Egbert Ludovicus Vielé, military officer, son of Kathline Schuyler (Knickerbacker) and John L. Vielé, was born on June 17, 1825, at Waterford, New York. Vielé was appointed to the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1842, and graduated thirtieth in the class of 1847. He was commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant in the Second Infantry and served briefly in the Mexican War, where he was promoted to second lieutenant in the First Infantry on September 8, 1847. From 1848 to 1849 he was assigned to Ringgold Barracks (later Fort Ringgold) in Starr County, Texas. While there he received orders to establish a military camp at Laredo. He rode upriver from Ringgold Barracks with Company G of the First Infantry and reached Laredo on March 3, 1849. There he chose a high, relatively flat area on the east bank of the river at the point where the Rio Grande makes a turn eastward and passes below the town. The camp was called Camp Crawford in honor of George W. Crawford, Zachary Taylor's Secretary of War. Vielé's company lived in tents and was frequently exposed to the elements. Their health deteriorated quickly, and Vielé was faced with several desertions. Five of his men died of cholera. Vielé continued to command Camp Crawford through the summer of 1849. On the last day of the year he surrendered command of the camp to Capt. John H. King. Vielé married Teresa Griffin (see VIELÉ, TERESA G.) on June 3, 1850. Her book, Following the Drum (1858), a vivid description of the life of an officer's wife as well as keen observations of the lifestyles of the people of South Texas, became a classic. They eventually had eight children. After promotion to first lieutenant on October 26, 1850, Vielé resigned his commission on June 1, 1853, and returned to civilian life as an engineer.
From 1854 to 1857 Vielé was chief topographical engineer for the state of New Jersey and was the engineer-in-chief in charge of planning and designing New York City's Central Park, using the plans of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. In 1860 Vielé was chosen to design Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Early in 1861 he published his Hand-book for Active Service, which was widely used in training Union troops as well as recruits for the Confederacy. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Vielé served briefly as a captain of engineers in the Seventh New York Militia, April 19–30, 1861, then on August 17, 1861, was made a brigadier general of volunteers and was given second in command of the Port Royal expedition. He also commanded the forces that captured Fort Pulaski, and in May 1862 he was made military governor of Norfolk, Virginia. He resigned his commission in October 1863 to follow a civil engineering career in New York. In 1865 he published The Topography and Hydrology of New York. Two years later he became chief engineer on the Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Rochester Railroad. He and his wife were divorced in 1872, and he later married Juliette Dana. From 1883 to 1884 Vielé served as commissioner of parks for New York City. In 1884 he was elected to Congress as a Democrat but was defeated for reelection after only one term and returned to private practice. While visiting England in 1896, he was invited by the British House of Lords to speak on the "Municipal Improvements in the United States." As a member of the International Congress of History he also gave the closing address at the Hague Congress in 1898. Vielé dedicated his last years to the improvement of the United States Military Academy, where he served as president of the Board of Visitors and of the Association of Graduates. One of his last engineering projects involved the enlargement of the cemetery at West Point. Vielé also obtained permission to build a tomb at West Point for himself and his second wife, Juliette, who had died in 1889. Vielé died on April 22, 1902. Today his pyramid-shaped tomb measuring 25 by 31 feet is a landmark at West Point.
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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 (8 vols., New York [etc.]: D. Van Nostrand [etc.], 1868–1940). Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). Jerry Don Thompson, Sabers on the Rio Grande (Austin: Presidial, 1974). Egbert L. Vielé, "A Trip with Lincoln, Chase, and Stanton," Scribner's Monthly, October 1878.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Jose Francisco Segovia,
“Vielé, Egbert Ludovicus,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
February 1, 1996
Most Recent Revision Date:
August 12, 2020