Otho Cresap Ord
Edward Otho Cresap Ord was born on October 18, 1818, in Cumberland,
Maryland. He was the third son of James and Rebecca Ruth (Cresap) Ord. His
father was an officer in the United States Navy for a short time, and
afterwards a lieutenant in the army during the War of 1812 (1), and his mother
was the daughter of Colonel Daniel Cresap (2), an officer in the American
Revolution. His grandfather had commanded one of the regiments which Washington
sent to Pennsylvania to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1819, the Ord family moved
to Washington, D.C., when Edward was just a year old, where he received his
early schooling. He showed in his boyhood great mathematical ability, which
attracted attention and gained for him an appointment to the United States
Military Academy at West Point in September 1835 at the age of sixteen.
On July 1, 1839, Edward graduated seventeenth in a class of
thirty-one, and was commissioned as a 2d lieutenant, Third Artillery Regiment.
He was one of two lieutenants that were selected by Colonel William S. Harney
to assist in the Florida Everglades against the Seminole Indians, where for
gallant service he was promoted to first lieutenant. During the four following
years he served on garrison duty on the eastern seaboard.
In 1847, during the Mexican War, Lieutenant E. O. C. Ord, with his
classmates, Lieutenant Henry W. Halleck, and Lieutenant William
Tecumseh Sherman, was sent to California by way of Cape Horn, arriving at
Monterey aboard the LEXINGTON on January 28, 1847, two days before Yerba Buena
was renamed San Francisco. Shortly after his arrival, he was dispatched with
two men to capture three murderers. He caught up with them at Santa Barbara,
shot one who attempted to escape, brought the other two to jury trial before an
alcade court, securing their conviction, and promptly executed them.
As a young Lieutenant Ord was placed in charge of the Monterey
garrison (1847-1849) and by his individual efforts did much toward preserving
law and order in Monterey during the Mexican war.
Upon the arrival of Lieutenant Ord in Los Angeles, and following a
short conference with the Council, Ord received three thousand dollars to
survey the city. Ord was to call his map the "Plan de la ciudad de Los
In 1849, Lieutenant Ord had just finished a survey of Sacramento
when Governor Bennett Riley sent a request to the Ayuntamiento (City
Council) at Los Angeles for a map of the city and information as to titles and
the methods of granting city lots. Governor Riley was informed by the Alcalde
that there was no city map in existence and never had been one, and
furthermore, there was no surveyor in the town to make one. In response,
Governor Riley sent Ord to Los Angeles.
On September 7, 1850, Ord was promoted to the rank of captain. That
year he was on Indian duty in the Pacific Northwest and was engaged in Coast
Survey (December 30, 1852 to March 29, 1855).
Captain E. O. C. Ord was married to Mary Mercer Thompson at San
Francisco on October 14, 1854. The couple had two sons and a daughter.
In April 1855, Ord was placed in command of the garrison at
Benicia, California (1856-58). During 1856, and again in 1858, he campaigned
against the Indians in Oregon, campaigning successfully against the Rogue River
Indians and later against the Spokane Indians in the Washington Territory. In
1858 he was placed on frontier duty and placed in charge of Fort Miller in the
San Joaguin Valley, near the present city of Fresno (3).
In 1859, Ord was attending the Artillery School at Fort Monroe,
Virginia, when he participated in the suppression of the John Brown
insurrection at Harpers Ferry. From there, he was placed on frontier duty at
Fort Vancouver, Washington, returning back to Benicia, California, in 1861, and
later that year was stationed at the Presidio, in San Francisco, at the time of
the firing on Fort Sumter.
On September 14, 1861, Ord was made brigadier-general of volunteers
and given a command in the Army of the Potomac assigned to defend the capital.
Ord was ordered East, and there, led the attack against Confederate forces
under Gen. J. E. B. Stuart at Dranesville, Virginia, on December 20, 1861, and
was promoted to major-general of volunteers on May 2, 1862, and transferred to
the Western Theater.
September 19, 1862, he was given a colonel's brevet in the regular army
"for gallant and meritorious service" on the field and was severely
wounded a few days later at Hatchie, Mississippi, and was incapacitated until
June 1863, when he returned to the army in time to take part in the siege of
Vicksburg as commander of the Thirteenth Corps. After the fall of Vicksburg on
July 4, Ord held commands in Louisiana and in the Shenandoah Valley of
Virginia. During the siege of Richmond he commanded first the Eighth Corps and
later the Eighteenth Corps. He was again seriously wounded at the storming of
Fort Harrison in September 1864 and did not return to his command until January
On March 13, 1865, he was awarded the brevet rank of
brigadier-general for his role in the battle of Hatchie, Mississippi, and a
major general's brevet for his part in the assault on Fort Harrison, Virginia.
He was then given command of the Army of the James with responsibility for the
Department of North Carolina. He was engaged in the various operations about
Petersburg, Virginia, and in the pursuit of General Robert E. Lee until the
surrender at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865, on which occasion he was in
attendance (he is seen in several paintings commemorating that event).
He then was given the Department of the Ohio, which he retained
until he was mustered out of the volunteer service in September, 1866, after
receiving, on 13 March, 1865, the brevets of brigadier-general and
major-general commissions of lieutenant colonel, on 11 December, 1865, and of
brigadier-general in the regular army, 26 July, 1866.
On 6 December, 1880, being over 62 years of age, he retired with
his brevet rank of major-general (by Act of Congress, approved January 28,
1881), and on this occasion General Sherman wrote of him:
"He has had all of the hard knocks of service, and never on
soft or fancy duty. He has always been called on when hard duty was expected,
and never flinched."
After the surrender of the Confederate armies, he first commanded
the Fourth Military District. Subsequently he had command of the Department of
Arkansas, the 4th military district, the Department of California, and the
Department of the Platte, before receiving assignment to command the Military
Department of Texas on April 11, 1875. He supervised the construction of Fort
Sam Houston. His command numbered from 3,000 to 3,900 troops, stationed at San
Antonio and forts Brown, Concho, Clark, Davis, Duncan, McKavett, and Ringgold.
From his headquarters at San Antonio, Brigadier General Ord oversaw the
scouting, construction of telegraph lines, and post maintenance and repair, as
well as suppression of cattle rustling and hostile Indians.
Subsequently he became identified with various civilian
enterprises. It was during this period that General Ord accepted the
appointment as engineer on the construction of a Mexican railroad, but
contracted yellow fever while on his way from Vera Cruz to New York. He was taken
ashore at Havana, Cuba, where he died on July 22, 1883.
Footnotes: General Ord was present at the McLean house when Lee surrendered,
and is often pictured in paintings of this event. When the surrender ceremony
was complete, Ord purchased the marble-topped table at which Lee had sat as a
souvenir for $40. He later offered it to Mrs. Grant who politely declined,
telling him to give it to his own wife. It was stored at Fort Monroe until
1887, after Ordís death. Sometime after that, his widow in need of money was
offered an opportunity to sell the table. It was acquired by C. F. Gunther, a
Chicago businessman whose relics were later passed on to the Chicago Historical
Society's Civil War Room, where it resides to this day.
Statue at Vicksburg
Fort Ord was named
in 1940 in honor of Major General Edward Otho Cresap Ord. A portion of Fort Ord
is now the home of The California State University, Monterey Bay.