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Charles Ellet, Jr.
Born January 1, 1810(1810-01-01)
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Died June 21, 1862 (aged 52)
Battle of Memphis
Occupation Engineer
Known for Championing suspension bridges and other engineering endeavors in United States

Charles Ellet, Jr. (1 January 1810 – 21 June 1862) was a civil engineer and a colonel during the American Civil War, mortally wounded at the Battle of Memphis.



Ellet was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, brother of Alfred W. Ellet, also a civil engineer and a brigadier general in the Union Army during the war.[1]

Charles studied civil engineering at École nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris, France, and in 1832 submitted proposals for a suspension bridge across the Potomac River.[2]. In 1842, he designed amd built the first major wire-cable suspension bridge in the United States, spanning 358 feet over the Schuylkill River at Fairmount, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[3] He designed the record-breaking Wheeling suspension bridge over the Ohio River at Wheeling, West Virginia in 1848, and a 770-foot suspension footbridge at Niagara Falls at the same time.[4] His other civil engineering accomplishments include supervising both the James River & Kanawha Canal in Virginia and the Schuylkill Navigation improvements in Pennsylvania, devising theories for improving flood control and navigation of mid-western rivers and constructing railways in Pennsylvania and Virginia.[5].

In March 1861, the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton appointed him colonel of engineers and tasked him with developing the United States Ram Fleet.

A plaque placed in honor of Charles Ellet, Jr. on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge in Wheeling, West Virginia.

He was mortally wounded during the Battle of Memphis while on board Queen of the West, dying fifteen days later.[6]

Ellet published a Report of the Overflows of the Delta of the Mississippi River, which helped to reshape New Orlean's waterfront. George Perkins Marsh published Man and Nature fourteen years later, but it was Ellet who first noted in writing that the artificial embankments created an overflowing delta. It would be decades later that his assertions were taken seriously and used in flood control decisions.[7]

His son Charles Rivers Ellet was a colonel in the Union Army.


USS Ellet (DD-398), which was in service in 1939-46, was named in honor of Charles Ellet, Jr. and other members of his family.

See also


  1. ^ Eicher, John H.; Eicher, David J. (2001). Civil War High Commands. Stanford University Press. p. 224. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.  
  2. ^ Lewis, Gene D. (1968). Charles Ellet Jr. The Engineer as Individualist. niversity of Illinois Press. p. 20.  
  3. ^ Steinman & Watson, p. 210
  4. ^ Steinman & Watson, p. 211
  5. ^ Lewis, Gene D. (1968). Charles Ellet Jr. The Engineer as Individualist. niversity of Illinois Press. p. 36, 92,.  
  6. ^ Eicher, David J. (2001). The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. Simon & Schuster. p. 253. ISBN 0-684-84944-5.  
  7. ^ Kelman, Ari (2003). A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans. University of California Press. p. 162. ISBN 0-520-23432-4.  

Additional reading

  • Fowler, William M. 1990. Under Two Flags: The American Navy in the Civil War. Norton and Company. ISBN 0-393-02859-3

External links



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