Battlefield Dispatches #412
Wheels, Wagons, Horses & Mules, Part 2
["Study of a mule team and wagon, with driver" drawing by Edwin Forbes, courtesy of the 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!