Open main menu

Edward Griffin Beckwith

Edward Griffin Beckwith (June 25, 1818 – June 22, 1881) was a United States Army officer who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War and who conducted one of the Pacific Railroad Surveys in the 1850s and became known as the "Explorer of the Central Rockies".[1]

Edward Griffin Beckwith
Edward Griffin Beckwith.jpg
Edward Griffin Beckwith, c. 1863
Born(1818-06-25)June 25, 1818
DiedJune 22, 1881(1881-06-22) (aged 62)
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
OccupationSoldier and explorer


Beckwith was born on June 25, 1818[2] (some report a January birthdate[3]) in Cazenovia, New York, son of Judge Barak Beckwith, and Polly (Kennedy) Beckwith. He graduated from West Point in 1842.[4]

He served in garrison at Savannah, Georgia as a second lieutenant of the Third Artillery[5] until 1846, when he was appointed for recruiting service. He was promoted First lieutenant June 18, 1846, and took an active part in the Mexican–American War; he was present at Tampico and Vera Cruz.[6][7] Beckwith was engaged in the Pacific Railroad Survey from 1853 to 1857 with John Williams Gunnison. Notably, the First Transcontinental Railroad followed his recommended route.[1][4] His report, which also included an extensive survey of the Great Salt Lake, contained "much information on the plants, animals, climate, and geographical features of the lands he had explored".[4] He succeeded Gunnison as leader of the survey after his death,[8] and personally recommended the route for the railroad. He was also involved with constructing military roads in Nebraska and Kansas, between 1857–1859.

Beckwith was promoted captain May 12, 1855, and served during the American Civil War in the commissary department from 1861 to 1865, with the exception of a few weeks in 1863, when he acted as provost-marshal-general of the department of the Gulf, and again when placed for a short time (August 1863 – January 1864) in command of the defenses of New Orleans. On February 8, 1864, he was promoted major, and on March 13, 1865, was brevetted lieutenant-colonel, colonel, and brigadier-general of volunteers. He continued in the service of the commissary department until he was mustered out on May 31, 1866.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Beckwith married Cornelia Williamson (1828–1911), with whom he had a daughter, Madeline Julia Beckwith (1852–1935). He died at Clifton, New York, in 1881, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[2]

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: John Howard Brown's Lamb's biographical dictionary of the United States, 1900
  1. ^ a b "Exploration in Utah". University of Utah. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Edward Griffin Beckwith". Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  3. ^ Miller, Nyle H. (1 December 1976). Kansas and the West: bicentennial essays in honor of Nyle H. Miller. Kansas State Historical Society. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-0-87726-002-8. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Edward Griffin Beckwith". Nevada Riches: The Land and People of the Silver State. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  5. ^ Fielding, Robert Kent (1993). The Unsolicited Chronicler: An Account of the Gunnison Massacre, Its Causes and Consequences, Utah Territory, 1847–1859 : a Narrative History. Paradigm Publications. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-912111-38-4. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  6. ^ White, David A.; Wagner, Henry Raup (November 2001). Plains & Rockies, 1800–1865: one hundred twenty proposed additions to the Wagner-Camp and Becker bibliography of travel and adventure in the American West : with 33 selected reprints. Arthur H. Clark Co. ISBN 978-0-87062-311-0. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  7. ^ Herringshaw, Thomas William (1909). Herringshaw's national library of American biography: contains thirty-five thousand biographies of the acknowledged leaders of life and thought of the United States; illustrated with three thousand vignette portraits. American Publishers' Association. p. 282. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  8. ^ Nevada Historical Society (1 January 2007). Nevada Historical Society quarterly. The Society. p. 10. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  9. ^ Brown, John Howard (1900). Lamb's biographical dictionary of the United States. James H. Lamb Company. pp. 245–. Retrieved 15 April 2012.

External linksEdit