Logistics Part One: The Quartermaster General

Logistics and the Continental Army

A Review in Four Parts

Part One: The Quartermaster General

By Joe Wagner

It’s to the credit of the Continental Congress that within weeks of the April 1775 deployment of an American militia army at Boston, they authorized creation of the necessary staff offices to provide for the Army’s needs.  Even before Washington arrived to take command, in June and July 1775 Congress authorized appointment of a Quartermaster General (actually with the rank of Colonel), and a Commissary General of Stores and Provisions.  They later added a Hospital Department, Commissary of Military Stores (Ordinance), and a Clothier General.  It was left to the new Commander the task of actually filling these positions, and those of other specialists who would work under them. We’ll begin in this first Part with what the Continental Congress and the army began with – the first essential ingredient of army logistics – a Quartermaster General (QMG).

Washington filled this most important logistical position in August 1775 with appointment of Major Thomas Mifflin, a 31-year-old Philadelphia merchant then serving as one of his aides.  Mifflin’s tenure represents the first of three QMG phases in the history of the Continental Army.

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Logistics Part Three: Subsistence and Clothing

Logistics and the Continental Army:

A Review in Four Parts

Part Three: Subsistence and Clothing

by Joe Wagner

Logistics:  “. . . the branch of military science dealing with

the procurement, maintenance, and movement

of equipment, supplies, and personnel.”

The Commissary General

From 1775 until the summer of 1781, just before the Yorktown campaign, feeding the troops of the Continental Army was accomplished using a Commissariat system.  This simply means the collection and distribution of food was performed by an independent organization not responsible to the military command structure, with specialists assigned to carry out the job.  Their leader was the Commissary General. There were four Commissary Generals during that period – Joseph Trumbull, William Buchanan, Jeremiah Wadsworth, and Ephraim Blaine.

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Logistics Part Four: Ordinance

Logistics and the Continental Army

A Review in Four Parts

Part Four: Ordinance

by Joe Wagner

Logistics:  “. . . the branch of military science dealing with

the procurement, maintenance, and movement

of equipment, supplies, and personnel.”

 

Organization of Continental Ordinance

The purpose of ordinance activities in the 18th century was to provide forces in the field with the weapons and ammunition to carry on the fight.  While the focus was mostly on artillery needs, the term and the activities included provision and repair of muskets and other individual arms, preparation of ammunition for muskets, and supplying all the materials and accoutrements necessary to maintain the army’s fighting capabilities.

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The Wheel of a Line of Infantry

The Wheel for a Line of Infantry

                                                                                                            By Joe Wagner

In almost every reenactor unit, it has to be admitted that in the course of any given event, they will perform one movement more often, and likely with less skill, than almost any other maneuver.

Yes – it is the cursed wheel – left, right, about, etc.  Nothing tells the audience, or fellow reenactors, more about how much practice you’ve had recently or how many new and untried recruits there are in the ranks, than by watching a unit perform a wheel or two.

Why is it such a problem to do it right?   Mostly because it means a lot of individuals have to think and move intelligently and cooperatively together.  Cooperation means practice – you can’t really learn it by yourself.  But wheeling well relies on a few simple rules.  It’s really just geometry.

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