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ACW - Baggage Trains How Long Would Supplies Last

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ACW - Baggage Trains How Long Would Supplies Last Empty ACW - Baggage Trains How Long Would Supplies Last

Post  henridecat on Mon Jan 19, 2009 11:51 am

Copy of a topic ported from the Yahoo group.


Any thoughts on how long a force cut off from their lines of
communication would last just with what Ammo etc they had in the
baggage train?

I am guessing maybe a weeks worth?



Hi Mark

My guess is that whilst you could measure food & fodder in terms of days, ammo would need to be measured in how many hours of combat it could support.

I don't know the answer, but maybe a guide would be Gettysburg, where on the third day of battle, CSA Colonel Alexander's guns were very short of ammo to support Pickett's charge. Of course much of the Confederate army had only fought from the second day, so perhaps the army as a whole did not even carry 2 day's worth of ammo.

OTOH we are not told that the Union guns were short of ammo. But that army again had been arriving throughout the battle, and one might speculate they were better-supplied generally.

Based on all of that, I would hazard a guess that a force might carry between 1.5 and 2 days worth of artillery ammo. But that is really based on pretty slim evidence, and someone else might actually have some data. And was small arms ammo held in the same proportion? Don't know.


Thanks for the logical response.

I think in terms of KS two battles worth might be a fair approximate.

Unless anyone else has any info.

I posted it (the question) on TMP and I got a similar response.

Food is less of any issue with supplies as nicking stuff in the area
always goes down well with the local farmer (depending on time of year).

Ammo is the main consideration and that info from Gettysburg seems to
support the view...



Re: [Kriegsspiel] ACW - Baggage Trains How Long Would Supplies Last

The best book covering the field logistics of the ACW (although it makes a hash of the tactics, following McWhinney etc. rather than Griffith, Nosworthy and Hess) is Hagerman.


For the Army of the Potomac, two different systems operated, that of a depot at a railhead feeding in supplies, and a full flying column. The former was how the AoP's logistics were originally organised, and it was problematic. The ca. 5,000 wagons McClellan had on the Peninsula should have allowed him to supply his 30-40,000 effective infantry* 6 days from depot, but due to shortages in manpower it was only 3 days, and the rate of wagon movement meant he was extended to the very extremes of his supply lines when the seven days hit. Again, at Antietam the poor state of the horse in the supply train (an outbreak of Foot and Mouth) meant McClellan couldn't pursue Lee without abandoning his supply lines.

McClellan moved towards a Flying Column system, which Burnside and Hooker inherited, allowing for some of their impressive movements (and indeed, Hagerman points out McClellan was in the middle of the boldest movement of the war when he was sacked). They had 6,000 wagons, 60,000 animals and carried 10 days subsistance. This allowed them to launch from one depot, operate and then rendevous with another. However, at Gettysburg, they laagered the wagons 25 miles to the rear and advanced with simply the ammunition reserve (thus ruling out any form of pursuit) and the men carrying 3 days food (which many ate immediately to save carrying it and went hungry the next few days).

As to how long a force can last, they carried enough for a single days combat with the force itself.

* The actual strength of McClellan's forces during the Peninsula campaign is usually exaggerated by ignoring his huge sick list and the vast numbers of troops required to run his train. In fact he was only operating with ca 2,500 wagons out of his 5,000 present because he didn't have the manpower to run them (8 men per wagon, so 2,500 wagons required 20,000 of his 78,000 present). This meant he couldn't sustain his army more than 3 days from his depot at the the White House.

Bryn Monnery


Re: ACW - Baggage Trains How Long Would Supplies Last

Thanks for that, a great insight to the realities of war.

There have been good responses on the TMP site (ACW General Discussion).


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