US Army Quartermaster Foundation
Fort Lee, Virginia


Colonel
George Gibson
11th Quartermaster General
April 1816-April 1818

gibson.jpg (26146 bytes)

From 1816-1818, Congress authorized two Quartermaster Generals, one for the each of the military Divisions that the United States was then divided.  Colonel Gibson served as Quartermaster General of the Southern Division.  This was the only time in the history of the Quartermaster Corps that such an arrangement has existed.

George Gibson was born at Westover Mills in the Sherman Valley of Pennsylvania on September 1, 1775.  Gibson came from a family of soldiers. His father, Colonel George Gibson, Sr., had an excellent record in the Revolutionary War.

At the age of twenty, Gibson obtained employment in the counting house of Alexander McDonald, a prominent importer in Baltimore, who had been a close friend of his father. Apparently young Gibson displayed considerable ability, for soon after entering McDonald's service he was promoted to the position of supercargo on a vessel engaged in the East India trade.

When Congress authorized a large increase in the size of the Army in May 3, 1808, he enlisted as a Captain in the 5th Infantry Regiment. Winfield Scott, who years later became commander-in-chief of the Army, was commissioned the same day as a Captain of light artillery, and their association developed into a warm friendship which lasted more than half a century.

Gibson was promoted on November 9, 1811, to Major, and on August 15, 1813, to Lieutenant Colonel. A rank he retained through the two remaining years of the War of 1812. He was discharged on June 15, 1815, when the size of the Army was sharply reduced after the treaty of peace. Ten months later, on April 29, 1816, President Madison appointed him Quartermaster General to serve in the Southern Division under General Andrew Jackson. He was forty-one years old at that time.

About the time that he was appointed Quartermaster General, Gibson suffered serious injuries when a horse he was riding fell and rolled over on him, with the result that he was long delayed in taking over the post. He was confined to bed for many weeks and it was July 12 before he was well enough to assume office. On July 18 the War Department informed him that the Quartermaster's Department for the Southern Division was in a very bad state and that he should go to General Jackson's headquarters in Nashville immediately.

New Orleans was one of the key supply points for the Southern Division, the others being Nashville, Charleston, and St. Louis. New Orleans, had been the scene of a major battle of the War of 1812. As a result there were many claims against the Government still pending. Gibson's activities at first were devoted to the settling of these claims and to the disposal of surplus property. The latter included not only supplies but also land purchased or leased for military purposes.

The major activity of Gibson's term as Quartermaster General came during his final four months in office when he was called upon to supply the campaign against the Seminole Indians in West Florida. Egged on by British and Spanish agents, the Indians had displayed increasingly hostile intentions against the United States, and General Jackson was ordered to the Florida frontier to take command. As had repeatedly happened before in other campaigns, the contractor failed to supply food to the troops, and Jackson directed Gibson to purchase and forward the needed provisions. He quickly procured the essential stocks of food loaded them onto vessels, and sailed across the Gulf to Apalachicola Bay, where the supplies were taken upstream by keel boats to General Jackson's forces.

General Jackson had high praise for Colonel Gibson's efforts. At the close of the campaign he wrote President Calhoun:

"I should do violence to my feelings if I did not particularly notice the exertions of my Qr. Master General Col. George Gibson, who under the most embarrassing of circumstances relieved the necessities of my army and to whose exertions was I indebted for the supplies received. His zeal and integrity on this campaign as well as in the uniform discharge of his duties since his connection with my staff merits the approbation and gratitude of his country."

When the Quartermaster Department was reorganized in 1818 with one Quartermaster General, Gibson's position ceased to exist. But he was appointed on April 18, 1818, to the newly created office of Commissary General of Subsistence on the recommendation of twenty-three members of Congress from Pennsylvania. It was an office that he occupied for forty-three years, during which time he introduced many reforms in the system of feeding the troops and greatly reduced the costs. His successful management of rations for the soldiers ended the unpopular and thoroughly condemned method, utilized from the days of the Revolutionary War, of provisioning the Army through contractors.

During the many years he served in Washington as the Commissary General of Subsistence, Gibson's efficiency as an administrator and his reputation as a shrewd counselor won for him the high esteem of his fellow officers, friends, and government officials. On April 29, 1826, he was awarded the brevet rank of Brigadier General for ten years of faithful service in one grade, and on May 30, 1848, was given the brevet rank of Major General for meritorious conduct, particularly in performing his duties in prosecuting the war with Mexico.

After General Jackson took over the office of President in 1829, the attachment between the former Quartermaster General and his old commander ripened into an intimate friendship. Gibson was a frequent visitor at the White House during the eight years that Old Hickory was President, who was never too busy to receive him.

Gibson's span of life covered the period from the beginning of the Revolution to the start of the Civil War. At the time of his death on September 30, 1861, in the 87th year of his life, he was the oldest officer in the Army, being several years older than his close friend, General Scott, who survived him. President Lincoln was one of the first to call at General Gibson's home and "spoke feelingly" of the veteran soldier. The President, members of his cabinet, Generals George B. McClellan and Winfield Scott, and many other notables of the day attended the elaborate military funeral with which Gibson was honored. Burial was in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, where a shaft was erected later in his memory.

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