US Army Quartermaster Foundation
Fort Lee, Virginia


Colonel James R. Mullany
10th Quartermaster General
April 1816-April 1818

No Photograph Available

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

James R. Mullany was born in Ireland in 1780, but no information is available concerning his family, early life, education, or training. However, the letters he wrote while Quartermaster General show quite clearly that he was well-educated and a man of culture. Apparently he emigrated to New York as a young man, though the date of his arrival is not recorded. It is assumed to be about 1810 since he is listed for the first time in the New York City directory of that year. Inasmuch as he was residing in the Bowery, then the most fashionable district of the city, it may be inferred that he was at least moderately well-to-do.

When war threatened with England, Mullany offered his services to his adopted country, and emerged from obscurity as a Major in the 13th Infantry Regiment on March 13, 1812. He probably had some military training in Europe, and possibly may have served in the British army. He transferred on August 26 to the 23rd Infantry Regiment, which he is believed to have recruited near Canandaigna, New York, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on March 3, 1813. On November 30 of that year he was promoted to Colonel and transferred to the 32nd Infantry Regiment. After participating in the many battles and campaigns of the War of 1812 in northern New York and Canada, he was discharged on June 15, 1815, when Congress took action to reduce the size of the Army at the end of the war.

In the spring of the following year Mullany was recalled to service and appointed Quartermaster General of the Northern Division of the Army. He was then thirty-six years old. Reporting for duty on May 8, Colonel Mullany assumed the administration of his office in a difficult period of retrenchment and readjustment following the War of 1812. His immediate task was to convert the Quartermaster's Department from a war to a peacetime establishment and to reduce the expenditures of every branch of the office.

Transportation of troops and supplies, the quartering of troops, the opening of roads, and the construction and repair of bridges and barracks were the major functions of the Quartermaster General of the Northern Division.  But new problems growing out of the War of 1812 also demanded his attention. The most pressing of these was the settlement of claims against the Government for supplies and services furnished to the Army.

Colonel Mullany worked energetically to settle claims in the area around Plattsburg, New York, and Burlington, Vermont, during the summer of 1816. He hoped to have the problem of settlement in the New York area so well in hand by October that claims could be settled at the New York City office "with greater facility & much less expense than by traveling in Search of Claimants." This goal was apparently achieved, for on November 5 the War Department directed him to make New York City his headquarters for settling claims.

Mullany was also responsible for taking charge of all public property belonging to the Quartermaster's Department in the Northern Division. Great quantities of stores had been deposited throughout the New York area and required removal. This disposal of surplus stocks, like the settlement of claims, was an aftermath of the War of 1812.

In the long run, frontier supply was of more importance than either of these immediate problems. Peace had brought the necessity of extending the military frontier in order to control the Indians, promote the fur trade, and exclude foreign traders and emissaries. For this purpose the Government decided to build a chain of forts, and Major General Brown, commanding in the Northern Division, was directed to establish posts from Mackinac, via Green Bay, to, Prairie du Chien and the upper waters of the Mississippi River, while still another line of posts was to be erected from Chicago along the Illinois River to St. Louis. He was to cooperate in this program with General Jackson, commander in the Southern Division. It was the function of the Quartermaster's Department to transport the needed troops and stores, but the immense distances between posts and the transportation difficulties involved made Quartermaster supply complicated and arduous.

When the Quartermaster Department was reorganized in 1818 with one Quartermaster General, Mullany's position ceased to exist.  Colonel Mullany and his political allies actively campaigned to get him appointed to the new post. He was unsuccessful in this attempt and again faded into obscurity.

After his discharge from the Army, Colonel Mullany continued to live in or near New York City until his death there on August 15, 1846. When the former Quartermaster General died, his death was recorded tersely in a three-line obituary which gave no biographical information nor made any mention of his military service. It stated merely that he died at the age of sixty-six, after a lingering illness and was taken to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn for interment. Records at Greenwood show that the body was transferred a year later to "some unknown place."

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