Robert Allen was born in West Point, a hamlet of Morrow County, Ohio, on March 15, 1811. Little is known of his life before he was admitted to the Military Academy at the age of twenty-one. He was graduated in the lower third of the class of 1836 and was commissioned into the 2nd Artillery. He performed routine garrison duties at various points until the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1846, when he transferred from the line to the Quartermaster's Department. Chief quartermaster of the Pacific Division of the army in the 1850's, he was brevetted major for gallant and meritorious conduct at Cerro Gordo and achieved the rank of major in 1861. In the course of his distinguished Civil War career— during which he was successively promoted to colonel, to brigadier general of volunteers, and to brevet major general in both the volunteers and the regular establishment —he acted as chief quartermaster of the turbulent Department of Missouri, and his authority soon extended to the entire Mississippi Valley. In this latter post he supplied U. S. Grant's army at Vicksburg, W. T. Sherman's army through the Georgia campaign, the great Federal base at Nashville, and the various secondary expeditions in that theater, and the troops in New Mexico, on the Plains, and in the Northwest. In his forty-six years in the army—from 1832 until his retirement in 1878 as assistant quartermaster general—he reputedly disbursed some $111 million (equivalent today to almost $3 billion) without a penny being disallowed by the Treasury. After retirement, General Allen traveled abroad. He died on August 5, 1886, in Geneva, Switzerland, where he is buried in the cemetery of Chene-Bougeries.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.