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Staff Officers

A General could not be everywhere at once; and he could not personally accomplish every task required of him, in managing his army, in time of Peace or War. Every General during the Civil War relied on men specifically assigned to his use to accomplish those tasks that required completion (and which the General did not have enough hours in the day to complete, on his own.) The men thus assigned, as a rule, were known as Staff Officers; and their directions and orders had the same force of Law as if issued, directly, by the General, himself.

As an example, the following lists the Staff Officers of U.S. Grant at Shiloh:

AAG                                           Capt. John Rawlins

Chief of Staff                           Col. J.D. Webster

Chief of Engineers                   LtCol J.B. McPherson

Asst Engineer                            Lt W. Jenney

Asst Engineer                            Lt William Kossak

Chief of Commissary               Capt J.P. Hawkins

AQM                                           Capt A.S. Baxter

Chief of Artillery (acting)        Col. J.D. Webster

Chief of Ordnance (acting)     Capt W.F. Brinck

Medical Director                      Surgeon Henry Hewitt

Asst Medical Director             Surgeon John Brinton (away at time of battle)

Aide-de-Camp                          Capt W.S. Hillyer

Aide-de-Camp                          Capt W.R. Rowley

Aide-de-Camp                          Lt Clark Lagow

VADC                                         Col. G.G. Pride

Signal Officer (acting)             Lt J.B. Ludwick (arrived 6 April 1862)


To be considered: because a Staff Officer acted directly as Agent for his General, his orders were “synonymous” with those issued by the General. A General would often, in after-battle reports, use the “Royal WE” (in this case – “ I “ -- ) when speaking of his actions taken during the battle, for example, “I ordered the ammunition to the front” (when a Staff Officer actually accomplished that task); or “I directed the Division to move forward” (when another Staff Officer rode to the commander of the division, and acted on the General’s behalf.) Also, when attempting to track down communications sent by the General, the identity of his Assistant Adjutant General (AAG) must be known in order to acquire the bulk of that material.

Of course, Staff Officers were not the only persons – working directly for the General – who accomplished tasks on the General’s behalf (but the following “support staff” did not have “signature authority” to issue orders on the General’s behalf):

Scout/ intelligence                              Irving Carson (also reporter for Chicago Tribune)

Telegraph operator(s)                         George A. Purdy (operated Savannah Office of Military Telegraph)

                                                                Wayne H. Parsons (arrived early April 6th from Tipton, Missouri to assist George Purdy)

                                                                Leander H. Parker (arrived early April 6th from Paducah Office to assist George Purdy)

Bodyguard/ orderly                             (unknown)

Clerk                                                      Theodore S. Bowers

Ordnance boat  Rocket                        Captain John Wolfe

Ordnance boat Iatan                            Captain William Edds

Volunteer nurse                                   Mother Mary Bickerdyke

Volunteer nurse                                   Mary Safford

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Interesting that the names of Grant's telegraph operator and Bodyguard/orderly are unknown for the Shiloh time period.  Many General's would have more than one orderly, however, so that various messages could be carried at various times.  Having said this, I imagine that if Thomas D. Holliday would not have been killed at Shiloh, that his service as Sherman's orderly would have been lost to history.  His name is, probably, only remembered because he was killed while serving as Sherman's orderly.  

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Pvt. James S. Matthews, Company C, 4th Illinois Cavalry (his rank at Shiloh was Private it appears).  Matthews served as orderly for Gen. John A. McClernand at Shiloh.

Residence Joliet IL; a 17 year-old Clerk.

Enlisted on 10/7/1861 at Camp Hunter, IL as a Private.

On 10/7/1861 he mustered into "C" Co. IL 4th Cavalry 
He was discharged for promotion on 10/31/1863

On 10/31/1863 he was commissioned into "A" Co. US CT 3rd Cavalry 
He was Mustered Out on 1/26/1866

* 2nd Lieut 10/31/1863 (As of Co. A 3rd USCT Cavalry)
* 1st Lieut 8/26/1865 

He was described at enlistment as:
5' 7", light complexion, brown eyes, brown hair

Other Information:
born in New Jersey

Sources used by Historical Data Systems, Inc.:

 - Illinois: Roster of Officers and Enlisted Men
 - Index to Compiled Military Service Records
 - Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force 1861-1865
 - Illinois State Archives @ http://www.ilsos.gov/isaveterans/civilmustersrch.jsp
(c) Historical Data Systems, Inc. @ www.civilwardata.com

James S. Mathews, Company C, 4th Illinois Cav, orderly for Gen. John A. McClernand at Shiloh.png

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First of all, thanks for tracking down the information on McClernand's orderly, James Matthews (the identity of Staff Officers and support members is important to fully understanding the actions and decisions taken by commanders at all battles.)

And, I believe your comment in regard to Sherman's orderly, Holliday, is well-stated; and I agree that Holliday would likely have been "lost to History," were it not for the unexpected tragedy that took place, Sunday morning, April 6th.

Captain W. S. Hillyer commented in his 11 April 1862 Letter that "General Grant sent his Staff "flying across the battlefield" shortly after arriving at Pittsburg Landing from Savannah on Sunday morning." Obviously, those Staff Officers were delivering orders from General Grant, allowing for multiple actions to occur simultaneously (or nearly simultaneously.) Hillyer, himself, was sent mid-afternoon by General Grant "with a fleet of steamers" to Savannah to bring up Crittenden's Division. And Grant sent no fewer than four Staff Officers and one support member (the support member, Cavalry officer Frank Bennett, sent twice) in an effort to bring up Lew Wallace from vicinity of Crumps Landing.

Knowledge of Staff Officer movements helps in understanding the General's decision-making and priorities.

All the best



The above links to many of the members of General Albert Sidney Johnston's Staff (those who accompanied his body to New Orleans.) More members of Johnston's Staff remain to be revealed.


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I think the soldiers serving in the position of orderly were the unsung heroes of the battle.  Most of us know, well, largely, Shiloh and it's terrain, where we are at, and how to get from point A to point B.  Put it this way, we have a better understanding of the battlefield than the Confederates did.  I can't imagine being sent, as an orderly, to go find "General so and so and give him this message and then return back to me".  Simply finding someone out in that large vast tract of battlefield acreage seems impossible alone, much less then finding ones way back.  I think the orderlies did a good job of it, to say the least.

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