Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.
[decorative delimiter]

 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1818

[image ALT: A painted oval miniature of a man with very curly hair, maybe 28 years old. He wears a uniform jacket with a single tight row of silver buttons and a high collar, on which is prominently embroidered a five-pointed star within a wreath of leaves. He is the 19c American Army officer Andrew Talcott, the subject of this webpage.]

Vol. I

(Born Ct.)

Andrew Talcott​a

(Ap'd Ct.)


Born Apr. 20, 1797, Glastonbury, CT.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, Apr. 9, 1815, to July 24, 1818, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 24, 1818.

Served: as Asst. Engineer in the construction of fort at Rouse's Point, outlet of Lake Champlain, N. Y., 1818‑19; as Engineer and Aide-de‑Camp

(Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Aug. 14, 1818)

on the staff of Bvt. Brig.‑General Atkinson, on the Expedition to establish posts on the Upper Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, Nov. 1, 1820, to Apr. 30, 1821; as Asst. Engineer in the construction of the

(First Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Oct. 1, 1820)

defenses of Hampton Roads, Va., 1821‑24; as Superintending Engineer of operations preliminary to fortifying Brenton's Point (site of Ft. Adams), R. I., and New Utrecht Point (site of Ft. Hamilton), N. Y., 1824‑25, — of construction of Ft. Delaware, Del., 1825‑26, — of Dismal Swamp Canal, 1826‑28, — and of Ft. Monroe, 1828‑34,​b and Ft. Calhoun,

(Bvt. Captain, Oct. 1, 1830, for Faithful Service Ten Years in one Grade)

1828‑35, Hampton Roads, Va.; as Astronomer for the determination of

(Captain, Corps of Engineers, Dec. 22, 1830)

the Boundary Line between the States of Ohio and Michigan, Dec. 1, 1832, to May 30, 1836;​c and as Superintending Engineer of the Improvement of the Hudson River, N. Y., 1834‑36.

Resigned, Sep. 21, 1836.

Civil History. — Adjunct Chief Engineer of the New York and Erie Railroad, and in charge of its Western Division, June 21, 1836, to Apr. 30, 1837. Superintendent of the Improvement of the Delta of the Mississippi River, Apr. 20, 1837, to Feb. 28, 1839. Member of the Commission for the exploration and survey of the Northeast Boundary of the United States, July 26, 1840, to Feb. 28, 1843, — and of Naval Officers and Engineers, for Examining Portsmouth and Pensacola Navy Yards, and projecting Stone and Floating Docks therefor, July, 1844, to Mar. 4, 1845. Chief Engineer of Richmond and Danville Railroad, Va., Jan. 11, 1848, to July 31, 1855. Astronomer and Surveyor for the demarcation of the Northern Boundary of the State of Iowa,​d Feb. 16, 1852, to June 27, 1853. Superintendent of Repairs of U. S. Mint, at Philadelphia, Pa., May 26, 1855, to May 8, 1856. Chief Engineer of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad from Cincinnati, O., to St. Louis, Mo., May 1, 1856, to Nov. 30, 1857, — and of the Mexico and Pacific Railroad, from Vera Cruz, Mex., through the City of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 1, 1857, to Apr. 1, 1859, and Jan., 1862, to Mar., 1867. Manager of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company in Arizona, Apr.‑Dec., 1860.

Died, Apr. 22, 1883, at Richmond, Va.: Aged 86.

Buried, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.

Thayer's Notes:

a The 1822 portrait miniature of Talcott is a watercolor on ivory in the Smithsonian American Art Museum; an image with additional details can be found at on this page at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

[decorative delimiter]

b Andrew Talcott was Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert E. Lee's commanding officer at Ft. Monroe upon the latter's graduation from the Academy; the two would become lifelong friends and Talcott's correspondence is an important source for Lee's life. Inevitably then, Freeman's biography of Lee sheds light on Talcott's life and career as well: he is mentioned or cited over 200 times in it, and consulting Freeman's index may be useful.

[decorative delimiter]

c This isn't quite the placid job it sounds like; for the 1835 "Toledo War" between Ohio and Michigan, see Harlow, The Road of the Century, pp246‑247. Yet it was during this assignment that Talcott invented the zenith telescope and a method of using it for the precise determination of latitude, which with refinements became the foundation of geodetical measurements the world over for a century, and in turn, as a by-product, led to improvements in the star catalogue. (Adm. L. O. Colbert, "Hitching Our Country to the Stars", Scientific Monthly, 65:373, Nov. 1947)

[decorative delimiter]

d Not strictly germane, since Talcott worked on a boundary line that had been settled: but for an account of the tortuous establishment of the northern and western boundary lines of Iowa less than a decade earlier, Jeff Morrison's excellent page, illustrated with several equally good maps, is too interesting to pass up.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 1 Feb 20