Montgomery Meigs

Montgomery Meigs

Montgomery Meigs (1816-1892) graduated from West Point in 1836 and joined the Army engineer corps. He was significant as an example of the modernizing North and the transportation revolution. From 1852 to 1860 he supervised the construction of the Washington Aqueduct that carried a large part of the water supply from the Great Falls of the Potomac to the city of Washington. He designed the monumental bridge across Cabin John Branch. In 1853 he began the building of the wings and dome of the national Capitol (see article), and the extension of the General Post Office building, and built Fort Madison in Annapolis.

Washington Aqueduct
In April 1861, Lincoln gave Meigs the secret assignment to carry out a relief expedition for Fort Pickens. He sailed Apr. 7 from New York with troops and supplies on the Collins steamship Atlantic for the fort in Pensacola. On May 15 he was promoted to Brigadier General and became Quartermaster-General of the Army. His first concern was to organize the rapidly growing number of volunteers arriving in Washington. The basic unit of the Union army was the regiment, commanded by a Colonel and supplied by a Quartermaster Colonel who wrote a monthly report to Meigs' office in Washington DC. The North would raise 2,047 regiments, each of about 1000 soldiers organized in 10 companies.

wagons on Peninsula
In the first year of war, Meigs was in charge of building the gunboat fleet on the western rivers to support Grant's River War. He also contracted for 20,000 wagons and 2,500 ambulances to transport the Union army, plus 146,000 horses and 101,000 mules. McClellan used 2578 wagons for his Peninsula campaign. Meigs issued rules for the treatment of horses, required time each day for grazing, provided 26 lbs food each day for each horse. He arranged for the purchase of arms and ammunition, and began the conversion of northern factories to military production.

soldiers on Peninsula
Starting Jan. 2, 1862, Meigs began to streamline the way soldiers were equipped for field duty. Each would carry 8 days rations, a knapsack with a blanket and small tent, or a portion of the squad shelter tent. Each soldier was issued a mass-produced wool uniform and flannel overcoat and standard-sized shoes. One man in each squad would carry the cook kettle, another the pans, and others would carry a shovel or ax or pick. Each soldier carried a mass-produced Springfield rifled musket, bayonet, cap box, and 40 rounds ammunition. He equipped the armies with portable mills to grind corn and wheat into flour for making the 3-inch square "hardtack" of bread.

U. S. photographer
Meigs was a passionate advocate of photography, using wet plates for studies and documenting of his construction of the Capitol dome. He encouraged Union generals to use photographs to make war plans, and to allow commercial photographers such as Mathew Brady to accompany the armies.    


Fort Ellsworth

revised 3/22/06 by Schoenherr | Civil War