Edwin Burr Babbitt, a major in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps who was responsible for the repair of the Alamo chapel and barracks, was born in Connecticut in 1803. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1826 and was posted to the Third United States Infantry at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. He was a member of the Pawnee expedition in 1829 and was promoted to first lieutenant in 1834. Babbitt was stationed at Fort Jesup, Louisiana, and Fort Towson, Indian Territory, before being made an assistant quartermaster in 1836. His service record until 1846 was quite full and included service in the Seminole War.
In 1846 he was assigned to Gen. Winfield Scott's army in Mexico and established the quartermaster's depot at Tampico. He was brevetted major in May 1848 for meritorious conduct in Mexico. In March of 1849 he was made assistant quartermaster of the post of San Antonio, a position previously held by Capt. Morris Miller. Babbitt completed agreements with the Catholic bishop of Texas, Jean Marie Odin, for the rental of the Alamo buildings. In June 1849 he recommended to Gen. Thomas S. Jesup that the existing buildings be demolished and permanent quarters for the army be constructed. Jesup vetoed this suggestion, and during the spring of 1850 Babbitt began to repair the battle-damaged Alamo. He supplied a wooden roof, a second floor, and the now famous parapet over the chapel façade; architect John M. Fries probably helped design the parapet. In 1854 Babbitt was reassigned to duties in Baltimore, Maryland.
Babbitt's military career continued until 1868 and included service in the Utah expedition and assignment as chief quartermaster of the Division of the Pacific Station at San Francisco. In 1861 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, in 1866 to colonel. He retired at the rank of brigadier general. He died at his home at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, on December 10, 1881, and was buried at his own request at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, outside of St. Louis, Missouri. His son, Lawrence Sprague Babbitt, later commanded the United States Arsenal at San Antonio and was chief ordnance officer for the Department of Texas from 1887 to 1890.
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George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Jim Steely, "Remembering the Alamo," Texas Highways, March 1985.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Kevin R. Young,
“Babbitt, Edwin Burr,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994