FW: ANB - Bio of the Day: Thomas Sydney Jesup
- fyi..Jesup had an Alabama connection!--aj wright // ajwright@...
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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.
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