Saturday, April 27, 2013


General orders are essential for coordinating an effective military. Whether for something as basic as distributing sweet potatoes to hospitals or more critical like penalties for those who aid deserters, orders issued to the Confederate Army in the U. S. Civil War were key to smooth operations and troop communications. These orders are compiled in 1,648 pages of image documents from the General Orders and Circulars of the Confederate War Department, 1861-1865, recently added to the Fold3 Civil War Collection.

In addition to general orders applied across the board, these records also include orders for the assignment and transfer of officers, reports of deaths with inventories of personal effects, applications for leave, certificates of disability signed by surgeons, resignations of officers, copies of orders issued by Army commands, muster rolls and payrolls, returns of prisoners, and inspection reports.

On Fold3, the general orders and circulars are arranged in four volumes, by year and in numerical order, plus a name and subject index to all records in volume 1A. Most of the records are typed and therefore OCR-searchable, meaning words on most pages may be identified using keyword searches. Locating a subject in the index like "Sword bayonet, 6/64" identifies it as order number 6 in 1864. You can then search within Volume 3, which holds the 1864 orders, for keywords "sword" and "bayonet" to find General Orders No. 6 where we learn, in item VI, that triangular bayonets were substituted for sword bayonets and the reasoning behind it. It is also easy to browse to a particular order using the Fold3 viewer.

Soldiers—their names, deeds, awards, imprisonment, death, and more—are also easily found using either search or browse techniques. Examples of intriguing documents include this one for Major John G. Barnwell who was found "not guilty" of charges against him relating to his appropriation of arms and equipment. An 1864 roll of honor yields hundreds of names on its thirteen pages of "those who have deserved well of their country, as having best displayed their courage and devotion on the field of battle,"` defined by the original 1863 General Order No. 131.

General Orders and Circulars of the Confederate War Department is a free title through the rest of April as part of Fold3’s recognition of Confederate History Month. More information about this title can be found in the Fold3 description.


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