US Engineers
Literature and Research Links


Literature Related to the Study of the US Engineer Battalion or General Military Engineering




The Engineer Battalion in the Civil War: A Contribution to the History of the United States Engineers

Gilbert Thompson

This outstanding and detailed report of the daily duties of the Battalion is written by an enlisted man who served with them in the Civil War and who was later commissioned in the Engineers. It is THE MUST READ for any student of the Battalion.  Impossible to find for sale, its available through the link to read online and its in a few libraries as well.

 Company 'A' Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., 1846-1848, in the Mexican War

Gustavus Woodson Smith

This is an outstanding, first person account of the service of Company A- the "Old Company" in the war with Mexico.Written by the unit commander after the war it is a "must read" for anyone interested in the Corps of Engineers.

 A Treatise on Field Fortification

Dennis Hart Mahan

Mahan was the guru of military engineering in the Civil War era.  This book reads like a text and is dry but very informative.  When ordering this from a sutler, make sure to order the copy that has the illustrations.  The text is very difficult to comprehend without them.

Diary of a Yankee Engineer:

The Civil War Diary of John Henry Westervelt

Anita Palladino

This is a highly enjoyable read and its quick and easy too.  More about the daily life during the author's service with the 1st NY Vol. Engineers than a study in engineering.  Still its insightful regarding the role of the 1st NYVI.

Manual for the Instruction of Pioneer Troops

James Lancel McElhinney

This is a simple yet informative manual regarding the basic tasks of enlisted soldiers of the Pioneers.  While not directly about the Corps, it does explain the methods and operations for basic tasks as performed during the 19th century.  Brief and quick to read it also functions as a great reference and an excellent starter book for those just beginning to learn about the duties of the engineer troops. This is written by a reenactor for reenactors.

Manual for Engineer Troops

James Chatham Duane

Much like the text above, this is slightly more complex than the Pioneer manual but is directed at a more professional unit as well.  J. C. Duane was among the finest authors of engineer texts in the era and taught military engineering at West Point.

An Elementary Course on Military Engineering
Part I (Part I is only available in print)
Part II (Is available online)
Dennis Hart Mahan

Don't be fooled by the term "Elementary" in the title.  This is an excellent text and its very informative but it is not an easy read unless you have a background in geometry and in the language of the 19th century military.  Make sure to purchase the one with the illustrations or it will be a tougher read.

Harry Bouchard

This is a basic text on the subject but is good because it was published in 1935 and uses the tools that were in use as far back as the 1850s.  Brush up on your geometry and trigonometry.

Field Armies and Fortification in the Civil War
Earl J. Hess
This is a terrific general accounting of the accomplishments of the Engineer units in the Eastern Theater of the war. It reads easily and follows a simple chronological order that makes things very understandable.
Elements of Military Art and Science: Or, Course of Instruction in Strategy, Fortification, Tactics of Battles and C., Embracing the Duties of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and Engineers Henry W. Halleck
Halleck is nothing if not detailed.  This is a nearly 500 page read citing historical examples and support for his theories on the titled subjects.  It is a textbook meant for the serious student of military theory.  Informative and filled with examples and plates but heavy and typical of studious works of the period.
Manual of Field Fortification, Military Sketching and Reconnaissance
British War Office
This work was compiled and published in 1870 for the British Engineers so it is technically not "period"  However it is an excellent study in the theories of the titled subjects and is very informative.  Since most of the engineering theory used by the US was liberally borrowed from the various European engineers it follows that these theories were very similar.  It contains excellent instruction for Engineer students.
A Treatise on Field Fortification Containing Instructions on the Methods of Laying Out, Constructing, Defending, and Attacking Intrenchments D. H. Mahan
This manual is a must have by your side as it is as much a reference book as text.  Definitely one of the best reads as far as instructional texts go.  Lots of excellent reference material, charts and plates are available too.
Military Bridges: With Suggestions for New Expedients and Constructions for Crossing Streams and Chasms; Including, Also, Designs for Trestle and Truss Bridges for Military Railroads, Adapted Especially to the Wants of the Service of the United States
Herman Haupt
Published in1864 this is an absolutely excellent manual to learn the concepts of period military bridging.  70+ plates are included which really help the student learn the concepts as well as the vocabulary of the military bridging.
Military Bridges
James Chester
This short (60 page) manual was published in 1882.  Its chief benefits that it gives the information needed to handle the logistics and some very basic construction techniques.  Its only really useful if you are actually building the bridges covered.  Interesting but not overly helpful.
Organization of the Bridge Equipage of the United States Army with the Directions for the Construction of Military Bridges
James C. Duane
This excellent manual is detailed to the point of providing the actual command instructions used during the construction of the bridges.  Try to get the copy with the plates.  They make a difference.  The plates are actually a separate item and getting them is very difficult.  I am pleased to say I was able to get a set through the good graces of the Buffalo and Erie County Library system.  There are only some 13 left in existence.
American Civil War Fortifications (2)  Ron Field for Osprey
This is an outstanding place to begin your research about Civil War Engineering.  In typical Osprey fashion, the illustrations are plentiful and helpful.  The text is simple and clear.

American Civil War Armies (3)

Staff, Specialist and Maritime Services

Philip Katcher for Osprey
A short simple but clear guide for the beginner researching the uniforms of the Engineers.
Description of a System of Military Bridges: With India Rubber Pontoons
George Washington Cullum
Published in1849 Cullum describes the basics of the assembly of the bridges in very basic terms and without great detail.  There are several tables listing the equipment along with instructions for transportation.  Unless you are a maniac for this stuff (me) or you will soon have a bridge to place this isn't mandatory reading, just interesting.
A Treatise on the Camp and March; With Which is Connected the Construction of Field Works and Military Bridges.
Henry Dearborn Grafton
This 1854 publication should probably be read by every reenactor.  It details the set up of the camp, the march and fortifications- generally field expedient ones- along with the basics of attack and defense.  40 very easy to read pages.
Mr. Lincoln's Bridge Builders
Philip M. Thienel This modern retelling of the contributions and difficulties of the bridging units, chiefly from the volunteer units, is easy to read and very enjoyable. 


Web Sites Related to the Study of the US Engineer Battalion or General Military Engineering


Author/ Owner


The Seige of Petersburg

Brett Schulte

This is a link to an excellent page about the siege of Petersburg and the actions of Isaac Foskett and the US Engineers in this endeavor.  It also contains links to his diary as well as several other information sources

Confederate Engineers in the Civil War

1st Lt. Shaun Martin

Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers /Oct. 2000

A five page article providing basic references as to the formation and accomplishments of the Confederate Coprs of Engineers

15th Engineers New York State Volunteers

New York State Military Museum

Taken from New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. Frederick Phisterer. Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912.

A one page synopsis of the formation and duties of the 15th NYVE hosted by the New York State Military Museum.

 Civil War Technology

History .com

A very entertaining and informative series of videos regarding the technologies brought to use in the Civil War.  It covers everything from rifling muskets to trains and trench warfare.  Nearly 20 videos plus photo galleries.  Citeable for use in published research.

1st Michigan Engineers

1st Michigan Engineers (reenactors)

Taken from the home page of the modern day reenactors of the 1st Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, this page has links to several other pages regarding their wartime service.

50th Engineer Regiment
 Stuart's Engineers; Independent Engineers; Sappers, Miners and Pontoniers

NY State Military Museum

Taken from New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. Frederick Phisterer. Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912.

A one page synopsis of the formation and duties of the 50th NYVE hosted by the New York State Military Museum.

Engineer Uniforms
Quartermaster Museum
6 plates with enlargements of late war engineers uniforms.

John J. Clarke Civil War Papers

Virginia Military Institute Archives
A collection of scans of the official papers and correspondence of this Confederate Engineer officer..

US Corps of Topographical Engineers

This is the website of the U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers, a
living history group portraying the history of the Topographic Corps
from its inception through the Civil War.

This is one of the most thorough and complete websites on the net.  Multiple pages and filled with information about this area of engineering.
1st New York Volunteer Engineers
Jacqueline M. Budell
A VERY thorough series of pages which cover Serrell's Engineers from top to bottom.