No single event in United States history has had such a profound impact on our country as the Civil War of 1861 to 1865. An analysis of military accounting documents of the period provides valuable information related to their influence on current accounting and auditing practices. These documents illustrate U.S. Army recordkeeping requirements and also reveal various internal controls utilized during this period. The goals of safeguarding assets and producing accurate accounting reports were critical to the military during these desperate times.
This paper begins with an overview of military organization. The purpose is to discuss and explain the hierarchical structure of the U.S. Army The next portion of this document continues with reviews of the positions of company accounting clerks and quartermasters. Both of these assignments required responsible, conscientious soldiers who could be depended upon to prepare numerous reports. A significant number of internal controls were employed in an effort to properly account for the two major classes of assets, men and materials. Military regulations specified in detail the accounting and auditing tasks required when a particular report or statement was prepared. A number of actual Civil War accounting reports are reviewed in this paper with copies included in the appendix. The paper concludes with a review of accounting practices and internal controls that were instituted during the Civil War and continue to influence current accounting procedures.
Civil War history is alive and well today for many Americans who visit popular battlefields and study famous generals. However, forgotten heroes of the war certainly include the dedicated accounting clerks and quartermasters who prepared a wide variety of required statements and reports in very dangerous conditions. These soldiers attempted to maintain adequate internal controls during this very difficult period. For example, U.S. Army Regulations stress the separation of the duties of authorization, custody, and record keeping. Also, the use of multiple copies of documents in order to create an adequate "audit trail" was evident. The report forms were preprinted in an effort to minimize input errors and aid in their proper completion. Finally, Army regulations and associated texts such as The Accounting Clerk by August V. Kautz provided accounting clerks and quartermasters with sufficient and adequate documentation to ensure accurately prepared statements. This paper reviews the accounting and auditing activities of the dedicated accounting clerks and quartermasters who, in the midst of all of the strife, maintained the required documents in an effort to provide financial order. Company accounting clerks, quartermasters, assistant quartermasters and other accounting personnel were required to prepare a large number of documents on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Their dedication to this important task allowed the Army to effectively function with accurate and timely accounting paper of many types.
Accounting paper included invoices, monthly and quarterly reports, inventory schedules, and numerous other documents that were required by the Federal government in an effort to maintain accurate records related to physical assets and human resources (often simply termed men and materials). The appendix of this paper includes a number of examples of such documents. In particular, the reports typically prepared by a company accounting clerk will be examined.
Record keeping for both the Union and the Confederacy was an enormous task. The Union Army enlisted approximately 2.8 million men during the period from 1861 to 1865 (Bradley, 1990). The Confederacy enlisted somewhere between 600,000 and one million soldiers. Many historians believe that 750,000 is a logical estimate (Ibid). Given these numbers, the amount of record keeping that had to be done was enormous. Many factors affected the volume of military reports. For example, each unit of the Union Army was required to prepare invoices and inventory reports on a regular basis. Also, each military unit hired additional men from the local community as laborers who were normally paid monthly creating additional recordkeeping. With 3,559 different units in the Union Army and at least 1,526 units in the Confederacy, the paper, quill pens, and ink were constantly in use (Davis, 1993).
Reports were required from each operational unit within the army. The Union Army, during the Civil War, was composed of units of infantry, cavalry, heavy artillery, engineers, light infantry, and artillery batteries. Each report in the appendix is related to a specific military unit such as the 22nd Maine or the 48th New York. Reports of wounded and dead were required on a regular basis from each unit. Also, inventory summaries from each camp had to be completed on at least a monthly basis. Certain arms and supplies were inventoried weekly or even daily. This included critical assets such as horses and wagons (means of transportation) and most clothing, camp, and garrison equipage. The sheer number of reports required by the army placed a significant strain on the accounting clerks in their effort to maintain adequate internal controls and an effective audit trail.
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE U.S. ARMY
To allow the reader a better understanding of the following accounting reports, a brief introduction to basic military organization is appropriate. The U. S. Army is organized into corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, and companies (Regulations, 1861). A corps is the largest form of military unit. It is made up of two or three divisions under the direction of a Major General (Union) or a Lieutenant General (Confederate). A division is composed of two or three brigades. Each division is led by a Major General or Senior Brigade General. A brigade is a military unit consisting of two to six regiments. Either a Brigadier General or a senior Colonel commands it. A regiment is typically composed of 800 to 1,000 men. The commanding officer of the regiment is normally a Colonel. When the Civil War began, a regiment was at full strength with 1,000 men. After the first two years of the war, many of the regiments contained less than 500 members. As new men joined the army, they were normally assigned to new regiments rather than being added to depleted units. Finally, a regiment can be broken down into the smallest military unit called a company. Infantry regiments were typically composed of ten companies (Regulations, 21). However, heavy artillery regiments often had twelve companies. Each company was assigned a letter in alphabetic order (i.e. Company A, B, C). However, the letter "J" was never used in the process of assigning company alphabetical titles. The company became the basic unit of recordkeeping activities for the Army necessitating the selection of a company accounting clerk for each. Internal controls were employed at the company level in an effort to safeguard both human and physical resources. Frequent inventories of men (multiple daily roll calls), horses, wagons, arms, and all other equipment provided some assurance that the army's assets were safeguarded.
In the …