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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders photograph of an old man with a luxuriant moustache merging with his sideburns; he is in military dress uniform with prominent epaulets. His brow is furrowed, whether through fierceness or concentration is hard to say. He is Christopher C. Augur, a Union general, whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

Christopher C. Augur

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are 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.

 p36  Christopher C. Augur
No. 1182. Class of 1843.
Died, January 16, 1898, at Georgetown, D. C., aged 77.

General Augur was born at Kendall, New York, July 10, 1821, but moved, as a youth, with his parents, Ammon and Annis Augur, to Michigan, from which State he was appointed to West Point, entering in 1839, and being graduated in 1843. Among his classmates were several who rose to high rank and distinction, viz.: General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Rufus Ingalls, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph H. Potter, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.W. B. Franklin, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wm. F. Raynolds, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. J. Reynolds, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James A. Hardie, General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Frank Gardner, Confederate Commander of Port Hudson, La., Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Fred. Steele, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.F. T. Dent and several others. As to his bare record of promotion, the Army Register shows the rare record that he was commissioned from Brevet Second Lieutenant through every grade to Brigadier General in the regular establishment, and was Major General of Volunteers from 1862 to 1866, during the war, and received the brevets of Colonel, Brigadier and Major General in regular establishment and Major General of Volunteers.

A few years after graduation he went to the Mexican war as Second Lieutenant Fourth Infantry. He was in the "Army of Occupation," under General Taylor, in 1845‑46, being engaged in the battles of Palo Alto, May 8, 1846, and Resaca de la Palma, May 9, 1846. With the late Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.H. M. Black, served as Aide-de‑Camp to Brigadier General Caleb Cushing, of the Volunteers. He was also Aide-de‑Camp to General Hopping. They both received marked commendation from General Cushing upon ending their service with him. He then served with his company of the Fourth Infantry at Fort Niagara, N. Y., and in 1852 went with the regiment, via the Isthmus of Panama, to Oregon. The late  p37 General Grant was Quartermaster, and the writer has listened oft to the trials of the trip with cholera and Chagres fever, which quarantined them at Panama for several weeks, and where going, the Quartermaster, came largely in for praise, and made his usual mark for pluck and coolness and of knowing the best way to do things. In Oregon General Augur (promoted to Captain in 1852) served at several posts including Fort Vancouver, and was for several years in command of Fort Hoskins. While in Oregon he was with credit engaged in fights and skirmishes with Yakima and Rogue River Indians in 1856.

Sumter having been fired upon, the Fourth Infantry was ordered east in April. Upon reaching San Francisco, hearing of his appointment as Major of the Thirteenth Infantry, he proceeded to New York. Upon arriving in New York he found the appointment as Commandant of Cadets at West Point (August, 1861). He was Commandant from August 26 to December 5, 1861, and was then appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers. He commanded a brigade in the advanced defenses of Washington until May, 1862, operations on the Rappahannock to July, 1862, being in command of the troops, (including his brigade, Gibbon's battery, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Bayard's and Kilpatrick's troops of cavalry), at the first capture of Fredericksburg. He commanded a division of the Fifth Army Corps July 19 to August 10, 1862, being engaged in the battle of Cedar Mountain, where he was severely wounded. The rank of Major General of Volunteers (and Brevet Colonel U. S. Army), was conferred upon him "for gallant and meritorious services" in the above battle, one of the few full commissions so conferred. In the fall of 1862 Major General Augur went with Banks' expedition to New Orleans, at General Banks' request, as "second in command." He commanded the District of Baton Rouge from January 20 to May 20, 1863. In the expedition to surround Port Hudson he commanded the troops engaged in the battle of Port Hudson Plains, and, after effecting junction with Banks, the center wing of the army in the siege which followed. In this siege, which was  p38 long and tedious, he did remarkable service for the government in handling his troops, which did much fighting, and in instructing others. It may be remarked that he in council vigorously opposed, but in vain, the unfortunate and bloody assault of May 27, as too early and made without due knowledge of the ground. He was then assigned to command the Department of Washington and Twenty-second Army Corps, serving in this capacity from October 23, 1863, to August 13, 1866. This command was one of the most trying in the army, comprising all the troops in, and forts around Washington, on both sides of the river, and the country for several miles into Virginia. Troops were constantly arriving or passing through, recruits to the front and deserters and prisoners to the rear. Many serious civil complications had to be settled between the military and the regular district civil authorities. The military held a regular Provost Court, which tried soldiers and also citizens who violated the military orders or laws, such as selling citizens' clothing to soldiers, selling liquor when bar‑rooms were ordered closed, aiding deserters, &c. The rule of the district was semi-civil and semi-military, but for a wonder there was no open conflict between them. Then there was the imperious Stanton but forty rods away, with his secret service, and as the Department Commander had another corps of detectives, some amusing clashes often arose. There was Congress at the other end of the avenue, members continually asking favors or passes for friends to go beyond the lines, and all sorts of impossible things and then wondered often how a representative of the sovereign people could be denied. Mosby's troops made frequent raids in this department, in Virginia, and troops were kept constantly on the move. At one time the General took the field himself to drive Mosby from a railroad which he had torn up at Falls Church. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early came "knocking at the door" of Washington in 1864, nearly forcing an entrance, but was repulsed. Then came the intense excitement attending the assassination of President Lincoln and the pursuit of the assassins, throwing great and weighty worry and  p39 responsibility upon the Department Commander, who scarcely slept for days, except for a short nap on a sofa in his office.

Such duties threw little glamour about them to reach the general public, but were much more arduous and trying than those of many who rose to greater public notoriety and fame in the battle reports and newspapers. In 1864, when General Grant reorganized the Army of the Potomac, I learn that he sought for General Augur as one of his Corps Commanders, but Secretary Stanton refused, saying that the General was doing more important work in Washington. His conscientious and correct performance of his trying duties in the Department of Washington was well known and appreciated by those in authority, and also by those under him.

In September, 1866, General Augur was mustered out of the Volunteers service as a Major General and reverted to his regular army rank, then Colonel, Twelfth Infantry. After serving as President of the Examining Board for 1866 officers for several months, the news of the terrible Fort Phil. Kearny in northern Wyoming reached the east and General Augur, assigned to his brevet rank of Major General, was ordered to relieve General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.P. St. George Cooke in command of the Department of the Platte, headquarters in Omaha, reporting there in January, 1867. At that time Omaha was a small town compared with its present proportions, with no railroad connections with the east. The Chicago & Northwestern, however, reached Council Bluffs shortly afterwards. The Union Pacific was finished only to North Platte, 290 miles from Omaha. All operations had ceased during the winter. Troops were hurried out, but nothing could be done with them until spring, as the season was terrible up to end of April, everything being blocked by snow and the weather bitter cold. One train was eleven days going from Omaha to North Platte in April. In the spring Forts Phil. Kearny and C. F. Smith were reinforced, but the Sioux still continued hostile, picking off small parties here and there. The Department Commander had several regiments,  p40 in small detachments, scattered along the line of the Union Pacific to protect from attack, and more from alarm, the ten thousand men at work at different places, and in 1869 the connection through to the Pacific was made.

Upon March 4, 1869, General Grant appointed his old friend and classmate to the vacancy in the Brigadier Generals, caused by Grant's resignation and the promotion of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sherman and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sheridan.

From 1872 to 1875 General Augur commanded the Department of Texas, during which time there was much trouble with the Kiowas and Comanchees on the north and the Kickapoos from Mexico on the south. In 1875 he took command of the Department of the Gulf, headquarters in New Orleans. The State of Louisiana was still in the terrible political condition in which it had been since the war. Terrorism, intimidation and often worse means were employed by the white Democrats in many parishes to prevent the negro from voting, or if voting prevent the count of his ballot. Troubles, threats and conflicts were constant up to the '76 elections, when Packard (Republican) claimed the State by the "Returning Board" throwing out several parishes, and held and barricaded the State house; Nichols (Democrat) claimed the State as per original returns; hence there was two governors and legislatures, creating a most confused and dangerous condition of affairs, in the settling of which General Augur had much to do and say; any error of judgment on his part would have created chaos, having troops stationed in various troublesome parts of the State, and at the culmination, when armed attack in force upon Packard's position was threatened — Nichols' troops, about 10,000 men, actually turning out — he had twenty-five companies of U. S. Infantry in New Orleans. At last, under a prior telegraphic order to preserve the "present status," General Augur notified Governor Nichols that he considered that the peace, not only of Louisiana but of the United States was threatened, and desired him to withdraw his troops;  p41 this was done and ended any armed display; the rest of the settlement being done under President Hayes through diplomacy. In all this affair General Augur showed his wonderful repose of good judgment, having to act without instructions from above, and seeking none. Such duty and responsibility was wearing in the extreme.

His next commands were: Department of the South, Newport Barracks, Ky., 1878 to 1881; Department of Texas again, 1881 to 1883; Department of the Missouri, 1883 to July 10, 1885, when he was retired from active service.

The above touches lightly upon General Augur's military record, and we now come to him as a man. He was the most calm, just and evenly balanced man, in public affairs and private, that the writer ever knew; gentle to all from the highest to the most lowly, the type of what is known as "a true Christian gentleman." Anything coming before him intimating any trickery or dishonesty shocked him. Like General Grant, he never suspected an officer of wrong-doing, and could be brought to believe such only upon convincing evidence. Where punishment was involved in any matter before him, he weighed the case with calm deliberation, erring, if at all, on the side of mercy. In all his years of duty, by his calm judgment and justice to all and an inborn natural dignity, he commanded the respect of all his subordinates to a remarkable degree, and thus brought order easily out of threatening chaos, and kept the officers of his departments thoroughly united. The above was also true in his management of the Indians, having had under his charge at time the greatest tribes, the Sioux, Cheyennes, Comanchees, Kiowas, Apaches and New Mexicos.

Of strikingly fine presence and feature and a courtly manner to all, he was a great favorite in all communities where he served, especially among the old Washingtonians, now fast disappearing.

General Augur was a consistent member of the Episcopal church; but liberal to those who were not of the church. He  p42 was a vestryman of St. John's church, Washington, and the cathedral churches at Omaha and San Antonio, and a delegate to many general conventions of the church.

General Augur married in 1844 Miss Jane E. Arnold, of Ogdensburg, N. Y., (a daughter of an army officer and niece of Surgeon Wheaton, U. S. A.), who survives him. They had ten children, seven of whom are living. He was most fortunate in possessing the love and devotion of wife and children at all times. They respected and looked up to him in all things. It was the most united of families in heart and spirit; although scattered in the flesh as individuals to the four winds of heaven, they all felt bound to their dear husband and father with bonds of steel which nothing could in this world sever but death.

G. B. R.

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Page updated: 3 Jan 21