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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1831

Vol. I

(Born N. Y.)

Samuel R. Curtis

(Ap'd O.)


Samuel Ryan Curtis: Born Feb. 3, 1805, Clinton County, NY.​a1

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., 7th Infantry, July 1, 1831.

Served on frontier duty at Ft. Gibson, I. T., 1832.

Resigned June 30, 1832.

Civil History. — Civil Engineer in Ohio, 1836‑41. Chief Engineer, Muskingum River Improvement, O., 1837‑39. Counselor at Law in Ohio, 1841‑46. Captain, Ohio Militia, 1833‑36, — Lieut.‑Colonel, 1837‑42, — Colonel, 1843‑45, — and Adjutant-General of Ohio, for the special purpose of Mustering and Organizing the State's quota of Volunteers for the Mexican War, May 20 to June 24, 1846.

Military History. — Served in the War with Mexico, 1846‑48, on

(Colonel, 2d Regiment Ohio Volunteers, June 23, 1846)

 p492  the Rio Grande, being Governor and Commandant of Camargo (a large depot of Military supplies), which he held, Feb. 18, 1847, against General Urrea's hordes of Cavalry and Rancheros, and then, by forced marches, pursued the enemy through the mountain passes to Ramos, Mex., thus opening General Taylor's communications.

Disbanded, June 24, 1847.

After the discharge of his regiment, and until hostilities ceased, served on the Staff of Brig.‑General Wool, — and as Civil and Military Governor of Saltillo, Mex., 1847‑48.

Civil History. — Chief Engineer of the Des Moines River Improvement, 1847‑50; of the Harbor, and other Public Works of the city of St. Louis, Mo., 1850‑53; and of American Central Railroad, from Ft. Wayne, Ind., to Council Bluffs, Io., 1853‑55. Counselor at Law in Iowa, 1855‑61. Member of the U. S. House of Representatives, from Iowa, 1857‑61, — of its Committee on Military Affairs, 1857‑61, — and of its Select Committee for the Pacific Railroad, 1858‑61.

Military History. — Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: as Volunteer Aide-de‑Camp to Colonel Lefferts on the

(Colonel, 2d Reg. Iowa Volunteers, June 1, 1861)

march of the 7th New York Militia from New York to Washington, Apr., 1861; in Military Occupation of North Missouri, June 13‑30, 1861;

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, May 17, 1861)

in command of Camp of Instruction at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., Aug. 9 to Sep. 1, 1861, — and at Benton Barracks, Mo., Sep. 1‑23, 1861, — of District of St. Louis, Mo., Sep. 23 to Dec. 26, 1861, — and of Southwestern District of Missouri, Dec. 26, 1861, to Feb., 1862; in command of the Army of the Southwest, Feb. to Aug. 31, 1862, being engaged in the Skirmish of Pierson's Creek, Mo., Feb. 13, 1862, — Occupation of Springfield, Mo., Feb. 14, 1862, — Action at Crane Creek, Mo., Feb. 14, 1862, — Skirmish at Flat Creek, Mo., Feb. 15, 1862, — Skirmish at Cross Timbers, Ark., Feb. 16, 1862, — Action of Sugar Creek, Ark., Feb. 17, 1862, — Battle of Pea Ridge, Ark., Mar. 6‑8, 1862, — Skirmish at Forsyth,

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Mar. 21, 1862)

Mo., Apr. 11, 1862, — Skirmish at Batesville, Ark., May 3, 1862, — Action of Round Hill, Ark., July 7, 1862, — and Occupation of Helena, Ark., July 14 to Aug. 29, 1862, — having marched during these various operations from Rolla to Lebanon, Mo., thence to Little Red River, Ark., back to Batesville, Ark., and thence to Helena, a distance of over one thousand miles through wilderness and swamps; on leave of absence, Aug. 29 to Sep. 24, 1862, during which he acted as President of the Pacific Railroad Convention, at Chicago, Ill., which practically inaugurated the road; in command of the Department of the Missouri, Sep. 24, 1862, to May 24, 1863, organizing and directing the Armies of the "Frontier," of the "Southwest," and of "Southeast Missouri;" in waiting orders, May 24 to Dec. 31, 1863; in command of the Department of Kansas, Jan. 1, 1864, to Feb. 7, 1865, being engaged on an Expedition against the hostile Indians between the Upper Arkansas and Platte River, July‑Sep., 1864, — and, with his forces organized as the "Army of the Border," in pursuit of the Rebels under General Price, Oct.‑Nov., 1864, with whom he had numerous skirmishes; in command of the Department of the Northwest, Feb. 16 to July 26, 1865; in waiting orders, July 26 to Aug. 21, 1865; and as U. S. Commissioner to negotiate treaties with Sioux, Cheyenne, and other Indian Tribes, Aug. 21 to Nov. 25, 1865, — and to examine the Union Pacific Railroad, Nov. 25, 1865, to Apr. 30, 1866, when he was

 p493  Mustered out of Volunteer Service, Apr. 30, 1866,

but continued on the same duty till he

Died, Dec. 26, 1866, at Council Bluffs, Io.: Aged 60.​b

Buried, Oakland Cemetery, Keokuk, IA.

Biographical Sketch.

Major-General Samuel R. Curtis was born, Feb. 3, 1807, at New York.​a2 When a child he was taken to Ohio, from which State he became a Cadet in the U. S. Military Academy, was graduated July 1, 1831, and promoted to the Infantry, and resigned from the Army, June 30, 1832, to become a Civil Engineer on the Muskingum River Improvement. Then, from 1841 to 1846, he practiced law; but his old military instincts continuing, he became a useful officer of militia, and, May 20, 1846, was appointed Adjutant-General of Ohio for the special purpose of mustering and organizing the State's quota of Volunteers for the Mexican War.

Upon the commencement of hostilities in this contest, he raised a regiment of Ohio Volunteers, of which he became the Colonel, June 23, 1846, and was commandant of Camargo (a large depot of military supplies), which he held, Feb. 18, 1847, against General Urrea's hordes of cavalry and rancheros, and then, by forced marches, pursued the enemy through the mountain passes to Ramos, Mex., thus opening General Taylor's communications. Though Curtis's regiment was disbanded at the termination of its enlistment, June 24, 1847, he continued on duty as a member of Brig.‑General Wool's Staff, and Governor of Saltillo, till near the close of the war, when his services were no longer required.

Returning to civil life, he practiced engineering till 1855, and then law for two years, when he was elected to Congress and placed upon the Committee of Military Affairs, and subsequently upon the Select Committee for the Pacific Railroad, in which he took a very active interest.

The sound of war's alarm, in 1861, again brought him to the field as Aide-de‑Camp to the Colonel of the Seventh New York Volunteers on its march to Washington. Upon reaching the Capital, Curtis resigned from Congress and the Colonelcy of his Iowa regiment to become Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers. He was assigned to duty in Missouri, and in February, 1862, took command of the "Army of the Southwest," with which he moved towards Arkansas, fighting several actions by the way till he reached Pea Ridge, where he signally defeated, March 6‑8, 1862, a superior force of white and Indian Confederates. Then resuming his advance, he reached Helena, Ark., after a toilsome march of over a thousand miles through wilderness and swamps.

From Aug. 29 to Sep. 24, 1862, Curtis was on leave of absence, during which he acted as President of the Pacific Railroad Convention, which inaugurated the Union Pacific Railway.

At the close of his leave he was placed in command of the Department of Missouri till the end of 1863, then of the Department of Kansas till Feb. 7, 1865, and finally of the Department of the Northwest till the end of the Civil War, during these commands he being engaged in various expeditions and contests.

After the war he was appointed, Nov. 25, 1865, U. S. Commissioner to negotiate treaties with Sioux, Cheyenne, and other Indian tribes, which responsible position he exercised till his death at Council Bluffs, Io., Dec. 26, 1866.

Curtis was a warm-hearted man, a firm patriot, an enterprising and useful citizen, an industrious and zealous member of Congress, a devoted advocate of the Pacific Railroad system, and a true soldier, from his West Point boyhood till death, at threescore years, terminated his active career.

Thayer's Notes:

a1 a2 The consensus of online sources, based on published material, is that he was born in Clinton County, NY; some say on a farm, others in Champlain. I've so far been unable to discover the facts, but no source I've seen, other than Cullum, states he was born "at New York" (presumably: city).

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b Gen. Curtis had a good death, at the peak of his success and honors; very suddenly, on the "Grand Excursion" organized as a public-relations extravaganza to promote the final push westward of the Union Pacific Railroad: The Great Iron Trail, pp214‑215.

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Page updated: 15 Feb 13