Lean Ulysses

Monday, May 28th, 2012

This jolt of lean — as in lean manufacturing — comes from The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant — the general who won the war that spawned our modern Memorial Day:

There never was a corps better organized than was the quartermaster’s corp with the Army of the Potomac in 1864. With a wagon-train that would have extended from the Rapidan to Richmond, stretched along in single file and separated as the teams necessarily would be when moving, we could still carry only three days’ forage and about ten to twelve days’ rations, besides a supply of ammunition.

To overcome all difficulties, the chief quartermaster, General Rufus Ingalls, had marked on each wagon the corps badge with the division color and the number of the brigade. At a glance, the particular brigade to which any wagon belonged could be told. The wagons were also marked to note the contents: if ammunition, whether for artillery or infantry; if forage, whether grain or hay; if rations, whether bread, pork, beans, rice, coffee or whatever it might be.

Empty wagons were never allowed to follow the army or stay in camp. As soon as a wagon was empty, it would return to the base of supply for a load of precisely the same article that had been taken from it. Empty trains were obliged to leave the road free for loaded ones. Arriving near the army they would be parked in fields nearest to the brigades they belonged to. Issues, except of ammunition, were made at night in all cases.

Leave a Reply