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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1859

Vol. II

(Born N. Y.)​a

Chauncey B. Reese

(Ap'd N. Y.)


Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1854, to July 1, 1859, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1859.

Served as Asst. Engineer in the construction of Ft. Gaines, Ala., 1860‑61, — and of Ft. Jefferson, Fla., 1861.

Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Feb. 20, 1861.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: as Asst. Engineer in Defense of Ft. Pickens, Fla., Apr. 16 to Nov. 6, 1861;​b in

(First Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Aug. 6, 1861)

command of an Engineer Company in the Defenses of Washington, D. C., and assisting in Organizing Engineer equipage for the Army of the Potomac, Nov. 23, 1861, to Mar. 27, 1862, being detached to Harper's Ferry, Va., Feb. 24 to Mar. 5, 1862, to bridge the Potomac; in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign, commanding Company (Army of the Potomac),  p717 Mar. to Aug., 1862, being engaged in the Siege of Yorktown, Apr. 12 to May 4, 1862, — and during the subsequent Operations of the Campaign in constructing bridges, roads, and field-works, and particularly the bridge of over 2,000 feet long across the Chickahominy, Aug. 12‑14, 1862; on sick leave of absence, Aug. 21 to Dec. 1, 1862; as Asst. in the Engineer Bureau at Washington, D. C., Dec. 4, 1862, to Mar. 17, 1863; in command of Engineer Battalion, Mar. 17 to May 7, 1863, and of Company,

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

May 7 to June 14, 1863 (Army of the Potomac), in the Rappahannock Campaign, being engaged in throwing a bridge below Fredericksburg, Apr. 29, 1863, — at the Battle of Chancellorsville in constructing Defensive Works and Bridges, May 3‑6, 1863, — and throwing a bridge in the face of the enemy at Franklin's Crossing of the Rappahannock, June 5, 1863; in the Pennsylvania Campaign (Army of the Potomac), June 14 to Aug. 16, 1863, being engaged in laying bridges over the Occoquan, June 14, 1863, and across the Potomac at Edwards Ferry, June 21, 1863, — Battle of Gettysburg, July 1‑3, 1863, — and in constructing bridge over the Potomac at Berlin, Md., July 18, and across the Rappahannock, Aug. 1 and 8, 1863; as Asst. and Consulting Engineer, Department of the South, Aug. 29, 1863, to Feb. 24, 1864, being engaged in the Siege of Ft. Wagner, Aug. 29 to Sep. 7, 1863, — and constructing Defenses, making Reconnoissances, etc., Sep. 7, 1863, to Feb. 24, 1864; as Chief Engineer of the Army of the Tennessee, Apr. 29, 1864, to June 3, 1865; in the Invasion of Georgia, May 4 to Dec. 21, 1864, being engaged in the Movement by Snake Creek Gap to turn the enemy's left, May 7‑13, 1864, — Battle of Resaca, making Demonstration at Lay's Ferry by throwing over troops in the face of the enemy, May 14‑15, 1864, — Movement on Dallas, with constant Skirmishes, May 18‑28, 1864, — Battle of Dallas, May 28, 1864, — Battles of Kenesaw Mountain, June 20 to July 2, 1864, — Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864, — Siege of Atlanta, July 22 to Sep. 2, 1864, — Combat of Ezra Chapel, July 28, 1864, — Battle of Jonesborough, Aug. 31 to Sep. 1, 1864, — Occupation of Atlanta, Sep. 2 to Oct. 4, 1864, — Pursuit of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hood's Rebel Army into Alabama, Oct. 4 to Nov. 1, 1864, — March to the Sea, Nov. 16 to Dec. 13, 1864, — and Capture of Savannah, Dec. 21, 1864; in the Invasion

(Bvt. Major, Bvt. Lieut.‑Col, and Bvt. Colonel, Dec. 21, 1864,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services during the Campaign through Georgia, and ending in the Capture of Savannah)

of the Carolinas, Jan. 4 to Apr. 26, 1865, being engaged in the Capture of Orangeburg, Feb. 12, and Columbia, Feb. 17, 1865, — Battle of Bentonville, Mar. 20‑21, 1865, — and Occupation of Goldsborough,

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865, for Faithful and Meritorious Services during the Campaign in Georgia and the Carolinas)

Mar. 24, 1865; at Washington, D. C., and New York city, procuring Engineer Supplies for the Army of the Tennessee, Apr. 29 to May 13, 1865; and as Asst. Inspector-General of the Army of the Tennessee at Louisville, Ky., June 3 to Aug. 28, 1865.

Lieut.‑Colonel, U. S. Volunteers, June 3 to Aug. 1, 1865.

Served: as Superintending Engineer of the construction of Ft. Montgomery, N. Y., Oct. 1, 1865, to Mar. 1, 1867, — and of Harbor improvements at Ogdensburg and Plattsburg, N. Y., Aug. 1, 1866, to Mar. 1, 1867; in conducting experiments on the Penetration of Shot and Shells, at Ft. Monroe, Va., Jan. 1 to Sep. 15, 1866; as Recorder of Board of Engineers to conduct experiments on the Use of Iron in the construction  p718 of Permanent Defenses, Sep. 11, 1866, to May 18, 1867; as Secretary of

(Major, Corps of Engineers, Mar. 7, 1867)

the Board of Engineers for Fortifications and Harbor and River Obstructions for the Defense of the Territory of the United States, May 18, 1867, to Dec. 9, 1869 (leave of absence, June 19 to Aug. 29, 1868), — and as Superintending Engineer of the Defenses of Mobile, Ala., Pensacola, Fla., and Ship Island, Mis., Dec. 20, 1869, to Sep. 22, 1870, — of the Eighth Light-house District, east of Pearl River, Dec. 20, 1869, to Sep. 22, 1870, — of Improvement of Mobile Bay and Harbor, July to Sep. 22, 1870, — and of Examination and Survey of Coosa, Tombigbee, and the mouth of Appalachicola Rivers, July to Sep., 1870.

Died, Sep. 22, 1870, at Mobile, Ala.: Aged 33.

Buried, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Canastota, NY.

Biographical Sketch.

Bvt. Brig.-General Chauncey B. Reese was born in 1837, at Canastota, N. Y. For the following sketch of his brief military career, I am indebted to his classmate, Col. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William E. Merrill: —

"His early youth was passed on the banks of the Erie canal, and as a Cadet he was full of stories and jokes about the canal boatmen, their peculiar language and unique experiences.

"Entering the Military Academy in June, 1854, anticipating graduation in 1858, he was just in time to be subject to the experimental change of course of studies, from four to five years, that was inaugurated in the following September by Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War. The division of the entering class was made by age, all over eighteen remaining in the Fourth Class and following the old course of study, and those under eighteen forming the Fifth Class, who were to follow an advanced course. While this was a great disappointment to all affected by the new regulation, the buoyant spirits of youth soon recovered, and the victims of the experiment consoled themselves with the thought of the additional wisdom that they would bring into the service when they had finally exchanged the gray for the blue.

"During his career at the Academy, Cadet Reese filled the offices in the Cadet Battalion of Corporal, First Sergeant, and finally First Captain; in all of which positions his happy disposition and gentle exercise of authority endeared him not only to his classmates, but to all who came in contact with him.

"Finally, in June, 1859, the graduating hour came round, and Cadet Reese emerged from the Academy with the fourth honors of his class, receiving a commission as Bvt. Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. During the summer succeeding his graduation he remained on duty at the Academy, and early in 1860 he took station at the mouth of Mobile Harbor, where he had charge of the construction of Fort Gaines.

"Here he was on duty when the whirlwind of secession struck the Southern States, and the unfinished work was seized by parties acting under the orders of the Governor of Alabama. From Fort Gaines he went to the Tortugas, and while on duty at Fort Jefferson was ordered to join the Expedition for the Relief of Fort Pickens. He spent the summer of 1861 on the heated sands of Santa Rosa Island, taking part in the skirmish on the Island, and in the autumn was ordered to Washington to take command of one of the Engineer companies of the Army of the Potomac.

"With this command he remained two years, taking part in the Peninsular, Rappahannock, and Gettysburg Compositions, obtaining an unusual degree of experience in building ponton bridges of all lengths and under all circumstances, even in the face of an opposing enemy, as at Fredericksburg. His genial temperament and love of song were important factors in keeping up the spirits of the command under depressing circumstances.  p719 The writer cherishes a lively memory of the rainy days at Hampton, when the seven young Engineer officers, who were lodged in a single Sibley tent, used to amuse themselves by singing the current war and sentimental songs in all sorts of keys, with Reese as the conductor. Of that gay party of seven but three are now left.

"In the autumn of 1863, Reese was ordered to the Department of the South, where he took part in the Siege of Fort Wagner, and thus put into practice another branch of the art of military engineering; having become an expert pontonier, he now became equally proficient as a sapper.

"In March, 1864, he joined General Sherman, at Nashville, and was assigned to duty as the Chief Engineer of the Army of the Tennessee. The details of the Great March to the Sea and through the Carolinas are written in the history of the country, and need not be repeated. It will suffice to state that on the recommendation of his immediate commanders he received four brevets, the last being that of Brigadier-General. He was also made an Assistant Inspector-General of Volunteers, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

"After the disbanding of the volunteer forces, General Reese was ordered to the charge of the defenses at the north of Lake Champlain, to which were subsequently added the duties of Recorder of the Board of Engineers on experiments in the use of iron in permanent fortifications, and Secretary of the Board on Defenses and River and Harbor Improvements. Exposure during the war, however, had undermined his health, and when, in December, 1869, he was ordered to Mobile, thus returning to his first station, he was in poor condition to resist the attack of disease. In the following autumn Mobile was visited by the yellow fever, and one of the first victims was General Reese, who died, Sep. 22, 1870, at the early age of 33.

"While it is impossible to predict the future, we may judge from the records of work gallantly, faithfully, and intelligently done in the past, that time would have added new leaves to the laurel wreath that already adorned his brow. We can only bow in sorrow to the edict of Him 'who doeth all things well.' "

See Annual Association of Graduates, U. S. M. A., 1871, for an obituary notice.º

Thayer's Notes:

a Gen. Reese was a son-in‑law of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Edward H. Courtenay.

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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: 10 Jan 14