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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

Battlefield Dispatches #412

Wheels, Wagons, Horses & Mules

Recently, there has been a UPS ad that suggests that one of the main reasons for the company’s success and customer satisfaction is good LOGISTICS. This makes sense because Mr. Webster defines logistics as “The procurement, maintenance, distribution and replacement of personnel and material.” Hence, UPS and other such companies have a very successful distribution system that is based on rapid delivery and transportation. During the Civil War or for that matter in any war, the success of an army in the field or on campaign depended on successful logistics or being supplied with the necessary material to wage war. The major organization that accomplished this was the Quartermaster Department. The following Quartermaster Report is located on Pages 570-571 in Series I, vol. 53 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and describes the amount of supplies issued and transported to various locations in the Department of Kansas for one year.

Montgomery C. Meigs (Library of Congress)

Quartermaster’s Office

Fort Leavenworth, September 21, 1863

General M. C. Meigs,

Quartermaster General, U. S. Army,

Washington, D. C.

General: In obedience to instructions contained in your General Orders, No. 13, of July 22, 1863, I have the honor to report that during the year [starting on July 1, 1862 &] ending on the 30th of June, 1863, I was stationed at this place, attending to the various duties pertaining to the Quartermaster’s Department at this Depot.

During the year I have promptly furnished the necessary transportation for all the troops, subsistence, quartermaster’s, ordnance and medical stores required for all the troops serving in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, the Indian Country west of the State of Arkansas as far south as the Arkansas River, the two western tiers of counties of the State of Missouri north of the 38th parallel and south of the Missouri River and the western tier of counties of the States of Missouri and Arkansas south of the 38th parallel and to the Arkansas River.

With railroads and water communications , the supply of the section of the country referred to would be a small undertaking, but the magnitude and labor of duties I have performed can be better understood when you recollect that the troops scattered over this vast extent of country have been supplied by COMMON ROAD WAGONS OVER UNIMPROVED ROADS, OBSTRUCTED BY HIGH WATER IN SUMMER AND BY THE ICE IN WINTER and the most of them passing through a perfect wilderness, where there is no forage or other supplies except grass.

I say this is no small undertaking when you take the above circumstances into consideration, together with the DISTANCES of the POINTS to be SUPPLIED from this DEPOT. That you may understand this, I will give you some of the principal points to which I have had to send large quantities of supplies and their distances from this Depot, with the weight of the stores sent to each, viz:

Post or Station

Miles from Ft Leavenworth Stores Transported (lbs.)
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory 1,837 662, 720
Fort Union, New Mexico 735 6,364,263
Fort Laramie, Nebraska 600 832,134
Fort Lyon, Colorado 500 440,000
Fort Larned, Kansas 266 811,956
Fort Kearny, Nebraska 275 592,206
Fort Scott, Kansas 125 8,106,501
Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation 300
To Other Posts and Stations 1,801,664

There was shod at this Depot during the year 11,101 mules, and 5,058 Horses; 2,500 wagons and ambulances have been repaired in the shops under my charge. In addition to my other duties I have conducted two very large Government Farms on which was cultivated and secured for the use of your department 2,200,000 pounds of Timothy Hay, 749 Bushels of Corn, 650 Bushels of Oats, besides furnishing pasturage for a large number of public animals. The repair of tents, wagon covers, harness, tent poles, & etc., I have no count of, but they have been large.

Transportation has been furnished for the supplies and equipage of a large number of troops moving from one point to another. Means furnished was Government Wagons which returned to this Depot and I have no account of the number of troops so transported. Their means of transportation, clothing, equipage, & etc., have been excellent and the character of their artillery and cavalry horses superior.

I hope at least to obtain credit for industry, attention to duty and at all times having the best interest of the service in view and laboring constantly to that end.

Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant,


Major and Quartermaster, U. S. Army.

Now then it appears according to the above chart that “8,106,501” pounds of military supplies were shipped to Fort Scott and Fort Gibson between July 1, 1862 and June 30, 1863. How much of this actually remained in Fort Scott is unknown because it was a transient post for supplies en route to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. However, a large portion was probably used to supply Fort Scott and its’ surrounding posts in Kansas and Missouri.

"Study of a mule team and wagon, with driver" by Edwin Forbes (Library of Congress)

The following article published in the Leavenworth Conservative on January 11, 1863 describes the huge Quartermaster Department in Fort Scott:

Military Business at Fort Scott

“The Fort Scott bulletin publishes a statement which gives the reader some notion of the immense amount of business done at Fort Scott. We copy it below, only regretting that it is not more complete.

“In the Quartermaster’s Department we find there are eight clerks employed in the office, chief of whom are Capt. Brooks & Col. Willets. These gentlemen have a thorough knowledge of the business and perform their duties to the satisfaction of all concerned. The clerks are employed from 8 to 10 hours each day, Sunday not always excepted. It frequently happens that little or no time is allowed to anyone in the department for devotional exercises on the first day of the week. Next in order comes the Military Storekeeper, the Master of Transportation, the Master Mechanic and the Forage and Corral Masters.

“The business of transportation is under the immediate management of Mr. Hugh Kirkendall, a gentleman thoroughly acquainted with this branch of the Department and having had several years’ experience in it at Fort Leavenworth and other Posts. He is eminently qualified for the position which he holds. There are employed in this branch 458 men, viz: 14 Wagon masters, 14 Assistants, 350 Teamsters, 40 Herders, and 40 laborers. There are also 350 Wagons, a like number of mule teams, consisting of six mules to the team, making a total of 2,200 MULES! Fourteen of these teams are used for the ordinary transportation at the Post. The remainder are employed in transporting supplies to the Army of the Frontier [in the Indian Territory & northwestern Arkansas] & from Leavenworth to here. Besides the mules there are 400 head of HORSES.

“It requires considerable forage to feed all this stock. According to Army Regulations each horse is allowed 14 pounds of HAY and 12 pounds of CORN; each mule 14 pounds of HAY and 9 pounds of CORN each day, making a total daily issue of 36,300 pounds of HAY and 24,000 pounds of CORN to stock in the Quartermaster’s Department alone. Besides the above amount, there is an immense quantity of forage issued to the troops stationed at the Post.

“One WAGON and three BLACKSMITH SHOPS employing 20 BLACKSMITHS and 4 WAGON MAKERS, are kept running to REPAIR WAGONS, SHOE HORSES AND MULES, etc. There is also one CARPENTER SHOP employing 10 CARPENTERS and one HARNESS SHOP employing four HARNESSMAKERS. We find, upon adding up, that a force of 506 MEN is required to perform all the labor requisite in Captain M. H. Insley’s Department.

“The amount of money expended every month by Capt. Insley in paying for labor, buying wood, coal, hay, corn and defraying incidental expenses will average at least $30,000 [equals $600,000 plus in 2015] – a large sum, but small in comparison to the expenditures in other Departments.

“The above items relating to the Quartermaster’s Department will give our citizens an idea of the business done here by the government through the agency of Capt. Insley. We will now turn to the Commissary Department under Capt. Hammer. Four clerks are constantly employed in the office, chief of whom are Mr. Henry McKee and Mr. John w. Wright. These gentlemen have a thorough knowledge of the duties of their positions and perform them in a manner that would reflect credit upon men having more experience in the business.

“We can only give an average of the amount of provisions issued by the commissary Department during any one month. As near as we can ascertain it is about as follows:

“Flour 250,000 lbs., Bacon, 80,000 lbs.; sugar, 50,000 lbs.; Beans 80,000 lbs.; Vinegar 4,000 gals.; Salt, 12,000 lbs.; Rice, 15,000 lbs.; Hard Bread 30,000 lbs.; Coffee, 20,000 lbs.; Soap, 5,000 lbs.; Candles, 3,500 lbs.. Besides the above, desiccated vegetables, dried apples and hams are issued; also a small quantity of WHISKEY for SANITARY [MEDICINAL] purposes.”

Now then, Fort Scott certainly became an economic boomtown in the Civil War and its key logistical location enabled “Union” Forts, Camps and Armies in southwestern Missouri, northwest Arkansas and the Indian Territory to be successfully supplied with the necessary articles of war.

Also, the normal carrying capacity of a standard six mule freight wagon was 2,000 pounds which on a good day and on a good road could travel 12 – 24 miles. Therefore, in the year ending on June 30, 1863 the 8,106,501 pounds of military supplies that were  transported from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott in various supply trains totaling approximately 4,053 wagons which traveled 12 – 24 miles per day depending on the road conditions, and of course the War Went On!

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
4125 NW Willow DR
Kansas City, MO 64116

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