A Soldier's Story: Major William Johnson Twining


Major William Johnson Twining was born on August 2, 1839, in Madison, Indiana. He initially had plans to graduate from Yale University but fell ill during his first winter. After recuperating, he accepted the vacant Indiana candidacy for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point instead of returning to Yale. Major Twining graduated in 1863 as an engineer and was immediately deployed to fight in the Civil War.

He served with the Engineering Corps during the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga and as the Chief Engineer for the Army of Ohio during the Battles of Nashville and Columbia. Major William Twining would be cited for gallantry during the Battle of Nashville.

After the war, he was assigned to West Point as an assistant Engineering professor. He remained at the Academy until 1867, when Major Twining was assigned to the Dakotas as Chief Engineer, where he surveyed the routes through those territories. After the Dakotas, he was assigned to inspect the Nation's lighthouses.

In 1872, he was part of the Joint Commission for the Survey of the Northern Boundary Line of the U.S. While Chief Astronomer of the Commission, he made the calculations that marked the 49th Parallel from the Lake of the Woods Canada to the Rocky Mountains. Major Twining was then assigned to verify the lengths of the Union, Central, and Pacific Railroads.

His next assignment took him to Washington, where he was assigned to revamp the infrastructure, including the sewer system, as the city's Chief Engineer. He was also responsible for the design of the D.C.s Tidal Basin (Now known for the National Cherry Blossom Festival). Major William Twining was so committed to his work that he continued to work during the Spring of 1882 despite having a heavy cold. 

Major William Twining died on May 5, 1882, of pneumonia. He rests at West Point.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

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