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FW: ANB - Bio of the Day: Montgomery Meigs

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  • Bob Huddleston
    One of the most important people responsible for Union success in the Civil War was the man who clothed, armed and fed the United States troops. And,
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 24 9:03 AM
      One of the most important people responsible for Union success in the
      Civil War was the man who clothed, armed and fed the United States
      troops. And, especially in the East, also, thanks to the Army of the
      Potomac leadership, provided the same service for Robert E. Lee! In
      1862, it was Meigs who suggested to a frustrated Abraham Lincoln that
      the president should act as commander-in-chief, if McClellan was going
      to, and gather the Army of the Potomac's top generals, assign corps
      commanders and lay out the advance on Richmond. When Sherman arrived in
      Savannah, Meigs was there, waiting for him, with a complete re-equipment
      of clothing and weapons for Uncle Billy's boys.

      We celebrate and cuss and discuss the fighting generals, but ignore
      quartermaster. Yet without the latter, the first would be impossible.
      And in Montgomery Meigs, the United States had one of the best
      quartermaster any army was ever blessed with.

      Meigs is also responsible for the establishment of Arlington National
      Cemetery.

      When next you are in Washington, be sure and visit the National Building
      Museum, erected by Meigs to house the Pension Bureau: when you use the
      CMSRs in the National Archives, you are using material that was housed
      in what was then the largest office building in the world. And the NBM
      (Judiciary Square stop on the Metro) is still a gorgeous work place. Be
      sure and check out the repeating frieze around the outside of the
      building.

      Take care,

      Bob

      Judy and Bob Huddleston
      10643 Sperry Street
      Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
      303.451.6276 Adco@...


      American National Biography Online


      Meigs, Montgomery Cunningham (3 May 1816-2 Jan. 1892), army officer,
      was born in Augusta, Georgia, the son of Charles Meigs, a physician, and
      Mary Montgomery. Soon after the family relocated to Philadelphia. In
      1831 Meigs briefly attended the University of Pennsylvania there. He
      transferred to the U.S. Military Academy the following year and on 1
      July 1836 graduated fifth in his class of forty-nine. As a second
      lieutenant, Meigs was initially posted with the First Artillery Regiment
      but subsequently requested and received transfer to the engineers. He
      engaged in various construction projects over the next sixteen years,
      commencing with Fort Mifflin near Philadelphia. He also worked on
      navigational improvements along the Mississippi River with Lieutenant
      Robert E. Lee. Meigs rose to first lieutenant on 7 July 1838; he then
      supervised work on Fort Delaware and the Delaware breakwater, Fort Wayne
      on the Detroit River, and Fort Montgomery on Lake Champlain, New York. A
      tenacious and energetic leader, he was also appointed to serve with the
      Board of Engineers for Atlantic Coastal Defenses from 1839 to 1841. In
      1841 Meigs married Louisa Rodgers, daughter of Commodore John Rodgers.
      The couple had four children.

      Meigs continued distinguishing himself in various engineering
      capacities. In 1853 he was summoned to Washington, D.C., to oversee the
      Washington Aqueduct Project. This eight-year endeavor was destined to
      bring year-round supplies of fresh water to the capital. It culminated
      in the construction across the Cabin John Branch of the world's largest
      masonry arch, a major technological feat. Meigs advanced to captain on 3
      March 1853 and enjoyed such celebrity that he was commissioned to build
      new wings and domes for the Capitol between 1853 and 1859. In September
      1860 he ran afoul of Secretary of War James B. Floyd in a dispute over
      contracts and was reassigned to Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortuga
      Islands off the Florida coast. His exile proved short-lived, and in
      February 1861 Meigs returned to Washington, D.C., to attend the
      inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. He resumed construction
      activities until the advent of the Civil War.

      When hostilities commenced in April 1861, Meigs conferred with Lincoln
      and Secretary of State William Seward about the possibility of secretly
      relieving Fort Pickens, Florida. He then accompanied an expedition
      commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Erasmus D. Keyes and Lieutenant David D.
      Porter, U.S. Navy, for that purpose. The garrison was successfully
      reinforced, and on 14 May 1861 Meigs was promoted to colonel, Eleventh
      Infantry. He disdained a field command, however, and requested
      reassignment. On the following day Meigs succeeded Joseph E. Johnston
      (who had joined the Confederacy) as quartermaster general of the Union
      army. Though never trained as a logistician, Meigs made significant
      contributions to the war effort.

      Meigs inherited a small, disorganized department but rapidly
      transformed it into a smoothly functioning bureau that supplied the
      needs of nearly one million soldiers. He was also responsible for
      overhauling transportation regulations for the railroads, wagons, ships,
      and pack animals under his charge. Continually beset by corruption,
      kickbacks, and unscrupulous contractors, Meigs nonetheless administered
      his affairs efficiently and dispensed nearly $1.5 billion by war's end.
      No armchair warrior, he repeatedly extended his logistical expertise to
      field operations and in 1864 personally commanded General Ulysses S.
      Grant's supply bases in Virginia. In July 1864, when Jubal Early's raid
      threatened the capital, Meigs directed a division of War Department
      employees in its defense. He also orchestrated a complicated seatrain of
      supply ships that victualed the army of General William T. Sherman at
      Savannah in 1864 and Raleigh in 1865. For brilliantly executing the
      complicated duties of his department, Meigs received promotion to brevet
      brigadier general on 5 July 1864.

      After the war, Meigs remained with the quartermaster department in
      Washington, where he supervised plans for a new War Department building
      and the National Museum, a part of the Smithsonian Institution. He also
      made several trips to Europe to observe military affairs and in 1876
      served with a commission charged with conducting military reforms. Meigs
      retired on 6 February 1882 but secured appointment as architect of the
      Pension Office buildings. He also found time to serve as regent of the
      Smithsonian Institution, join the American Philosophical Society, and
      become an early exponent of the National Academy of Science. Meigs died
      in Washington and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

      Meigs was an irascible man who spent forty-six years in the service of
      his country. He was a talented architect and engineer, but his tenure as
      quartermaster general was perhaps more significant as it ushered in a
      new age of modern military bureaucracy. Meigs's appetite for staff work,
      insistence on departmental honesty, and attention to the minutiae of
      supplying troops in the field rendered him one of the most effective
      administrators of U.S. Army history. His unsung efforts certainly
      facilitated the eventual Union victory. His eldest son, John Rodgers
      Meigs, was a talented Union officer who was allegedly murdered by
      Confederate partisans while scouting the Shenandoah Valley on 3 October
      1864. His commanding officer, General Philip Sheridan, was so outraged
      that he burned
      all houses and farms within five miles of the place of his death.


      Bibliography

      Meigs's official correspondence is in RG 92, Office of the
      Quartermaster General, National Archives. A large collection of personal
      papers is at the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, while his
      civil engineering papers reside at the Smithsonian Institution Library.
      The only reliable biography is Russell F. Weigley, Quartermaster General
      of the Union Army (1959). Useful details are also found in Erna Risch,
      Quartermaster Support for the Army (1962), and Sherrod E. East,
      "Montgomery C. Meigs and the Quartermaster Department," Military Affairs
      25 (1961): 183-96. For information on other phases of his life consult
      Carolyn Mulford, "A Monumental Tribute to Architecture," Historic
      Preservation 38 (1986): 58-63; East, "The Banishment of Captain Meigs,"
      Columbia Historical Society, Records 40 (1940): 97-143; and "General M.
      C. Meigs on the Conduct of the Civil War," American Historical Review 26
      (1921): 285-303. An overview of Meigs's administrative contributions is
      in Allan Nevins, "A Major Result of the Civil War," Civil War History
      5 (1959): 237-50.

      John C. Fredriksen



      Back to the top

      Citation:
      John C. Fredriksen. "Meigs, Montgomery Cunningham";
      http://www.anb.org/articles/05/05-00518.html;
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
      Access Date:
      Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published
      by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.





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    • carlw4514@yahoo.com
      the first paragraph really jumped out at me. (I assume you meant to write that M. was NOT going to btw) ; did the idea of President is commander in chief
      Message 2 of 4 , Aug 24 10:19 AM
        the first paragraph really jumped out at me. (I assume you meant to
        write that M. "was NOT going to" btw) ; did the idea of President is
        commander in chief start with Lincoln??
        --- In civilwarwest@y..., "Bob Huddleston" <adco12@m...> wrote:
        > One of the most important people responsible for Union success in
        the
        > Civil War was the man who clothed, armed and fed the United States
        > troops. And, especially in the East, also, thanks to the Army of the
        > Potomac leadership, provided the same service for Robert E. Lee! In
        > 1862, it was Meigs who suggested to a frustrated Abraham Lincoln
        that
        > the president should act as commander-in-chief, if McClellan was
        [not?]
        going
        > to, ..."
      • Bob Huddleston
        No, the idea did not: the Constitution makes the president the C-in-C, but Lincoln had been deferring to the regulars, such as McClellan, and nothing was
        Message 3 of 4 , Aug 24 11:03 AM
          No, the idea did not: the Constitution makes the president the C-in-C,
          but Lincoln had been deferring to the regulars, such as McClellan, and
          nothing was getting done. That unknown fellow out west named Grant had
          not gotten started and the AoP was doing magnificent parading but not
          any fighting.

          On January 10, 1862, Lincoln came over to the Winder Building, which
          Meigs was moving into. "General, what shall I do? The people are
          impatient; Chase has no money and he tells me he can raise no more; the
          General of the Army has typhoid fever, The bottom is out of the tub.
          What shall I do?"

          Meigs responded that if McClellan had typhoid he was out of action for
          at least six weeks. He went on to suggest that Lincoln meet with the
          senior division commanders of the Army.

          And thanks for catching the missing "not"! :>(

          Take care,

          Bob

          Judy and Bob Huddleston
          10643 Sperry Street
          Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
          303.451.6276 Adco@...


          the first paragraph really jumped out at me. (I assume you meant to
          write that M. "was NOT going to" btw) ; did the idea of President is
          commander in chief start with Lincoln??
          --- In civilwarwest@y..., "Bob Huddleston" <adco12@m...> wrote:
          > One of the most important people responsible for Union success in
          the
          > Civil War was the man who clothed, armed and fed the United States
          > troops. And, especially in the East, also, thanks to the Army of the
          > Potomac leadership, provided the same service for Robert E. Lee! In
          > 1862, it was Meigs who suggested to a frustrated Abraham Lincoln
          that
          > the president should act as commander-in-chief, if McClellan was
          [not?]
          going
          > to, ..."
        • hartshje@aol.com
          Wasn t there another point in time when Lincoln rhetorically asked if the Cmdg Genl (McClellan?) was not going to use the Army, might he (Lincoln) borrow it
          Message 4 of 4 , Aug 24 2:11 PM
            Wasn't there another point in time when Lincoln rhetorically asked if
            the Cmdg Genl (McClellan?) was not going to use the Army, might he
            (Lincoln) borrow it for awhile?

            Joe H.

            --- In civilwarwest@y..., "Bob Huddleston" <adco12@m...> wrote:
            >
            > No, the idea did not: the Constitution makes the president the
            > C-in-C, but Lincoln had been deferring to the regulars, such as
            > McClellan, and nothing was getting done. That unknown fellow out
            > west named Grant had not gotten started and the AoP was doing
            > magnificent parading but not any fighting.
            >
            > On January 10, 1862, Lincoln came over to the Winder Building, which
            > Meigs was moving into. "General, what shall I do? The people are
            > impatient; Chase has no money and he tells me he can raise no more;
            > the General of the Army has typhoid fever, The bottom is out of the
            > tub. What shall I do?"
            >
            > Meigs responded that if McClellan had typhoid he was out of action
            > for at least six weeks. He went on to suggest that Lincoln meet
            > with the senior division commanders of the Army.
            >
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