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The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Twenty-Ninth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 9th, 1898.

p81 William R. King
No. 1999. Class of 1863.
Died, May 18th, 1898, at Rock Island, Ill., aged 58.

In the death of Lieutenant Colonel William R. King, the Corps of Engineers has lost one of its ablest officers and the country one of its best citizens.

As an engineer, he was practical, original, ingenious and endowed with the valuable faculty of accomplishing the desired object in the most direct and simple manner. As an officer, he combined dignity with unaffected simplicity, discipline with kindness, absolute honesty with dislike of unnecessary formality and circumlocution. As a husband and father, he was devoted, true, generous and kind. As a citizen, he was patriotic and honorable, abhorring everything tainted with dishonesty or hypocrisy.

William R. King was born at Eagle Ridge, N. Y., December 15, 1839, and at an early age showed his fondness for mechanics, he having planned a bridge and built one over the Hoosick River and become Surveyor before he finished his studies at the Academy at Cambridge, N. Y. From his revolutionary ancestors he inherited a taste for military matters, and by his own exertions obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1859, and was graduated fifth in his class and promoted to First Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, 1863, and at once went to the front.

He served successively as Assistant and Chief Engineer of the District of North Carolina, participating in the military and naval operations in that region until the summer of 1864. He was Assistant Engineer of the Departments of Virginia and North Carolina, November 24, 1864, and December 1 following was made Captain for "gallant and meritorious service" during the campaign of 1864. April 9th, 1865, he was brevetted Major for "gallant conduct in the field." He served as assistant p82in the office of the Chief of Engineers at Washington, from August 1, 1865, to July, 1870, collecting information and experimenting on torpedoes, modern sea coast artillery, penetration of projectiles, counterpoise gun carriages, &c.

From 1870 to 1876, he was stationed at Willets Point, and while there was a member of a commission to report on the Sutro Tunnel, Nevada; also a member of the engineering boards to examine and report upon the bridge from Brooklyn to New York, and the bridge across the Delaware, from Philadelphia to Camden, and a member of the board which designed the locks and sluices for the canal around the Keokuk rapids. From May, 1876, to Mar., 1886, he was stationed at Chattanooga, Tenn., in charge of the Tennessee, Cumberland and other rivers in Georgia and Alabama, building the Muscle Shoals Canal and completing some of the locks. It was while in Chattanooga that he planned and built the incline cable road to the top of Lookout Mountain.

From 1886 to July, 1895, he was in command of the Battalion of Engineers, the Engineer Depot and the United States Engineers School, a member of the Board of Engineers, and was also in charge of defensive works at Fort Schuyler, N. Y., and at Davids Island, N. Y. Relieved from duty at Willets Point July, 1895, he was stationed at Rock Island, Ill., on the improvements of the Mississippi River, from St. Paul to St. Louis, and was a member of the Mississippi River Commission. In addition to these duties, he served as a member and Secretary of various engineer boards on bridge construction, and river and harbor improvements; was charged with surveys and examinations with a view to the improvement of rivers and harbors, and was in supervisory charge of the construction of bridges across various streams.

He was the author of "Torpedoes, Their Invention and Use," "Experimental Firing with Modern Sea Coast Artillery," "Armor Plating for Land Defenses," and of "Counterpoise Gun Carriages," including a description of his own original design p83for applying the counterpoise principle to heavy sea coast artillery.

In all of his work Colonel King exhibited great energy, engineering ability, fertility of resource and the strictest integrity.

Almost a year ago he suffered a severe illness, gastritis and nervous prostration. He obtained two months' leave of absence, and though improving steadily, was not really well enough to return to duty; but he did so at the expiration of his leave. In April he had a return or relapse, and was sick about a month, this time his illness proving fatal.

During his illness he learned with gratification of the efforts being made in his behalf, by friends in the tri-cities, to have him assigned to active duty in the impending war with Spain, as a Major General of Volunteers, and he expressed his great willingness to accept any service that might be assigned him; but his failing health did not permit of any active duty. His soul took its flight during a terrific thunderstorm, which seemed a fitting salute to the dying soldier.

All who enjoyed the friendship of Colonel King admired his ability, honored him for his integrity, loved him for his large-heartedness and deeply mourn his loss.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Irving Hale.


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