Brigadier General & Chief Quartermaster of the Army Of the Potomac
Rufus Ingalls was born in Denmark, ME. on August 23, 1818. His father’s political influence got him an appointment to West Point in 1839 where he developed a close friendship with Ulysses S. Grant. He graduated in the class of 1843, and was brevetted a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Rifles. He was posted to the Western frontier & served at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Jessup. Although he would not see action in Mexico, he would be involved in the Battle of Santa Fe, where his regiment would defeat a band of Mexican nationals. Subsequently, he would see action against Indians at the Battle Of Embudo Pass and the Siege of Pueblo de Taos where he would be cited for meritorious conduct. Later in 1847, he was posted to California where he built & organized Supply Depots in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In June of 1848, he was promoted to Captain and posted to the Oregon Territory in May of 1849 where he spent the next 12 years building and re-supplying forts, and rising to the position of Quartermaster General – Military Department of the Oregon Territory.
On April 1st, 1861, he was summoned to Washington and accompanied the ship, USS Powhatan, on a re-supply mission to Fort Pickens, Florida. The ship was a few miles off the shore of Charleston when the rebels fired on Fort Sumter. Recalled to Washington, he was appointed Assistant Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac, and assigned to transport to Fortress Monroe the 125,000 soldiers, 175 siege guns, 15,000 horses & mules, and all the supplies for Major General George McClellan’s huge invasion for the start of the Peninsula Campaign.
Ingalls was appointed Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac in July of 1862, and would go on to serve every succeeding Commanding Officer of the AOP, despite the many changes of command that position would experience. He would be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the Volunteer Army in May of 1863.
When General Grant came east in March of 1864 to assume command of all the Union Armies, the two old friends were reunited. Following the Overland Campaign in the late Spring of 1864, Grant out maneuvered Lee and put him into a disastrous military predicament at the Siege of Petersburg. Grant promoted Ingalls to the brevet rank of Major General in the volunteer army, and to the position of Chief Quartermaster of the Richmond Theater, and ordered him to construct a Supply Depot capable of supplying all the armies in that theater. Within 40 days, Ingalls had transformed City Point, Va, into one of busiest harbors in the world, a port and railroad hub employing 10,000 workers, of unprecedented proportions and capabilities. By the Fall of 1864, 25 ships a day were being unloaded into a massive wharf and warehouse complex. From these warehouses, 25 trains a day brought supplies to Grant’s extended trench works via the 22 mile tracks of the U.S. Military Railroad. With an uninterrupted flow of supplies arriving on ships daily from the ports of Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York; massive brick ovens producing thousands of loaves of fresh bread daily; and a cattle compound of 5,000 beeves ripe for butchering, Grant’s troops had a steady & abundant supply of food, clothing, and ammunition as they tightened the noose around Lee’s starving, demoralized, and rapidly deserting army. The end came in early April, 1865 as Grant’s forces broke Lee’s lines, chased and cornered him at Appomattox and took his surrender. Ingalls was present in the surrender room.
After the War, Rufus Ingalls reverted to his Regular army rank of Lt. Colonel, and continued his career in the army, serving in different departmental postings of increasing authority and responsibility.
In February,1882, he was promoted to Brigadier General and Quartermaster General of the Army.
He retired, at his own request, in August of 1883, and returned to the Pacific Northwest to live. He would die on January 15, 1893, age 74, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Patrick E. Fairbairn
of Chambersburg, PA. is a Civil War buff for over 35 years, descended from a Civil War veteran, his Great-Great Grandfather Inglis Fairbairn, who fought for the Union in the 18th regiment, US Infantry Regulars, Army of the Cumberland; was wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga; subsequently captured when he returned to duty at the Battle Of Resaca, Ga.; and survived 9 months in the infamous Confederate prison at Andersonville, Ga., being then paroled and living to the age of 78.
Patrick is a former Vice President of the Gettysburg Civil War Roundtable, and current Book Editor for their monthly newsletter, “The Angle”. He was an Adult Education instructor for Manor College Of Jenkintown, Pa. where he and his wife, Mary Ellen, taught a Non-Credit course, “Slavery, Abolition, and the Underground Railroad”, as part of Manor College’s Civil War Institute Series. He is also one of the “Founding Fathers” of the Confederation Of Union Generals and has served the organization in various positions, including President, Vice President, and Event Coordinator.
Patrick began doing Living History in 1999 in the persona of the fiery, crusading, and uncompromising Abolitionist newspaper editor, William Lloyd Garrison. Seeking to assume a military persona, and at the suggestion and urging of a good friend, Andy Waskie, he became Rufus Ingalls and began telling the under appreciated story of Ingalls and the importance of logistics in the winning of the Civil War.
He has presented his historical impression of General Rufus Ingalls to civic and social groups, school children, Civil War Roundtables, Retirement communities, and at re-enactments and Living History events across the East coast, including an evening in Ingalls hometown of Denmark, ME. for the Denmark Historical Society where he met and talked with Ingalls descendants.
Patrick E. Fairbairn can be contacted through this web site at firstname.lastname@example.org