The first quartermaster general, appointed by the Second Contintental Congress on June 16, 1775, provided camp equipment and the means of transportation for the Army. A Commissary General of Stores and Purchases provided the subsistence of the Army; and a Clothier General provided clothing until 1781, when the Treasury Department began procuring these items under a contract system. By an act of Congress of July 25, 1785, the Office of the Quartermaster General was abolished and the military supply function was placed under civilian control in the Office of the Secretary of War.
Between 1791 and 1802 three successive quartermaster generals, who spent most of their time in the field rather than at the seat of government, were appointed to the expedition s of Generals St. Clair and Wayne. When the position of quartermaster general was eliminated by Congress in 1802, the quartermaster general was replaced by three military agents in middle, southern, and northern departments.
With the coming of the War of 1812 both an Office of the Commissary General of Purchases and an Office of the Quartermaster General were established by an act of Congress of March 28, 1812. At the close of the war the Office of the Quartermaster General was abolished. The incumbent quartermaster general, however, was retained provisionally by presidential authority until Congress, in 1816, provided for two quartermaster generals, who shared equally the responsibilities of the office and served officially as quartermasters of the Divisions of the North and the South.
Until 1818 the quartermaster generals were regarded as field staff officers, appointed in time of war and serving with the principal armies. In 1818 Congress created both a Quartermaster Department and a Subsistence Department under a single Quartermaster General and a Commissary General of Subsistence, respectively. The Quartermaster General was responsible for ensuring an ample and efficient system of supply, movement of the Army, and accountability of officers and agents charged with monies or supplies; and the Commissary General of Subsistence was responsible for provisioning the Army, thereby ending the contract system in existence since 1781.
The Office of the Commissary General of Purchaes, established in 1812, was retained in Philadelphia; and a deputy quartermaster was responsible for the transportation of the supplies purchased. Between 1818 and 1842 the functions of the Commissary General of Purchases were gradually transferred to the Office of the Quartermaster General and to the Clothing Bureau established in Washington in 1832 under the War Office. With the discontinuance of the Clothing Bureau in 1841 and the Office of the Commissary General of Purchases in 1842, their functions and records were transferred to the Office of the Quartermaster General and its field establishments. This Office, until 1912, was responsible for supplying almost all commodities and services for the Army.
On August 24, 1912, Congress created the Quartermaster Corps by merging into one supply agency the former Subsistence, Pay, and Quartermaster Departments. This Corps was headed by the Chief of the Quartermaster Corps of the Army, whose title--with congressional approval in 1914--reverted to the more familiar one of Quartermaster General.
During World War I the functions of the Office of the Quartermaster General were gradually transferred to newly created independent units (such as the Construction Division, Motor Transport Corps, Inland Transportation Service, and Embarkation Service), or they were absorbed by the Office of the Director of Purchase and Storage. After the armistice--when the control of quartermaster personnel was made part of the Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division--the last quartermaster function was removed. The organization of the Corps was not destroyed but was used as the basis for the new organization that absorbed the supply operations of all the supply bureaus. The Quartermaster General merely retained the functions under another name, that of Director of Purchase and Storage.
Under the National Defense Act of June 4, 1920, Congress abolished the Purchase and Storage Service and substituted for it the title of Quartermaster Corps, at the same time restoring to the Corps its former functions of transportation and construction. The pay function of the former Office of the Quartermaster General was placed in a separate Finance Department. With the outbreak of World War II, both the transportation and construction functions were permanently removed from the jurisdiction of the Quartermaster General.
In 1961 the quartermaster function of procuring food and clothing was transferred to the Defense Supply Agency. General Orders No. 44, Department of the Army, dated July 23, 1962, abolished the Office of the Quartermaster General, effective August 1, 1962. By this time the former quartermaster functions of research and development and supply and distribution had been transferred to the Army Material Command, and its other functions had been transferred to the Army Combat Development Command and the Continental Army Command.
In 1864 Congress, in an act to provide for the better organization of the Quartermaster Department, specified that the Department be divided into nine divisions; Nos. 1 through 9. When the dissolution of these divisions was ordered on August 19, 1867, branches--with functions similar to those of the divisions--became the organizational unit. Several branches reported to one quartermaster. Changes were made in the office organization from time to time, and the number of branches tended to increase. In 1895 the divisions, each with subordinate branches, were reinstituted. The divisional organization was retained until the functions of the Quartermaster Department were removed during World War I. When the Office of the Quartermaster General was reestablished in 1920, it consisted of three divisions and five services. Within a decade the Office had returned to its prewar organization--four divisions, each with subordinate branches and sections. This organization was continued until World War II brought the proliferation of divisions to take charge of the rapidly expanding functions of the Quartermaster Corps.
For background information on the Quartermaster Corps, see Erna Risch, Quartermaster Support of the Army; A History of the Corps, 1775-1939 (Washington, 1962)
The records described in this inventory are the textual records in Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General. They are in the care of the Office of the National Archives and amount to about 20,800 cubic feet. Quantities of maps and photographs in Record Gropu 92 are in the care of the Cartographic Branch and the Audio-visual Branch of the Special Records Division.
This inventory is in two parts. The records described in the first part are divided into two major subgroups: (1) records created before or relating to the period before World War I and (2) records created during and after World War I. Records in the first subgroup are further divided into two groups: central records and decentralized records. The decentralized records have been described alphabetically by function, rather than by organizational unit, for the following reasons: (1) the organization of the Office of the Quartermaster General during the Civil War does not reveal the function of the unit as it did after 1870, (2) many reorganizations took place, and (3) the records-- for the most part--were maintained by function. The records in the second subgroup, created during and after World War I, are similarly arranged except that the decentralized records are described by organizational unit.
In some instances entries have been written for records with file numbers in other series. These have been considered as new series for one or more of the following reasons: (1) they appear to have been obviously removed from the parent series because of their quantity, size, relation to the given subject, inclusion in special files, or pertinence to the function of a specific branch; (2) they are important records, such as annual reports and proceedings and other records of claim boards; (3) they are volumes or oversized reports, not easily refiled, relating to subjects or functions described elsewhere in this inventory; (4) they are unbound records containing many file numbers in one or more series relating to one subject; or (5) they contain both registered and unregistered documents relating to one subject.
The second part of the inventory (to be published separately) describes the records of the field installations of the Office of the Quartermaster General; any predecessor agencies of these field installations, such as the Commissary General of Purchases in Philadelphia; and field installations of the divisions and services temporarily removed from the Office of the Quartermaster General during World War I, such as the Ports of Embarkation, Motor Transport Corps General Supply Depts, and Remount Depots. A separate introduction has been prepared for the second part of the inventory.
Other records of quartermaster generals and quartermasters or relating to quartermaster activities may be found in the following record groups in the National Archives: Record Group 93, War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records; Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office; Record Group 99, Records of the Office of the Paymaster General; Record Group 107, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War; Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces, 1917-21; Record Group 192, Records of the Office of the Commissary General of Subsistence; Record Group 203, Records of the Office of the Chief of Finance (Army); Record Group 393, Records of the U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1821-1920; Record Group 394, Records of the U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1920-42; and Record Group 395, Records of U.S. Army Overseas Operations and Commands, 1898-1942.
Entries describing the records in this inventory for the period 1941-57 were supplied by Mrs. Pauline W. Wiltshire of the Modern Military Records Division.