Bureaucrats of two government agencies, the Department of Agriculture and the General Service Adminstration, formed circles with their desks and went to battle last week.

A "memo war" was fought over whether a plaque honoring Alfred E. Packer would be allowed to hang in an Agriculture cafeteria, and the forces at GSA which oppose the plaque, appear to have won at least so far.

Packer was a Civil War veteran, allegedly the son of a prominent Pennsylvania family, who upon his return from the war went west to seek his fortune.

His last stop was Colorado, where he hired himself out as a guide, not really knowing the territory.

One of his first jobs was to guide five prospectors into "them thar hills" to find gold.

It was February and freezing when they left, and two months later Packer arrived at an Indian camp alone and 30 pounds heavier.

He was accused of cannibalism and sentenced to death, but was pardoned several years later.

The plaque honoring Packer was placed on the wall of a third-floor executive cafetria in a dedication ceremony earlier this month by a group of Packer fans from Colorado now working at Agriculture.

In honoring Packer, Bob Meyer, assistant secretary for marketing, had said. "It is fitting that this cafetria bears the name of this early Colorado pioneer because certainly the daily fare served here exemplifies his spirit and his career."

Clifton M. Turesdale, vice president, operations division at General Services Inc., who is responsible for the management of the cafeteria, said. "I was prepared to complain to the building manager, Mr. Schick. i thought it in extreme poor taste, a rather sick joke."

But Melvin Schick was ahead of the complaints and ordered the plaque removed.

A staff member of Rep. Fran Evans (D-Colo.) said the congressman was "outraged" at GSA when he heard of the incident and wondered how a famous Coloradian could be treated so "shabbily" in our nation's capital.

At the University of Colorado in Boulder the students have been dining and doing their homework at the Alfred E. Packer grill for 10 years.

Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland's office said yesterday, "Packer was a Union Army veteran who joined in Minnesota, was honorably discharged and awarded $25 for disability. "Too bad the GSA couldn't show more respect for a disabled American veteran."

Stanley Weston, one of the early contibutors to the cost of the plaque and also the man who screwed it to the wall, now has his plaque back.

And the menu in the cafeteria remains the same.