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Wagons for Transportation (1878-WWI)

The Four-Mule Army Escort Wagon

museum exhibit 4 mule escort wagonThe Escort Wagon was approved by the Secretary of War 21 November 1878.  Drawn by 4 mules or 4 horses, this all-purpose freight wagon replaced the Civil War six-mule wagon. (Pictured to the left is a photo of the escort wagon on display in the Transportation Muesum.)

Originally, the Escort Wagon was painted similar to the Conestoga Wagon of the Revolutionary War.  The exterior of the box was painted ‘leaden blue’ and the interior ‘Venetian red.’  The gearing was “Venetian red mixed with vermillion.’  All irons and chains were painted black, and the “U.S.” on the body was red.

From World War I through 1939, the wagons were painted a dark olive drab.

The standard load for the Escort Wagon was 3,000 pounds. When road conditions were dry and flat, a load of 5,000 pounds was often carried.

In 1895 with the end of the long Indian Wars, the War Department greatly reduced its wagon fleet.  However, within 3 years, there was a severe shortage as the United States prepared for the Spanish American War.

Escort Wagon bodies became cargo beds for some of the earliest trucks in the Mexican Punitive Expedition, as manufacturers were scrambling to provide vehicles to aid Pershing.

The Escort J-118 is World War I vintage.  It had an improved driver’s spring seat and metal hubs.  Over 100,000 of these wagons were ordered for the war effort, requiring the efforts of the entire wagon-making industry.  Only 38,000 were ever delivered.

This wagon was a common sight on any military post, taking children to school, delivering milk or picking up families arriving at the local railroad station.


mixed convoy of animal and motor drawn vehicles on narrow roads in France WWIWorld War I

Wagon transportation in World War I was affected greatly by the shortage of horses and mules.  Motorization of units, particularly field artillery, was stepped up in order to overcome the animal shortage.

On every road behind the lines, a tangle of trucks and wagons tried to move supplies forward.  Although motor transport assumed greater significance, it didn’t replace the wagon until World War II.

Horse and mule drawn wagons faced tremendous difficulties in heavy traffic, especially in bad weather.  Roads gave out, and wagons frequently bogged down. (Right, wagons and trucks attempt to negotiate the narrow roads in France, 18 September 1918.)


mule team holding up advance of a column France WWI

(Above, a mule team, hauling a U.S. ammunition wagon, is holding up the
advance of the whole column.  East of St. Mihiel, France, 13 September 1918.

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