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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Twenty-Third Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 9th, 1892.

 p67  Thomas Jefferson Lee
No. 593. Class of 1830.
Died, December 30th, 1891, at Baltimore, Md., aged 83 years.

Colonel Thomas J. Lee was the second son of William Lee, of Massachusetts, and of Susan Palfrey, daughter of Colonel William Palfrey, Aide-de‑Camp of General Washington and Paymaster-General of the Continental Army. He was born at Bordeaux, France, on August 7, 1808, where his father was then residing as American Consul. When eight years old he was brought home to the United States, and was educated at Washington, D. C.

He entered the Military Academy in 1826. Out of the original class, 102 in number, only 42 were graduated at the expiration of the usual course in 1830; and of these forty-two only two have survived him. Colonel Thayer was then nearly at the end of his long tour of duty as Superintendent, and the Academy has already taken the high stand as an educational institution which it so largely owes to his wisdom and firmness. Young Lee took and held a good position in his class, and on graduation was assigned to the Fourth Artillery, in the grade of Second Lieutenant.

At this date West Point was the only thorough mathematical and engineering school in the country, and the services of its elèves were in great demand upon the many civil works of improvement then under rapid development. After serving about a year with his company, Lieutenant Lee was detailed on topographical duty. He rejoined his command after about two years thus spent, but soon wearying of the routine of life in garrison he resigned his commission on August 31, 1836, and made civil engineering his profession. His plans soon underwent further change. By the act of July 5, 1838, the Corps of Topographical Engineers was made a distinctive organization, and  p68 Mr. Lee received an original appointment as First Lieutenant dating from July 7, of that year. He served continuously in this Corps until April 30, 1855, when he resigned the commission of Captain which he had held since March 3, 1847, and finally left the military service.

During the seventeen years in which his name remained upon the rolls of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, few officers had a wider range of experience or achieved a higher professional standing. Practical Astronomy and Geodesy were his specialties; and his work on the Mexican Boundary, on the North Eastern Boundary, on the survey of the Great Lakes, and in fixing the initial points of the northern boundaries of Iowa and Kansas, had given him so brilliant a reputation that when the writer joined the Corps in 1854, Captain Lee was regarded by the younger officers as the standard authority in this class of work. He had found time to prepare a useful manual on Surveying, Geodesy, and Practical Astronomy, which has passed through three editions and is now known as No. 12 of the Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers. Many have been the unuttered thanks he has received for this handbook from beginners struggling with practical difficulties in the field, and far from larger books of reference. In its department of science it was what Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Colonel Laidley's Ordnance Manual was for the matters therein treated, a book never to be left behind, no matter how limited might be the facilities for transportation.

After resigning from the army, Colonel Lee by no means entered upon an idle life. He was soon appointed, by Governor Hicks, Commissioner on the part of Maryland to retrace and mark the boundary between that State and Virginia. He served on the Coast Survey, and in the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, and in connection with the defences of Washington during the Civil war; and subsequently as a civil engineer in the division of rivers, harbors, etc., of the Engineer Bureau of the War Department, until 1889, when he retired from the public service. He had received the appointment of Colonel in the State troops of Maryland shortly before the Civil war, and from this circumstance  p69 derived the title by which he was universally known during the later years of his life.

In 1841 he married Miss Cassandra O., daughter of the late Judge Alexander Nisbet, of Maryland. One son and one daughter survive their father. Two sons, Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.A. N. Lee, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, and Lieutenant T. N. Lee, U. S. Navy, had ended their life labors before his summons came.

Colonel Lee was a man of high personal character, intellectual, refined, and well informed, honest and true. In his family relations he was always affectionate and unselfish. He had the dignity and courtesy of the old time gentleman; and as his locks whitened, and his sons and contemporaries passed from life, his gentle ways increased the respect and warm regard of the younger friends who had been fortunate enough to learn and appreciate his worth.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Henry L. Abbot

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