David Du Bose Gaillard – Colonel, United States Army

BALTIMORE, December 5, 1913 – Lieutenant Colonel David DuBose Gaillard, U.S.A., who directed the engineering work in the Culebra cut division of the Panama Canal, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital here today.

Colonel Gaillard had been a patient at the hospital since August 17 last, suffering from a growth in the head, the result of seven years’ arduous labor in the tropical climate of the Canal Zone.  He failed steadily and for the last two months had been in a state of coma.  The physicians decided some time ago that an operation was useless and might hasten his death.

He is survived by his wife and a son, Lieutenant David P. Gaillard, U.S.A.  Both were at his bedside when the end came.

Final arrangements for the funeral have not been made, but the interment will take place in the National Cemetery at Arlington on Monday afternoon.  It is expected that the body will be moved to Washington either tonight or tomorrow.

Colonel Gaillard had won many honors in the engineering service.  A bill was introduced in the Congress last month to promote him to the rank of Colonel in recognition of his distinguished services, which culminated in the great engineering feat in the Culebra section of the Panama Canal.

Colonel Gaillard’s death is the culmination of a breakdown, incurred by long hours of work and exposure in the Canal Zone, where he pitted his skill as an engineer against the shifting soil of Culebra Cut.

During the early years of his contest with the landslides Gaillard never knew what a morning was to bring forth.  Over night the mountains moved the covered their deposit the tracks and even the cars which were used to remove material.

The Culebra Cut runs through the backbone of the American continent Gaillard dug indomitably, hill after hill found its angle of repose, and he checked its landslide, save at Cucaracha and points nearby.  The sliding was persistent, but was visibly weakened when the engineer was compelled to stop his work and seek rest.

Men who worked with him said he gave 12 hours every day to the Culebra Cit, besides which, he took his share in the labor of general administration of the Canal Zone.  He checked up expenses, even on small things and once it was computer he had saved the Government $17,000,000.

He was born at Fulton, Sumter County, South Carolina, and September 4, 1859, educated at a private school and Mt. Zion School, Winnsboro, South Carolina, before being appointed to West Point, where he graduated in 1884.  He was assigned at once to river and harbor improvements in Florida, later to the Mexico boundary survey, the aqueduct in Washington and to the board of officers on the Washington Tunnel.

He served in the Spanish War as Colonel of the 3rd Volunteer Engineers and after the war concerned in a wide variety of river and harbor work.  In 1903 he was placed on the General Army Staff and in 1906 was sent to Cuba with the Army of Pacification.

He had been there only a short time when he was sent to Panama to take up important work on canal construction.  He had been made a Major in 1904 and in 1909 he became a Lieutenant Colonel.  He was beginning in 1906 a member of the Isthmian Canal Commission, director of the Panama Railroad Company, as well as engineer in charge of the central division of the canal, which embraces the Culebra Cut.  He had 12,000 employees under him.

He was married in 1887 to Katherine Ross Davis of Columbia, South Carolina.  He belonged to the National Geographical Society, the Huguenot Society of Charleston, South Carolina, also the Officers Club of Fort Monroe.  He had written a number of works in relation to engineering.

Bill for a Years’ Pay to Engineer’s Widow Indorsed by President

WASHINGTON, December 8, 1913 – The body of Lieutenant Colonel David Du Bose Gaillard, the Army engineer whose genius made possible control the slides through the Culebra Cur on the Panama Canal, was laid to rest today in the slopes of the Arlington National Cemetery on the Potomac after funeral services in St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The First Battalion of Engineers and the Engineer Band of Washington Barracks acted as an escort to Arlington.  The pallbearers were Colonels Black, Burr, Langfill, Taylor, Kuhn, and Harding of the Corps of Engineers, Colonel S. M. Foote of the Coast Artillery, and Lieutenant Colonel E. A. Mearns, Medical Corps, retired.

Acting on advice from his physician to stay indoors on account of his recent cold, President Wilson was unable to attend the funeral.  He told Representatives Adamson and Stevens at the White House that he agreed with them in their desire to have Congress vote a years’ salary to Mrs. Gaillard as recognition of the services of the distinguished engineer.  Such a bill was proposed in the Congress this last week.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 12/30/1937

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