The Calvin Shedd Papers > Background > Sutlers


Date(s) of Letter(s) Boatner, Mark M. The Civil War Dictionary.  New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1959.

Schmidt, Lewis G.  The Civil War in Florida:  A Military History.   Vol III: Florida's Key's & Fevers.   

March 6, 1862
April 19, 1862
April 25, 1862
April 30, 1862
December 14, 1862
January 25, 1863
February 13, 1863
February 21, 1863
February 26, 1863
April 14, 1863
April 17, 1863
Lieutenant Cate

Sutler: A person who accompanies troops in the field or in garrison and sells food, drink, and supplies.   The articles of war prescribed that persons permitted to sutler shall supply the soldiers with good and wholesome provisions or other articles at a reasonable price."   (Boatner, p. 822)

A sutler was considered a civilian by the government and officers were forbidden under penalty of court martial to involve themselves in the affairs of a sutler.  They maintained a wagon on the march or stalls and booths on station with their regiment or post,  The system was disliked by many officers, but if properly administered, seemed to function well.  Some argued that goods supplied by the quartermaster would be cheaper, but history shows that the military has often been unable to economically and efficiently purchase and transport its needs.  The 208th paragraph of the Army War Department's regulation states:  "No sutler shall sell to an enlisted man on credit to a sum exceeding one third of his monthly pay within the same month."   The troops were usually paid before a change in station so that sutlers' accounts could be cleared.  (Schmidt, pp. xx-xxii)

"Sutler Robinson arrived at the Tortugas in early 1861 with Battery C of the 1st US Artillery, serving as its Lieutenant under the commander Maj. Arnold.  The Lieutenant's wife was a Northerner and he was a native of Virginia, and after that state seceded on April 17, 1861, he resigned his commission with the US Army, effective May 15.  Maj. Arnold exercised some clever diplomacy in keeping Lt. Robinson out of Confederate service by offering him the post of sutler at Fort Jefferson, which Robinson accepted."  He remained as sutler at Fort Jefferson for four years. Typical items stocked by the sutlers' store were tobacco plugs, sardines, raisins, herrings, pineapple, cheese, molasses, and canned goods.   Men often congregated at the store in the evenings for conversation and companionship.   (p. xxxviii)

Shedd refers to the sutlers, both at Fort Jefferson and later at St. Augustine and Beaufort, S.C.  He often compares their prices and laments over how little things used to cost in New Hampshire.   From his complaints about money and the lack of decent food, it is probable that Shedd could seldom afford to purchase items from the sutlers.  While in St. Augustine, Shedd boards with the sutler Riddell and his wife.

Sutler Store