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FW: ANB - Bio of the Day: Thomas Sydney Jesup

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  • A.J. Wright
    fyi..Jesup had an Alabama connection!--aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From: biod-request@www.anb.org [mailto:biod-request@www.anb.org] Sent: Thursday,
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 19, 2002
      fyi..Jesup had an Alabama connection!--aj wright // ajwright@...

      -----Original Message-----
      From: biod-request@... [mailto:biod-request@...]
      Sent: Thursday, November 14, 2002 1:00 AM
      To: ANB bioday mailing list
      Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day

      American National Biography Online

      Jesup, Thomas Sidney (16 Dec. 1788-10 June 1860), army officer,
      was born in Berkeley County, Virginia, the son of James Edward
      Jesup and Ann O'Neill, farmers. Jesup's family moved to the Kentucky
      frontier in 1792, where his father rented a farm. The father
      died four years later, however, leaving his wife to raise her
      children in poverty and debt. As a young man, Jesup worked as
      a store clerk in Maysville, Kentucky, then procured a second
      lieutenant's commission in one of the infantry regiments added
      to the army in 1808 in response to the growing controversy with Great

      Early in the War of 1812, Jesup served on the staff of Brigadier
      General William Hull, commander of the northwestern army, and
      he was captured when Hull surrendered Detroit in August 1812.
      Paroled soon afterward, Jesup distinguished himself as both a
      staff officer and a combat leader. As a 25-year-old major, he
      commanded a regiment in the bloody Niagara campaign of 1814,
      and he was wounded at the battle of Lundy's Lane. Late in the
      war, the War Department ordered him to Connecticut, ostensibly
      on recruiting duty but actually to keep the Madison administration
      informed on the deliberations of the Hartford Convention, a meeting
      of antiwar New England Federalists. Jesup was retained in the
      service when Congress reduced the army after the Peace of Ghent.
      While commanding at New Orleans in 1816, the ambitious young
      officer longed for a war with Spain and independently planned
      an attack on Cuba.

      In 1818 Secretary of War John C. Calhoun appointed Jesup to
      the key staff office of quartermaster general of the army, a
      post that carried the rank of brigadier general and was charged
      with the procurement of light military equipment, the transportation
      of supplies of all sorts, and the construction of military roads,
      posts, and other buildings. During the years that followed, Jesup
      participated in a broad effort, coordinated by Calhoun, to renovate
      military management and introduce systematic administrative
      avoiding a repetition of the breakdowns and confusion that had
      characterized the War of 1812 mobilization. He compiled a comprehensive
      set of departmental regulations that clearly specified each form
      of duty and established a strict system of property accountability,
      enforced through the regular submission of standardized reports
      and returns. He used his office as a training school to develop
      a cadre of competent young supply officers. Despite the logistical
      burdens imposed by an expanding frontier and the pressures of
      recurrent congressional retrenchment campaigns, Jesup brought
      an unprecedented degree of order and efficiency to quartermaster
      operations. Together with his counterparts in other army staff
      departments, he produced a pattern of administration and accountability
      that was adopted by both private companies and other government
      agencies and that helped lay the foundations of modern management
      in the United States. In 1822 he married Ann Heron Croghan, with
      whom he had eight children.

      In May 1836 the War Department ordered Jesup to suspend his
      quartermaster duties and take a field command on the Georgia-Alabama
      border, where a faction of the Creek nation had rebelled against
      the Jackson administration's policy of American Indian removal.
      Acting under the orders of the theater commander, Brigadier General
      Winfield Scott, Jesup organized a force of Alabama militia as
      part of a planned two-pronged advance into the Creek country.
      Jesup decided to launch his offensive before Scott had completed
      his preparations, resulting in a quick suppression of the uprising
      but also in a politically charged quarrel between the two generals.
      President Andrew Jackson supported Jesup in this controversy,
      and late in 1836 he placed the quartermaster general in command
      of the regular and militia forces fighting the Second Seminole
      War in Florida, another outgrowth of the removal policy. This
      assignment proved to be the most frustrating of Jesup's career.
      Dispersed bands of American Indians, supported by escaped slaves
      and their descendants, tenaciously resisted removal, eluding
      the army in the Florida wilderness and fighting only when they
      held the advantage. Moreover, the conflict was controversial,
      and Jesup faced criticism from abolitionists, Whigs, and other
      opponents of the war. In October 1837 he ordered the seizure
      of the Seminole leader Osceola and a band of his followers after
      the American Indians had gathered for a council under a flag
      of truce--an action that tainted his reputation for the rest
      of his life. By early 1838 Jesup had grown disillusioned with
      the war, and he recommended allowing the remaining Seminoles
      to stay in a restricted part of Florida. The Van Buren administration
      held firmly to removal, however, and in April it replaced Jesup
      as Florida commander with Colonel Zachary Taylor.

      Resuming his quartermaster duties in Washington, D.C., Jesup
      strove to meet the logistical demands of the seemingly interminable
      Seminole conflict. The end of that struggle in 1842 resulted
      in a reduction of the army and a congressional campaign to cut
      military expenses and sell off surplus equipment. Thus, the quartermaster
      service was hard-pressed in 1846, when the outbreak of war with
      Mexico brought a dramatic buildup of the army and required the
      support of operations on fronts as distant as the Rio Grande,
      California, and Central Mexico. Despite the inevitable grousing
      of field commanders about supply shortages, Jesup's administrative
      system responded remarkably well to the crisis. In sharp contrast
      to the War of 1812 experience, the army enjoyed a high level
      of logistical support as it conducted its first truly foreign
      war--a key factor in the overwhelming success of American arms.
      During the fall of 1846, the quartermaster general traveled to
      the Gulf of Mexico, where he personally directed forward supply
      operations, and he accompanied Scott's expedition against Veracruz
      during the following spring. Jesup continued to supervise his
      department throughout the 1850s, wrestling with difficult problems
      of transportation as the army dispersed across the Great Plains
      and Far West and engaged in almost constant campaigning against
      the American Indians. He died at his Washington home.

      The "father" of the army Quartermaster Corps, Jesup was an important
      figure in the evolution of military management in the United
      States. His emphasis on uniform procedures and strict accountability
      helped make the army's supply system one of the most modern and
      efficient large organizations in the nineteenth-century United States.


      The largest collection of Jesup's personal papers is preserved
      at the Library of Congress; smaller collections are located at
      the Duke University library and the William L. Clements Library
      at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The best biography
      is Chester L. Kiefer, Maligned General: A Biography of Thomas
      S. Jesup (1979). For Jesup's impact on military supply see also
      Erna Risch, Quartermaster Support of the Army: A History of the
      Corps, 1775-1939 (1962). Other aspects of his career are considered
      in Jack A. Clarke, "Thomas Sidney Jesup: Military Observer at
      the Hartford Convention," New England Quarterly 29 (1956): 393-99;
      and John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842 (1967).

      William B. Skelton

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      William B. Skelton. "Jesup, Thomas Sidney";
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
      Access Date:
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