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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1831

Vol. I

(Born Pa.)

Andrew A. Humphreys

(Ap'd Pa.)


Andrew Atkinson Humphreys: Born Nov. 2, 1810, Philadelphia, PA.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1827, to July 1, 1831, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, July 1, 1831.

Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, July 1, 1831.

Served: in garrison at Ft. Moultrie, S. C., 1831; on Special duty, making drawings at the Military Academy, Jan. 5 to April 18, 1832; in the Cherokee Nation, 1832‑33; in garrison at Augusta Arsenal, Ga., 1833, — and Ft. Marion, Fla., 1833‑34; on Topographical duty, Aug. 22,

(First Lieut., 2d Artillery, Aug. 16, 1836)

1834, to Dec. 31, 1835, making Surveys in West Florida and at Cape Cod, Mas.; in the Florida War against the Seminole Indians, 1836, being engaged in the Action of Oloklikaha, Mar. 31, 1836, — and Action near Micanopy, June 9, 1836.

Resigned, Sep. 30, 1836.

Civil History. — Civil Engineer in the Service of the United States, assisting Major Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Bache on plans of Brandywine Shoal Light-house and Crow Shoal Breakwater, Delaware Bay, 1836‑38.

 p477  Military History. — Re-appointed in the U. S. Army with the rank of

First Lieut., Corps of Top. Engineers, July 7, 1838.

Served: in charge of works for the improvement of Chicago harbor, Ill., 1839; as Asst. Top. Engineer of Survey of Oswego harbor defenses, N. Y., 1839; in charge of Survey of Whitehall harbor, N. Y., 1839; as Assistant in the Topographical Bureau at Washington, D. C., 1840‑41; in the Florida War, 1842; on construction of bridge at Washington, D. C., 1842; as Assistant in the Topographical Bureau at Washington, D. C., 1842‑43, 1843‑44; as Assistant in charge of the Coast Survey Office, at Washington, D. C., 1844‑49, — and on Survey in the field, 1849‑50; in

(Captain, Corps of Top. Engineers, May 31, 1848)

making Topographic and Hydrographic Survey of the Delta of the Mississippi River, with a view to its protection from inundation, and deepening the channels at its mouth, 1850‑51, continuing in general charge of the work, and preparing, in conjunction with Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Abbot, his voluminous report thereon, till 1861; on sick leave of absence, 1851‑53; in Europe, examining means for protecting Delta Rivers from inundation, 1853‑54; in general charge, under the War Department, of the Office duties at Washington, D. C., connected with the Explorations and Surveys for Railroads from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, and Geographical Explorations west of the Mississippi, 1854‑61; as Member of the Light-house Board, Apr. 24, 1856, to Apr. 5, 1862, — of the Board "to revise the Programme of Instruction at the U. S. Military Academy," Jan. 12 to Apr. 24, 1860, — and of the Commission, created by Act of Congress of June 21, 1860, "to examine into the Organization, System of Discipline, and Course of Instruction at the U. S. Military Academy," July 18 to Dec. 18, 1860.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: on the

(Major, Corps of Top. Engineers, Aug. 6, 1861)

Staff of Major-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan, General-in‑Chief, at Washington, D. C., Dec. 1, 1861, to Mar. 5, 1862; in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign, as Chief Top. Engineer of the Army of the Potomac, Mar. 5 to Aug. 31,

(Col., Staff — Additional Aide-de‑camp, Mar. 5, 1862)

1862, being engaged in the Siege of Yorktown, Apr. 5-May 4, 1862, — Battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, — in Movements and Operations

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Apr. 28, 1862)

before Richmond and to the James River, May‑June, 1862, — and Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862; in command of division of new troops at Washington, D. C., Sep., 1862; in the Maryland Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Sep.‑Nov, 1862, being engaged in covering Frederick, Sep. 16, 1862, — Pursuit of enemy from Antietam, Sep. 18, 1862, — Reconnoissance in Shenandoah Valley, Oct. 16‑17, 1862, — and March to Falmouth, Va., Oct.‑Nov., 1862; in the Rappahannock Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Dec., 1862-June, 1863, being engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, — and Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2‑4,

(Bvt.‑Col., Dec. 13, 1862,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.)

1863; in the Pennsylvania Campaign (Army of the Potomac), June‑July,

(Lieut.‑Col., Corps of Engineers, Mar. 3, 1863)

1863, being engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1‑3, 1863; as Chief of Staff of Major-General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Meade, commanding Army of the Potomac,

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, July 8, 1863)

July 8, 1863, to Nov. 25, 1864, being engaged in the Action of Manassas Gap, July 23, 1863, — the Rapidan Operations, Oct.‑Nov., 1863,  p478 including the Actions of Oct. 12 and Nov. 7, 1863, on the Rappahannock, and Combat of Bristoe Station, Oct. 14, 1863, — Operations of Mine Run, Nov. 29-Dec. 3, 1863, — Action of the Rapidan, Feb. 6, 1864, — Battle of the Wilderness, May 5‑6, 1864, — Battles around Spottsylvania, May 9‑20, 1864, — Battles of North Anna, May 23‑26, 1864, — Battles of the Tolopotomy,º May 28‑30, 1864, — Battles of Cold Harbor, June 1‑3, 1864, — Assaults of Petersburg, June 16‑18, and July 30 (Mine), 1864, — Battles of the Weldon Railroad, Aug. 18‑25, 1864, — Action of Peeble's Farm, Sep. 30, 1864, — and Action of Boydton Plankroad, Oct. 27, 1864; in command of Second Army Corps, Nov. 25, 1864, to June 27, 1865, being engaged in the Siege of Petersburg till its fall, Apr. 3, 1864, including the Actions of Hatcher's Run, Feb. 4‑6, 1865,

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa.)

and the almost daily attacks on the enemy's works, Mar. 24 to Apr. 3, 1865, — and Pursuit of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee's Rebel Army (including the several Actions of the Second Corps, Apr. 6, 1865, terminating at Sailor's Creek, and Actions at High Bridge and Farmville, Apr. 7, 1865), till its surrender,

(Bvt. Maj.-General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Battle of Sailor's Creek, Va.)

Apr. 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House; on march to, and at Washington, D. C., Apr. 10 to June 27, 1865; in command of the District of Pennsylvania, in Middle Department, July 28 to Dec. 9, 1865; in charge of the examination of the Mississippi Levees, Dec. 9, 1865, to Aug. 8, 1866.

Mustered out of the Volunteer Service, Aug. 31, 1866.

Served: in command of the Corps of Engineers, and in charge of Engineer Bureau, at Washington, D. C., Aug. 8, 1866, to June 30, 1879;

(Brig.‑General and Chief of Engineers of the U. S. Army, Aug. 8, 1866)

and as Member of the Light-house Board, Feb. 20, 1870, to Jan., 1874, — of Commission to examine into Canal Routes across the Isthmus connecting North and South America, 1872‑77, — of Board on Washington and Georgetown Harbor Improvements, 1872‑73; of Revising Board for Bulkhead and Pier Line, of Brooklyn, May, 1872, to June 30, 1879, — of Staten Island, Aug., 1875, to June 30, 1879, — and Hudson River (Troy to Hudson), June 18, 1877, to June 30, 1879; of Board for Survey of Baltimore harbor and adjacent waters, May, 1876, to June 30, 1879, — of Washington Monument Commission, Jan., 1877, to June 30, 1879, — of Advisory Board to Massachusetts Harbor Commissioners, Jan., 1877, to June 30, 1879, — and of examining Board of Moline Water Power Company contracts, Apr. 10 to June 13, 1877.

Retired from Active Service, June 30, 1879,
at his own request, he having served over 40 Years.

Civil History. — Member of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pa., 1857, — and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, Mas., 1863. Corporator of the National Academy of Sciences, Mar. 3, 1863, to Dec. 27, 1883. Honorary Member of the Imperial Royal Geological Institute of Vienna, Austria, 1862, — and of the Royal Institute of Science and Art of Lombardy, Milan, Italy, 1864. Author of the "History of the Virginia Campaign of 1864‑65;" and "From Gettysburg to the Rapidan," 1882. Degree of LL. D. conferred by Harvard University, 1865.

Died, Dec. 27, 1883, at Washington, D. C.: Aged 73.

Buried, Congressional Cemetery, Washington, DC.

 p479  Biographical Sketch.

Bvt. Major-General Andrew A. Humphreys was born Nov. 2, 1810, at Philadelphia, Pa. His grandfather and father were naval architects, and both became Chiefs of the Construction Bureau, U. S. Navy.​a The former made the plans upon which were built "Old Ironsides" and her five sister frigates, which so proudly bore the stars and stripes to many victories in the War of 1812‑15 against Great Britain.

Young Humphreys entered the Military Academy before he was seventeen years old, and graduated therefrom July 1, 1831. After a short service in the artillery, during which he was engaged in the actions of Oloklikaha and Micanopy against the Seminole Indians in the Florida War, he resigned from the Army, Sep. 30, 1836, to become a Civil Engineer, under Major Bache, in the construction of a Light-house and Breakwater in Delaware Bay.

Upon the organization of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, he was appointed to rank as one of its First Lieutenants from July 7, 1838, and for six years was engaged in the duties of that branch of service.

Lieut. Humphreys, upon the application of Professor Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Alex. D. Bache, was detailed, in 1844, as his assistant in the Coast Survey Office, where his responsible duties became so laborious that his health gave way, compelling his relief at the end of five years.

In 1850, Capt. Humphreys was directed to make a Topographic and Hydrographic Survey of the Delta of the Mississippi River, with a view to its protection from inundation, and deepening the channels at its mouth. This required much careful study; the measurement of numerous cross sections, and volume of discharge of the river; the determination of the extent of floods, and how to lessen their effects; ascertaining the amount of riparian abrasions, and quantity and kind of sedimentary matter carried down; investigating every safe method of deepening the channel bars; and the solution of many vexed hydraulic problems which constantly presented themselves. His arduous labors of research and supervision were suddenly suspended, in the summer of 1851, by a sun-stroke. When partially recovered, he was permitted to visit Europe to study the deltas of its great rivers, and how they were protected by engineers against inundations.

Humphreys returned from abroad in 1854, when a new labor confronted him, — the supervision of the surveys of routes to the Pacific, and making the needful investigations of their comparative merits, with estimates of cost of railways by each. Lieut. Abbot, his assistant, says of his chief's grasp of this subject: "His mind worked like a beautiful machine, neglecting nothing, forgetting nothing, and so rapidly bringing order out of chaos that the work took shape visibly from day to day. The preliminary report was completed before Congress adjourned; and subsequent experience has amply confirmed the correctness of his conclusions and the wisdom of his recommendations."

The voluminous report on the Mississippi Delta Survey, which had been continued under Capt. Humphreys' direction by his assistant, Lieut. Abbot, was published by Congress in 1861, and such was its scientific value that it has been translated into most of the languages of Europe, for it is truly a mine for the hydraulic engineer.

In 1856, Humphreys, in addition to his many other duties, was made a Member of the Light-house Board, upon which he served ten years, but not continuously.

On the outbreak of the Rebellion, though Humphreys had proved himself a most meritorious officer, he was distrusted by those in power because of his intimacy with Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jefferson Davis, under whom he had served when U. S.  p480 Secretary of War, and who had now become President of the Confederate States. However, in December, 1861, Humphreys was assigned to duty with the Army of the Potomac, in which by his brilliant soldierly qualities he rose from an Aide-de‑Camp to be the head of an Army Corps, with the rank of Major-General. Filling every position in which he was placed, — as Engineer, Chief of Staff, Division or Corps Commander, and serving in nearly every battle from Yorktown, in 1862, to Appomattox, in 1865, — he came out of the war with a reputation for gallantry, sound judgment, patriotic endeavor, and meritorious conduct rivaled by few and surpassed by none. At the desperate storming of Marye Heights, leading like a champion knight his command on this bloody field of Fredericksburg; in resolutely defending the exposed salient on the left of the line of battle at Gettysburg; and in the unremitting attack and pursuit of Lee's army to Appomattox C. H., — Humphreys displayed the intrepidity of a Ney and the cool self-reliance of a Masséna. "To courage of the brightest order, both moral and philosophical, he united the energy, decision, and intellectual power which characterized him in civil administration. These traits, joined to a thorough knowledge of strategy and grand tactics, fitted him for the highest military responsibilities."

The Civil War, in which Humphreys received three brevets for "meritorious services," being ended, he was further rewarded, Aug. 6, 1866, by the appointment of Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army. In this position, for thirteen years, he exhibited high administrative abilities, and, with the co‑operation of his able corps of officers, successfully conducted the operations on the numerous military and civil works under charge of the Engineer Department. Upon his own application he was retired, June 30, 1879, from active service in the Army, only to begin a new labor of faithfully recording the great deeds of the Army of the Potomac in the memorable campaigns of 1863, 1864, and 1865, of which he might have said magna pars fui.

Humphreys was a member of several learned societies at home and abroad; received, in 1865, the degree of LL. D. from Harvard University; and was one of the fifty original Corporators of the National Academy of Sciences.

As a subordinate officer, Humphreys was prompt in the performance of every duty, zealous and laborious in carrying out the orders of his superiors, and untiring in effort til his work was accomplished; and as a chief, though doing his full share of an allotted task, was generous in awarding the meed of praise to all under him. To his assistant, Lieut. Abbot, on the Mississippi Delta Survey, he accorded equal credit with himself by associating his name in the author­ship of the able report thereon; and to all who won glory at his side on the battlefield he unstintingly assigned their full desert. It was this sense of justice and magnanimity which insured their confidence, affection, and highest efforts. Hence, as a general, he had the earnest support of his whole command, which, united to his own magnetic leader­ship, undaunted gallantry, loyalty of purpose, and skill in handling masses, made his army corps almost irresistible.

General Abbot, who, from his entrance into service, was most intimate with Humphreys till he died, Dec. 27, 1883, a period of nearly thirty years, says of his departed friend: —

"In official relations General Humphreys was dignified, self-possessed, and courteous. His decisions were based on full consideration of the subject, and once rendered were final. He had a profound contempt for everything which resembled double-dealing or cowardice. He scorned the arts of time-servers and demagogues, and when confronted with meanness took no pains to conceal his indignation, no matter what might be the rank or position of the offender. He felt the warmest personal interest  p481 in the success of his young associates, and often did acts of kindness of which they learned the results but not the source.

"In his social relations General Humphreys exerted a personal magnetism which can hardly be expressed in words. His manners were marked by all the graceful courtesy of the old school, while the unaffected simplicity and modesty of his character and the force and vigor of his ideas left an impression not easily effaced. He was a gentleman by nature, not merely by artificial polish, and no one could be thrown much in his society without recognizing the fact."

Thayer's Note:

a His grandfather Joshua Humphreys was, as implied in the biographical sketch, the more celebrated of the two. A good look at him and his methods is provided by Eugene S. Ferguson in Truxtun of the Constellation, especially chapters 23 (pp109‑110), 25 (pp115‑117), and 27 (pp125‑130, passim).

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