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Rules for Correspondence with the Secretary of the Navy and Bureaus of the Department: General Order, 23 December 1862

Officers of the Navy and Marine Corps, and all other persons connected with the Naval service, will observe the following rules in their correspondence with the Secretary of the Navy and the Bureaus of the Department:

1. All communications are to be written in a clear and legible hand, in concise terms, without erasures or interlineations as far as practicable, and on one side only of each half sheet.

2. The paper used is to be white foolscap, 13 ½ by 16 ½ inches, weighing 16 pounds to the ream, and made of linen stock. To be stop ruled, with 24 blue lines on first and third pages only, leaving one inch margin back and front, top and bottom.

3. Separate letters are to be written on separate subjects.

4. When no enclosures are sent, and the subject matter can be completed on one page, half sheets only to be used.

5. Signatures are to be distinctly legible, and the writer is to annex his rank or rate. This rule is also to be observed on all occasions of officers signing their names to official documents.

6. Commanders of squadrons and stations, and all other officers having a regular correspondence with the Department, are to number their letters. A new series is to commence on the 1st of January of each year.

7. Enclosures are to be separately numbered and referred to accordingly.

8. When letters or documents are dated at sea, the latitude and longitude are to be stated.

9. All letters and documents transmitted in a foreign language are, when possible, to be accompanied by translations.

10. Commanders-in-chief, and other officers, abroad, are to forward, by different conveyances, duplicates, and, if necessary, triplicates, of all important letters they may write, either to the Secretary of the Navy or to any of the Bureaus; and on these occasions they are to state at the top of each letter, in red ink, when, and by what conveyance, the original was sent.

11. All officers through whom communications are forwarded to the Department or different Bureaus, will invariably state their opinions in writing, by endorsement or otherwise, in relation to every subject presented for discussion. The term forwarded is only to be endorsed upon such papers as require no action from the Department.

12. The receipt of all communications from the Secretary of the Navy, or from any Bureau of the Department, is to be immediately acknowledged, taking care to refer to the subject to which they respectively allude.

13. There are established in the Navy Department the following Bureaus:


1. Bureau of Yards and Docks.
2. Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting.
3. Bureau of Navigation.
4. Bureau of Ordnance.
5. Bureau of Construction and Repair.
6. Bureau of Steam Engineering.
7. Bureau of Provisions and Clothing.
8. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.


Official letters only, and relating solely to subjects with which a Bureau is entrusted, are to be addressed to the Chief of a Bureau. All other correspondence must be with the Secretary of the Navy.

14. Letters are to be folded twice, parallel with the ruling.

15. Official instructions and communications must not be published, nor copies furnished to any person, without the permission of the Secretary of the Navy.

Gideon Welles,
Secretary of the Navy.

Published: Tue Sep 12 15:05:33 EDT 2017