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Engineers In The Civil War

        When the war began, the Union had 2 engineer corps.  The Corps of Topographical Engineers conducted explorations, surveys, and reconnaissance's of uncharted areas and sites for defenses, first under the command of Col. John J. Abert, then beginning Sept. 1861, under Col. Stephen H. Long.  B for reasons of efficiency, the Corps of Engineers absorbed the topographical engineers in 1863.
        The Corps of Engineers' duties included planning and erecting defenses, construction and destroying roads and bridges, placing and removing obstruction, conducting topographical surveys during campaigns, reconnoitering enemy works, and preparing and distributing accurate maps. The wartime chiefs of engineers, Brig. Gens. Joseph G. Totten and Richard Delafield (who succeeded to command in 1864), attempted to perform these duties with an assortment of Regular Army and volunteer officers and men, and with hired civilians.
        The Confederacy established a Corps of Engineers commanded by 4 chief during the war:  Brig. Gens. Josiah Gorgas and Danville Leadbetter, Col. Alfred L. Rives, and Maj. Gen. Jeremy F. Gilmer.  Fortunately, the Confederate engineers obtained the services of trained officers who had resigned from the U.S. Army, but they lacked equipment and maps when the war began.  Equipment was purchased from foreign countries, captured from the enemy, and manufactured in the South, but deficiencies continued throughout the war.  Among other duties, engineer officers energetically prepared maps that were quickly distributed to the various army commands.  The Confederacy also organized engineer troops and hired hundreds of civilians and slaves to work on fortifications, roads, and bridges.
        Both Union and Confederate armies were unable to or, at times, unwilling to furnish sufficient men and equipment to the corps to complete important tasks.  In spite of deficiencies, the engineers performed valuable and diverse services, and many trained engineer officers--among them George G. Meade,  P.G.T. Beauregard, Joseph E. Johnston, and Robert E. Lee--became worth commanders of troops.
Source:  "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War" Edited by Patricia L. Faust

This Page last updated 03/07/02

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