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Thread: NCO chain of command in battle

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Northern California

    Default NCO chain of command in battle

    First Sergeants supervise the second Sergeants who supervise Corporals who supervise Privates.
    Where in the chain of command do Quartermaster and Ordnance Sergeants fit in an infantry company chain of command in times of battle?

    Kautz's Customs of Service, 1864, section 540 states Quartermaster Sergeants "should be familiar with the drill and other duties of company sergeants, and, when necessary, may be required in the ranks to perform his part in times of danger" but usually he should be looking after the company property.

    Kautz's The 1865 Customs of Service for Officers of the Army section 630 describes the Ordnance Sergeant as one "whose sole duty it is to look after the ordnance" the Colonel is responsible for.

    Revised U.S.Army Regulations, 1863, Article II lists ranks, but not all the sergeants within the company save listing the first sergeant above a sergeant.

    Seems reasonable that in camp, garrison or line of march the Quartermaster and/or Ordnance Sergeants can be assigned corporals and privates to perform a specific duty, but I am curious what folks think the chain of command for NCOs in battle should be.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Near Hanover, PA


    You'd only find an Ordnance Sergeant in a fortification or permanent camp; not on campaign. And the QM Sergeant would be with the wagons and stores so, it wouldn't much matter on a battlefield. Only in an oddball occasion would either be there. These ranks are mostly reenactoisms.
    "Grumpy" Dave T.

    "Biggest problem is, at most "reenactments," nobody knows what their "historical" job was. And, in most cases the privates are worse off than the NCO's and Officers." - Deceased

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006


    Second that. Taking the question literally, neither would fit anywhere in the infantry company chain of command, as neither one exists in an infantry company. As such, any NCO in said company would be well justified in telling them to go away. And in fact, why would anyone want to risk the lives of the only people who know how to fill out all those forms?
    M. A. Schaffner
    Midstream Regressive Complainer

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013


    They'd answer to the Colonel and his staff in a support position in camp and garrison and would have no role in drill or on a battlefield.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Stroudsburg, Pa.


    Things work better if you look at what sergeants and corporals actually do, not who gets to tell who do to what. Ideally corporals are ready to be first sergeants and first sergeants are ready to assume the function of company commanders and company commanders are ready to take over a regiment if necessary. Apparently it was necessary, especially on longer campaigns: One much diminished regiment in the Peninsula Campaign hobbled and dripped back to Harrison's Landing with the sergeant major in command, with every officer either sick, wounded, dead or detached. There was a brief fuss with some of the paper collars in charge of the ration supply, who insisted they had to have an officer's signature on a requisition; the (acting) commander of the brigade was sought and treated it as a Gordian Knot solution: He promoted the sergeant major to lieutenant on the spot, and the forlorn remnant got its hardtack. The regiment (7th NJVI) tended to take a sour view of things from that point forward, going so far as to sew the corps badge of the II corps to which they were transferred in 1864 to the seat of their pants as a protest against losing their III corps white diamonds.
    The point, though, is that in terms of getting the practical business of having a regiment ready to march - supplies and ammunition, fodder for horses, plan of route, reason for the march, expectations of road conditions, position of the enemy, men on the line prepared to march, who can actually load and fire their weapons without accidentally setting their hair on fire: then and now, people who know their jobs need to know their bosses jobs and their lower ranks jobs. Then, and now, the critical job of "getting things done on time and in the right order" often takes a back seat to "I get to tell you what to do, you don't get to tell me what to do." I see that sometimes and have to hold back to avoid observing that "neither of you appears to know why you are supposed to be doing all the things you aren't doing.
    I'd had a nice workable summer campaign waiting for me this year to celebrate The Return of the Knee, it it looks like the unit due to be graced by my silent presence is about to implode because benign rule by a crusty old dictator was challenged as soon as he let go of the reins. Or, if you will, reigns. This one won't have that one, the other storms away in a sulky hurt, and there's some question whether the bugle calling for "assembly" the first time this season will produce fistifcuffs or three mobs of angry Irishmen all argey-bargey about who ought to be the colonel. I'm pushing to assemble the company cooks and make them work it out, even if it means electing the Swamp Man's "Piss Willy" dog as colonel. We'll use the linguistically dysfunctional fellow as the spokesman; he will tell everyone that Piss Willy the God will lead the regiment.
    See, you need to sort out the sergeant stuff or you'll end up taking orders from a dog that ain't got the sense to keep its legs out of a gator's mouth.
    If I ramble any farther from the original post I'll never find my way home. Shoulda laid a trail in breadcrumbs.
    Bill Watson
    I write about history for people who regret not being there when it happened.

    Brother William's War, Illustrated, about a Southerner's war
    The Ludlam Legacy, Illustrated, about a young Yankee orphan's war.
    Seize the Day! A best-practices guide to wringing more satisfaction from your Civil War weekend
    The Little Book of Civil War Reenacting: An introduction for those who want to try it out

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Middle Tennessee


    The First (Orderly) Sergeant tells everyone what to do, sergeants down to privates. He runs the company. And, when well behaved, meek, polite officers ask nicely, he allows them to stand before the company and give orders and pretend they run the company. But we all know the truth.
    Mint Julep

    A Proud 5%'er

    A Dead Whale or A Stove Boat!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006


    I'd be interested in knowing why the original poster is asking the question? Are quartermaster and ordnance sergeants trying to boss the NCOs in his company around? Tell 'em to go scratch!
    Scott Washburn
    Mifflin Guard

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2010


    In Confederate Service, there were Ordnance Sgts at regimental level. They would have been with the Regt. staff or ammunition wagons most likely.
    David Thomas
    Starr's Battery
    Fayetteville, NC

  9. #9


    Or do you have a QM SGT and and ORD SGT with stuff on their sleeves and they're trying to figure out where they'd line up in ranks?
    I had a lightbulb moment many years ago when maneuvering badly over ground with a company. The battalion commander yelled "Sergeants and corporals, do your jobs. That's why you have stripes on your sleeve." And I realized that as a corporal, I was standing there on the left of the front line to influence and direct the behavior of a small group of soldiers directly around me. Farther away from me, there were other corporals who should be doing the same thing. I rose to the occasion.
    I would suggest that rather than putting sgts stripes on a guy for company administration purposes, that you make QM and ORD the additional duties of your corporals or 2nd sgt. They already have a place to stand and a reason to be in the company. Unless you're a battalion staff, the other specialists don't.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Jackson, NJ


    A unit I used to be in, had their ordnance sgt. in the reenactment role of "file closer".
    Will Vanderburg
    26th NCT


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