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

Simon and Schuster, 25 Οκτ 2016 - 320 σελίδες
“The lively story of the Civil War’s most unlikely—and most uncelebrated—genius.” —The Wall Street Journal

General Montgomery C. Meigs, who built the Union Army, was judged by Lincoln, Seward, and Stanton to be the indispensable architect of the Union victory. Civil War historian James McPherson calls Meigs “the unsung hero of northern victory.”

Born to a well to do, connected family in 1816, Montgomery C. Meigs graduated from West Point as an engineer. He helped build America’s forts and served under Lt. Robert E. Lee to make navigation improvements on the Mississippi River. As a young man, he designed the Washington aqueducts in a city where people were dying from contaminated water. He built the spectacular wings and the massive dome of the brand new US Capitol.

Introduced to President Lincoln by Secretary of State William Seward, Meigs became Lincoln’s Quartermaster. It was during the Civil War that Meigs became a national hero. He commanded Ulysses S. Grant’s base of supplies that made Union victories, including Gettysburg, possible. He sustained Sherman’s army in Georgia, and the March to the Sea. After the war, Meigs built Arlington Cemetery (on land that had been Robert E. Lee’s home).

Robert O’Harrow Jr. brings Meigs alive in the commanding and intensely personal Quartermaster. We get to know this major military figure that Lincoln and his Cabinet and Generals called the key to victory and learn how he fed, clothed, and armed the Union Army using his ingenuity and devotion. O’Harrow tells the full dramatic story of this fierce, strong, honest, loyal, forward-thinking, major American figure.

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Wholesome Water
An Aqueduct Worthy of the Nation
A Rival to the Parthenon
The Saturday Club
The Workload Grows
Energetic Obliging Firm
The War Cannot Be Long
His Best Name Is Honesty
Vast in Quantity
Hope Wanes
Fret Him and Fret Him
Exhaustion of Men and Money
A Beauteous Bubble

An Inscription for All Time
Everything into Confusion
Tall and Awkward Candidate
Floyd Resigns
A Secret Mission
A Soul on Fire
Building an Army
Hard Work and Cold Calculation
A Vulnerable Capital
The Refit at Savannah
The Journey Home
Dogs to Their Vomit
Soldier Engineer Architect Scientist Patriot
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The Quartermaster CHAPTER 1 Rigid Duty
Montgomery Cunningham Meigs was born on May 3, 1816, in Augusta, Georgia. His father, Dr. Charles Meigs, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with his new bride, Mary, had come to Augusta to start his medical career and raise a family in an atmosphere of piety. They lived not far from the Savannah River, optimistic about their prospects. But it soon became clear to the couple they could not stay in the South. The brutality of slavery made Mary ill. So they returned to Philadelphia, a bustling business center quickly filling with schools, churches, and businesses. It retained the charm of a provincial city, giving way quickly to unspoiled countryside. About sixty-three thousand residents relied on wood to heat their homes. Farmers brought food to the city by wagons. The city offered the Meigs family an affordable place to live, study, work, and grow. Montgomery and his six brothers and two sisters explored nearby rivers and forests. He loved to romp along the Delaware River with friends, examining the creatures he found in the mud and water. Sometimes in the summer, he fished until dark on the Schuylkill River. Now and then his family took sailing excursions to nearby farms.

Montgomery was bright and affectionate and "seems to observe everything that passes," his mother wrote in 1822, when he was six. But he also pained his family. He "very soon tires of his play things," she wrote. "Destroying them appears to afford him as much pleasure as their first possession--is not vexed with himself for having broken them. Is very inquisitive about the use of everything, delighted to see different machines at work." When playing, he tended to be bossy. His mother described him as "high tempered, unyielding, tyrannical towards his brothers; persevering in pursuit of anything he wishes."

Meigs''s father demanded discipline and excellence from the children. His stories were laden with moral lessons. The children often gathered around him near the fireplace and listened as he told them about their virtuous and industrious ancestors. The stories begin at the great Puritan migration in the 1630s, when the first of the clan arrived in Boston from England. The ancestors were educators, doctors, engineers, soldiers, and public officials. They were ambitious, patriotic, and pious. A certain righteousness also reappeared from generation to generation, much to the annoyance of neighbors and colleagues. Dr. Meigs in his stories underscored the importance of personal honor. He told the children it was their "rigid duty" to protect the family name. They were to "beware lest [they] disgrace that history." In a note inscribed at the end of the family Bible, he wrote: Discard "without mercy every member of their blood line whose conduct might stain" the family reputation.

His father challenged Meigs in other ways. He taught at Jefferson Medical College and became a pathbreaker in the realm of women''s health, writing books on obstetrics while maintaining regular hours for patients. He shouldered an extraordinary workload, often snatching only two or three hours of sleep on the family couch before going to work. Charles Meigs didn''t seem to mind. He felt called to service and thought his medical work put him closer to God. Montgomery Meigs would credit his mother''s influence for much of his success, but he would never lose sight of the model set by his father.

As a boy, Meigs watched militia companies march by on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. He heard how Stephen Decatur, the American naval hero, had offered the toast "My country--right or wrong!" He dreamed of going to the United States Military Academy at West Point, in New York, where he could train as a soldier and engineer. He was accepted in 1832, when he was sixteen, and he was awed by the outpost perched on a bluff in the forested mountains of the Hudson Highlands.

Meigs studied mathematics, engineering, and building. One teacher insisted that every soldier know how to draw for mapmaking, and Meigs was soon able to do so with unusual finesse. Though he thrived as a student, he racked up demerits for cutting against what he later called West Point''s "uncompromising devotion to orthodoxy." He complained about the demerit system, saying it impeded enterprising men in favor of "the stolid, the namby pamby, the men having no distinguishing traits or character." In 1836 Meigs graduated fifth in his class and became a second lieutenant in the army, dedicating himself to God, family, country, duty, honor. He joined the artillery corps but gave up that commission a year later to become a brevet second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers, an elite organization that played a primary role in building the young country''s roads, canals, bridges, and harbors. Its achievements included the country''s longest highway, the Cumberland Road, west of the Ohio River.

In the summer of 1837, one of his first assignments paired him with another West Point graduate, Robert E. Lee, class of 1829. Their task was to find ways of improving navigation on the Mississippi River. Meigs and Lee, his superior, set up headquarters on an abandoned steamboat about 150 miles to the north of St. Louis. Part of the deck was under water, but the staterooms were dry. Meigs drew and painted the countryside as part of mapmaking responsibilities. Lee directed a survey of the river and oversaw preliminary work of laborers to clear the river bottom. Meigs loved nearly everything about the assignment. For a time, the men bunked in a cabin onshore and ate the catfish and pike they caught. Meigs admired Lee, "then in the vigor of youthful strength, with a noble and commanding presence, and an admirable, graceful, and athletic figure. He was one with whom nobody ever wished or ventured to take a liberty, though kind and generous to his subordinates, admired by all women, and respected by all men. He was the model of a soldier and the beau ideal of a Christian man."

With harsh winter weather coming on, Meigs and Lee disbanded their crew. Meigs went back to Philadelphia; Lee, to his wife''s plantation at Arlington, Virginia, in the hills overlooking Washington. They would remain fond of each other until a national crisis turned them into mortal enemies.

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