Thursday, June 28, 2018

Just Finished Reading - The Quartermaster, Montgomery C. Meigs

The following is the brief review of The Quartermaster that I wrote on my Facebook page:

One of the most important yet overlooked figures of the Civil War was Montgomery C. Meigs, quartermaster general for the Union army. This worthy biography of Meigs thoroughly covers his pre-war life, Civil War accomplishments, and post-war life. 

After graduating from West Point in 1836 as 5th in his class, Meigs served as an army engineer. Missing the Mexican-American War, Meigs went on to share his influence on a range of projects through Sect. of War Jefferson Davis, like the Washington D.C aqueduct and enhancements to the Capitol building including its massive new dome. Meigs ran into a number of issues with John Floyd, who followed Davis as Sect. of War. Floyd basically had Meigs exiled to Fort Jefferson in Florida, but with Floyd's resignation, and then Lincoln's election, things turned for the better for Meigs. 

Made quartermaster general, Meigs's organizational and management were instrumental in helping him get the Union army armed, equipped, and remain fed, all while mitigating much of the corruption that arose with government contracts. Known for his high integrity and honesty, Meigs worked well with Sect. of War Stanton, Lincoln, and Sect. of State William Seward, all of whom prized Meigs's higher order thinking and ability to multitask at will. 

O'Harrow's biography is written for general audience, yet he provides the Civil War enthusiast with enough food for thought to keep readers from both camps engaged. The author makes extensive use of Meigs's shorthand writing journal from the pre-war years to tell that part of his life's story. The 245 pages of text makes for a quick read, and the photographs that the author includes helps the reader understand the people, places, and events of Meigs's life. Of Meigs William Seward wrote after the war: "Without the services of this eminent soldier, the National cause must either have been lost or deeply imperiled." Those sentiments come through loud and clear in The Quartermaster. I recommend it to learn more about this game-changer for the Union and to better understand the importance of logistics toward winning the war.

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