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Richard Delafield Letterbook

An inventory of the item at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: -
Date: 1973

Biographical History

Richard Delafield (1798-1873) was a Major General in the U.S. Army. A military engineer, he was Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Chief of Engineers.

Born in New York City, Delafield graduated from West Point in 1818 and embarked on a 48-year career in the United States military. He served twice as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was engineer on the construction of many fortifications and coastal defenses,. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he served under Major General Edwin D. Morgan, helping to organize and equip New York State forces for combat and to superintend the defensive installations for New York City. In 1864 he was named a brigadier general and Chief of Engineers, a post he filled until his retirement in 1866.

Delafield was married twice: first to Helen Summers and then after her death to Harriet Covington, daughter of General E. M. Covington.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Richard Delafield Letterbook contains one letterbook containing drafts of Delafield's outgoing correspondence from 1846 to 1849, when he was in command of engineers in New York City. There are approximately 330 letters, and an alphabetical index of recipients is included in the front of the volume.

Most of the letters are addressed to Joseph G. Totten, then Chief of Army Engineers. The letters deal with construction of fortifications, topological surveys, acquisition of materials, cost estimates and building expenses. There are also copies of monthly reports to Totten on defense operations at Fort Schuyler, Fort Richmond, Fort Hamilton and Fort Wood, with frequent references to other New York fortifications, especially the Governor's Island facility.

In the small number of additional letters there is one, dated December 1848, to Millard Fillmore, then Comptroller of New York State, asking for information from Fillmore's office. There are also four letters to Henry Cruse Murphy in regard to land transactions, and one letter which mentions and quotes Sylvanus Thayer (Brigadier General, considered "the father of West Point").

Arrangement of the Collection

Single item.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Delafield, Richard, 1798-1873.
Totten, Joseph Gilbert, 1788-1864.

Corporate Bodies

United States. -- Army -- Officers.


Military engineering.
Military engineers -- United States.


New York (N.Y.) -- History, Military.
New York (State) -- Fortifications.
New York (State) -- History, Military.
United States -- History, Military.

Genres and Forms

Letter books.


Military engineers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Richard Delafield Letterbook,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 1969.

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