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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1806

Vol. I

(Born Mo.)

Charles Gratiot

(Ap'd Mo.)

Charles Chouteau Gratiot:​a Born Aug. 29, 1786, St. Louis, MO.

Military History. — Cadet of the Military Academy, July 17, 1804, to Oct. 30, 1806, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Oct. 30, 1806.

Served: as Asst. Engineer in the construction of the Defenses of Charleston Harbor, S. C., 1806‑10; at West Point, N. Y., 1810‑11; in

(Captain, Corps of Engineers, Feb. 23, 1808)

the War of 1812‑15 with Great Britain, as Chief Engineer of the Northwestern Army, under command of Major-General Harrison, in the Campaigns of 1813 and of 1814, being engaged in the Defense of Ft. Meigs, Apr. 28-May 9, 1813, — Attack on Ft. Mackinac, Aug. 4, 1814, — and

(Bvt. Colonel, Michigan Militia, Oct. 5, 1813)

in command of a detachment which landed Sep. 13, 1814, near the mouth of the Natewasaga River, and succeeded in destroying six months' supplies of provisions, deposited there by the enemy for transportation to Mackinac;

(Major, Corps of Engineers, Feb. 9, 1815)

as Superintending Engineer of the fortifications in Delaware River and Bay, 1816‑17; as Chief Engineer of Department No. 3 (embracing Michigan and N. W. Territory), 1817‑18; as Superintending Engineer

(Lieut.‑Colonel, Corps of Engineers, Mar. 31, 1819)

of the construction of the defenses of Hampton Roads, Va. (Fts. Monroe and Calhoun), 1819‑29; in command of the Corps of Engineers, in charge

(Colonel and Chief Engineer of the U. S. Army, May 24, 1828)

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, May 24, 1828, for Meritorious Services and General Good Conduct)

of the Engineer Bureau at Washington, D. C., and (ex‑officio) Inspector of the Military Academy, May 24, 1828, to Dec. 6, 1838; and member of several Ordnance and Artillery Boards, 1828‑38.

Dismissed, Dec. 6, 1838, by the President,

 p71  for "having failed to pay into the Treasury the balance of the moneys placed in his hands, in 1835, for public purposes, after suspending therefrom the amount which he claims to be due him on settlement of accounts, according to the President's order, communicated to him by the Secretary of War on the 28th Nov., 1838; and having neglected to render his accounts in obedience to the law of Jan. 31, 1823."1

Civil History. — As testimonials of his services in the Northwest, Ft. Gratiot, on the right bank of the St. Clair River; Gratiot County, Mich.; and the villages of Gratiot, in Mich. and Wis., were named after him. Clerk in the General Land Office in Washington city, 1840‑55.

Died, May 18, 1855, in St. Louis, Mo.: Aged 67.

Buried, Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, MO.

The Author's Note:

1 The Committee on the Judiciary made, Aug. 31, 1852, to the Senate of the United States, the following Report on the memorial of General Gratiot, which had been referred to it:—

"That the prayer of the petitioner is for the expression of the opinion of the Senate upon the legality of the proceedings in the dismissal of the petitioner from the Army of the United States.

"The simple expression of such an opinion scarcely seems consistent with the duty of the Senate, or compatible with the public interests; for it would, very possibly, imply the necessity of ulterior proceedings not contemplated in the petition, and which it would be manifestly improper to originate on this wise, or from this Committee at all. As far, however, as the Committee may be justified in pursuing the course desired, they will proceed very cheerfully.

"The career of the petitioner in the Army of the United States, during a long period of nearly forty years, is a matter of history that may justly excite the pride and admiration of every American citizen. Brave in battle, he presided, for a long time, with distinguished honor and ability, at the head of one of the most difficult and arduous bureaus of the military department, and has left to the country lasting monuments of his skill and science in the construction of various magnificent fortifications, both to exhibit her strength and to insure her safety.

"While thus honorably and usefully employed in the public service for so many years, he was constantly confided in by his country, and never abused her confidence in the disbursement of immense sums of money, and lived honored and respected by all classes of men, with no taint of suspicion attaching to his name.

"With a character so high to sustain him, the charge of malfeasance in office should be received with great caution by the people, and rigidly scrutinized by Congress, and no unjust influences of any nature whatsoever should be permitted to prevail in his case; but if, unfortunately, such influences do obtain ground, then it is obviously the imperative duty of Congress to remove them, for no higher duty devolves upon the federal legislature than the protection of the honor of its military officers, of which it is necessarily, to a very great extent, the chief custodian.

"In the attainment of this object no obstacle whatever should be allowed to interpose. Wherein legislation is deficient, it should be supplied, and all bars of rules and regulations of the service should be removed, for nothing can be so dear to the American officer as his honor, and nothing should be more assiduously guarded by the American people than that, for the honor of the soldiers of the Republic is in no small measure the life and spirit of enlightened freedom. With these brief general considerations, the Committee will as briefly revert to the case of the petitioner.

"The case of General Charles Gratiot, who was the Chief of the Corps of Engineers in the Army of the United States, has been so elaborately discussed in every circle, and so fully reported upon to Congress, that the history of the whole case is familiar to every one.

"The alleged grievance, which constitutes the cause of his dissatisfaction, was the summary dismissal of the petitioner from the Army, in the year 1838, by the President of the United States, — first, upon the plea that the power thus exercised was arbitrary, and contrary to the true meaning and intent of the act of Congress conveying it; and secondly, that a defalcation in the accounts of the petitioner, which was the cause assigned for the removal, did not and never did exist in truth.

"In support of his first plea, the petitioner exhibits a mass of testimony, which is certainly entitled to be very calmly weighed and measured; and among the same is the opinion of the General Commanding-in‑Chief, upon a parallel case, than which no authority can be higher.

"In support of the second plea, he denies totally the truth of the charge of defalcation, and contends that he is not and never was indebted to the United States for moneys misused by him, and that a just and legal adjustment of his accounts will bring the United States in debt to him; that the withholding of the funds, upon the demand of the Secretary of War, was a measure of self-defense, justified by the circumstances of the case, and that he was then and is now prepared for an equitable settlement, which is his demand and desire.

"It seems to the Committee that both of the pleas are reasonable, and should receive attention, urged as they are, with the earnestness of conscious rectitude, by a gallant soldier, who has acquired a right to be heard from the blood he has spilled in battle.

"Further than this the Committee regret that they cannot go, as it is not in their power to afford an adequate remedy by recommending the passage of any law for the relief of the petitioner, and they therefore ask to be discharged from the further consideration of the subject."

Thayer's Note:

a The young man owed his appointment, by Jefferson himself, to the usefulness of winning over his maternal family the Chouteaus, prominent in the just-acquired Louisiana Territory: see "The Chouteaus and their Commercial Enterprises", Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 11, No. 2.

Of the four men thus appointed for political reasons — the others were Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pascal Vincent Bouis, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Louis Loramier, and Gratiot's cousin Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Auguste Chouteau — Gratiot was by far the one who contributed the most to his new country.

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