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Orville Elias Babcock
Brigadier General, United States Army
Vermont State Flag
Orville Elias Babcock was born in Vermont, December 25, 1835., he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in the class of May 1861, third of 45 class members. On graduation he was posted to the Corps of Engineers.

During the Civil War, he served as Banks' Aide-de-Camp until August 1861;  in constructing defenses around Washington, D.C., fought in the Peninsular Campaign attached to a Engineer Battalion, and was Chief Engineer of the Left Grand Division during 16 November-18 December 1862, having been promoted to First Lieutenant, 17 November 1861.

Named Lieutenant Colonel, United States Volunteers, 1 January 1863, he served as Assistant Inspector General of the VI Corps, I January to 6 February 1863, and as Assistant Inspector General and Chief Engineer of the IX Corps, 6 February-10 April 1863 and as Chief Engineer of the Central District of Kentucky, 10 April-9 June 1863,  He was with with the IX Corps at Vicksburg and in the East Tennessee Campaign at Blie Lick Springs, Hough Ferry and Campbell's Station.  After fighting at Knoxville, he was Chief Engineer of the Department of the Ohio, 23 January-20 March 1864 and Grant's Aide-de-Camp (Lieutenant Colonel, 29 March 1864), at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Coled Harbor and the Petersburg Campaign.  He tool dispatches from Grant to Sherman in December 1864 and to Schofield at Wilmington, North Carolina, in February 1865.  Also in this capacity, he delivered Grant's surrender demand to General Robert E. Lee at Appotmattox, Virginia.

He was breveted Brigadier General, United States Army, for war services and continued to be Grant's Aide-de-Camp until 1877 and served on various engineering projects until he drowned in Florida on June 2, 1884.

He was buried in Section 2, Grave 3828, Arlington National Cemetery.


Babcock left Washington to become Chief Engineer of the Sixth District of the Light House Establishment. As part of this job, Babcock was responsible for the planning and building of the Mosquito Inlet Lighthouse. Unfortunately, before Babcock could begin the actual construction, the boat bringing him to shore from a schooner overturned in the Inlet, and Babcock drowned on June 2, 1884. His body was returned to Washington, DC, for burial.
OE Babcock PHOTO
National Archives

Orville E. Babcock, soldier, born in Franklin, Vermont, 25 December 1835 ; drowned in Mosquito Inlet, Florida, 2 June 1884. He was graduated at West Point, and entered the Engineer Corps as a Second Lieutenant, 6 May 1861. Promoted, 17 November 1861, to a First Lieutenancy, he constructed, in February 1862, a pontoon bridge at Harper's Ferry for Banks's movement to Winchester. He was made a Captain in the engineer corps on 1 June 1863, and was with the IX corps at the surrender of Vicksburg, and in the east Tennessee campaign, taking part in the battle of Blue Lick Springs and subsequent actions, and at the siege of Knoxville. On 29 March 1864, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed aide-de-camp to General Grant, in which capacity he served in the battles of the Wilderness and subsequent operations of the army of the Potomac. 

On 13 March 1865, he was breveted Brigadier General of volunteers. At the surrender of Lee at Appomattox he selected the place where the generals met. He was promoted to Colonel in the regular army on 25 July 1866, and served as aide-de-camp to the general-in-chief until General Grant was inaugurated President, when he was assigned to duty with the President and acted as his Secretary. He was appointed superintending engineer of public buildings and grounds in 1871, and supervised the construction of Washington aqueduct, the chain bridge across the Potomac, Anacosta bridge, and the east wing of the department offices, and also the plans for the improvement of Washington and Georgetown harbors. 

In January 1876, he was indicted by the grand jury of St. Louis for complicity in revenue frauds. He demanded a court martial, but was brought to trial in the civil court in February and acquitted, with the aid of a deposition by President Grant.

OE Babcock PHOTO - Library of Congress



Orville E. Babcock Gravesite PHOTO

Orville E. Babcock Gravesite PHOTO
Photos Courtesy of Russ Dodge


Posted: 14 October 2000  Updated: 18 August 2001 Updated: 4 April 2004  Updated: 31 August 2004 Updated: 2 May 2006
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