Prologue Magazine

When Class Is Crucial

Winter 1995, vol. 27, no. 4 | "War in an Age of Wonders"

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.