Second Manassas – John Pope’s Ammunition expenditure

As I wrap up the series of posts concerning the cavalry in the Second Manassas Campaign, I plan to conclude with some odds and ends. Rather than clump the items all together I will break them down into several short posts by subject. This month I include several items regarding General Pope’s ammunition needs during the critical last days of the campaign.

On August 24, the officer commanding the depot at Alexandria, told one of Pope’s ordnance officers, then at Bealton, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, that he expected “60 tons of ammunition…to arrive here from the arsenal which will be sent forward immediately by rail.” I have not located any follow-up messages regarding the projected shipment or exactly when the shipment reached the army.

Three other messages regarding specific ammunition needs or specific shipments, all dated August 30, appear in the Official Records or in the National Archives. Other less specific messages may also be found in the published records.

In one message, the officer at Alexandria tells General Daniel Rucker, in Washington, at 7:20p.m., “I am prepared to forward the 500 tons of ammunition to General Pope’s army.” This message is in the Official Records.

Then, in what I believe is an unpublished message, the same officer tells an ordnance officer at Pope’s headquarters, “Sent you [1465] boxes of ammunition.” The actual number is hard to discern in the telegram, but I suspect this message went out at the same time as the previous message.

Both messages appear to have been sent in response to an earlier message sent by an officer at Pope’s headquarters to Gen. James Ripley, head of the Ordnance Department in Washington. This message also appears in the Official Records, but the editors omitted a critical first sentence as well as an equally important addition at the end of the published request. As printed in the Official Records, one might suspect the requisition details ammunition expenditure through the end of the battle on August 30. When the missing sentence is added, we see the officer is delineating the ammunition expended by the army through the end of the day on August 29 – a significant difference.

“I sent by an officer last evening [August 29] a requisition for the following:

Two 3-inch guns, with carriages, caissons, &C., ammunition complete.

2 million cartridges cal. 58

2 million cartridges cal. 57

1 million cartridges cal. 69

500,000 cartridges cal. 71

300,000 cartridges cal. 54

500,000 cartridges Buck & Ball cal. 69

100,000 cartridges Sharps Rifle

50,000 cartridges Smith’s Carbine

50,000 cartridges Merrill’s Carbine

50,000 cartridges Joselyn Carbine

4000 assorted rounds 3” guns

2500 assorted rounds 10lb Parrots

1500 assorted rounds Light 12-pounder

400 assorted rounds 12-pounder howitzer

800 assorted rounds 12-pounder Wiard Gun

800 assorted rounds 6-pounder Wiard Gun

600 assorted rounds 6-pounder smoothbore

With cartridges, fuses, friction primers, percussion caps, & c., complete.”

The editors of the OR then omitted an amendment to the message, which reads:

“Please send forward at as early a moment as possible the above and the following in addition. Heintzelman and Porter’s Corps have come forward …” The rest of the sentence is largely unreadable, but I believe he says the two corps reached the army without sufficient ammunition and are thus in need of:

“700,000 cartridges cal. 58

700,000 cartridges cal. 57

300,000 cartridges cal. 54

600,000 cartridges cal. 69

250,000 Buck & Ball

50,000 Colt’s Pistol Navy

50,000 Colt’s Pistol Army

2000 rounds 3” gun

1000 rounds 10-pounder Parrott

1000 rounds Light 12-pounder

The above ammunition will give 100 rounds for 100,000 men and ammunition sufficient for 12 or 15 batteries.”

Using figures provided last month, the 500 tons of ammunition mentioned above, if shipped by wagon, would probably have required 500 wagons. One wagon and team covered about 20 yards, so 500 wagons stretched at least 10,000 yards or more than five and a half miles. Determining the number of train cars needed to haul the same shipment is a bit more problematic. Using a nice round number of ten tons per rail car, 500 tons required 50 cars, which might have required as many as five trains. Of course, by the end of the day on August 30, Pope’s ammunition had been further depleted and his needs had grown significantly.



Documents in the national Archives

The Official Records

One thought on “Second Manassas – John Pope’s Ammunition expenditure

  1. An army’s needs can be staggering, and these figures really put that huge demand into perspective! Great post–it really makes me appreciate the logistical aspect a lot more!


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