US Army Quartermaster Foundation
Fort Lee, Virginia


Brigadier General Samuel B. Holabird
17th Quartermaster General
July 1883-June 1890

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Samuel B. Holabird was born in the little town of Canaan in Litchfield County, Connecticut, on July 16, 1826. At 19 he became a cadet at West Point. Upon graduation on July 1, 1849, he was brevetted Second Lieutenant of the 1st Infantry and assigned to frontier duty in Texas. His assignments kept him in Texas for almost a decade. He was engaged in scouting activities at various times; he assumed the duties of an assistant commissary of subsistence; and served as Regimental Quartermaster of the 1st Infantry from 1852 to 1858, being promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1855.

In February 1858 he wrote Quartermaster General Jesup requesting appointment as an Assistant Quartermaster in the Department. Jesup took no immediate action on his application, and he was assigned to recruiting service for one year and then appointed adjutant at the Military Academy in September 1859. He served in this capacity until May 13, 1861, when he was appointed an Assistant Quartermaster in the Quartermaster's Department with the rank of Captain.

During the first year of the Civil War General Holabird was busily engaged in organizing and supplying volunteer troops at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and at various places in Maryland and Virginia. When the Army of Virginia was created in June 1862, he was attached to the forces under Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks, which became the 2nd Corps of that Army, and within ten days in July General Holabird, having been appointed an additional aide-de-camp, was promoted first to Major and then Colonel. He participated in the northern Virginia campaign and was with the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland campaign in the fall of that year, being present at the battle of Antietam.

When General Banks assumed command in the southwest, Holabird accompanied him to New York to fit out the expedition and sail with it. Upon arrival at New Orleans, he became Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the Gulf on December 16. 1862, a post he filled until July 1865. In recognition of his faithful and meritorious services during the war, he was brevetted Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel. and Brigadier General, U. S. Army, on March 13, 1865.

His service at New Orleans continued after the war, where he functioned as Chief Quartermaster of the redesignated Department of Louisiana until March 7, 1866, serving part of the time also as Depot Quartermaster. Called to Washington, he was engaged for approximately the next year in settling his accounts and reporting on claims arising in the Department of the Gulf. On July 29, 1866, he was appointed a Deputy Quartermaster General in the Quartermaster's Department with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After the war he served tours of duty as Chief Quartermaster to the Department of Dakota, the Department of Texas, the Division of the Missouri. and the Division of the Pacific and Department of California between 1867 and 1879. He was then called to Washington and for the next two and a half years served in the office of the Quartermaster General, being promoted to Colonel and appointed an assistant Quartermaster General on January 22, 1881. During this period he assumed the duties of acting Quartermaster General in the interval between the retirement of General Meigs and General Rucker's arrival in Washington, and again after the latter retired.

When General Ingalls assumed the duties of Quartermaster General, Holabird was placed in charge of the Philadelphia Depot until July 1, 1883. On that date he succeeded General Ingalls as Quartermaster General at the age of 57.

By this time the Quartermaster Department has resolved such post Civil War problems as demobilization, reduction and reorganization of the Department.  But General Holabird continued to oversee the payment of claims from civilian firms for items furnished to the Army during the Civil War.  The last claim was not settled until 1889, 23 years after the end of the war.  The Department under General Holabird also turned it's attention to improving the living conditions of the soldier.  It introduced improved clothing and equipment and built new barracks, hospitals, store houses and mess halls.

General Holabird recommended that a professional group of enlisted men, a corps of 1,290 Armywide, be employed full time as Quartermasters.   At that time enlisted men were detailed from other branches to serve the Quartermaster Department as clerks, teamsters, and laborers.  His efforts did not meet with success.

He served as Quartermaster General until June 16, 1890, when he retired at the age of 64 after completing 40 years service in the Army. He at first made his home in Evanston, Ill., but later moved to Washington. He died after a short illness on February 3, 1907, in his 80th year, and was buried at the Soldiers Home National Cemetery.

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