The Quartermaster: Montgomery C. Meigs Lincoln’s General, Master Builder of the Union Army

Courier Book Reviewed by Duane Benell (Available at Our Online Store)

In May of 1861 Captain Montgomery C. Meigs responded to a letter from the Secretary of State to attend a meeting at the White House to discuss and solve certain military operations. Meigs was an army engineer with no combat experience, but his engineering projects were well known in Washington. He had graduated from West Point in the class of 1836 and was originally assigned to the artillery, then reassigned to the Corps of Engineers. His pre Civil War projects included building and rebuilding forts, breakwaters, bridges, improving river navigation, and providing an abundant supply of healthy water to the capitol which is known as the Washington Aqueduct. Jefferson Davis, as Secretary of War, backed Meigs’ plans and projects, including enlarging the U.S. capitol building and helped get him promoted to Captain. Meigs had to deal with a lot of Washington corruption, especially when John B. Floyd became Secretary of War and made life miserable for him. Relieved of duty and sent to the Tortuga Islands in Florida to work on unfinished forts for six months, he was called back to Washington in February 1861 and in June 1861 he was appointed Quartermaster General of the Union Army.

Meigs had many problems to solve including contractors providing shoddy clothing and other sub standard items and services, as well as dealing with government employees involved in profiteering, waste and fraud, with General Fremont being the worst. By Fall 1861 Meigs had the Quartermaster Department functioning well, though problems and challenges continued. A workaholic, he personally scrutinized every contract that crossed his desk to insure the government was getting their money’s worth. Meigs had many interests and also played a role in the planning and design of iron clad gunboats. It is surprising how many responsibilities and subordinate activities fell under Meigs Quartermaster Dept. by the end of the war.

Meigs was a very remarkable man and this excellent book covers his life, his accomplishments as an engineer and his leadership from his desk that played a major part in the Union winning the war. He had a personal relationship with Lincoln, who sought his advice on many issues, and it was Meigs who suggested that a National Cemetery be established on the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s former residence at Arlington. An idealist, he was dedicated to improving the world, and did so in many ways during his lifetime. The author has done an excellent job in researching and writing this interesting and informative book which I thoroughly enjoyed. All Civil War readers will learn something from this book.

Title: The Quartermaster: Montgomery C. Meigs - Lincoln’s General, Master Builder of the

Union Army

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 285

Price: $28.00

Hard Cover