1864 Sutlers Row
SOURCE: National Archives - Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes
The source image is in the public domain. All metadata may be used with attribution under the CC-BY License Creative Commons License

Photograph of Sutlers Row in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These businesses are located on Chestnut Street between 8th and 9th streets. Some of the businesses shown are: Scott, Keen, & Company; M. C. Graham, boots, shoes, hats and caps; and Dunlap &Bowdre, supply store; Etowah Restaurant and saloon and St. Episcopal Church on the far right.


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.
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.

Source: University of Miami Libraries - Special Collections (From the Calvin Shedd Papers)

Scott Keen and Co

Sutler Newspaper Ad
The Nashville Daily Union,
March 11, 1864

civil war token

Several things to note in this photo:

  • We can do a little window shopping as some items are visible in the store fronts.
  • Broken windows can be seen in the building adjacent to St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The church was used as a hospital during the Civil War and sustained serious damage. The government paid the church $3640 in damages and the congregation held their first service back in the repaired church on Thanksgiving Day 1867.
  • What appears to be formal road building underway(?) with crushed stone and formed cement posts.
  • It appears the Sutlers of 1864 knew more about the importance of good store signage than many retailers today. The signs are impressive for their size, neatness of lettering, and use of easy-to-read san-serif fonts.

Image Gallery