Courtesy of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum
Brigadier Charles G. Sawtelle
19th Quartermaster General
August 1896-February 1897
Charles G. Sawtelle was born at Norridgewock, Maine, on May 10, 1834. Sawtelle studied at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., before receiving an appointment to the Military Academy at 16. Graduating in 1854, he was brevetted second lieutenant of Infantry and sent to the northwestern frontier to begin his service in the Sioux expedition of 1854-55. He was commissioned second lieutenant of the Sixth Infantry on March 3, 1855, and promoted to first lieutenant five years later. During these years his duties kept him in the West, in Minnesota, Dakota, Kansas, Utah, California, and Arizona. After February 15, 1857, he served as regimental quartermaster and for a few months, as acting regimental adjutant.
Transferred East in 1861, he was appointed captain and assistant quartermaster in the Department on May 17. At first he was stationed for several months at Perryville, Md., where, at the direction of General George B. McClellan, he organized a new depot on the Susquehanna. He took an active part in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign, disembarking and forwarding troops and supplies for the Army of the Potomac in succession from Fort Monroe, the White House on the Pamunky River, and Harrison's Landing. Between September 7 and November 12, 1862, as acting Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac he supervised the forwarding of supplies from Washington during the Maryland Campaign. Appointed lieutenant colonel of Volunteers on November 12, he served as Chief Quartermaster of the 2nd Corps until the following January 24, when he became Chief Quartermaster of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac. He participated in Stoneman's Raid toward Richmond in May 1863. He then helped forward supplies from Washington and Alexandria for use in the Gettysburg campaign. At the request of Maj. Gen. George Stoneman, Chief of Cavalry; be was stationed in Washington as Chief Quartermaster of the Cavalry Bureau from August 1863 to February 1864.
In that month Sawtelle was transferred to the West and until the end of April was Chief Quartermaster at Brownsville, Texas. The following month he moved “with transports and supplies to meet the army of Major General Nathaniel P. Banks which was then returning from the Red River campaign. They met at the Atchafalaya where Sawtelle constructed a bridge 900 feet across the river, using 21 large steamers as pontoons. After remaining a few weeks in charge of steam transportation in the Department of the Gulf, he was appointed Chief Quartermaster of the Military Division of West Mississippi, an office he retained for about a year. He was engaged in forwarding troops and supplies for the Mobile campaign and the expedition that terminated in the surrender of the Confederate forces under Major General Richard Taylor. In the meantime, on May 25, 1865, Sawtelle was promoted to colonel of Volunteers. For faithful and meritorious services during the war, he was brevetted major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and brigadier general, U. S. Army.
Sawtelle continued to serve in the southwest until the fall of 1867, when he was transferred to New York City. Under his regular army rank of major in the Quartermaster's Department, he was placed in charge of the clothing depot as assistant to the Depot Quartermaster. There he remained for two years until appointed Chief Quartermaster of the Department of California for a three-year tour of duty. For a quarter of a century thereafter he held a variety of responsible posts in the Department that took him to all sections of the country. In the course of these years he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and deputy quartermaster general on January 24, 1881, and colonel and assistant quartermaster general on September 12, 1894.
In the spring of 1890 as the time approached for Quartermaster General Holabird to retire, Sawtelle solicited appointment to the vacancy. He was passed over, however, in favor of Batchelder who retained the office until his retirement in June 1896. At that time Sawtelle again submitted his record for consideration. He had then been in continuous service in the Army for nearly 42 years and was the senior officer of the Department. He was appointed Quartermaster General on August 19 and served for approximately six months until February 16, 1897, when he was retired at his own request. He was then 62.
Sawtelle made his home in Washington after his retirement. He was an active member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He also was a member of the Sons of the' Revolution and of the Society of the Army of the Potomac. Sawtelle died on January 4, 1913, at the age of 79, and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard