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Orville Elias Babcock
December 25, 1835(1835-12-25) – June 2, 1884 (aged 48)
Orville E. Babcock - Brady-Handy.jpg
Orville E. Babcock
Place of birth Franklin, Vermont
Place of death Mosquito Inlet, Florida
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Rank Brevet Brigadier General
Unit Engineer Corps
Battles/wars American Civil War:


Blue Springs


Other work Private Secretary for President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

Orville Elias Babcock (December 25, 1835 – June 2, 1884) was an American Civil War General in the Union Army. In 1869, Babcock was appointed Private Secretary by President Grant and served until 1877. Babcock was also appointed Superintendant of Public Buildings and Inspector of Lighthouses by Grant. Babcock served as chief engineer overseeing plans for the construction of Mosquito Inlet Lighthouse until 1884, when he accidentally drowed off Mosquito Inlet, Florida.


Orville Babcock was born in Franklin, Vermont, Babcock graduated third in a class of forty-five from West Point in 1861. During the American Civil War he served as Nathaniel P. Banks' aide-de-camp until August 1861. He then was assigned to help construct the defenses around Washington, D.C. On November 17, 1861, he was promoted to first lieutenant and assigned to the Left Grand Division as the Chief Engineer. Babcock was promoted to lieutenant colonel on January 1, 1863, and was named the Assistant Inspector General of the VI Corps until February 6, when he was named the Assistant Inspector General and Chief Engineer of the IX Corps. He fought with the IX Corps at the Battle of Vicksburg and the Battle of Blue Springs, and the Battle of Campbell's Station.

After fighting in the Knoxville Campaign, he was became the Chief Engineer of the Department of the Ohio on January 23, 1863. On March 29, Babcock was promoted to lieutenant colonel and became the aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant where he participated in the Battle of the Wilderness, the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and Battle of Cold Harbor. As Grant's aide-de-camp, it fell to Babcock to deliver Grant's surrender demand to General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia, and to escort Lee to his meeting with Grant at the Appomattox Court House. Babcock was brevetted Brigadier General for his services during the Civil War.

After the war, he served as Grant's private secretary.[1] In 1869 Babcock was involved in the attempt to annex the Dominican Republic. While Grant believed the southern blacks might want to seek refuge in the Dominican Republic. Babcock, without informing the current Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, negotiated an Agreement with the Dominicans. This attempt for a treaty split Senator Charles Sumner away from the Radical Republican Party. In December 1875, Babcock was indicted as a member of the Whiskey Ring, but was acquitted, partially due to testimony given by Grant and partially due to the prosecution leaking important documents to Babcock.[2] After the Whiskey Ring trial, Grant learned that Babcock had been involved with a plot to corner the gold market in 1869. President Grant then distanced Babcock from the White House retaining the position Superintendant of Public Works.

Mosquito Inlet, Florida, on the Atlantic Ocean as viewed from observation deck on the Mosquito Inlet Lighthouse. Site where Orville E. Babcock tragically drowned during a storm in 1884.

In September 1876, Babcock was also named in the Safe Burglary Conspiracy case when a critic of the Grant Administration was framed by bogus secret service officers and thieves. Babcock was acquitted during the trial. After the Safe Burglary trial, Grant distanced Babcock even further and placed him Inspector of Light Houses at Mosquito Inlet, Florida. As part of this job, Babcock, a capable engineer, was responsible for the planning and building of the Mosquito Inlet Lighthouse.[3] Before construction could begin, the boat during a storm bringing Babcock to shore from a schooner overturned in the Inlet, and he drowned in Mosquito Inlet, Florida at the age of 48.[3] After his body was recovered, Babcock was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 2, Grave 3828.

See also


  1. ^ Reeves, Thomas C. (1975). Gentleman Boss. NY, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 59. ISBN 0-394-46095-2. 
  2. ^ Reeves, Thomas C. (1975). Gentleman Boss. NY, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 80–81. ISBN 0-394-46095-2. 
  3. ^ a b Mike Pesca (November 2, 2005). "Orville Babcock's Indictment and the CIA Leak Case". Retrieved 01-02-10. 

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