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COKFEDEEATE TYPES OF 1862. LUCIUS B. NORTHROP: COMMISSARY GENERAL OF THE CONFEDERACY Thomas Robson Hay Lucius Bellinger Northrop, Confederate commissary general, was —and undoubtedly still is—one of die most vilified figures in Southern history. His antecedents and early career, his friendship and relations widi Jefferson Davis, the circumstances of his appointment as commissary general, and his conduct of diis high office, have been die subject of many inaccurate, biased, and misleading statements. He is long past due for an objective analysis. Nortlirop was born in 1811 to a respected, well-to-do family of Charleston, South Carolina. His father, a native of Connecticut and an 1804 Yale graduate, had moved to Charleston as a young man. The elder Northrop read law in die office of the distinguished Carolinian statesman Langdon Cheves, and subsequently was a co-partner of Robert Y. Hayne of Hayne-Webster debate fame. Northrop's mother, Claudia Margaret Bellinger, was of an eminent family long resident in Charleston. Although his father died when young Northrop was a baby, the boy grew up in pleasant, comfortable surroundings. At the age of fdteen he gained an appointment to West Point through the good offices of Senator Hayne, his late father's law partner. Northrop entered the Mditary Academy in July, 1827, young Jefferson Davis then being a member of the first, or senior, class of 1828. If Northrop knew Davis at West Point it was probably only a passing acquaintance. On graduation in July, 1831, Northrop was assigned to the 7th Infantry at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. Two years later he transferred to the newly-formed 1st Dragoons, to which regiment Davis also had been transferred. Within a year both Davis and Northrop were involved in court martial proceedings brought against them by their commander, Major Richard B. Mason, a capable officer but a martinet. Thomas Robson Hay, Locust Valley, New York, is the author of Hood's Tennessee Campaign, and biographies of James Longstreet and Pat Cleburne. He has just completed a full-length study of Northrop. ö THOMAS ROBSON HAY Both were acquitted, each testifying in defense of the other. This was the beginning of a friendship that continued for nearly sixty years. Davis resigned his commission soon afterwards. Several years later Northrop accidentally shot himself in the knee whde in pursuit of a Cherokee Indian desperado and was invalided home on indefinite sick leave, since there was, at that time, no retirement provision for those disabled in line of duty. Northrop served briefly in the Subsistence Department in Washington in 1842 and 1843. Though he repeatedly asked for transfer to permanent staff duty, such an assignment never came. He was dropped from the rolls of the army in January, 1848, but at the recommendation of Jefferson Davis, then serving as a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, and others—including the two Senators from South Carolina, John C. Calhoun and Andrew Pickens Buder—President Polk nominated him for re-appointment. In the interim, Northrop studied medicine and "gained" his degree, but apparendy had litde practice. He had also joined the Roman Catholic church at the urging of his mother and sister, both converts. On January 8, 1861, Northrop resigned his commission as captain of dragoons. He refused to consider himself eligible for active duty in the service of the incipient Confederacy, but his meeting with Jefferson Davis in February of 1861, when Davis visited Charleston "to examine into the condition of the forts," probably influenced his reversal of decision . On February 26, the Commissary Department emerged as one of the four administrative divisions of the organizing Confederate States Army. Sometime between this date and March 16, Davis appointed Northrop acting commissary general with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Northrop, at least, considered the appointment a temporary one. Davis had offered the permanent post to a long-time political friend, Richard Griffith of Mississippi, but Griffith declined it. Then the position was turned down by Captain William Maynadier of the Ordnance Department, U.S. Army. Because of these rejections, and perhaps because of other unrecorded reasons, Northrop's appointment was announced, subject to confirmation by the Confederate Senate. In the meantime, Northrop's services had been requested both...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 4-23
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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