Discussion Lucius Northrop

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Could Northrop been successful in feeding the army or was it a bridge too far for the confederacy.
My reading leads me to believe that the Confederacy had enough food for army and people through the end of 1863. The loss of the Mississippi River and Middle Tennessee caused shortages in the sugar/molasses and pork categories that could never be made up after that time.

However, having enough food and feeding the troops are different questions. The connection between farm and army was the railroad, since the blockade prevented the use of coastal shipping, the normal method of movement for a very large portion of the country's food before the war. The railroads were not created to carry internal cargo from farm to field of battle, but from plantation to port. As a result, the railroads had to assume a job for which they were not created or equipped. Food in southern Georgia was a tremendous burden for the railroads trying to supply Lee.

Look at a railroad map and trace the route from Columbus, Ga to Richmond and note the indirect route through South Carolina and North Carolina. Then remember that everything headed to Richmond from the central Confederacy had only this route and the one through Atlanta and Knoxville (which was broken in late summer 1863).

Northrop took the heat for an inadequate transportation system that did not run under any kind of central control or prioritizing system. Some of his policies aggravated his detractors, but they were frequently ignoring the unsolvable problem of transportation and focusing on putting the blame on an unsympathetic friend of the President.

By 1864, the feeding of Lee's army was almost a miracle. The railroads were so damaged and worn out that Lee lived each day off the food that arrived the day before. There are scores of letters and telegrams trying to make sure that at least the bare minimum reached Richmond daily.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Northrop gets a bad wrap for the logistical problems in feeding the Confederate armies, not to mention for the malnutrition suffered in POW camps. That is the impression one gets of Northrup, without having a detailed knowledge of the man and his actual capabilities. But I can't help believe that there were circumstances beyond his control that would have bedeviled any commissary chief. Whether anybody else could have done a better job is very speculative.
 
Lucius B. Northrop was appointed to the position of Commissary-General on March 27, 1861 by his friend Jefferson Davis. Northrop, whose nearly 4 year tenure as the head food gatherer and distributor of the Confederate army was marked by inaction and severe inefficiency, was probably the most disliked individual in the Confederate military.

That being said, during October 1862, after reporting to Jefferson Davis that the Confederacy had only enough to feed 300,000 men for 25 days, Northrop did make an attempt to procure 20,000 hogs from a supplier behind Union lines that agreed to exchange 1 lb of pork and bacon for 1 lb. of cotton and deliver it to a Confederate supplier in Memphis Tennessee. This exchange was fully supported by the Confederate Secretary of War but President Davis refused to depart from his policy of withholding cotton. The meat supply rapidly declined especially as the Confederacy lost hog and cattle producing areas to Union occupation and never recovered.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
There was a tidbit about Northrop that I was not aware of. He had been called the most hated man in the Confederacy. When John C. Breckinridge was about to be appointed Secretary of War , one of the conditions for his acceptance was that Jefferson Davis fire Northrop. Even Robert E. Lee hinted that he expected "changes" if he were to be appointed as General in Chief.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2011
Location
Italy
Northrop was under the Secretary of War. The QMG was responsible for a lot, but not feeding the troops (except the providing of the transportation of the food on the railroads and steamships).
So, Northrop had to find food and QMG provide the transport of it? Right? I supposed QMG had to provide the transports also for ordinance bureau... Hadn't he?
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
So, although independent and equal bureau under war department, they all depended on the QMG for transport, which is a big and strategic part of logistics. I imagine the QMG desk crowded with requests ...😵
A request only made it to the QMG's desk if it were critical and could not be handled by the lower levels of the QM Department -- maybe a dozen or so times in the war (cannon from Norfolk to the Mississippi River, shafts for the ironclads building in New Orleans, cotton to Wilmington for the blockade runners, corn from SW Georgia to Richmond, lines of food supplies (NOT individual shipments) for the AOT and ANV, and a few that don't come quickly to mind).

If a shipping problem rose to the QMG level, it would be sent back down to the RR Bureau head and then usually down to the local QM or railroad superintendent for resolution. Communication was so slow, even with the telegraph, that the great majority of requests were filled by the local QM or the Transportation Agent. The lack of rolling stock and the conflicts regarding what should get the limited shipping space got a lot of attention at the local level, but was (as a national issue) not solvable.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2011
Location
Italy
A request only made it to the QMG's desk if it were critical and could not be handled by the lower levels of the QM Department -- maybe a dozen or so times in the war (cannon from Norfolk to the Mississippi River, shafts for the ironclads building in New Orleans, cotton to Wilmington for the blockade runners, corn from SW Georgia to Richmond, lines of food supplies (NOT individual shipments) for the AOT and ANV, and a few that don't come quickly to mind).

If a shipping problem rose to the QMG level, it would be sent back down to the RR Bureau head and then usually down to the local QM or railroad superintendent for resolution. Communication was so slow, even with the telegraph, that the great majority of requests were filled by the local QM or the Transportation Agent. The lack of rolling stock and the conflicts regarding what should get the limited shipping space got a lot of attention at the local level, but was (as a national issue) not solvable.
Great explain 👍
 
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