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City Point, Virginia-Supply Base Par Excellance

Once Grant moved his army across the James River 15-17 June 1864 he needed a headquarters and logistic base west of the James to supply it.  City Point, now Hopewell, proved to be a near perfect location.  A rail line linked City Point with the Union line around Petersburg eight miles distant.  This railroad was laid without a prepared roadbed.  Ties were laid directly on the ground.  The little railroad was so effective that when Lincoln came to visit he was given a ride on the line and asked gingerly “If this railroad had a lawyer?”, reflecting on his days in Illinois.  This was the first military railroad in history of war.

City Point had a commodious anchorage that handled the seemingly endless procession of ships, barges, transports, sailing vessels, and tugs loaded with every conceivable type of supply.  On one day over 225 vessels were anchored at the wharf or in the roadstead.  The network of levies and jetties linked closely with the railroad moved material very efficiently.  Grant, relying on his supply officer background, demanded meticulous accounting for everything.

A network of five hospitals, occupying over 200 acres, could treat over 10,000 Union casualties.  Munitions, foodstuffs, and supplies were so plentiful that Quartemaster General Montgomery C. Meigs felt that the base could feed and supply over half a million fighting men if necessary.  Commissary General of Subsistance responsible for feeding the army was Michael R. Morgan.  He was the officer Grant turned to to find rations to feed Lee’s army at the Appomattox surrender.  Grant also had a herd of 5000 long horn steers for fresh meat.  This herd was the objective of Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid.

In one artillery park eight hundred cannon and limbers were aligned waiting for assignment to replace combat losses.

Barracks were constructed for soldiers and civilian contractors.  A blacksmith shop that could shoe fifty horses at a time was constantly busy with dray and cavalry mounts.  And a prison yard, called the Bull Pen, housed deserters and other malefactors complete with a gallows and palisade where spies were shot after a brief trial.  The yard provided uncovered area with no shelter for the prisoners.

There was a hotel run by a notorious Philadelphia tavern keeper, numerous suttler stores, caterers markets and even a couple saloons.  Bakeries turned out thousands of fresh loaves of bread to be shipped daily to the front line.

General Grant used the plantation house, Appomattox Manor, of the Eppes family as the headquarters office of his logistician Quartermaster General Rufus Ingalls.  Ingalls had been Grant’s roommate at West Point. 

Telegraph communications connected CGAUS with all the armies in the field. 

Most of this information is from Edward Boyken’s 1960 book entitled BeefSteak Raid.  Please read and enjoy this fine and entertaining book! 

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