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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1855

[image ALT: A seated photographic portrait of a full-bearded man in early middle life, with an expression both severe and gentle. He wears a Union Army uniform with a single medal pinned over his heart. He is the 19c U. S. Army general Godfrey Weitzel.]

Godfrey Weitzel, portrait by Mathew Brady.

Vol. II

(Born O.)​a

Godfrey Weitzel

(Ap'd O.)


Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1851, to July 1, 1855, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1855.

Served: as Asst. Engineer in the construction and repairs of the Defenses  p606 of the approaches to the City of New Orleans, La., 1855‑59; and

(Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 27, 1856)

at the Military Academy, as Asst. Professor of Engineering, Sep. 2 to Dec. 14, 1859, and Aug. 28, 1860, to Jan. 18, 1861; and on leave of absence,

(First Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1860)

Dec. 14, 1859, to Aug. 28, 1860.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: attached to Engineer Company at Washington, D. C., Jan. 19 to Apr. 3, 1861, — and in the Defense of Ft. Pickens, Fla., Apr. 19 to Sep. 17, 1861;​b as Chief Engineer on the Staff of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Brig.-General Mitchel, constructing the Fortifications for the protection of Cincinnati, O., Oct. to Dec. 9, 1861; in command of company of Sappers and Miners in the Defenses of Washington, D. C., Dec. 12, 1861, to Feb. 22, 1862; as Chief Engineer on the Staff of Major-General Butler (Department of the Gulf), Feb. 23 to Aug. 29, 1862, being engaged in the Attack and Capture of New Orleans (planned by him), Apr. 30, 1862, and its subsequent Defense, May to Sep., 1862; in command of forces in the Lafourche Campaign,

(Brig.-General, U. S. Volunteers, Aug. 29, 1862)

Oct. 24, 1862, to Apr. 7, 1863, being engaged in the Action of Labadieville, Oct. 27, 1862, — the Destruction of the rebel gunboat Cotten,

(Bvt. Major, Oct. 27, 1862,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Thibodeaux, La.)

Jan. 14, 1862, — and several Skirmishes; in command of the Advance in

(Captain, Corps of Engineers, Mar. 3, 1863)

Major-General Banks's Operations in Western Louisiana, Apr. to May, 1863, being engaged in the Combat of Camp Bisland, Apr. 13‑14, 1863, — and Pursuit of the enemy with several Skirmishes, Apr., 1863; in command of Division at the Siege of Port Hudson, May 27 to July 8, 1863, participating in the Assaults of May 27 and June 14, 1863; in command of Division of 19th Army Corps in the Lafourche Campaign, July, 1863, — on Expedition to Sabine Pass, Tex., Sep., 1863, — and in

(Bvt. Lieut.-Col., July 8, 1863,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Siege of Port Hudson, La.)

the Western Louisiana Campaign, Sep. to Dec., 1863; in Operations before Richmond in command of 2d Division, 18th Army Corps, May 2‑20, 1864, — and as Chief Engineer of the Army of the James, May 20 to Sep. 30, 1864, being engaged in the Action at Swift's Creek, May 9,

Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Aug. 29, 1864, for Meritorious and Distinguished Services during the Rebellion)

1864, — Skirmishes and Combats near Drury's Bluff, May 14‑16, 1864, — and in constructing the Defenses of Bermuda Hundred, James River, and Deep Bottom; in command of 18th Complex (Army of the James), Sep. 30 to Dec. 3, 1864, being engaged in the Repulse of the Assault on Ft. Harrison, Sep. 29, 1864, — and Assault of the enemy's lines on the

(Bvt. Colonel, Sep. 29, 1864,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Capture of Ft. Harrison, Va.)

Williamsburg and Nine Mile Roads, Oct. 30, 1864; in command of 25th

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Nov. 17, 1864)

Army Corps, Dec. 3, 1864, to Feb. 4, 1866; as second in command on the first Expedition to Ft. Fisher, Dec. 7‑29, 1864; in command of all troops north of the Appomattox River during the final Operations against the Insurgent Army under General R. E. Lee, Mar. to Apr. 9, 1865, he having taken possession of Richmond, Apr. 3, 1865; in command of the

 p607  (Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Campaign terminating with the Surrender of the Insurgent Army under General R. E. Lee)

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field during the Rebellion)

Rio Grande District, Tex., Apr., 1865, to Feb. 4, 1866; and awaiting orders, Feb. 4, to June 8, 1866.

Mustered out of Volunteer Service, Mar. 1, 1866.
Major, Corps of Engineers, Aug. 8, 1866.

Served: as Superintending Engineer of the construction of Fts. Knox and Popham, Me., 1866, — of Survey and Improvement of the Falls of the Ohio River, June, 1867, to July 31, 1882, — of improvement and Survey of Tennessee River, Aug., 1867, to May 25, 1871, — of Improvement of Ohio River, July to Sep., 1869, — of Survey and Improvement of Cumberland River, July, 1870, to May 2, 1873, and of Wabash River, July, 1870, to Apr. 15, 1873, — of Survey of French Broad River, July, 1870, to May 25, 1871, — of the Eleventh Lighthouse District, May 1, 1873, to May 15, 1878, and Oct. 1, 1878, to July 31, 1882, — of St. Mary's Falls Canal, and various Surveys and improvements of Rivers and Harbors in Eastern Michigan, May 1, 1873, to Apr., 1878, and Oct. 1, 1878, to July 31, 1882, — and of the Management and Repairs of the Louisville and Portland Canal, June 11, 1874, to July 31, 1882; on leave of absence in Europe, May 15 to Sep. 15, 1878; and as Member of Board of Engineers on certain Harbor Improvements on Lakes Michigan and Superior, June, 1870, — on bridging the Ohio, Nov., 1870, to Apr. 19, 1871, and Oct., 1877, — to consider plans of Bridge over Ohio, between Cincinnati and Newport, Aug., 1871, — on Brunot's plan for Movable Gates for Chutes and Locks, Apr. 24, 1872, to Jan. 14, 1873, — on Bridge across the Mississippi, at La Crosse, Wis., July 15‑29, 1872, Jan. 13‑19, 1875, and Aug., 1877, — on Bridge over the Missouri, at Nebraska City, Jan. 20‑31, 1873, — to consider the practicability of Bridging the Channel between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, Mar. 7 to Dec. 24, 1873, — on the application of Appropriations for Dredging Bay of Superior, etc., Apr. 1873, — on proposed Bridge across the Mississippi at Louisiana, Mo., June 16‑21, 1873, — on Ship Canal to unite the Lower Mississippi with Gulf of Mexico, July 25, 1873, to Feb. 14, 1874, — on construction of St. Louis Bridge across the Mississippi, Sep. 3‑12, 1873, — on James River and Kanawha Canal Project, Feb. 4 to May 8, 1874, — on the preservation of the Falls of St. Anthony, Apr. 14‑20, 1874, — on removal of North Pier of Railroad Bridge between Rock Island and Davenport, Oct., 1874, — on Bridge across the Mississippi, near Clinton, Io., Oct., 1874, — on Site for Movable Dam on the Ohio, Apr. 14‑24, 1875, — on Des Moines Canal Locks, May, 1875, — on the Improvement of the Ohio River, Feb. 20‑24, 1877, — on modification of plan for Harbor at Michigan City, Mar., 1877, — on the Improvement of the Wabash River, June, 1877, — and on Bridge across the Ohio, at Beaver, Pa., Aug., 1877; in issuing Charts of Northern and Northwestern Lakes, and in charge of

(Lieut.‑Colonel, Corps of Engineers, June 23, 1882)

Water-level observations on Lake Huron, July, 1882; in charge of various works of defense and of River and Harbor Improvements, removal of wrecks, etc., in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, Aug. 8, 1882, to Mar. 19, 1884; and as Member of various Engineer Boards on River, Harbor, and Bridge Improvements, 1877‑84.

Civil History. — Member of Commission to Devise Protection of  p608 New Orleans Wharves against Encroachments of the Mississippi River, 1878; and of Commission advisory to Board of Harbor Commissioners of Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 1, 1882, to Mar. 19, 1884.

Died, Mar. 19, 1884, at Philadelphia, Pa.: Aged 48.

Buried, Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, OH.

Biographical Sketch.

Bvt. Major-General Godfrey Weitzel was born, Nov. 1, 1835, in Cincinnati, Ohio. From the Military Academy he was graduated, July 1, 1855, and promoted to the Corps of Engineers. For the next four years he assisted in the construction and repairs of the fortifications guarding the approaches to New Orleans, La., and the following year was an Assistant Professor of Engineering at the Military Academy.

In the spring of 1861, Weitzel was attached to the Engineer Company which was on duty at Washington during the dark days which immediately preceded and succeeded the inauguration of President Lincoln. He was then ordered to Fort Pickens, Fla., just in time to aid in preventing its seizure by the Confederates. In October, 1861, he became Chief Engineer on the Staff of Brig.‑General Mitchel, to fortify Cincinnati, Ohio; and in December took command of a company of Sappers and Miners in the Defenses of Washington City.

Being familiar with the approaches to New Orleans, he was appointed Chief Engineer of General Butler's expedition to capture that city. No little part of the success of the land attack was due to Weitzel, who planned it. Butler, recognizing the high merits of his young engineer, made Weitzel the Military Commander and Mayor of the place. Soon after, he was appointed Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, and then placed in command of the forces in the success­ful Lafourche Campaign of 1862, where he won the brevet of Major, U. S. Army, for his gallantry in the battle of Thibodeaux. He then took command of the advance of General Banks's operations in western Louisiana; soon after, of a division in the Siege of Port Hudson, where he was engaged in two assaults on the place, receiving for his meritorious services the brevet of Lieut.‑Colonel; and, in the 19th Army Corps, took a conspicuous part in the Lafourche Campaign and Sabine Pass Expedition of 1863.

After these repeated successes in Louisiana, Weitzel was ordered to take part in the operations before Richmond. As Chief Engineer, May 20, 1864, of the Army of the James, he was engaged in the Action at Swift's Creek, and Combats near Drury's Bluff, and constructed the Defenses of Bermuda Hundred, James River, and Deep Bottom. For his activity and gallantry there, he was rewarded with the brevet of major-General, U. S. Volunteers, and command of the 18th Army Corps, with which he was engaged in repelling the enemy's assure on Ft. Harrison, and in attacking the rebel intrenchments on the Williamsburg and Nine Mile Roads, for which meritorious services he received the brevet of Colonel, U. S. Army, and the promotion to Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.

Weitzel, at the head of the 25th Army Corps, was second in command of the First Expedition to Fort Fisher, N. C. Upon his return, he took charge of all the troops north of the Appomattox River, during the final operations against Richmond, of which city he took possession Apr. 3, 1865, and announced the triumph in his brief telegram: "We entered Richmond at eight o'clock this morning," the news sending a thrill of exultation throughout the loyal North. Although Weitzel had received four brevets in the Civil War, and had risen from a Lieutenant of Engineers to Major-General of Volunteers, he was, on the termination of hostilities, awarded two more brevets, those of Brigadier and Major-General, U. S. Army, and placed in command of the Rio Grande District, Tex., pending  p609 our government's demand that Maximilian and his European allies should promptly evacuate Mexico.

The Rebellion having been suppressed, Weitzel was mustered out of Volunteer service, and resumed his proper Corps duties. These were varied and important, requiring much engineering skill and great professional attainments, particularly the construction of the ship canal around the falls of the Ohio, and that around the Sault Sainte Marie, near the outlet of Lake Superior.

The order of the Chief of Engineers, announcing the death of General Weitzel, concludes with this tribute to his worth:—

"A distinguished soldier, an accomplished engineer, a genial friend, true to the noblest instincts of manhood, faithful in the discharge of every duty, the Corps of Engineers mourns to‑day the loss of one of whose well-earned fame it may justly be proud."

To this testimonial, his intimate friend and classmate subjoins this estimate of Weitzel's character:—

"To a breadth of mind and clear good sense that saw through all petty details and obscurities to what was substantial beneath them, to an integrity and straightforwardness that nothing could swerve, to an honest contempt for all pretense and sham, there were joined in him great generosity of character and kindness of feeling, making him not only an able and zealous officer, but a true, large-hearted man. Through life he retained the directness and simplicity of character that gives to the young one of their greatest charms, but which is so often lost in the conflicts and disappointments of later life. His friends could always depend on the wisdom of his counsel, on his sympathy, and on his aid. His memory will be to them a stimulus to honest living and to a faithful performance of duty."

Thayer's Notes:

a Elsewhere online, he is stated to have been born in various places in Germany, coming to the United States as a very young child. Cullum or his own sources may have been a bit loose in the matter of birthplaces; see for example Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class. David Wallace.

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b The fort, deep in Southern territory, held out for the duration of the war; strategically commanding the Gulf of Mexico. The details of the contest in the early months of the war are interesting: "Civil War Operations in and around Pensacola" (FlaHQ 36:125‑165).

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Page updated: 24 Dec 14