June 2019 Meeting – Bob O’Neill

Joins us for our June meeting where our speaker Bob O’Neill will relate and describe the logistical issues that faced the Federal cavalry during the Gettysburg Campaign.

Meeting time: 7:30 p.m., June 11, 2019

Location: Thomas Balch Library, 208 West Market Street, Leesburg, Virginia

Topic:  Union Cavalry Logistical Challenges in the Gettysburg Campaign

Brig. Gen. Montgomery Meigs, the able, and under-appreciated, Quartermaster-General of the Union Army, bore the burden of providing barracks, hospitals and clothing for the soldiers.  He coordinated the acquisition and delivery of such essential items as coal, construction lumber and firewood.  He dealt with the teamsters and laborers who loaded, delivered, and unloaded supplies.  He chartered the ships which transported materiel to far-flung military outposts and armies, and he worked with the railroads, both the military and civilian lines, to insure the prompt delivery of men and supplies.  Over the course of the war, Meigs disbursed two billion dollars (nearly seventy billion today), supplying the needs of the soldiers.

Arguably, however, none of his daily trials surpassed the challenge of supplying and feeding the thousands of horses and mules required by the ever-expanding army.  Focusing upon the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, and drawing almost entirely upon unpublished documents, I will discuss the procurement, cost, transportation and feeding of horses during the spring and summer of 1863, as well as other challenges which Meigs and his subordinates needed to overcome to keep the cavalry in the field.

Brig. Gen. James Ripley oversaw the Ordnance Department for the Union Army, and provided the cavalry with weapons, ammunition, saddles and other horse equipment.  A myth persists today that the Union cavalry carried the innovative Spencer Carbine (a weapon which Ripley opposed) during the Gettysburg Campaign.  Rather than carrying the famous seven-shot carbine, the Union cavalry was, in fact, hampered by a shortage of weapons during the campaign.  I will close by briefly examining several other ordnance concerns which hampered the cavalry during the campaign.

Bob O’Neill grew up in Detroit, Michigan, before moving to Northern Virginia in 1977.  He worked as a patrol officer and detective for the Fairfax County Police Department for 26 years, retiring in 2002.  He currently provides training for law enforcement agencies through Moser Training Solutions of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

A graduate of American University, Bob has published two books – Small but Important Riots, The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville in 1993 and Chasing Jeb Stuart and John Mosby, The Union Cavalry in Northern Virginia from Second Manassas to Gettysburg in 2012.

He has also published articles for Virginia Country’s Civil War, Blue & Gray, North & South, Gettysburg Magazine and Little Big Horn Associates Research Review.  His most recent article for Blue & Gray covers Gen. George Crook’s early 1876 campaigns against the Sioux and Cheyenne, including the battles at Powder River and Rosebud Creek.

He has guided numerous tours of the cavalry battlefields in the Loudoun Valley, as well as several Custer related tours in Montana, Wyoming and Kansas.  He is currently working on a complete revision of his first book, and runs smallbutimportantriots.com, a Civil War cavalry website.

About Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.
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