Russell’s First Mistake

“On June 19 [1857], Captain Thomas L. Brent, quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth, called upon Russell and served notice that the firm would be required to transport three million pounds of supplies to Utah [in support of the war effort] in addition to what had already been sent elsewhere. Russell’s reply was that their [wagon] trains were already upon the road, the time for getting ready was too short, and that to comply with the request would ruin Majors & Russell [the name under which the partners of Russell, Majors & Wadell contracted to supply the army]. Captain Brent admitted the truth of what Russell said but urged him to undertake the task anyway. . . . Russell at length agreed, with the understanding that Captain Brent would assist him in making up and p[resenting a claim to Congress for additional renumeration.

What Majors & Russell should have demanded, and got, was a new contract covering the circumstances. In this vitally important matter both Russell and the War Department were at fault. . . .Failure to write a new contract was a grave mistake. In fact it was the beginning of a series of mistakes which brought ruin upon the firm.”