Montgomery Meigs: Civil War Quartermaster

Presidential History Blog

montgomerymeigs Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs

The United States Army in April, 1861

On the eve of the Civil War, the regular United States Army consisted of 16,000 soldiers, most of which were deployed out west. Other than maintaining the always-touchy peace with the native tribes, there was little need for armed forces. The 1100 officers were, for the most part, West Point graduates, either fulfilling their obligations or pursuing a career.

The Quartermaster Department was miniscule. There was, of course the Quartermaster General. He was in charge of a mere thirteen clerks and a budget of about $4 million annually. This covered all supplies except for food and weaponry, which were assigned to other departments.

When the Union began to split following Fort Sumter, a full third of those officers resigned to re-enlist with the Confederate army. Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers.

With little mechanism in place for…

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