, 25 official envelopes, 1 bottle of ink, 38 steel pens, 1 eraser, 10 pieces of office tape, 1 inkstand, 5 pen holders, and 2 lead pencils. The return also accounts for an assortment of carpenter’s tools still with the regiment.

William H. Steele (1843-1913) was born in Massachusetts and was a clerk in Haverhill, when he enlisted. After serving for three months as a private in Company D of the 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, he enlisted in Company H of the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as a sergeant in September 1861. Promoted to 2nd lieutenant in December 1862, he was again promoted to 1st lieutenant in May 1863. He was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864 and mustered out on October 17, 1864, just a few weeks after filing this report. It appears that he later enlisted in Company D of the 7th U.S. Veteran Volunteer Infantry, organized in the spring of 1865, with duty at Washington, D.C, the Shenandoah Valley, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until July 1866. After the war, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. He died in a hotel room in Indianapolis, where he had lived for sixteen years.

22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was organized in September 1861 for a term of three years. It arrived in Washington in October 1861 and participated in the Peninsular Campaign from March to July 1862. At the Battle of Gaines’ Mill in June 1862, the regiment lost its colonel and 70 others killed, 86 wounded, and 177 captured. Less than a week later, the regiment lost 9 killed, 41 wounded, and eight prisoners at the Battle of Malvern Hill. Held in reserve at the Battle of Antietam, the 22nd Massachusetts saw no action, but it participated fully in the Battle of Fredericksburg with roughly 28 percent casualties. At Gettysburg, the much depleted regiment lost 60 percent of its remaining forces. Reinforced by 200 draftees in the fall of 1863, the 22nd Massachusetts wintered near Brandy Station, Virginia. In the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, the regiment lost 15 killed and 36 wounded, including Steele. It again was heavily involved in the Battle of Spotsylvania a few days later and lost more of their small number in the Battle of Cold Harbor the following month. From June to August, 1864, the 22nd Massachusetts participated in the siege of Petersburg, before being pulled from the trenches on August 8 for guard duty at City Point, from which this report was filed. They remained there until October 3, 1864, when they were allowed to re-enlist in the 32nd Massachusetts or returned to Boston by railroad for mustering out. Of 1,100 who initially enlisted, only 125 returned at the end of three years’ service.

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