History of the U. S. Topographical Engineers

Topographical engineers were authorized for War Department duty by an act of March 3, 1813,

to conduct engineering surveys for military purposes and to explore routes for the passage of troops, although they were not authorized in an act of March 3, 1815, establishing the army's size and composition. Reauthorized by an act of April 24, 1816, the Bureau was assigned to the Engineer Department by a War Department general order, July 2, 1818, and made directly responsible to Chief of Engineers.

The Topographical Bureau was established in August 1818, pursuant to an Office of the Chief Engineer order, August 1, 1818, designating Maj. Isaac Roberdeau (photo) as Topographical Engineer to the Engineer Department and assigning him to the Office of Chief Engineer. By General Order 26, War Department, June 22, 1831, the Topographical Bureau was separated from the Office of Chief Engineer and designated an independent War Department staff organization, with direct supervision of topographical engineers, however, remaining with the Chief of Engineers. During this period, topographical engineers had acquired responsibility for civil works improvements in addition to military functions. Finally, by an act of July 5, 1838, they were organized into a separate Corps of Topographical Engineers and placed under the supervision of Chief of the Topographical Bureau.

By an order of the Secretary of War, August 1, 1838, all Federal Government civil engineering projects were transferred to the Corps of Topographical Engineers. Military functions performed by the Corps of Topographical Engineers were transferred to the Corps of Engineers in 1839. During the Civil War, the Topographical Bureau and the Corps of Topographical Engineers were abolished by an act of March 3, 1863, with functions transferred to the Office of Chief Engineer and Corps of Engineers, respectively. After this date, there are no references in the Regular Army to officers' assignments as topographical engineers, nor were there any topographical engineering units within the Corps of Engineers until October 20, 1917 at Camp Devins, Massachusetts. This unit was the 29th Engineer Topographic Battalion which went to France with the American Expeditionary Force.

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Author: Henry P. Beers

Article and Image Source: www.topogs.org

Keywords: Topographical, Engineers, Surveying, Cartography, Fortifications, USA



Henry P. Beers

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