President Abraham Lincoln Appoints An Officer of Ordnance Who Ended His Career in Command of the New York Arsenal

Ordnance was responsible for weapons, ammunition and artillery, essential elements for an army at war

A very uncommon ordnance appointment, the first we can recall carrying

In the first half of the 19th Century, the U.S. Ordnance Department (responsible for guns and cannon) played a crucial role in the burgeoning Industrial Revolution and helped to establish the “American System of Manufacturing”. One of the most significant achievements...

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President Abraham Lincoln Appoints An Officer of Ordnance Who Ended His Career in Command of the New York Arsenal

Ordnance was responsible for weapons, ammunition and artillery, essential elements for an army at war

A very uncommon ordnance appointment, the first we can recall carrying

In the first half of the 19th Century, the U.S. Ordnance Department (responsible for guns and cannon) played a crucial role in the burgeoning Industrial Revolution and helped to establish the “American System of Manufacturing”. One of the most significant achievements was the establishment of two federal armories: Springfield Armory in 1795 and Harpers Ferry in 1798. During the Civil War, the Ordnance Department was called upon to arm and equip an army of unprecedented size. It furnished 90 million pounds of lead, 13 million pounds of artillery projectiles, and 26 million pounds of powder for a Union Army of 1 million soldiers. To achieve these impressive amounts, the Ordnance Department civilian staff increased from 1,000 to 9,000 by war’s end. Despite the massive expansion of the army, the official staffing of the Ordnance Department remained small. At the peak of the war, the Department numbered 64 officers and 600 enlisted. One of these few was Clifton Comly.

Document signed, July 1, 1864, effective retroactively to May 26, 1863, an ornate, vignetted commission, with an eagle, cannons and flags, appointing Clifton Comly to the rank of “First Lieutenant in the Ordnance Department.” The document is countersigned by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. We cannot recall ever before carrying a Lincoln appointment for the Ordnance Department.

Comly graduated from West Point on June 17, 1862. He started his military career as a 2nd lieutenant and adjutant in the 1st U.S. Cavalry, serving there until May 26, 1863. His unit was part of the Army of the Potomac, and he participated in the Maryland Campaign from September to November 1862, and in the Rappahannock Campaign from December 1862 to May 1863. He was engaged in the action at Kelly’s Ford on March 17, 1863. He rode with General George Stoneman in his famous raid on Richmond from April 13 to May 2, 1863. Comly then served in the Ordnance Department in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. for most of the war, however, ending up involved in making ordnance as Assistant Constructor of Ordnance at Ft. Pitt Foundry, Pa. He finished his illustrious career as a major in command of the New York Arsenal, and was President of the Ordnance Board from April 1892 to April 1894, when he died while on duty.

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