A Civil War Biography

Isaac Munroe St. John

St John was born 19 November 1827 in Augusta, Georgia. He graduated from Yale in 1845 then studied law in New York City. He moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1847 and became assistant editor of the "Patriot," a local paper. He then chose to pursue a career in civil engineering and was involved with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. In 1855 he returned to Georgia and worked on the Blue Ridge railroad.

When the war started St John initially joined the Confederate army as a private in the Fort Hill Guards but was assigned as a captain in the Confederate engineer corps in February 1862. He was assigned as John B Magruder's chief engineer and rendered valuable service constructing fortifications during George B McClellan's peninsula campaign. In May 1862 St John was promoted to major and assigned as chief of the mining and nitre bureau. The bureau was responsible for supplying the Confederacy with gun powder. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 28 May 1863 then colonel on 15 June 1864 both in the artillery. On 16 February 1865 he was assigned to replace Lucius B. Northrop as commissary general with the rank of brigadier general. St John established the system by which supplies for the army were collected directly from the people, placed in depots, and sent to the troops. He remained in this position until 4 May 1865.

He accompanied Jefferson Davis and other Confederate officials when they fled Richmond on 2 April 1865. He surrendered on 23 May 1865 at Thomasville, Georgia then returned to Richmond where he took the amnesty oath on 18 June 1865. Following the war he resumed his career as a civil engineer in Kentucky. He became chief engineer of the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Lexington railroad. He was named chief engineer of Louisville in 1870 and during his two year tenure was credited with making the first topographical map of the city and establishing its system of sewerage. In 1871 he became a consulting engineer of the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad and chief engineer of the Lexington and Big Sandy railroad. St John held those two position until he died on 7 April 1880 at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

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