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Bills of Lading - From The Past©

from the Countryman & McDaniel document collections

Voyage of the Steamer Falcon - 1857

Bvt. Major General Stewart Van Vliet

Glimpse A Giant of The Logisitcs Industry

Supplies For Civil War Reconstruction


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Its October 1867 and the American Civil War has ended, but with massive and continuing needs to supply the U.S. Army for reconstruction of a devistated Confederacy. From his Headquarters at Baltimore, MD, Bvt. Major General Stuart Van Vliet of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps. (supply) dispatches supplies to war torn Atlanta, Georgia, a city largely burned by Lt. General Sherman in his famous "March to the Sea". As seen below, the "Bill of Lading for United States Property" is an early intermodal document. The following may amaze you and is what we have learned about the transport, the shipper and the consignee ...... all from a Bill of Lading From The Past©. Where Gen. Van Vliet is concerned, you will learn about a true giant of our transportation industry.
From the above, for a charge of $2.05 per hundred pounds on a through basis, the 2770 lb. move will cost $56.78. This is a large sum in those days and well above the current airfreight rate. The "through rate" feature is important, given that this is an intermodal move by sea & rail.

The Steamer Falcon was laden with 5 boxes of stores for the U.S.Army Adjutant General Corps., 14 bundles of spades & shovels, and 8 bundles of horse covers for the Army mounts .......... consigned to 1st Lt. H. J. Farnsworth, 34th Infantry, Acting Asst. Quartermaster at Atlanta. Indeed, it was a "spades, shovels & horses" environment in 1867 Atlanta. The moral & public outlook was low.

Note that what we have here is a "Duplicate Bill of Lading", there being two or three issued in total. However, the B/L makes clear that delivery & payment of charges can only be required upon presentation of the original B/L ........ just like in our modern Int'l system. The document shown here is non-negegotiable, meaning that only the holder of the orginal bill can claim the freight. This long honored process acts as security that only the proper party, the holder of the original, can obtain the cargo. Never allow your employees to release freight without the orginal bill of lading, unless there is very clear just cause.

Note also that the format of our modern ocean B/Ls is faithful to General Van Vliet's style which has columns for "marks", "numbers", "package count", "contents", and "weight" ......... just as today, in the same order. Our industry has evolved, but not much. We owe much to General Van Vliet for this system.

As seen from the above receipt, these supplies where likely discharged from the Steamer Falcon at Port of Savannah and thence by the "Georgia Rail Road" to Atlanta, just 9 days later. Asst. Acting Quartermaster, 1st Lt. Farnsworth of the 34th Infantry is seen here to have verified the weight at 2770 lbs., surrendered the original B/L and taken delivery with a signature which befits an officer of the period.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: After this shipment, in Baltimore, Bvt. Major Gen. Van Vliet continued his logistics planning to supply a war torn Confederacy with needed supplies. Just to show that The Cargo Letter will "leave no bill of lading unturned", we have done some research to learn that Stewart Van Vliet began his career as a West Point Cadet in 1836, graduating with the rank of 2nd Lt. for the 3rd U.S. Artillery in 1840. Van Vliet transferred to the Quartermaster Dept. of the Army (supply) and was promoted to 1st Lt. in 1843. In 1847, he served during the War with Mexico and was promoted to Captain in 1853. In August 1861, Van Vliet gained the rank of Major.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War, all the rules changed. A seasoned logistics officer like Major Van Vliet could gain responsibility rapidly in the U.S. Volunteer Service being mustered. Our Stewart was appointed Brig. General of Volunteers for the Quartermaster Dept. on 3 Aug,. 1861, where he served until March, 1865, responsible for the most massive logistics network in the history of the world to that time. At the end of the war Van Vliet reverted to the rank of Lt. Colonel, and then to full Colonel as Acting Quartermaster General of The Army in 1872. Still addressed as "General", Van Vliet retired from his distinguished logistics career in 1881 and died in 1901. General Van Vliet was a logistics giant and a father of our our modern system. His 1867 bill of lading is in our The Cargo Letter Collection © and here for you to see.

Indeed, the bill of lading on this page tells several stories and teaches much about our industry.

But what of 1st Lt. Farnsworth, the consignee? As things turn out our Henry Joseph Farnsworth had just lost his war time rank about 60 days before our shipment from Gen. Van Vliet.

Henry answered his country's call and was appointed a Captain of New York Volunteers in July, 1864. A Quartermaster officer, Farnsworth demonstrated faithful service and was promoted to Bvt. Major and then to Bvt. Lt. Colonel in March, 1865. The war over, Henry joined the 34th U.S. Infantry in September, 1867, at the modest officer rank of 1st Lt. Sixty days later, our shipment from the Steamer Falcon arrived, and he signed our "Bill of Lading From The Past©". 1st Lt. Farnsworth was assigned to the 8th U.S. Cavalry in 1870, and promoted to Captain in 1876, 30 days before the 7th U.S. Cavalry met its fate at Little Big Horn. Farnsworth ended his career in 1885 as a Major in the Inspector General's office and died in 1888.

NOTE: We hope this exercise clearly demonstrates the valuable information and lessons to be learned from Bills of Lading From Our Past©.

Visit our Ocean Cargo Claims Center for more information on the lessons on this page.

Special Note: The images displayed in Bills of Lading - From The Past© are from the physical document collections of Countryman & McDaniel.

These copyrighted materials may not be reproduced without the express written permission of Countryman & McDaniel.

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