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Orville E. Babcock collection

Identifier: USGPL-OEB

Scope and Content Note

The Orville E. Babcock collections contain a number of diaries and personal effects of Grant's former aide-de-camp. Babcock’s diaries begin in 1863 and continue into 1869 (though missing are the crucial years when he joined General Grant's staff). Babcock records his experiences in Kentucky, Ohio, Washington, DC, Vicksburg, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, before be summoned to Virginia by General Grant. They also contain information about his post-war experiences in Washington as Grant’s aide, including his diaries from his famous mission to Santo Domingo in 1869. This collection also includes correspondence from 1865 to 1884 from Babcock's time as an officer in the Corps of Engineers. The correspondence is primarily to the Felt Family but the collection also contains two letter books from 1863 to 1868, covering Babcock's time prior to joining Grant's staff through the end of the War up to Grant's election as President. The collection also includes a hand-drawn map of where Babcock died, correspondence recounting his death, and pamphlets, speeches, and newspaper clippings about his death. Correspondents include Robert Todd Lincoln, L. S. Felt, and W. P. Smith. The collection was compiled and donated by Merlin E. Sumner to the Ulysses S. Grant Association sometime in the late 1990s.


  • 1863 - 1884


Biographical Note

Orville E. Babcock was born December 25, 1835 in Franklin, Vermont. He graduated from the united States Military Academy at West point in 1861 and was commissioned an officer in the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He served in Washington, DC and in the Pennisular Campaign before joining the IX Corps in the Siege of Vicksburg, where he became introduced to Ulysses S. Grant. After Vicksburg he went to the Great Lakes on medical leave to overcome a bout with diarrhea. He later was sent to Knoxville, Tennessee and Chattanooga, and was then called to Virginia to join Grant's staff as aide-de-camp. He remained with General Grant throughout the war.

Babcock married Anna Eliza Campbell in Galena, Illinois in 1866 and in 1869, was appointed President Grant's private secretary. Babcock had significant influence over Grant and was one of the President's most trusted confidantes. In 1869, Grant sent Babcock to Santo Domingo to ascertain the desires of the Dominican government in joining the United States. His mission to Santo Domingo became one of the first in a number of scandals for Babcock. He was accused of conspiring with financial backers to support the annexation of Santo Domingo.

Babcock was also implicated in the St. Louis Whiskey Ring corruption scandal. Though guilty, Babcock assured President Grant of his innocence, leading Grant to testify in the criminal proceedings in Babcock's defense. In 1877, Babcock was named Inspector of Lighthouses by President Rutherford B. Hayes. He drowned off of Mosquito Inlet in June 1884.


4.5 Cubic Feet (Three record center boxes and two flat oversize boxes.)

Language of Materials