Orville Elias Babcock


Orville Elias Babcock Famous memorial

Franklin, Franklin County, Vermont, USA
Death 2 Jun 1884 (aged 48)
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 2, Grave 3828
Memorial ID 8018 View Source

Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General. Born in Franklin, Vermont, where he received a common education, he later would graduate from West Point 3rd out of 45 in the class of 1861. Once the war started he used his expertise as an engineer serving under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks in constructing defences around Washington D.C. Serving with the Engineer Battalion in the Peninsular campaign he earned a brevet at Yorktown and participated in the Seven Days'. At Fredericksburg he was Brigadier General William B. Franklin's engineering chief. Assigned to inspector duty he accompanied the IX Corps to the West and became acquainted with Ulysses S. Grant during the Vicksburg Campaign. Back in Tennessee, he won his second brevet for the operations at Knoxville and then joined Grant as aide-de-camp just prior to the Overland Campaign. He was again brevetted for the Wilderness and fought through to Appomattox. Staying with Grant after the war, and being brevetted Brigadier General of Regulars for his war service, he resigned his army commission when Grant was sworn in as the 18th President of the United States in 1869 and became his personal secretary. He then moved into the White House where he lived for the first year of Grant's administration until joined by his wife in Washington at a home of their own. He was known to have not only the President's ear but Mrs. Grant's as well. In fact, his personal power rivaled that of all but the major Cabinet members. He served as Grant's private secretary for 2 years and 3 months, during which time Grant sent him on a secret mission to Santo Domingo in late 1869 and early 1870. The intention of this journey was to negotiate a treaty, which Grant though was good for the country as he dreamed of annexing Santo Domingo to create a group of Negro states. The reason it was secret was because the State Department was against the trip and he performed his duties without the knowledge of the Secretary of State. The plan failed and not only embarrassed Grant but brought him into the public's eye. He was denounced on the floor of Congress, prompting Grant to remove him as his private secretary. However Grant appointed him to take charge of the Office in Charge of the Public Buildings and Grounds. In this position he supervised many projects concerning the White House including the redecoration of the East Room, the expansion of the greenhouse, extensive landscaping, and in 1872 the construction of an elegant new stable on the site of the old one. He also built West Executive Avenue and East Executive Avenue. These two avenues extended from Pennsylvania Avenue southward, and joined in a semicircle that gives us the White House landscape we know today. He also was the one who enclosed the grounds in iron fencing. He got into serious trouble in the last weeks of 1875, when he was indicted in the notorious scandal of the Whiskey Ring, a scheme to take money from the internal revenue collections. President and Mrs. Grant stood by him, with the President even offering to hire him lawyers but he humbly declined. President Grant did give a deposition, thereby becoming the first President to participate directly in criminal proceedings. He was acquitted after a long and painful trial, from which he never recovered his reputation. Leaving the White House he later was appointed a lighthouse inspector by the President and drowned in 1884 while working at Mosquito Inlet, Florida.

Bio by: Ugaalltheway


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 7 Jan 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 8018
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Orville Elias Babcock (25 Dec 1835–2 Jun 1884), Find a Grave Memorial ID 8018, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .