I became intrigued with the idea of finding out what a wagoner would do in the Civil War and what the wagons physical shape and size would be like. The idea that my great-grandfather would be a wagoner was truly amazing to me! He was my size 125 lbs. 5 ft. 4 inches tall. George was young and strong back at the time of the Civil War being about 18 years old. I think we can see he was a determined person.
In a letter dated July 20, 1999 from Guy LaFrance of the Eastern National in Manassas, Virginia (Battlefield of the Civil War – Bull Run), I received this bit of information:
“What I can tell you, based on my own personal knowledge, is that the role of a wagoner was to transport the supplies needed by the army. He was responsible for driving the wagon and maintaining it, feeding and caring for the mule team that pulled it, ensuring that it was loaded properly, and seeing that its cargo reached its destination safely. The cargo could be anything that an army of that time required; food, medicines, weapons, ammunition, clothing, shelter tents, tools, the soldier’s knacksacks, officer’s luggage, and anything else the Quartermaster Corps, the branch of the U.S. Army that was responsible for obtaining and distributing supplies felt was needed. It was, and still is an essential job, one that is too often overlooked when studying military history.”
The picture of the wagon was taken at a museum in northern Minnesota probably the Itasca Historical Society but I do not remember exactly where. I was amused by the shiny floor and this huge wagon that towered over me. I think it is probably a Conestoga style. Next time I am near one of these wagons I will stand next to it so it is documented my size versus a wagon of this type.
Here is an article about the Quartermaster Department in the Civil War.
The Quartermaster Corps during the Civil War was managed by Montgomery Meigs who reorganized and it made it work. Several years ago I was poking around on the internet about the Quartermaster Department of the Civil War and there was nothing but now things are changing. Wikipedia has a great biography of this man and his contributions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_C._Meigs
Tip: go to Google Images and type in “Civil War Wagons” and you get a lot of photos of the different kinds of wagons used: ambulance, supplies, guns and more. Copyright will not allow me to post pictures here unless I ask permission.
General Sherman writes in his memoirs:
“An ordinary army-wagon drawn by six mules may be counted on to carry three thousand pounds net, equal to the food of a full regiment for one day.” The Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman, Vol. II., Part 4; by William T. Sherman
George Barclay writes in his own words:
This is taken from George’s Civil War Pension record and written in his own hand. Civil War Pension records are mostly about the service of the soldier and their medical condition in order to secure their pension. Here George is pleading his case. He wrote this about 1891. Ouch!
Here is an interesting article on mules at the blog: Civil War by LearnCivilWarHistory.com, http://www.nellaware.com/blog/civil-war-mules.html It tells about their uses and care. Apparently they didn’t use mules around the guns for they would not be willing participants. Mules worked best for hauling. I saw a donkey at the Latte Plantation in North Carolina but he was small and shaggy so learning a little about mules versus horses has been very educational for me, I am a city kid.