Marshall I. Ludington – Brigadier General, United States Army

Courtesy of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum:

Brigadier General Marshall I. Ludington
21st Quartermaster General
February 1898-April 1903

General Ludington, the last of the Civil War Quartermasters to serve as Quartermaster General, was appointed less than three months before the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. It was his unhappy fortune to assume direction of the Quartermaster's Department after a 33-year interval of peace had left it wholly unprepared for war.

Marshall Independence Ludington was born on July 4, 1839 in the village of Smithfield, Pennsylvania. He entered the Army during the Civil War and accepted appointment as a Captain and assistant quartermaster of Volunteers on November 1,1862. He was assigned to duty in the field as Division Quartermaster of the 2nd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac, serving in this post for a year.  He participated in the battles of Fredericksburg, Cancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He was then transferred to the 2nd Division Cavalry Corps of the same Army as Division Quartermaster. This was a post he retained until July 1, 1864, and took part in the Battle of the Wilderness and the early siege on Petersburg.

When the Quartermaster's Department was reorganized under the Act of July 4, 1864, General Ludington was appointed Division Quartermaster of the 1st Division of the 2nd Corps. In recognition of his services during the Civil War he was brevetted to major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and brigadier general of Volunteers and brevetted lieutenant colonel of the U. S. Army in 1867.

In early in 1864, Ludington applied for transfer to the Regular Army as an assistant Quartermaster. His application was endorsed by his Division commanders who described him as efficient, energetic, and able. Chief Quartermaster Rufus Ingalls, under whose supervision be had worked considered him, “One of the best Quartermasters in the Army of the Potomac.” Despite these recommendations, his application was refused at that time, and again about five months later when he resubmitted it. This third effort proved successful, and he was transferred to the Regular Army, being assigned as a Quartermaster Major on January, 18 1867. In August 1867 he was appointed Chief Quartermaster of the District of New Mexico where he completed a three-year tour of duty before being called to Washington to serve for the next five years in the Quartermaster General's Office. In 1875 he was again sent to the West as Chief Quartermaster of the Military Department of the Platte in Omaha, Nebraska. After approximately seven years of frontier service he obtained a six months' leave of absence that he spent in Europe. While in London he received notice of his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and appointment as deputy Quartermaster General on March 15, 1883.

Upon his return he was placed on temporary duty in the Quartermaster General's office until July, when he assumed the duties of Depot  Quartermaster at Philadelphia. For the next six years he remained in charge of that clothing depot and then served for about a year as Depot Quartermaster at San Francisco.

In the summer of 1890 he was appointed Colonel and acted as principal assistant in the office of the Quartermaster General until 1894. In he was assigned Chief Quartermaster of the Military Department of the Missouri from 1894 to 1897.  In February 1897, he was placed in charge of the General Depot at New York City, becoming Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the East in the following month. President McKinley appointed him Quartermaster General on February 3, 1898, just twelve days before the destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor.

Early in the following month when war with Spain seemed possible, Ludington took steps within the restrictive limits imposed on him to place the Department in a better position for supplying the troops in case of need. He instructed officers at the manufacturing depots ”to push manufactures in certain lines”and authorized the purchase of additional material for clothing and tentage. As soon as war was declared and as soon as funds were available and law permitted, the Department worked diligently and zealously to supply the Army.

Public indifference and Congressional frugality had brought the Army and its supply agencies to a deplorable state of unpreparedness on the eve of the  Spanish-American War. Still General Ludington was much criticized for the inadequacies of his Department's preparations. Such was the criticism stirred up by the press against Quartermaster General Ludington, Surgeon General George M. Sternberg, Commissary General Charles F. Eagan, and Secretary of War Russell A. Alger that President William McKinley appointed a commission to investigate the conduct of the war. The commission, headed by General Greenville M. Dodge, avoided making any one of these men the scapegoat for the unpreparedness that had so handicapped operations. Despite the specific criticisms it leveled against the Quartermaster's Department and the other supply bureaus, the Dodge Commission attributed most of the evils that had afflicted the Army to a scarcity of trained officers and to the general unpreparedness.

Though hampered by lack of personnel and handicapped by laws that required much estimating of costs, keeping of records, scrutiny of orders, and endless red tape, the General Ludington still managed to obtain and issue immense quantities of materials within a period of little more than three months.

The capture of Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands as a result of the war and the annexation of Hawaii in 1898 imposed added supply responsibilities upon the Quartermaster's Department. Troops had to be transported to these new possessions and maintained by a continuous flow of supplies. Out of the experience of the war, General Ludington developed the Army Transport Service. The Department also took in its stride the transportation of troops from the Philippines and the United States to China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 when an international expedition relieved the besieged foreign legations in Peking.

With the increase in the size of the Regular Army after the Spanish America War, General Ludington oversaw construction programs to repair and expand barracks, storehouses, and other buildings at posts in the United States. At the same time, it was necessary to construct facilities in the newly acquired  possessions. The aftermath of the war gave new impetus to the development of appropriate clothing for troops stationed in tropical countries. All equipment generally was subjected to review and improvement as a result of the war.

On April 12, 1903 he was promoted to Major General and retired the next day, having served more than 40 years.  After traveling overseas, General Ludington established his retirement home at Skaneateles in northern New York.  He died on July 26, 1919 at the age of 80 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/22/1910


  • DATE OF DEATH: 07/26/1919


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