Totten, Joseph G.

Good content 1825 ALS to a friend seeking help with position at Fort Adams (Rhode Island) from the future Army Chief Engineer

Price: $225.00

Description:
(1788-1864) US Army officer, fought in the War of 1812, served as Chief Engineer and was Regent of the Smithsonian Institution and cofounder of the National Academy of Sciences. One of 3 graduates of the Military Academy at West Point in the class of 1805, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. He resigned in March 1806 to assist his uncle, the Surveyor General of federal public lands. He re-entered the Corps of Engineers in 1808 and assisted in building Fort Williams and Fort Clinton in New York harbor. During the War of 1812, he was Chief Engineer of the Niagara frontier and Lake Champlain armies under Gen. Van Rensselaer. At the Battle of Queenston Heights, he with Winfield Scott, who used Totten's cravat as a white flag to signal the American surrender. He was brevetted lieutenant colonel for gallant conduct in the Battle of Plattsburgh. As a member of the first permanent Board of Engineers, 1816, he laid down durable principles of coast defense construction. Totten oversaw construction of Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island 1825-38, the 2nd largest construction project attempted by the Army in the 19th century exceeded only by Fort Monroe in Virginia. He employed recent graduates of West Point as assistant engineers at Fort Adams, inc. John G. Barnard, George W. Cullum, Pierre G. T. Beauregard and Alexander D. Bache all of whom earned distinction during the Civil War. While at Fort Adams, Totten conducted experiments with various mortar compositions and published a paper of his findings. He was appointed Army Chief Engineer in 1838, and served in that position for 25 years until his death. As Chief Engineer he was intimately involved with every aspect of the Corps of Engineers activities from fortifications to harbor improvement. Beginning in 1844, Totten was involved with the construction of Fort Montgomery on Lake Champlain in upstate New York and invented an iron-reinforced embrasure for cannon to better protect gunners inside a fort, which he incorporated in Fort Montgomery and Fort Delaware. He was greatly admired by General Scott, for whom he directed the siege of Veracruz as his Chief Engineer during the Mexican-American War. He later served as a Union Army general, brevetted as a Brigadier General in 1847, receiving permanent appointment in 1863. One of his most significant achievements was the design and construction of the Minot's Ledge Light near Cohasset, Massachusetts. Previous efforts to build a lighthouse on the small ledge of rock failed but Totten conceived a plan whereby the lighthouse would be pinned by its own weight to the ledge making it able to withstand the harshest extremes of weather, and it stands to this day. Totten was promoted to Brevet Major General the day before his death. Several places were named after General Totten, including: Washington DC’s Civil War Fort Totten (it no longer exists but surrounding neighborhood and a DC Metro station still bear the name), as well as Fort Totten in New York City and Fort Totten, No. Dakota. 9 ¾ x 8 ALS “John G. Totten” while member of the Army’s Board of Engineers, Washington, Feb. 16, 1825, 1-½pp (both sides of one sheet), to his friend, Major M. Adams, U. S. Artillery. Responding to Mason who appears to be seeking Totten’s help in securing a position at Fort Adams, Totten first states that he is not in a position to communicate such information as Mason wishes. With regard to Fort Adams, “…with respect to the site of the new work, it will be necessary to demolish it entirely in the early stages of our progress, and to take to pieces, or to remove, perhaps every building – the necessity will of course prevent the occupation of the point by a garrison until the new work is finished, or at least well advanced.” He is unaware that the office of superintendent may or may be not filled by the current superintendent. He urges his friend to deliberate before taking the step that his letter indicates and suggests patience, as it “…would grieve me most to hear that you had left the profession you adore with any uncertainty as to your future fortunes.” Fort Adams in Newport was established July 4, 1799 as a First System coastal fortification, designed by Major Louis de Tousard of the Army Corps of Engineers. After the War of 1812, it was decided to replace Fort Adams with a newer and much larger fort designed by Brig. Genl. Simon Bernard who had been a military engineer under Napoleon. Bernard designed the new Fort Adams in the classic style of Vauban and it became the most complex fortification in the Western Hemisphere. Construction began in 1824 and continued at irregular intervals until 1857, overseen from 1825-38 by Colonel Totten.

Condition: Very good, folds, small chip at top blank edge, minor light seal stain at signature
Type:Letter






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