U.S. Army Quartermaster Officers in the Philippines, 1900-1901

Today’s post is by Claire Kluskens, Genealogy/Census Subject Matter Expert and Digital Projects Archivist at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Quartermaster officers are responsible for ensuring that the army has the equipment, materials, and supplies needed to support soldiers wherever they are located. The Spanish-American War (1898), China Relief Expedition (1898-1901), and Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) provided the U.S. Army its first experiences in the problems and logistics of overseas troop support.  Researchers interested in these early foreign operations may therefore be interested in two recently digitized small record series.

The 48-page Report of Archibald W. Butt, Captain and Quartermaster, U.S. Army, in Charge of Office of Land Transportation, Manila, Philippine Islands, for Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1901 (National Archives Identifier 169371658), contains detailed information from September 1, 1900, when Captain Butt assumed charge of this post, until June 30, 1901. His office handled “all receipts, issues, and sales of animals, wagons, fuel, and forage” for the Division of the Philippines, and also had shops for repairing and painting wagons, setting tires, and shoeing animals. In addition to his clerical workforce of 11 persons, he oversaw operations of more than 1,000 American and Filipino employees, plus contractors that included a master of transportation, a farrier, veterinary surgeons, packmasters, saddlers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, wagonmasters, assistant wagonmasters, cargadores [sic], packers, teamsters, and carpenters. Captain Butt described the rebuilding of the facilities under his command after a typhoon struck in September 1900. His report also includes narrative and statistical information about the various workshops, animals, vehicles, fuel, forage, lumber, and supplies used, transported, or issued to other units by his office.

Pasig River, Manila, Philippine Islands, with shipping in the bay, circa 1918, from (National Archives Identifier 86719423), Local ID 111-SC-57120.

The second series, Report of Operations of the Quartermaster’s Department Under the Direction of Lieutenant Colonel C. F. Humphrey, U.S. Army, July 1, 1900-September 30, 1901 (National Archives Identifier 2662957), contains two nearly identical copies of this officer’s report, which discusses both the Philippines and China. Colonel Charles F. Humphrey was Chief Quartermaster, Division of Cuba, until July 20, 1900, when he transferred his duties to Major C. B. Baker. He then reported to Washington, DC, and received orders to proceed via San Francisco to China for duty as Chief Quartermaster to the U.S. China Relief Expedition. He arrived in China on September 15, 1900, and performed his duties there until receiving new orders to report to the Philippine Islands. He arrived at Manila on June 5, 1901, and immediately undertook an inspection tour of U.S. Army facilities. On July 1, 1901, he took command as Chief Quartermaster.

Half of Colonel Humphrey’s report relates to his activities in the U.S. China Relief Expedition. He discussed transportation of army supplies by railroad, watercraft, and land vehicles. He described the merits of the Russian Wheeled Soup Boiler and the Studebaker Escort Wagon; made recommendations for the transport of hay and other goods; and included a list of officers under his command in China with their geographic stations and duties.

This WWI-era Escort Wagon made by the Studebaker Corporation was likely similar to those used by U.S. Quartermaster officers in China, from National Archives Identifier 45526080, Local ID 165-WW-394B-12.

The other half of Colonel Humphrey’s report relates to the operations of the Quartermaster’s Department in the Philippines. He gave a summary of the Department’s expenditures, and described problems with shipments by transports and other vessels, improper invoicing of shipped goods, accountability for property, and hiring competent civilian employees.  It includes recommendations for (1) changes in the accounting and tracking method for shipments by transports and other vessels, and (2) the recruitment and qualifications of civilian employees.

Quartermaster officers and their employees served important support roles to the operational needs of the Army. These and other records in Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, describe their challenges, problems, and successes.