General Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General

General Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General
Virginia Union University
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Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (May 3, 1816 – January 2, 1892) was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, construction engineer for a number of facilities in Washington, D.C., and Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army during and after the American Civil War.

Meigs was born in Augusta, Georgia, a son of Dr. Charles Delucena Meigs and a grandson of the academic Josiah Meigs. While a boy, he moved with his family to Pennsylvania, and he initially attended the University of Pennsylvania, but was appointed to the United States Military Academy and graduated in 1836. He received a commission as a second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery, but most of his army service was with the Corps of Engineers, in which he worked on important engineering projects.

On May 14, 1861, Meigs was appointed colonel, 11th U.S. Infantry, and on the following day, promoted to brigadier general and Quartermaster General of the Army. The previous Quartermaster General, Joseph Johnston, had resigned and become a general in the Confederate Army. Meigs established a reputation for being efficient, hard-driving, and scrupulously honest. He molded a large and somewhat diffuse department into a great tool of war. He was one of the first to fully appreciate the importance of logistical preparations in military planning, and under his leadership, supplies moved forward and troops were transported over long distances with ever-greater efficiency.

A staunch Unionist despite his Southern roots, Meigs detested the Confederacy. He recommended that the historic Custis Mansion in Arlington, Virginia, owned by Mary Anna Custis Lee, the wife of Robert E. Lee, be used as a military burial ground. Based on this recommendation, Arlington National Cemetery was created in 1864. In October of that same year, his son, First Lieutenant John Rodgers Meigs, was killed at Swift Run Gap in Virginia and was buried at a Georgetown Cemetery. Lt. Meigs was part of a 3-man patrol which ran into a 3-man Confederate patrol; Lt. Meigs was killed; one was captured and one escaped. Meigs to the end of his life believed that his son had been murdered after being captured—despite evidence to the contrary.

In 1882 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in United States v. Lee Kaufman that the recommendation made by Meigs and confirmed by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was illegal and returned the estate to George Washington Custis Lee, Gen. Lee’s oldest son. He, in turn, sold the part of the estate that was used as a cemetery to the U.S. Government for 0,000, considered the fair market value of the property.

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