THE LOGISTICS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY, 1812–1821
|Urwin, Gregory J. W., 1955-
|ABSTRACT The acquisition and transportation of supplies for the U.S. Army proved to be the most intractable military problem of the War of 1812. Logistics became the bane of successive secretaries of war and field commanders, and of the soldiers who fought the British and Canadian troops, and their native allies. Historians have correctly ascribed the failure of American arms to achieve its principal war aim, the conquest of Canada, to the dysfunctional logistical and supply system. The suffering of soldiers who received subpar food and clothing, and experienced a shortage of weapons, ammunition, and fuel, moreover, are a staple of the historical literature on the war. Although this dissertation analyzes the causes and consequences of the breakdown in logistics, it also focuses on the lesser-known story of how the Corps of Quartermasters made logistics work under difficult conditions. It investigates how the military professionals within the officer corps drew lessons from their wartime travails and made common cause with reform-minded civilians in the hope of creating a better logistical system. Their combined efforts led to the postwar reform drive that gave the U.S. Army permanent supply departments, a comprehensive set of regulations, effective measures to enforce accountability, a new system for distributing food to the army, and a construction boom in military roads. Reformers also transformed the Quartermaster Corps to a greater degree than previously thought. Historians have long argued that the U.S. Army did not have a professionalized officer corps until the end of the nineteenth century. Recently, historians have considered the professional aspects of the antebellum officer corps. This dissertation argues that the origins of military professionalism can be traced back to the War of 1812. Army quartermasters, in particular, stood in the vanguard of military progress. Quartermaster General Thomas Sidney Jesup emphasized military expertise, education, and training far more than had his predecessors, and quartermasters typified the growing commitment of army officers to a lifetime of service to the nation. Jesup envisioned that his department would become an elite staff of military logisticians. He also wanted that peacetime staff to be large enough to support an army at war. He opposed the practice of appointing businessmen to fill quartermaster vacancies during a war, believing that these men did not have the basic competencies to perform their tasks well. In fact, the performance of civil appointees and career officers improved over the course of the war and a few even proposed logistical reforms that the army would later adopt. The War of 1812 not only provided the catalyst for the postwar reform of logistics and the onset of a professional ethic among quartermasters, but the process of professionalizing logistics actually began during the war. This study’s main findings draw on the private and official correspondence of army officers and secretaries of war, which reside in published government documents and manuscript collections housed in the National Archives, Library of Congress, and various universities and historical societies. Army registers, college registers, local histories, genealogies, and officers’ letters facilitated the reconstruction of quartermasters’ careers.
|Temple University. Libraries
|Theses and Dissertations
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|THE LOGISTICS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY, 1812–1821
|Lockenour, Jay, 1966-
|Bruggeman, Seth C., 1975-
|Watson, Samuel J.
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