John Gray Foster

John Gray Foster was born in Whitefield, New Hampshire, May 27, 1823. The family moved to Nashua when John was ten, and he received his early education there and at Hancock Academy. In 1842 he was appointed to the Military Academy and was graduated fourth in the class of 1846 in which George McClellan was second. Commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, he was at once attached to the company of sappers, miners, and pontoniers, just being organized to accompany General Winfield Scott's army for service in the war with Mexico. Foster won two brevets and was severely wounded at Molino del Rey. Thereafter he performed routine engineering duty until the outbreak of the Civil War. As chief engineer of the fortifications of Charleston Harbor, he was a leading participant in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. In October, 1861, he was promoted from captain of engineers to brigadier general in the volunteer service, took a prominent part in Ambrose E. Burnside's North Carolina expedition, and in July, 1862, was assigned to command of the Department of North Carolina. In the autumn of 1863 he took part in the operations designed to relieve Burnside at Knoxville and succeeded that officer in command of the Army and Department of the Ohio in December, but relinquished command in February due to injuries sustained when his horse fell with him. After returning to duty he commanded the Department of the South in the last year of the war and later the Department of Florida. He had been commissioned a major general of volunteers to rank from July 18, 1862, and was brevetted to the same rank in the regular service in March, 1865. The remainder of Foster's career was occupied by engineering duties of a routine nature. He became a lieutenant colonel, Corps of Engineers, in 1867 and thereafter engaged in survey and construction work on the coast of New England. In 1869 he published a treatise on underwater demolition which was for years considered to be the definitive authority on the subject. From 1871 until shortly before his death in 1874 he was assistant to the Chief of Engineers in Washington. His last active work was the superintendence of the Harbor of Refuge on Lake Erie. General Foster died in Nashua on September 2, 1874, and was buried in the Nashua Cemetery.

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