- “The Supply for Tomorrow Must Not Fail”: The Civil War of Captain Simon Perkins Jr., a Union Quartermaster
The history of the Civil War has seemingly been written from every conceivable angle. Lenette Taylor's "The Supply for Tomorrow Must Not Fail" provides the reader with a different view by looking at the war through the eyes of Union Assistant Quartermaster Capt. Simon Perkins Jr. Taylor believes that Perkins and his fellow quartermasters were crucial to the Union victory and have not yet been given the credit they deserve. She strives to remedy this lack of credit by revealing the Civil War career of Perkins through careful and exhaustive analysis of primary sources. In Taylor's view, Perkins clearly represents the entire Quartermaster Corps.
Twenty-three-year-old Simon Perkins joined the Union Army in 1862 from Ohio, after having served briefly with the 19th Ohio in 1861. He was from a wealthy and influential family in Akron and had some previous business experience (which would serve him well during the war). Perkins was appointed a captain in the quartermaster corps. For much of his military career, he worked providing supplies for the Union Army in the West. He helped move animals, food, supplies, and people to where they were needed for the war effort. Perkins remained a captain in the army (a not uncommon problem for quartermasters) until he resigned in 1864. He spent the last years of his life in Pennsylvania working at an assortment of jobs.
As quartermaster Perkins helped supply the Union Army as it moved through Tennessee, Mississippi, and into Georgia. Military records and letters allow Taylor to carefully show how Perkins and other quartermasters went far beyond the call of duty to assist the army in every possible way. One of the most interesting parts of the work is Taylor's description of Perkins's role in acquiring buildings for the use of the military in Nashville. This is one of the few parts of the work where Taylor is able to show the effect of the work of the quartermasters not only on the Union Army but also on Southern civilians.
Through military records, Taylor illustrates the complex and vital role the quartermasters played in the Union victory, but she is less convincing in suggesting they have been largely ignored. They have not been the subject of much individual study (aside from the works discussed in the "Preface"), but they have been given credit in almost every major work on the Civil War. Even textbooks note the huge advantage the Union had not only in the availability of its resources, but also its utilization of them.
Additionally, despite her yeoman efforts in finding Perkins's personal and family records, the reader is left without much information about the man. His work is well detailed, but the rest of his life is almost entirely absent. Neither Taylor nor the reader is exactly sure why he resigned from [End Page 102] the military in 1864. Did he resent his recent transfer, lack of promotion, or really need to attend to a crisis at home? But, as Taylor notes, it may not be possible to find all the answers from the limited available sources. Despite his often crucial role in the war, Perkins still remains largely in the shadows.
Taylor writes well and does an amazing amount of work with limited resources. She deserves much credit for bringing Perkins and his fellow quartermasters into the limelight. However, this is a work of most use to those Civil War scholars with specialized interests. For those readers interested in the logistics of supplying the massive Union Army with what it needed to fight, "The Supply for Tomorrow Must Not Fail" is invaluable.