Quincy Adams Gillmore

Quincy Adams Gillmore (February 25, 1825 – April 11, 1888) was an American civil engineer, author, and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was noted for his actions in the Union victory at Fort Pulaski, where his modern rifled artillery readily pounded the fort's exterior stone walls, an action that essentially obsoleted stone fortifications. He earned an international reputation as an organizer of siege operations and a revolutionizer of naval gunnery.


Gillmore was born and raised in Black River in Lorain County, Ohio. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1845. He graduated in 1849, first in a class of 43 members. He was appointed to the engineers and was promoted to first lieutenant in 1856. From 1849 until 1852, he was engaged in constructing the fortifications at Hampton Roads in coastal Virginia. For the next four years, he was instructor of Practical Military Engineering at West Point and designed a new riding school.

Beginning in 1856, Gillmore served as a purchasing agent for the Army in New York City. He was promoted to captain in 1861.

Civil War

With the outbreak of the Civil War in early 1861, Gilmore was assigned to the staff of Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman and accompanied him to Port Royal, Virginia. After being appointed as a brigadier general, Gillmore took charge of the siege operations against Fort Pulaski. A staunch advocate of the relatively new naval rifled guns, Gillmore was the first officer to effectively use them to knock out an enemy stone fortification. More than 5,000 artillery shells fell on Pulaski from a range of 1,700 yards during the short siege, which resulted in the fort's surrender after its walls were breached.

The result of the efforts to breach a fort of such strength and at such a distance confers high honor on the engineering skill and self-reliant capacity of General Gilmore. Failure in an attempt made in opposition to the opinion of the ablest engineers in the army would have destroyed him. Success, which in this case is wholly attributable to his talent, energy, and independence, deserves a corresponding reward. —New York Tribune

Although he was one of the best artillerist and engineers in the army he was believed by some to be a regular nincompoop as a general in the field.

After a stint in New York City, Gillmore traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, where he supervised the construction of Fort Clay on a hilltop commanding the city. He was then assigned to replace Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel in charge of the X Corps after that officer's death from yellow fever. In addition, Gillmore commanded the Department of the South, consisting of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, with headquarters at Hilton Head, from June 12, 1863 – May 1, 1864. Under his direction, the army constructed two earthen forts in coastal South Carolina—Fort Mitchel and Fort Holbrook, located in the Spanish Wells area near Hilton Head Island.

He commanded forces that occupied Morris Island, Fort Wagner, and Fort Gregg, and also participated in the destruction of Fort Sumter. On July 18, 1863, during the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, Gillmore launched a major assault on Fort Wagner. However, his troops were unable to seize Charleston. In February 1864, his troops fought the largest battle in Florida, the Battle of Olustee.

In early May, Gillmore and the X Corps were transferred to the Army of the James and shipped to Virginia. They took part in the Bermuda Hundred operations and played a principal role in the disastrous Drewry's Bluff action. Gillmore openly feuded with his superior, Benjamin F. Butler over the blame for the defeat. Gillmore asked for reassignment and left for Washington, D.C. On July 11, 1864, Gillmore organized new recruits and invalids into a 20,000-man force to help protect the city from a threat by 10,000 Confederates under Jubal A. Early, who had reached the outer defenses of the Union capital.

Gillmore was breveted as a major general in the volunteer army and a lieutenant colonel of engineers in the Regular Army. In mid-May 1865, Gillmore ordered all remaining slaves in the territory under his command to be freed; later that month he imposed martial law to enforce his orders.

With the war over, he resigned from the volunteer army on December 5, 1865.

Postbellum career

Gillmore returned to New York City and became a well known civil engineer, authoring several books and articles on structural materials, including cement. He was involved in the reconstruction of fortifications along the Atlantic coast (including, ironically, some that he had destroyed as a Union general). He served on the Rapid Transit Commission that planned the elevated trains and mass public transportation, as well as leading efforts for harbor improvements and coastal defenses. He was a prominent member of the University Club of New York.

General Gillmore died at Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 63. His son and grandson, both also named Quincy Gillmore, were also generals in the U.S. Army.

A schooner named in his honor, the General QA Gillmore, sank in July 1875 in Lake Erie off of Cleveland. The shipwreck remains in the shallow waters of the lake.

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