Exploring Desert Stone: John N. Macomb's 1859 Expedition to the Canyonlands of the Colorado

By Steven K. Madsen | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

The Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861 and disrupted the plans for a timely report on the findings of the Macomb expedition. Futhermore, it changed the lives of the expedition’s main participants. Ultimately, what happened to the men? What did they achieve? More importantly, what were the major contributions of their San Juan Exploring Expedition?

During the Civil War, Macomb and Dimmock broadened the skills they had developed in the expedition. Macomb served as aide-de-camp to Gen. George McClellan. As the war progressed, the Union Army placed him with a balloon reconnaissance unit and he produced detailed maps of battle zones. At war’s end, he was brevetted a colonel for meritorious service.1

After the Civil War, Macomb remained a topographical engineer. For several years, he served as commander of the Philadelphia District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1874, in his honor, the government commissioned the J. N. Macomb, an iron snag boat employed on the Mississippi River. Continuing his military career, Macomb rose through

1. William H. Powell, comp., List of Officers of the United States from 1779 to 1900…, (New York: L. R. Hamersly, 1900), 448; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army from its organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903, vol. 1 (repr., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965), 680. U.S. Congressional documents show that Captain Macomb faced additional demands following his return home. In June 1860, the War Department charged him with the building of “light-houses.” On April 1, 1861, Capt. Montgomery C. Meigs, Macomb’s brother-in-law, arranged for him to take charge of the U.S. Capitol extension, the new dome, and the Post Office extension since the War Department had transferred Meigs to the Gulf of Mexico. Shortage of funds and the casualties of war—including the housing of soldiers in the Capitol—disrupted the work. Macomb made little progress. The following year, Congress gave supervision over Capitol construction to the Interior Department. During the war, Macomb fought at the Battle of Cedar Mountain and in other skirmishes.

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