George Lewis Gillespie, Jr. : biography
George Gillespie, Jr., (October 7, 1841-September 27, 1913) was an American soldier who received the highest military decoration that the United States bestows to members of the military, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the American Civil War.
George Lewis Gillespie was born October 7, 1841, in Kingston, Tennessee. He graduated second in the Class of 1862 at the United States Military Academy and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers on June 17, 1862.
A Southerner who remained loyal to the Union, Gillespie joined the Army of the Potomac in September 1862. He commanded two companies of the engineer battalion which built fortifications and ponton bridges throughout the Virginia campaigns until General Robert E. Lee's Surrender at Appomattox in April 1865.
On October 27, 1897, Gillespie received the Medal of Honor for carrying dispatches through enemy lines under withering fire to Major General Philip Sheridan at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia on May 31, 1864. He was later Sheridan's Chief Engineer in the Army of the Shenandoah and the Military Division of the Gulf.
At the end of the war, Gillespie held the Regular Army rank of captain and a brevet (honorary promotion) to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
After the Civil War, Gillespie successively supervised the improvement of harbors at Cleveland, Ohio, Chicago, Boston, and New York City. He initiated construction of the canal at the Cascades of the Columbia River and built the famous Tillamook Rock Lighthouse off the Oregon coast. Gillespie also served on the Board of Engineers and for six years as president of the Mississippi River Commission.
He was promoted to major on September 5, 1871, lieutenant colonel on October 12, 1886 and colonel on October 2, 1895.
With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Gillespie was promoted to brigadier general of Volunteers on May 27, 1898. He commanded the Army's Department of the East until October 31, 1898 when he was discharged from the Volunteers and reverted to his Regular Army rank of colonel.
Gillespie was apponted as Chief of Engineers on May 3, 1901 and promoted to brigadier general the same day. He was acting U.S. Secretary of War in August 1901. He had charge of ceremonies at President William McKinley's funeral and at the laying of the cornerstone of the Army War College Building in 1903.
Gillespie's final assignment was as Assistant Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1904 to 1905 with the rank of major general.
Gillespie was a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) and was assigned MOLLUS insignia number 4061.
Major General Gillespie retired from the Army on June 15, 1905, having reached the madatory retirement age of 64. He died on September 27, 1913, in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. Place and date: Near Bethesda Church, Va., 31 May 1864. Entered service at: Chattanooga, Tenn. Birth: Kingston, Tenn. Date of issue: 27 October 1897.
Exposed himself to great danger by voluntarily making his way through the enemy's lines to communicate with Gen. Sheridan. While rendering this service he was captured, but escaped; again came in contact with the enemy, was again ordered to surrender, but escaped by dashing away under fire.
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