U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers

Reunification of the Corps of Engineers
and the
Corps of Topographical Engineers

The following is a letter from Major General George B. McClellan, commanding the Army of the Potomac, recommending the unification of the Corps of Engineers and Topographical Engineers.  Taken from, Sears, Stephen W., (ed) The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan, Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865:  Ticknor & Fields, New York, 1989.

 

Camp near
Cumberland, Va.
May 15, 1862

Hon H. Wilson, Chairman Mil. Com. U.S. Senate  
Hon. F. P. Blair, H.R. 

Gentlemen,  
The legislation in relation to the corps of Engineers and Topographical Engineers, which I requested last winter as a measure required by the good of the service, I have greatly felt the need of during the siege of Yorktown. These officers, with very insufficient numbers, have performed laborious and highly important duties, which have resulted in the bloodless reduction of the place, bloodless, so far as the Army in general is concerned, but costly enough for them. Each corps has lost a valuable officer, - one killed, and the other dangerously wounded - and this from a total of only seventeen. They have fairly earned the favorable consideration of Congress. 

Legislation is greatly needed to effect three practical objects immediately: 

1st To unite the Corps of Engineers and Topographical Engineers, and thus to do away with a complicated and faulty organization. 

2nd To provide a proper means for filling the numerous and increasing vacancies, - a matter which is becoming embarrassing. My Engineer officers have been greatly overworked, and in fact crippled, from the want of the young officers, who, if the bill submitted last winter had become a law, would now be actively engaged. These vacancies (about thirty) cannot be properly filled without legislation. 

3d To give the rank - at least temporary - which is demanded by every principle of equity and expediency. 

I have a battalion of three companies of regular Engineer troops. It is commanded by a captain, an officer of fourteen years' invaluable experience, who may well feel aggrieved at not having even the rank to which his actual command would entitle him in any regiment of the line. Each of these companies is commanded by a lieutenant, upon whom the same relative injustice is inflicted. This is all the more galling to the officers of these two corps, because they are habitually and necessarily refused permission to accept the command of volunteer regiments, on the ground that their professional services cannot be spared. 

I therefore earnestly hope that a bill providing for these three needs of the service may very speedily become a law. The necessity for it is injuriously felt every day. The bill submitted by these corps last winter, had and still has, my full approval; but if Congress is unwilling to increase so largely the permanent rank, the provisions for temporary rank during the war, added as an amendment to the bill reported by the Military Committee of the Senate, will provide for the immediate and pressing needs of the service. 

Geo. B. McClellan Maj. Gen. Comdg.

 

 

(Copy, Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, American Antiquarian Society.) Sen. Wilson of Massachusetts and Rep. Blair of Missouri were chairmen, respectively, of the Senate and House military affairs committees. 

The first attempt to change the organization of the Engineers and Topographical Engineers failed to pass both Houses of Congress.  The following is a letter written several months later by Gen. Halleck to Secretary of War Stanton once again pushing the idea of uniting the two Corps.

 

 

WASHINGTON, D. C., January 31, 1863.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War:

SIR: The attention of Congress was called some months ago, through the Secretary of War, by committees of officers of Engineers and Topographical Engineers to the importance of uniting the two corps, and a bill was presented for that purpose, but failed to pass both Houses. Since then a new organization has been given to our armies, which seems to require some changes in the bill then presented. The inclosed draft of bill seems well calculated to accomplish the desired object. At present there are in our service, two distinct branches of engineers originally having distinct functions, but many of their duties being now common to both, I think the interests of the service will be promoted by uniting the Engineers and the Topographical Engineers into a single corps of about the same numerical strength.

From a faulty organization of their corps, these engineers, though graduating higher in their classes, have generally been junior in rank to those below them at the Military Academy, and hence as large a number as were permitted have, in the present war, eagerly embraced the opportunity of obtaining higher promotion in the volunteers, thus depriving their corps of their professional services, so essential to our military success. About one-half of the officers of these corps capable of taking the field have thus gone into the volunteers, and those that remain, though in the most responsible positions and performing very arduous duties, have daily to undergo the extreme mortification of being below nearly every one around them of their own age. At the present moment the Chiefs of Engineers and Topographical Engineers of our armies, of from fifty to one hundred and fifty thousand men, are only lieutenants and captains, while their juniors of their own and almost every arm of service are brigadiers and major-generals of volunteers, who have by no means more important duties to perform.

The organization proposed by this bill gives some increased rank to our engineers, thus offering a somewhat adequate reward for their talents and services and stimulating them to remain in the performance of their necessary professional labors.

This organization is also more in conformity to the practice of most governments, which appreciating the elevated function of engineers, confer upon them the advantages of high rank so essential to their positions in armies, and so liberally compensated in civil life.

[Chart of Organization of engineers in European armies].

The foregoing table will show at a glance the high rank enjoyed by the greater proportion of the officers of engineers in the armies of the great powers of Europe, and how much their number exceed ours.

The proposed organization of our engineers contemplates but 108 officers, notwithstanding our present greater military force and larger extent of sea-coast to be protected by fortifications, &c., than European powers. Besides, the engineers required for the construction of public works, surveys, Military Academy, &c., we have to supply them for sever large armies in the field, comprising twenty-one army corps, which number many increase. Certainly the chief engineer of an army of 50,000 to 150,000 has as high responsibilities as the commander of a regiment, and should have at least equal rank, and as the law gives to chiefs of the staff departments of army corps the rank of lieutenant- colonels, there is no justice in withholding equal rank from the chief engineers of army corps, and engineers of division have quite as important functions as captains of companies, though at present the chief engineer of our largest army-that of the Potomac-holds but the rank of first lieutenant.

This bill will give to chief engineers of our large armies the rank of colonels; to army corps that of lieutenant-colonels and majors, and to division that of captains and lieutenants.

I have taken the liberty to submit these remarks, and I understand that the Chief Engineer, from motives of delicacy, declines to express any opinion upon a bill which gives him additional rank.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK,

General-in-Chief.

 

 

Legislation merging the Topographical Engineers into the Corps of Engineers was enacted on Mar. 3, 1863.

 

 

AN ACT to promote the efficiency of the Corps of Engineers and of the Ordnance Department, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United State of America in Congress assembled, That the Corps of Topographical Engineers, as a distinct branch of the Army, is hereby abolished, and from and after the passage of this act is merged into the Corps of Engineers, which shall have the following organization, viz: One chief engineer, with the rank, pay, and emoluments of a brigadier-general; four colonels; ten lieutenant-colonels" twenty majors; thirty captains; thirty first lieutenants, and ten second lieutenants.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the general officer provided by the first section of this act shall be selected from the Corps of Engineers as therein established; and that officers of all lower grades shall take rank according to their respective dates of commission in the existing Corps of Engineers or Corps of Topographical Engineers.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That no officer of the Corps of Engineers below the rank of a field officer shall hereafter be promoted to a higher grade before having passed a satisfactory examination before a board of three engineers senior to him in rank; and should the officer fail at said examination, shall be suspended from [for] one year, when he shall be re-examined, and upon a second failure shall be dropped by the President from the Army.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That there shall be added to the Ordnance Department one lieutenant-colonel, two majors, eighth captains, eight first lieutenants; the additional officers herein authorized to be appointed by promotion, so far as the present officers of the Ordnance Corps will permit, and the residue to be appointed by transfers from other regiments or corps of the Army: Provided, That no officer of the Ordnance Department below the rank of a field officer shall be promoted or commissioned to a higher grade, nor shall any officer of the Army be commissioned as an ordnance officer, until he shall have passed a satisfactory examination before a board of not less than three ordnance officers senior to him in rank; and should such officer fail in such examination, he shall be suspended form promotion or appointment for one year, when he may be re-examined before a like board; and if upon such second examination and ordnance officer fail, he shall be dismissed from the service, and if an officer of the Army he shall not be commissioned.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That section two of the act approved March three, eighteen hundred and forty-nine, entitled "An act to provide for the payment of horses and other property lost or destroyed in the military service of the United States," shall be constructed to include the steam-boats and other vessels, and "railroad engineers and cars," in the property to be allowed and paid for when destroyed or lost under the circumstances provided for in said act.

SEC. 6, And be it further enacted, That all payments of advance bounty made to enlisted men who have been discharged before serving out the term required by law for its payment in full, shall be allowed in the settlement of the accounts of paymasters at the Treasury, but hereafter, in all such cases, the amount so advanced shall be charged against the enlisted men, unless the discharge be upon surgeon"s certificate for wounds received or sickness incurred since their last enlistment.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That upon any requisition hereafter being made by the President of the United States for militia, any person who shall have volunteered of been drafted for the service of the United States for the term of nine months, or a shorter period, may enlist into a regiment from the same State to serve for the term of one year, and any person so enlisting shall be entitled to and receive a bounty of fifty dollars, to be paid in time and manner provided by the act of July twenty-second, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, for the payment of the bounty provided for by that act.

SEC. 8. And be it further enacted, That the officers of the Medical Department shall unite with the line officers of the Army under such rules and regulations as shall be prescribed by the Secretary of War in supervising the cooking within the same, as an important sanitary measure, and that said Medical Department shall promulgate to its officers such regulations and instructions as may tend to insure the proper preparation of the ration of the soldier.

SEC. 9. And be it further enacted, That cooks shall be detailed, in turn, from the privates of each company of troops in the service of the United States, at the `rate of one cook for each company numbering less than thirty men, and two cooks for each company numbering over thirty men, who shall serve ten days each.

SEC. 10. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States he, and he is hereby, authorized to cause to be enlisted, for each cook, two under cooks of African descent, who shall receive for their full compensation ten dollars per month and one ration per day - three dollars of said monthly pay may be in clothing.

SEC. 11. And be it further enacted, That the army ration shall hereafter include pepper, in the proportion of four ounces to every hundred rations.

SEC. 12. And be it further enacted, That the increase of rank of officers, and in the number of officers provided for in this act, shall continue only during the existence of the present rebellion; and thereafter the several officers promoted under this act shall have the respective rank they would have had of this act had not passed, and the number shall be reduced by the President to the number authorized by law prior to the passage of this act.

Approved March 3, 1863.

 

 

Following Congressional approval of the Act on March 3, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders No. 79 which detailed the consolidation of the two Corps.

 


 

GENERAL ORDERS,

No. 79

}             WAR DEPARTMENT, 
                     ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE, 
                          Washington, March 31, 1863

 
 

I.  The following is announced as the CORPS OF ENGINEERS established 
By the act of March 3, 1863, consolidating the CORPS OF ENGINEERS and 
CORPS OF TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS, heretofore existing.

 

CORPS OF ENGINEERS

Chief Engineer, with rank of Brigadier General.

Joseph G. Totten ............................................ March 3, 1863.

Colonels.

Stephen H. Long..............................................September 9, 1861. 
Sylvanus Thayer...............................................March 3, 1863. 
Rene' E. DeRussy........................................... March 3, 1863. 
Hartman Bache ...............................................March 3, 1863.

Lieutenant Colonels.

James D. Graham ............................................August 6, 1861. 
Richard Delafield .............................................August 6, 1861. 
Henry brewerton .............................................August 6, 1861. 
Thomas J. Cram  .............................................September 9, 1861. 
Alexander H Bowman .....................................March 3, 1863. 
John G. Barnard ..............................................March 3, 1863. 
George W. Cullum ...........................................March 3, 1863. 
Henry W. Benham ...........................................March 3, 1863. 
Andrew a Humphreys ......................................March 3, 1863. 
John N. Macomb ...............................................March 3, 1863.

Majors.

Daniel P. Woodbury...........................................August 6, 1861. 
James H. Simpson..............................................August 6, 1861. 
Lorenzo Sitgreaves ............................................August 6, 1861. 
Israel C. Woodruff ............................................August 6, 1861.

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Zealous B. Tower ..............................................August 6, 1861. 
Horatio G. Wright ..............................................August 6, 1861. 
John Newton .....................................................August 6, 1861. 
George Thom ....................................................September 9, 1861. 
Amiel W. Whipple..............................................September 9, 1861. 
George G. Meade ..............................................June 18, 1862. 
John D. Kurtz  ...................................................March 3, 1863. 
Barton S. Alexander ...........................................March 3, 1863. 
James W. Abert .................................................March 3, 1863. 
William F. Raynolds ............................................March 3, 1863. 
William F. Smith  ................................................March 3, 1863. 
Edward B. Hunt .................................................March 3, 1863. 
Charles S. Stewart ..............................................March 3, 1863. 
Charles E. Blunt .................................................March 3, 1863. 
John G. Foster  ...................................................March 3, 1863. 
James C. Duane .................................................March 3, 1863.

Captains.

Robert S. Williamson .........................................August 6, 1861. 
Quincey A. Gillmore ..........................................August 6, 1861. 
Frederick E. Prime ............................................August 6, 1861. 
James St. C. Morton .........................................August 6, 1861. 
Thomas L. Casey .............................................August 6, 1861. 
James b McPherson .........................................August 6, 1861. 
Nathaniel Michler .............................................September 9, 1861. 
John G. Parke ..................................................September 9, 1861. 
Gouverneur K. Warren .....................................September 9, 1861. 
George H. Mendell ...........................................September 28, 1861. 
Henry L. Abbot ................................................June 18, 1862. 
Charles N. Turnbull ..........................................July 14, 1862 
William P. Craighill ...........................................March 3, 1863. 
Cyrus B. Comstock  .........................................March 3, 1863. 
Junius B. Wheeler ............................................March 3, 1863. 
Godfrey Weitzel ...............................................March 3, 1863. 
David C. Houston ............................................March 3, 1863. 
Miles D. McAlester .........................................March 3, 1863.

3

George H. Elliot ...............................................March 3, 1863. 
John C. Palfrey ...............................................March 3, 1863. 
Henry M. Robert .............................................March 3, 1863. 
Haldemand S. Putnam ......................................March 3, 1863. 
William C. Paine ..............................................March 3, 1863. 
William E. Merrill  ............................................March 3, 1863. 
Chauncey B. Reese .........................................March 3, 1863. 
Walter McFarland ............................................March 3, 1863. 
John A Tardy, Jr. .............................................March 3, 1863. 
Charles E. Cross ..............................................March 3, 1863. 
Nicholas Bowen ...............................................March 3, 1863.

First Lieutenants.

Orlando M. Poe ...............................................July 1, 1860. 
James H. Wilson ..............................................September 9, 1861. 
Orville E. Babcock  ..........................................November 17, 1861. 
John M. Wilson ............................................... May 14, 1861. 
Franklin Harwood  ...........................................May 14, 1861. 
John W. Barlow ...............................................May 15, 1861. 
Peter C. Haines ...............................................June 24, 1861. 
Patrick H. O'Rorke  .........................................March 3, 1863. 
Francis U. Farquhar  ........................................March 3, 1863. 
Arthur H. Dutton ..............................................March 3, 1863. 
Ranald S. Mackenzie ........................................March 3, 1863. 
George L. Gillespie, Jr. ......................................March 3, 1863. 
George Burroughs .............................................March 3, 1863. 
Charles R. Suter ................................................March 3, 1863. 
Jared M. Smith .................................................March 3, 1863. 
Samuel A. Mansfield ........................................March 3, 1863. 
Henry C. Wharton ............................................March 3, 1863. 
 

II.  The commissions of the officers above named will be considered 
as continuous with those held by them in their respective corps before 
the passage of the act consolidating them; and any commissions to a 
higher grade which may be conferred to carry out the provisions of the 
act will be held to have been accepted by the officers concerned, on the 
date of the passage of the act, unless they shall be declined.

 

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III.  The following assignment of officers of the Corps of Engineers 
is made to the Battalion of Sappers, Miners, and Pontoniers: 
  Major James C. Duane to command the Battalion. 
  Captain Nathaniel Michler and First Lieutenant Ranald S. Mackenzie 
to Company A. 
  Captaim Charles E. Cross and First Lieutenant Franklin Harwood to 
Company B. 
  Captain Chauncey B. Reese and first Lieutenant John W. Barlow to 
Company C. 
  Captain Charles M. Turnbull and First Lieutenant George L. Gil- 
lespie, Jr., to Company D. 
  Captain Thomas L. Casey to Company E, (late Company A, Topo- 
graphical Engineers.) 
  Companies A, B, C, and D will remain with the Army of the Potomac; 
and the officers assigned to the Battalion, not now with that Army, will 
report for duty to Major General Hooker as soon as their present com- 
manding officers can dispense with their services. 
  Captain Casey will continue at Portland, Me, and, in addition to his  
present duties, will, under the direction of the Chief Engineer, recruit 
for the Engineer Companies in the field, after filling which to their full 
complement he will organize his own Company.

BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR:

E. D. TOWNSEND, 

Assistant Adjutant General
 

 

 

 

 


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