This Week In Quartermaster History
29 April - 5 May
Union Major General George B. McClellan invaded the Virginia Peninsula in the spring of
1862, he had to face two enemies: Confederates at the front, and severe obstacles to
logistics everywhere else. With over 100,000 troops, 30,000 animals, and some 3,000
wagons, his was the largest force ever assembled on the North American continent. Handling
supply and transportation was his Chief Quartermaster, Brigadier General Steward Van
Almost all progress stopped in April, as McClellan was forced to lay siege to Yorktown for an entire month. As soon as the Confederates evacuated Yorktown on4 May 1862, opening the York River to Federal shipping, Van Vliet moved in with hundreds of transports and barges loaded with food and supplies.
Their problems, though, were far from over. Roads on the peninsula were too few and too narrow. And the spring rains soon turned the subsoil into quicksand, making them virtually impassable. A veteran of the Old Army, Van Vliet had campaigned in Florida, Mexico, Utah and the Plains, but had never seen anything as bad as this -- where "empty wagons even [sink] to their beds" in the mud.
Through organization, skill and perseverance, the Army of the Potomac eventually triumphed on the logistics front. But McClellan had less success dealing with Robert E. Lee.
Compiled by the
U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps Historian
Fort Lee, Virginia