B R I G A D I E R G E N E R A L
CHIEF QUARTERMASTER, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
Rufus Ingalls was born on the 23rd of August 1818, in Denmark, Massachusetts. Less than 2 years later, that part of the Commonwealth dissevered to become the State of Maine. His father, a prosperous mill owner and politician, helped adopt the Constitution of the new State. Through his father’s political influence, he was granted an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1839. He graduated in 1843 with his good friend Ulysses S. Grant.
The newly brevetted 2nd Lieutenant served the next two years on the Texas frontier. In 1845, he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st U. S. Dragoons and was the Post Adjutant at Fort Leavenworth, in the Missouri Territory. In May 1846 he rode under the command of General Stephen W. Kearny, to fight in the Mexican War. Unlike many of his West Point classmates who fought in “Old Mexico,” Ingalls was assigned to the New Mexico Territory. There he fought alongside: Stephen W. Kearny, Sterling Price, Kit Carson, and Brigham Young. During the War he saw action at: Embudo Pass, Santa Fe, and Pueblo de Taos.
In 1848, he was appointed as Captain in the Quatermaster Department, and it is in this capacity that he remained throughout the rest of his military career. In 1852, he was reunited with his West Point classmate and close friend Ulysses S. Grant at Columbia Barracks, during the construction of Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory. After Grant resigned his commission in 1854, Ingalls remained as Assistant Quartermaster of the Oregon Territory. Through the mid-to-late 1850s his military concerns were mainly over a series of Mormon-related problems/conflicts in Utah. (Too many and too complex to mention here.)
In the summer of 1859, Ingalls along with fellow West Pointer, Captain George Pickett of the 9th U.S. Infantry, were involved in the so called “Pig War.” The name given to a border dispute with the British Empire over the San Juan Islands, nestled between British Columbia and the Washington Territory. Then President, Buchanan sent General-in-Chief Winfield Scott to take command of the American forces. This conflict went unresolved until 1872, when arbitration by German Keiser Wilhelm, awarded these islands to the United States.
In March of 1861, Ingalls was sent to resupply Fort Pickens in Pensacola, Florida. There he stood post while tensions with surrounding Confederate forces were high, but ‘cooler heads’ prevailed thus avoiding the first shots of the Civil War. However, shortly afterward Ingalls was aboard the USS Powhatan heading to re-supply Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, there off shore, he did witness the opening volleys of the War.
In July of 1861, Ingalls was ordered to report to Major General McClellan with the Army of the Potomac. In January 1862 Ingalls was promoted to the rank of Major. In July 1862 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac. There he remained under the command of Generals: George B. McClellan, John Pope, and McClellan (again), Ambrose Burnside, and Joseph Hooker. Under Hooker, Ingalls was listed as a Colonel and Chief Quartermaster. Later, while serving under George Gordon Meade, Ingalls was promoted to Brigadier General and Chief Quartermaster. In March 1864 he was reunited with his friend of 25 years, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and the two would see the rest of the War out together.
During the entire War, Ingalls performed admirably moving tremendous quantities of: men, food, ordnance and other materiel with alacrity and dispatch. Even when faced with complex problems and setbacks (by the enemy), Ingalls remained a master of logistics, organization, and problem-solving. His ability to maneuver traffic flow on: railroads, roadways and rivers was unparalleled. One of Ingalls’ crowning achievements was the construction of the huge supply depot and hospital center at City Point, Virginia. Not only did this location serve as Grant’s Headquarters for a time, but was arguably the busiest seaport in the world. Assembling this massive complex was accomplished in a matter of days. Lieutenant General Grant later said, “There was never a corps better organized than was the Quartermaster Corps with the Army of the Potomac in 1864.” When Robert E. Lee surrendered to U. S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, Brevet Major General Rufus Ingalls was in that room to witness that defining moment.
After the War, Ingalls reverted to his previous rank of Lieutenant Colonel and Deputy Quartermaster General of the Army. Through his continual loyal service, and 40 years of dedication, Ingalls retired as the 16th Quatermaster General of the U.S. Army with a rank of Brigadier General in 1883. He made his home in Oregon for a while, but later moved to New York City where he died on the 15th of January 1893 at the age of 74. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.