Cover-Your-Ass Basics: Document and Escalate

Anyone who has ever tried to accomplish an assigned task and hit a bureaucratic brick wall will appreciate the following letter. Those who served in the military will especially relate to Lieutenant Maurice’s predicament. Some things never change.

Ordnance Office, Clingman’s Brigade, Sullivan’s Island, S. C., Nov. 12, 1863

[To:] Capt. Wm. F. Nance, A. A. G. [General Ripley’s HQ]


Having about the 5th inst. brought it to the attention of the comdg. general that the command was not supplied with a greater number of rounds of ammunition than 55 to the man, he directed me to make requisition for a sufficient number to increase the same to 100 rounds. I did so immediately, and the number of the cartridges required of the calibers of .54 and .69 were promptly supplied from Fort Moultrie. For the caliber of .58, (with which cal. of arm the command is mostly supplied) I had to send to the city; and with a view of facilitating the matter, I sent a Sergeant and four men, at my own expense, with instructions to bring them over the same evening. The Sergeant arrived at Capt. Pinkney’s office at one o’clock P. M., and although thus early in the day, and thus supplied with the necessary force to move the cartridges, if shown to him, without any assistance, he was told it was too late, and that he must return the next day. I sent him and the detail again the next day, and on presenting himself at the office he was told to ask me if I supposed my frequent sending would avail anything, and that the cartridges were then being made at the arsenal, that they would be completed by the next day, and that he (the Ordnance Officer) would telegraph me when to meet them at Mount Pleasant Wharf. Since this I have heard nothing further from Capt. Pinkney on the cartridges. On yesterday, the Brig. Genl. comdg. directed me to telegraph him on the subject, which I did in a dispatch of which the following is a copy: “Capt. C. C. Pinkney – are the cartridges required completed? And when may I expect them?” To this I have still received no reply.

I report these facts, Sir, so that the responsibility, if any there should be, in not having this command properly furnished with ammunition, should rest where it justly and properly belongs.

I have the honor to be, Sir, with much respect, your obedient servant, Samuel W. Maurice, 1st Lieut. Brig. ord. offr.

[Clingman Papers, Folder 16, scans 65 and 66.]

Endorsements on Maurice’s letter show that General Ripley demanded a response from Captain Pinkney. No further documents concerning this situation are in the Clingman Papers Collection. Clingman’s Brigade left Charleston a few days after Maurice sent his letter, so the issue likely faded away.

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