Saturday, October 1, 2011

S O #s in Military Records

At the recent FGS conference I sat next to you at the Geneabloggers get together Thurs. night at Bennigan’s. I barely remember the evening because I was so tired, but I do remember you talking about your “Stump Craig” among other things. After I returned home I was working on some of my files for ancestors from the Civil War and the Spanish American War when I realized that you might be able to help me with a question that has frustrated me.

How/where can I find out what behavior or issue S.O. #’s refer to? I assume that this could change from unit to unit??? I also asked about this when I was at the state archives in Springfield and they didn’t know.

An S.O. is a Special Order; the number refers to the which Special Order it might be. It does vary from unit to unit. Probably the most famous of the Special Orders is one issued by the Army of Northern Virginia; Special Order 191 which detailed General Lee's plans for the forthcoming invasion of Maryland. A copy of that Special Order was lost and found by Union soldiers. The battles of South Mountain and Antietam were the result. What is important to know about a Special Order is its number and what organization issued it. A regiment (like the 13th Kansas Infantry) can receive a special order from a variety of different organizations above it in the chain of command.
1st- my gr. grandfather, David B. Walker was in the 13th Kansas Infantry, Company G. He was discharged 24 Nov 1863 when he was injured at the battle of Pea Ridge but his muster out record states that in addition to the injury, he was also discharged per S.O. #302.

In 1963 the 13th Kansas Infantry was attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Frontier, Department of Missouri, until February 1863. District of Southwest Missouri, Department of Missouri, to June 1863. District of the Frontier, Department of Missouri, to December 1863. Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion is the best place to find this information.

So it is possible that S.O. #302 was issued by the District of the Frontier, or the Department of the Missouri or the U.S. Army itself.

2nd – John W. O’Connor was in the 7th Infantry, Company K during the Spanish American War. In the muster out remarks it states: June 1, 1898 reduced from Sergeant to private per paragraph No. 1, per S.O. No. 10:July 1, 1898 appointed Sergeant from private per S.O. 21. Sick in quarter July 31.

Special Orders exist for a variety of reasons, to combine units together to create one, to move units from one place to another, to create parades and to report the results of courts-martial to name a few. So O'Connor could only go from sergeant to private as a result of a courts-martial. You ought to track that down. If it was a General Courts-Martial there is a microfilm index at NARA. Although the results of those are usually G.O (General Orders), so it might have been a lower military court. And apparently a month later, a reviewing authority disagreed with the findings of the court-martial and reinstated him to sergeant. If you are able to find the courts-martial transcript there should be a copy of the S.O. in the file. In the absence of any other information, that is my first assumption (aka guess). Sick in quarters has nothing to do with a Special Order. He just is not sick enough to be in a hospital.

Hope is helps.


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