Civil War

6/12 – Mistake Filled Forms, and the Concerned Colonel

August Kautz was a career army man, and very detail oriented. Born in Germany, a veteran of the War with Mexico, and an 1852 graduate of West Point, he was 33 years old in 1861. Promoted to Colonel shortly after the war started, he was now in charge of a regiment, the 2nd Ohio Cavalry. And he was disgusted with the way the paperwork was being handled at the company level before being turned into regimental headquarters. Too many errors, and incorrect use of forms, were causing delays and snags, and new Colonel Kautz was mad.

But like a good schoolmaster, he wrote a series of orders to be given to his company commanders, especially the company clerks. Kautz handed out orders that said, “Here’s how to hand in morning roll call sheets. Here’s what needs to be filled out every week. Here’s what needs to be filled out every month. Here’s how to keep track of the sick, and the company fund. If you need these items, this form should be filled out and here’s who to send it to. And if you need THOSE items, THAT form should be filled out (in triplicate) and sent to this person.

This series of orders was so successful, paperwork errors virtually disappeared from the 2nd Ohio, and other commanders wanted to know how Kautz did it. Eventually he was persuaded to publish his orders in book form, which he did in 1863. That book, The Company Clerk subtitled What to Do and How to Do It, sold 13,000 copies during the war.

Original Company Clerk in the Bryn Mawr College library

I had the book reproduced in 1996, and still have copies available for sale As a side note, in 1996, one of the first customers to purchase the book was the Mormon Church. In trying to figure out why the Mormon Church would want a copy of the book, I was told that they have one of the greatest genealogical record systems in the world, and a book like “The Company Clerk” would point them to the correct forms when searching for genealogical information on Civil War soldiers.

Sullivan Press reprint edition of The Company Clerk.