The Secretary of War is at the head of the War Department, and performs such duties as the President may enjoin upon him concerning the military service.

He has supervision of all the estimates of appropriations for the expenses of the department, of all purchases of army supplies, and of all expenditures for the support and transportation of the army, and of such expenditures of a civil nature as are by law placed under his direction.

He also has supervision of the United States Military Academy at West Pont; of national cemeteries; of the publication of the official records of the War of the Rebellion, and of the Board on Ordnance and Fortification.

He has charge of all matters relating to river and harbor improvements; the prevention of obstruction to navigation; the establishment of harbor lines, and approves the plans and location of bridges authorized by Congress to be constructed over the navigable waters of the United States.


The Assistant Secretary of War performs such duties in the Department of War as shall be prescribed by the Secretary or may be required by law.


The Chief Clerk has charge of the official mail and correspondence, and performs such duties as are enjoined by law or assigned to him by the Secretary of War.


The chiefs of the military bureaus of the War Department are officers of the regular army of the United States, and a part of the military establishment, viz:

The Adjutant-General promulgates all orders of a military character of the President, the Secretary of War, and the Major General commanding the army, and conducts the correspondence between the latter and the army; receives reports and returns pertaining to the army; prepares commissions, appointments, and acceptances of resignations for issuance; receives all muster rolls, and prepares consolidated reports of the army and the militia. He also is the custodian of the records of the military prison at Fort Leavenworth and under the immediate direction of the Secretary of War has charge of the recruiting services.

The Inspector-General, with his assistants, inspects all military commands and stations, the military academy, the schools of application, the military department of all colleges and schools at which officers of the army are detailed, all depots, rendevous, armories, arsenals, fortification, and public works of every kind under charge of or carried on by officers of the Army; and also the money accounts of all disbursing officers of the army. To the Inspector-General are referred matters relating to military duties and conduct; the material, personnel, discipline, instruction, uniform, and outfit of the army, and the character, quality, and adequacy of its supplies.

The Inspector-General's department is specially established to promote uniform economy, efficiency, and compliance with the laws and orders.

The Quartermaster-General, aided by assistants, provides transportation for the army; also clothing and equipage, horses, mules, and wagons, vessels, forage, stationery, and other miscellaneous quatermaster's stores and property for the army, and clothing and equipage for the militia; constructs necessary buildings, wharves, roads, and bridges at military posts, and repairs the same; furnishes water, heating and lighting apparatus; pays guides, spies, and interpreters, and is in charge of national cemeteries.

The Commisary-General of Subsistence has administrative control of the subsistence department, of the disbursement of its appropriations; the providing of rations and their issue to the army; the purchase and distribution of articles authorized to be kept for sale to officers and enlisted men; and the adjustment of accounts and returns for subsistence funds and supplies, preliminary to their settlement by the proper accounting officers of the treasurey.

The Sugeon-General, under the immediate direction of the Secretary of War, is charged with the administrative duties of the medical department, the designation of the stations of medical officers, and the issuing of all orders and instructions relating to their professional duties. He directs as to the selection, purchase, and distribution of the medical supplies of the army. The army medical museum and the official publications of the Sugeon-General's office are also under his direct control.

The Paymaster-General is charged with the payment of the officers and enlisted men of the army and civil employees of the department; with furnishing funds to his officers and seeing that they duly account for the same, and with a preliminary examination of their accounts; also, with the payment of treasury certificates for bounty, back pay, etc., and balances due deceased officers and soldiers of the volunteer and regular army.

The Chief of Engineers commands the corps of engineers, which is charged with all duties relating to fortifications, whether permanent or temporary; with torpedoes for coast defense; with all works for the attack and defense of places; with all military bridges, and with such surveys as may be required for these objects, or the movement of armies in the field. It is also charged with the harbor and river improvements; with military and geographical explorations and surveys; with the survey of the lakes; and with any other engineer work specially assigned to the corps by acts of Congress or orders of the President.

The Chief of Ordnance commands the ordnance department, the duties of which consist in providing, preserving, distributing, and accounting for every description of artillery, small arms, and all the munitions of war which may be required for the fortresses of the country, the armies in the field, and for the whole body of the militia of the Union. In these duties are comprised that of determining the general principles of construction and of prescribing in detail the models and forms of all military weapons employed in war. They comprise also the duty of prescribing the regulations for the proof and inspection of all these weapons, for maintaining uniformity and economy in their fabrication, for insuring their good quality, and for their preservation and distribution; and for carrying into effect the general purposes here stated large annual appropriations are made, and in order to fulfill these purposes extensive operations are conducted at the national armories, the gun factory, arsenals, and ordnance depots.

The Judge Advocate-General is directed by law to "receive, review, and cause to be recorded the proceedings of all courts-matial, courts of inquiry, and military commisssions." He also furnishes the Secretary of War reports and opinions upon legal questions arising under the laws, regulations, and customs pertaining to the army, and upon questions arising under the civil law; reports upon applications for clemency in the cases of military prisoners; examines and prepares legal papers relating to the erection of bridges over navigable waters; drafts bonds and examines those given to the United States by disbursing officers, colleges, and others; examines, revises, and drafts charges and specifications against officers and soldiers, and also drafts and examines deeds, contracts, licenses, leases, and legal papers generally.

The Chief Signal Officer is charged with the supervision of all military signal duties, and of books, papers, and devices connected therewith, including telegraph and telephone appratus, and the necessary meteorolgical instruments for use on target ranges and other military uses; the construction, repair, and operation of military telegraph lines, and the duty of collecting and transmitting information for the army by telegraph or otherwise, and all other duties usually pertaining to military signaling.

The Chief of the Record and Pension Office is charged by law with the custody of the military and hospital records of the volunteer armies and the transaction of the pension and other business of the war department connected therewith. The work of the office embraces all subjects relating to the service of organizations, officers, and enlisted men of the volunteer armies, and includes the answer to calls from the commissioner of Pensions, the accounting officers of the treasury, and others for information required in the adjudication of claims against the national and state governments, the adjustment of the individual records of officers and enlisted men under the general and special legislation of Congress relating thereto, and the general correspondence of the department relating to the volunteer forces.



The Attorney-Gerneral is the head of the department of justice and the chief law officer of the government. He represents the United States in matters involving legal questions; he gives his advice and opinion on questions of law when they are required by the President or by the heads of the other executive departments, on questions of law arising upon the administration of their respective departments; he exercises a general superintendence and direction over United States attorneys and marshals in all judicial districts in the states and territories; and he provides special counsel for the United States whenever required by any department of the government.

He is assisted by a chief clerk and other clerks and employees in the executive management of the business of the department.

A law clerk, who is also an examiner of titles, assists the Attorney-Gerneral in the investigation of legal questions and in the preparation of opinions.


The Solicitor-General assists the Attorney-General in the performance of his general duties, and by special provision of law in the case of a vacancy in the office of Attorney-General, or in his absence, exercises all these duties. Except when the Attorney-General otherwise directs, the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General conduct and argue all cases in the supreme court and in the court of claims in which the United States is interested; and, when the Attorney-General so directs, any such case in any court of the United States may be conducted and argued by the Solicitor-General; and in the same way the Solicitor-General may be sent by the Attorney-General to attend to the interests of the United States to any state court or elsewhere.


Four Assistant Attorneys-General assist the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General in the performance of their duties. Two assist in the argument of causes in the supreme court and in the preparation of legal opinions; one is charged with the conduct of the defense of the United States in the court of claims, and has to assist him six assistant attorneys; the other is charged with the defense of the Indian depredation claims.

Under the act of 1870 the different law officers of the executive departments exercise their functions under the supervision and control of the Attorney-General. They are the Assistant-Attorney-General for the Department of the Interior; the Assistant Attorney-General for the Post-Office Department; the Solicitor of the Treaury; and the Solicitor of Internal Revenue, Treasury Department; and the Solicitor for the Department of State.

The Post-Office Department
Department of Labor
© 2002 by Lynn Waterman