Office of Home Subsistence for the Department of Texas


On a cold damp Dallas sidewalk in the Fall of 2001,  several boxes of old books were rescued from the steel jaws of a trash truck   Found inside one of these boxes was an old dusty ledger   The ledger contains entries signed by a "Capt. W.B. Blair", San Antonio, Texas, covering the years 1856-1858.   This ledger is most likely a hand-written copy of Captain William B. Blair’s records for the US Army's Office of Home Subsistence, Department of Texas.   The ledger entries detail correspondence between the various U.S. Army officers assigned across the State of Texas.  These letters discuss the different types and amounts of Subsistence Stores for each Fort and Camp.  Local contracts, bonds, advertisements and transportation of these goods are generally referred to in these entries.  Some of the Texas Forts and Camps covered in the ledger include Fort Belknap, Fort Brown, Fort Chadbourne,  Fort Clark,  Fort Davis, Fort Duncan, Fort Filmore, Fort Inge, Fort Lancaster,  Fort Mason,  Fort McIntosh, Fort McKavett,  Camp Colorado, Camp Verde, Ringgold Barracks and other locations.

Approximately one third of the pages in this ledger are covered by newspaper articles dating between 1866 and 1871.  These newspaper articles are glued to the pages of the ledger, covering many more of the US Army journal entries and are well preserved.  The articles are a rich mix of various family histories, womens'  issues, anti-Yankee editorials, and post civil war period facts of that era.  Some of these articles are believed to have a connection with a Miss Hattie Jones of Marshall, Texas. 

A large volume type book, this ledger is a 9 ½” by 12” by 2 3/8”  The front and back covers are edged along the top and bottom with a 2" brown leather strip.  The binding of the ledger is gone.  The pages are very thick and have remained intact between the front and back covers.  The pages are used on both sides and are numbered to approximately 440 pages.  The edges of the pages are torn and stained as old worn pages usually are.  The majority of the ink has faded to a light brown color.  The hand writing is legible with few exceptions.  Some of  the words are abbreviated with abbreviations indigenous to that time in history which, of course, leads to interpretations of what the actual words might have been.  Because of its  historical value, age and condition, an inventory of each page, dated entry, art print  and newspaper articles have been carefully conducted in the Table of Contents.

The officer who created this ledger, William Barrett Blair, was a native of Richmond, Virginia.  He was born on September 17, 1818.   Blair was in the West Point class of 1838,  graduating eleventh in his class.  He first served as a Second Lieutenant at West Point for two years as a Mathematics Instructor before moving on with the Second Artillery where he later became First Lieutenant.  In the war with Mexico,  Brevet Captain W.B. Blair was recognized for gallantry and meritorious conduct at the Battle of Cerro Gordo, Mexico on the 18th of April 1847.

On Sept 27, 1850, William B. Blair was made the Captain in the Commissary of Subsistence for the Department of Texas.   Stationed in San Antonio, Texas, he was responsible for supplying and the provisions for the different US Army installations in the new and expanding westward State of Texas.  Supplying the many forts, camps and barracks was both dangerous and difficult.  In addition to providing security, the US Army played a major economic role in the early development of rural West and Central Texas by supplying contracts in the region for the basic provisioning of the troops in the field.   

Brevet Major General David E. Twiggs, U. S. Army, commanding the Department of Texas, on February 18, 1861, ordered that all troops of the United States leave the soil of the State of Texas, including Captain Blair, who returned to Washington, D.C.    Abraham Lincoln  was elected as the 16th President of the United States on March 4, 1861.  The Union was falling apart, states were seceding and Captain  Blair’s own  loyalty , like those of many others including Colonel Robert E. Lee's, were first to Virginia. 

William B. Blair's commission was rescinded May 14, 1861.  He was nominated by Governor Letcher of Virginia to the rank of  Colonel in Commissary General of Subsistence for the State of Virginia one week later.    In August 1861 he resigned to become a Major in the Army of the Confederate States of America attached to the Department of the Trans-Mississippi.  He later served in 1863 in Adjutant General, Headquarters, District of Arkansas  

After the War in 1865,  William B. Blair returned to Virginia were he accepted the Chair of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the Virginia Military Institute, a position once held by General  "Stonewall" Thomas J. Jackson.    He taught there until he retired in 1876. William Barrett Blair died on March 23rd 1883.  (Read the Virginia Military Institute account of his service.) 

The inventory of each page is listed in the Table of Contents containing 516 US Army journal entries from the years 1856-1858 and 610 newspaper articles from the years 1866 -1871. .  The actual page numbers of the ledger are used as the numbering system with the date, a brief description of the correspondence or newspaper article, the author, and  location with a link to an image of each item.   Detailed verbatim transcriptions in HTML format of the first four months of 1858, along with various newspaper articles are found below.   

The goal is to analyze this ledger in greater depth, decipher the contents, determine the historical value of the information to both periods and make the information available to the general public in various forms.  Future links will be added as they are researched including additional months of the ledger, other newspaper articles, the color, and black & white art prints with descriptions.  Other areas of consideration include how to best preserve the ledger, its information and value.  Thought is being given to how best to apply digital imaging to this project and the effects of light on the paper.   This is a work in progress. You are invited to use this information, make comments, suggestions and submit additional information.  

  Table of Contents

            Pages    1 -   40              

            Pages   41  -  80                 

            Pages  81 -  120                

            Pages 121 - 160                 

            Pages 161 - 200                 

            Pages 201 - 240              

            Pages 241 - 280                        

            Pages 281 - 320

            Pages 321 - 360                   

            Pages 361 - 400                             

            Pages 401 - 440


            Transcribed Ledger Entries: 1858          Transcribed Newspaper articles from 1866 -1871

Selected Inspired Poems and Works


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Marko V. Sakal
Dallas, Texas

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