European Suppliers to the Confederacy, Major Caleb Huse’s Reminiscences

In my recent research, I found a short history of the experiences and reminiscences of Major Caleb Huse,  the purchasing agent for the Confederate States of America. This was a great source of information and it helped to bolster my belief that there were still yet new resources to investigate, even after 150 years. The significance of this source is that these are the personal recollections of the  purchasing agent for the Confederacy in England, and other European countries. This is important because it shows that foreign goods were making it through the Union navy’s blockade of Confederate ports and thus making a difference in how efficiently the war was fought by Southern troops.

  • Why did you choose this particular item as representative of the archive you’ve created at this point in the research process? I chose to use this source as my primary source this week because it was a recent find and it was written by the Confederate officer, Major Caleb Huse. He was the Purchasing Agent for the Confederate States of America. His main job was to procure military arms, equipment, uniforms, ammunition, and other supplies for waging the war against the North. This source includes his recollections and personal insight, which provides a rare view into this important aspect of supplying the Confederacy’s military.
  • How did you discover the source? Where is it located? This source was one that I ran across during a database mining search on Worldcat and I also found it on the America’s History and Life site.
  • How does the source help you locate an answer to your research question? What can this type of source tell you? When researching the Confederate States of America’s quartermaster supply/logistics system, I have been finding multiple references to English army cloth uniforms, Austrian rifles, English accouterments, imported shoes, and various other items necessary for fighting the war. This source gives Major Huse’s unique perspective on his experiences in acquiring the aforementioned goods. When you take these reminiscences into account, and compare them with surviving ship manifests of Confederate and foreign blockade runners,  you begin to gain a better picture of the supplies making to the front line soldiers. These supplies were instrumental in keeping the Confederate fighting men equipped and surprisingly well equipped at that, during the latter part of the war.
  • How will you interrogate the source-what methodology will you employ? I plan on interrogating this source using the methodological approach of material culture, military, political, and economic lenses.
  • What are the problems with this category of sources/what can’t you learn, what are the biases? Even though this is a primary source, it was written forty + years after the events and are told from a definite pro-Confederate point of view. The information that could be missing are various ship’s manifests and possible Confederate government records, as thousands of documents were destroyed in the last few days of the Confederacy’s existence, especially in the evacuation of the capital in Richmond, Virginia. Some of the biases that need to be overcome are preconceived notions of the Confederate soldier’s lack of supplies and the image that many people have conjured up in their own minds of “what” a Confederate soldier should look like.
  • What sorts of sources will you need to confirm/ complete/ complement this source? This source will be used to corroborate surviving ship’s manifests and will also be compared to the Library of Congress holdings of surviving quartermaster records and inspector general’s reports, showing actual issuance of uniforms, equipment, shoes, supplies, weapons, and ammunition. Surviving photographs and actual material culture items will also complement this source.

I believe that this source will be of great value to my overall research and end research proposal. I am excited about finding this source and look forward to investigating this source along with the possible implications of what it could bring to future historians studying this subject.

3 thoughts on “European Suppliers to the Confederacy, Major Caleb Huse’s Reminiscences”

  1. Hi Tiny,

    Here are some of the questions I have come up with for today’s presentation. I just wanted to post them here so you could take a stab at them before class 🙂

    1. These were seemingly private musings. When were they first made available to the public (was it recently?)

    2. Where is it located physically? (Other than the electronic version on WorldCat and the other website)?

    3. I notice you mention the biases that we hold now in the 21st century. But what biases are present in this particular source? Are there obvious Confederate leanings even though this is a British source?

    4. You mention that this source will serve as a type of backup for some of your other sources. Do you think it might be useful in other ways as well? Does it provide some of its own unique information?

    5. Have you discovered any other sources similar to this one? Or is this a unique source?

  2. Tiny,

    Building off of Laura’s question about bias I think it would be interesting to see this source along with a similar Union perspective. To see how the North felt their blockade was doing and if they felt the Confederacy was well supplied. I think this may help strengthen your argument and give you something to compare a Southern source against. I would think the Confederate source would favor the Confederacy and the Northern source, if available, would tend to favor the Union, and the truth may lie somewhere in the middle. Plus, I always think it is a good idea to acknowledge any sources which may refute your claims. I am interested to hear about Huse’s musings in class!

  3. I’m interested to know more about this source, too. What are its temporal limits? And, does it comment to whether or not the materials were actually making it through the blockade or just being purchased in Europe? Tracking European supply throughout the war might provide you some good insights about how well the Confederacy was supplied!

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