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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1852

Vol. II

(Born N. Y.)

Joseph C. Ives

(Ap'd Ct.)


Joseph Christmas Ives: Born Dec. 25, 1829.​a

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1848, to July 1, 1852, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Ordnance, July 1, 1852.

Served: as Asst. Ordnance Officer at Watervliet Arsenal, N. Y., 1852‑53; as Assistant in the Topographical Bureau, at Washington, D. C.,

 p475  (Transferred to Top. Engineers, Mar. 18, 1853)

Apr., 1853; as Assistant Topographical Engineer on the Pacific Railroad Survey, May 14, 1853, to May 23, 1854, — and in the Pacific Railroad Office at Washington, D. C., May 23, 1854, to Mar. 2, 1857; in compiling

(Second Lieut., Top. Engineers, Apr. 30, 1855)

Map of the Peninsula of Florida, 1856; on Light-house duty, Mar. 2 to June 3, 1857; in making Explorations of the Rio Colorado, etc.,​b and preparing map and report thereof, June 3, 1857, to July 26, 1860; as

(First Lieut., Top. Engineers, July 1, 1857)

Engineer and Architect of the Washington National Monument, June 14, 1859, to July 26, 1860; and as Astronomer and Surveyor to U. S. Commission to run the Boundary between California and the Territories of

(Captain, 17th Infantry, May 14, 1861: Declined)

the United States, July 26, 1860, to Dec. 26, 1861.

Dismissed by the President, Dec. 26, 1861,

for "having tendered his resignation under circumstances showing him to be disloyal to the Government."​a1

Joined in the Rebellion of 1861‑66 against the United States.​c

Died, Nov. 12, 1868, at New York city: Aged 40.

Thayer's Notes:

a Joseph Ives' middle name and birthdate are from a bare genealogical entry on p65 of Arthur Coon Ives, Genealogy of the Ives Family, Including a History of the Early Settlements and the movement from Quinnipiac to the Black River Country (Watertown, NY: 1928 although © 1932). The only other passage of the book mentioning Col. Ives — to give him his Confederate Army rank — is of some length and interest:

p160 In the South we encounter a member of our family whose career seems of enough general interest to deserve special mention — Joseph Christmas, son of Ansel Wilmot and Lucia Ives, Cheshire family. We quote freely from a letter received in answer to a request for facts concerning his life:

"Lieutenant Joseph C. Ives was in charge of a party that surveyed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, and, as a matter of record, his maps and books on that exploration trip are on file both in the hydrographic office and war department. He also explored the Everglades of Florida, making the only official and authentic maps and surveys in use" before the World War. This was done prior to his trip to the Colorado. Previous to the Civil war, Lieut. Ives had one of the most brilliant records in the U. S. Army's engineering corps. Another little known fact is that he was one of the original engineers on the Washington Monument.

"It was during the Colorado expedition that the Civil war broke out, and he left the Union army and joined the Confederate forces. He first served on General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert E. Lee's staff as engineer officer, and was later taken on President p161Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jefferson Davis' staff as chief engineer. Lieut. Ives (then Colonel Ives) planned and built the defences of Richmond, Va.

a1 "After the Civil war he drops into comparative obscurity, as he was one of the few officers who were not included in the general pardon issued by Abraham Lincoln. This technicality was due to the fact that, at the time of the outbreak of the war, he was in Colorado; and before reached his party the war had been going on for some time. He immediately sent in his resignation, which was not accepted, and he was declared a deserter. It was not until many years after his death that this was taken from his record, and he was pardoned."

Concerning his exploration of the Grand Canyon, we read that Mr. Ives first tried to enter this "mystical canyon" from the "desert below," but was driven back, "baffled and disheartened." After days of "wearisome journeyings" in an attempt to enter the canyon from above, he wrote: "This region can be approached only from the south, and after entering it there is nothing to do but to leave. Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality."

The career of Lieutenant Ives was a color­ful one. We are glad to record his achievements and to learn that he is buried in the Arlington Cemetery.

The book, and thus this passage of course, is in the public domain,
the 1932 copyright not having been renewed in 1959 or 1960.

I've been unable to confirm that Col. Ives is indeed buried at Arlington.

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b Joseph C. Ives has become famous for having written of the Grand Canyon, in his Report upon the Colorado River of the West; Explored in 1857 and 1858 (Washington, D. C., Government Printing Office, 1861), p30:

"The region . . . is, of course, altogether valueless. It can be approached only from the south, and after entering it, there is nothing to do but leave. Ours has been the first and the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality. It seems intended by nature that the Colorado River, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be unvisited and undisturbed."

What those who gleefully report this fail to mention is that great chunks of the same report are taken up by rapturous descriptions of the beauty of the Canyon and other landscapes of the Far West; and although some one hundred and forty million people are said to have "seen" the Grand Canyon, the vast majority of us have done so very summarily from some carefully arranged vantage point. Very few know it to any real extent, and most of it sees no human being for years on end, exactly as Lt. Ives said.

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c As with other Confederate officers, Cullum's Register omits his war record. He was an aide-de‑camp to President Davis, with the rank of Colonel; and it was in that capacity that — he seems to have a gift for quotability — when asked whether Robert E. Lee had the audacity required in war, he made his famous assessment of the general (Freeman, R. E. Lee, II.92).

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