Richard Delafield, son of a New York merchant who had emigrated from England at the close of the Revolution, was born in New York City, September 1, 1798. Entering the Military Academy at the age of sixteen, he graduated first in the class of 1818 and was reportedly the first cadet assigned a standing according to merit. Counting his four years at West Point, Dela-field's army career spanned fifty-two years: promotions from second lieutenant to brevet major general; twelve years as superintendent of the Academy; and Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army, for the last two years of his active service. As a young officer he performed engineer duty at Hampton Roads during the administration of President James Monroe, on the Mississippi River from 1824 to 1832, and on the Atlantic Coast defenses from 1845 to 1855. Delafield was sixty-three when the Civil War came; he immediately joined the effort to equip and forward to the field the New York volunteers. At the same time he superintended the defenses of the Narrows, Governors Island, and Sandy Hook, in and near New York Harbor. On May 19, 1864, he was promoted to brigadier general and chief of engineers in the regular establishment, with rank from April 22; and at the close of the war he was made major general by brevet. The following year, "having been borne on the Army Register over forty-five years," General Delafield was retired from active service. During his remaining seven years he served on a commission for the improvement of Boston Harbor, on another relating to ocean encroachments at Sandy Hook, on the lighthouse board, and as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution. He died in Washington, D. C, November 5, 1873, and was buried in the family plot in Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.