Prologue Magazine

Prologue: Selected Articles

Winter 1995, vol. 27, no. 4

When Class Is Crucial
By Michael P. Musick

In examining specialized records, specialized knowledge can be useful and sometimes indispensable.  This the case with several important series of ordnance records in Record Group 156, Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance.  If you are seeking Union documents about cannon, pistols, muskets, swords, saddles and bridles, or related matters, you need to know that ordnance officers divided their world into classes.  These classes determine the arrangement of two categories of the ordnance Special Files that are filled with detailed reports and correspondence, the files for "Inventions" (entry 994) and "Experiments" (entries 201 and 1001).  They also form the framework for records showing the distribution of arms to regiments (see appendix).  For most of the war the classes were defined as follows:

Part I:

Artillery, small arms, ammunition, and other ordnance stored

Class I Cannon
Class II Artillery carriages
Class III Artillery implements and equipments
Class IV Artillery projectiles unprepared for service
Class V Artillery projectiles prepared for service
Class VI Small arms
Class VII Accoutrements, implements, and equipments for small arms, and horse equipments for cavalry
Class VIII Powder, ammunition for small arms, and materials
Class IX Parts or incomplete sets of any articles in classes I - VIII
Class X Miscellaneous

Part II:

Tools and Materials. (Many categories)

This classification was also used by the Confederate army but is not a key to the arrangement of its records.

See also these related articles:

War in an Age of Wonders, Part 1
War in an Age of Wonders, Part 2

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.