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Charles Gratiot
Born August 29, 1786 (1786-08-29)
Died May 18, 1855 (1855-05-19) (aged 68)
Place of birth St. Louis, Missouri
Place of death St. Louis, Missouri
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1806–1838
Rank Colonel
Brevet Brigadier General
Unit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Commands held Chief of Engineers
Battles/wars Battle of Mackinac Island, 1814, during War of 1812

Charles Chouteau Gratiot [1] (August 29, 1786 – May 18, 1855) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He was the son of Charles Gratiot, Sr., a fur trader in the Illinois country during the American Revolution, and Victoire Chouteau, who was from an important mercantile family. His father became a wealthy merchant during the early years of St. Louis.[2] After 1796, Charles was raised in the large stone house purchased by his father in St. Louis, near the Mississippi River.[3]

Military career[edit | edit source]

President Thomas Jefferson personally appointed him (and 3 other young Missouri men) as a United States Military Academy cadet in July 1804. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, was the first school of engineering in the United States and graduated its first class in 1802. Gratiot was a member of the Class of 1806, the fourth graduating class, and was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers. He became a captain in 1808 and assisted Alexander Macomb in constructing fortifications in Charleston, South Carolina. He returned to his alma mater in 1810 to be commander of the Army garrison at West Point during 1810-1811.

As General William Henry Harrison's Chief Engineer in the War of 1812, he distinguished himself by planning and building Fort Meigs in 1813. He also rebuilt Fort St. Joseph, later renamed Fort Gratiot in his honor. In 1814 he took part in the attack of the Battle of Mackinac Island. He received the Thanks of Congress for his efforts during the war.[4]

He served as Chief Engineer, 1817–1818, in Michigan Territory followed by assignment as the superintending engineer, 1819–1828, for the construction of defenses at Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Chief of Engineers[edit | edit source]

On May 24, 1828, Gratiot was appointed colonel of engineers, brevet brigadier general, and Chief Engineer. For ten years he administered an expanding program of river, harbor, road, and fortification construction. He also engaged in a lengthy dispute with War Department officials over benefits, and in 1838 President Martin Van Buren dismissed him for failing to repay government funds that had been entrusted to him.

He assigned Robert E. Lee to do engineering in the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri.[4]

Late life[edit | edit source]

Gratiot became a clerk in the General Land Office from 1840–1855 and died in St. Louis.

Gratiot became a party to lengthy litigation against the United States government, which was appealed twice to the U.S. Supreme Court.[5]

Death and Legacy, Tributes and memorials[edit | edit source]

  • His remains are interred in section 13 of Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.[4]
  • M-3.svg M-3, an important highway link between Detroit and Port Huron, is more commonly known as Gratiot Avenue and was named in his honor. Before the interstate highway system was built, Gratiot Avenue was the main link, other than the railway.
  • Fort Gratiot, Michigan, was named after Bvt. Brig. Gen. Charles Gratiot, who oversaw its re-construction in 1814 to guard the mouth of the St. Clair River at Lake Huron. It was formerly known as Fort St. Joseph. It sports Michigan's oldest lighthouse, Fort Gratiot Light, constructed in 1829 to replace an older one.[6]
  • The towns of Gratiot, Michigan, and Gratiot, Ohio, were named in his honor. (Gratiot, Wisconsin, near the site of an early lead-mining settlement called Gratiot Corners for its founder, was named for Charles' brother Henry, also significant in regional history.)
  • Point Gratiot Park in Dunkirk, NY is also named for him.[7]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Military offices
Preceded by
Alexander Macomb
Chief of Engineers
Succeeded by
Joseph Gilbert Totten

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