Montgomery Cunningham Meigs

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs was born on May 3, 1816, in Augusta, Georgia, where his father, a noted obstetrician had his practice. His grandfather had served as a professor at Yale and president of the University of Georgia in a day before the slavery issue had become a political factor. During Montgomery's childhood, the family moved to Philadelphia, his mother's home. He attended the University of Pennsylvania before entering West Point in the class of 1836. From his graduation until the opening of the Civil War, Meigs had a part in a wide range of engineering projects undertaken by the Army Engineers; the most outstanding were the construction of the Potomac Aqueduct and the additions to the Capitol which included the House and Senate wings and the dome. On May 14, 1861, Meigs was promoted from captain of engineers to colonel of the 11th Infantry and the following day was made quartermaster general of the U. S. Army with rank of brigadier general. He served as quartermaster general with great distinction throughout the war and until his retirement in 1882. It has been estimated that from 1861 until 1866 he disbursed a billion and a half dollars upon his own order— the largest expenditure in military history up to that time. Every penny of the sum was accounted for, even though it must be confessed that large sums, by the very nature of the circumstances, found their way into the hands of speculators and dishonest contractors. He was brevetted major general, U. S. Army, July 5, 1864, for distinguished and meritorious services. In the postbellum years General Meigs traveled widely in this country and abroad, studying the organizations of foreign military establishments for comparison with that of the United States. After his retirement he acted as architect of the Pension Office Building in Washington, and among other scientific activities, he served as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution. When he died in Washington, January 2, 1892, the simple tribute contained in General Orders dated January 4 was perhaps his highest accolade: "The Army has rarely possessed an officer . . . who was entrusted by the government with a greater variety of weighty responsibilities, or who proved himself more worthy of confidence." He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.