Egbert Ludovicus Viele

Egbert Ludovicus Viele, whose family in America was keeping a tavern in New Amsterdam at least as early as 1639, was born on June 17, 1825, in'Waterford, New York. He was educated in the public school at Lansingburg and was graduated from Albany Academy. He was appointed to West Point and was graduated in 1847. Immediately sent to Mexico City as an infantry subaltern, he was stationed there during the occupation. Following some routine frontier duty, he resigned his commission in 1853 to engage in civil engineering and the next year was appointed state topographical engineer of New Jersey. For a time he was also chief engineer of New York City's Central Park, but his plan for development of the park was ultimately rejected in favor of that submitted by Frederick Law Olmsted, and in 1860 he became chief engineer of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Viele's Civil War career is largely overshadowed by his accomplishments as an engineer and author of engineering monographs, although his Handbook for Active Service, published in 1861, was released not only in New York but also in Richmond for the benefit of budding Confederate officers. He was an engineer captain in the 7th New York Militia in the Washington defenses during the early months of the war, and on August 17, 1861, was appointed brigadier general of U. S. Volunteers. In the expedition which effected the reduction of Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River in April, 1862, Viele won high praise for his "incessant watchfulness and arduous labors." After the capture of Norfolk, Virginia, in May, 1862, he served as military governor until October, 1863, when he was transferred to direct the draft in northern Ohio; he resigned on October 20, 1863, and returned to his engineering practice in New York. General Viele had a most distinguished postbellum career, serving as New York City Park Commissioner in 1883-84, as a Democratic representative in Congress 1885-87 (he was defeated for reelection), and as a spokesman for sundry societies and associations interested in engineering and history. His treatises on the topography of Manhattan Island, exhibiting the original water courses and filled land, proved of great value to the later builders of skyscrapers. He died in New York on April 22, 1902, and was buried at West Point.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.