Ledgers: Colorado Territory Civil War Volunteer Records

An Introduction to the Twelve Volumes of the Military Clothing Issue Ledgers of Colorado Volunteers – 1861-1865

What the Twelve Volumes are:

They are twelve ledgers of clothing issues to some of the Volunteer soldiers in the Territory of Colorado during the Civil War.  Eleven are large ledgers containing compiled lists of the individual records of some of the men (as well as other information) and one small “field” ledger (discussed later) of Company H of the First Regiment.

These twelve ledgers are among the oldest records found in the Colorado State Archives.  They are in very poor condition with both covers and pages in a state of complete deterioration.  Although kept in archival boxes, they should not be handled on a regular basis.

What the Twelve Volumes are not:

These twelve ledgers do not contain all the clothing issues for all the volunteers.  These are only the surviving ledgers.  At the time of the Civil War, there were possibly at least 30 of the smaller “field” ledgers (one for each company) and perhaps 20 or more of the larger ledgers which would have been necessary to contain the issues of all clothing and equipment for all the soldiers, their arms and their horses.  These ledgers contain no records of “issues” for officers’ clothing and equipment.

These ledgers do not contain the names of all the men who volunteered in Colorado.  A list of these names will be found on the muster rolls at the Colorado State Archives and on individual packets at the National Archives.

Missing from these Twelve Volumes are clothing issue records for:

The First Regiment, Companies F, L and M

The Second Regiment, Company D

The Third Regiment of Cavalry, 100-Day Service – 1864

The Denver City Home Guards, 6-Month Service – 1861-1862

Why Clothing Issue Records were necessary:

In the military, (whether it was in the Revolution, the Civil War or today) the soldier was often given (or charged against his allowance) his uniform when he enlisted.  From that point on during his term of duty, he was responsible for maintaining that uniform.  The Colorado Volunteer was given an allowance of $3.50 per month for his clothing.  Records were kept of items issued to him; the cost of these items was then charged against this allowance.  From time to time when he was paid, the balance was either added or subtracted from his pay.  Some soldiers since the beginning of time have tried to “buck” the system and get more than their share.  By using the allotment system and detailed accounting, the military attempted to discourage this practice.

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The Twelve Volumes of Military Issue Records were found in the Colorado State Archives in unmarked record books and contain the names of some of the soldiers who enlisted in the three regiments formed in Colorado Territory during the fall of 1861 and the spring/summer of 1862.  They were kept by different officers (usually with the rank of 1st Lieutenant-Adjutant) or their assistants in the different companies (usually the captain of the company); therefore, the record keeping resulted in a variety of accounts.

The First and Second Regiments had 12 companies each and the Third had 5.  The First Regiment was all infantry (some mounted, some on foot) until after the Battle of Glorieta when the First Regiment was made a cavalry unit.  The Second and Third Regiments were infantry (again some mounted, some on foot) until they reached Benton Barracks, Missouri, where they were combined into the Second Regiment Colorado Cavalry.  [See History.]

It appears that the issues (either clothing or equipment) were distributed from the stores of the quartermaster (either in the back of a wagon or a tent) and the information was recorded in what could be called a “field register,” a book small enough to fit into the saddlebag of the officer charged with “keeping the records” while on a march.  These field registers were then given to another officer who converted the “clothing” into a dollar amount and recorded it in the individual records of the soldier.  It appears that some of the pages from the field registers were simply torn from the book and given to be transcribed to individual accounts.  These smaller pages were found inserted into the pages of the larger ledgers.  If the clothing issues were distributed from a building, the records would be found in a larger ledger and these would later be transferred to the soldier’s individual account.

These records listed the men under various “regimental names”.  An individual record could also show up as a solitary name (i.e.: 1st Regiment Colorado Volunteers Co. D, Vol. 3 p. 658) and such is listed with the designation (1) meaning one record only.

The difficulty in interpreting these volumes lies in understanding the “record keeping system” as well as the harsh conditions in the field.  The commanders added to the difficulty of analyzing “the system” with their practice of combining companies, assigning a soldier from one company to another for a particular assignment (i.e.: perhaps a man who was good at scouting could be assigned to a reconnaissance unit not made up of his company), and/or transferring a soldier from one company to another to “fill up” a company who could have been short of men.  This resulted in the record of a single soldier having clothing or equipment issued by the adjutant or the assigned officer in two different companies or in two different regiments; therefore the same soldier could be listed two or three times especially as when the Second and Third were combined into one regiment.

Not all records found in the Twelve Volumes were of clothing; some show other items “issued.”  For this reason, a synopsis of these books will be helpful to the researcher who does not have access to the original record.  Although the records have been microfilmed, this film is of poor quality and is very difficult to read.