Monday, May 25, 2015

Core of the Corps

published on: 2/28/2003

Contributing Teacher(s): Harry Benn

Subject Area: Tech Prep/Natural Resources/Agriculture

Grade Range: Middle Grades (6-8)

Materials Needed: Drawing paper, markers, crayons or chalk; tables or desks that slide together; overheads of dams, army base, locks, lakes, rivers, etc.; computers with access to the Internet


  • The student will be able to describe more than one mission of the Corps of Engineers
  • The student will be able to list 2 or more projects of the Corps of Engineers St. Louis District
  • The student will be able to match one Corps project to its mission
  • The student will be able to relate a brief history of the Corps

Process Standards:

  • Goal 1.5 comprehend and evaluate written, visual and oral presentations and works
  • Goal 2.2 review and revise communications to improve accuracy and clarity
  • Goal 3.7 evaluate the extent to which a strategy addresses the problem

Content Standards:

  • Social Studies 2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world
  • Social Studies 4. Economic concepts (including productivity and the market system) and principles (including the ...
  • Social Studies 5. The major elements of geographical study and analysis (such as location, place, movement,...

    Time Allowance: 45 to 60 minutes

    Description: Students are presented with basic information about the history and mission of the Army Corps of Engineers, then use the Internet to research and construct a drawing of a Corps project telling what problem it is solving and how - dam, channel, dike, rive

    Classroom Component:
    In participation with Mid Rivers Tech Prep Consortium
    Krista Flowers
    (573) 485-3220

    This lesson will present the students with basic information about the history and mission of the Army Corps of Engineers. It will focus mainly on the St. Louis District and its role in comparison to the rest of the Corps. The students will use the Internet for much of the background information.

    Background Information:

    • students should be able to use the Internet
    • teachers should review pages on the history and mission of the Corps (included with lesson plan)

    Determining Prior Knowledge:
    • teacher will question students about the Corps of Engineers

    Advance Preparations:
    1. have drawing paper, markers, crayons or chalk
    2. have a room with tables or desks that slide together
    3. have overheads of dams, army base, locks, lakes, rivers, etc.

    Lesson Description:
    1. Teacher Activities - Teacher will introduce the lesson then give a short lecture on the history of the Army Corps of Engineers
    2. Student Activities - will include discussion and then construction of a drawing of a Corps project telling what problem it is solving and how

    • River Engineers on the Middle Mississippi, by Fredrick J. Dobney.

    History of the Army Corps of Engineers
    The St. Louis District

    I - A:  Creation of the Corps

    I - B:  Dangerous work

    I - C:  Argument over rank

    I - D:  Corps role expanded

    I - E:  Metamorphosis of the Corps

    I - F:  Early navigation and its dangers

    I - G:  Infancy of the St. Louis District

    I - H:  Need for a St. Louis District grows

    I - I:  Official creation of the St. Louis District

    I - J:  The District grows

    I - K:  The Corps role grows

    I - L:  The District during wartime

    I - M:  The Postwar District

    I - N:  The St. Louis District today

    I-A:  Creation of the Corps

    Because the American Revolution was defensive in nature General George Washington saw a need for trained Engineers. The Continental Congress urged by General Washington send Silas Dean as an agent to France to trade for supplies and to recruit much needed engineers. The group of Frenchmen that answered the call became known as the Royal Engineers (due in part to their large number of demands).

    I - B:  Dangerous work

    The first French Commander of the Corps General Coudray was given the title, General of Artillery and Ordinance plus the rank of Major General. General Coudray lost his life when his nervous horse jumped from a pontoon bridge into the river and the General drowned.

    I - C:  Argument over rank

    There arose the question of the rank of foreign officers vs. colonial officers. The agreement reached was that the foreign officers would be given the rank of Colonel, Lt. Colonel, or Major of the Engineers. While the provincials would be known as Colonel, Lt. Colonel or Major Engineer, and therefore of lesser rank than their foreign counterparts.

    I - D:  Corps role expanded

    General Washington also saw the need for a Geographer to survey the roads and make maps of areas the army was to traverse. Such a capable person was found in the form of one Robert Erskine. Erskine recruited "young gentlemen of mathematical genius". Although it did not sound like a great deal, that level of pay would exceed the pay of a Major General. Erskine's colleagues would receive $2.00 per day and one ration. His chain bearers would receive $0.50 per day.

    The Corps official beginning came about when the Congress (urged by General Washington) voted on May 27, 1779, to establish three companies of engineer troops. Each company would be comprised of and paid the following.

    1 captain $50.00 per month
    3 Lieutenants $33.33 per month
    4 Sergeants $10.00 per month
    4 Corporals $ 9.00 per month
    60 Privates $ 8.33 per month

    The Congress also intended this Corps of Engineers to be a school of Engineers. Because of the difficulty in finding men to fill the positions it wasn't until March 11, 1779 the Congress passed a resolution forming the Army Engineers into the Corps of Engineers, Sappers and Miners. In May of 1779, Louis Duportail accepted the appointment as commander of the Corps of Engineers.

    In August of 1779 General Washington in issuing a general order to the Corps added 2 other positions to a company of Engineers, a drummer and a fifer. He also pointed out when the army was on the march a detachment of the companies of Sappers and Miners shall be stationed at the head of the column "for the purpose of opening and mending roads".

    To encourage recruitment a bounty of $200.00 was offered for people who were willing to enlist in the Corps of Engineers.

    I - E:  Metamorphosis of the Corps

    At the end of the American Revolution, after signing the Treaty of Paris, the Continental Army Corps of Engineers was disbanded. In 1794, Congress recognized the need for some such organization on a continuing basis when it established the Corps of Artillerists and Engineers. In 1802 that group was abolished and replaced in the same act by the present Corps of Engineers. The act also established West Point as an associated military academy, with the Corps being stationed there and acting as a military academy, with the "principal engineer" as superintendent of the academy. West Point would remain under the control of the Corps until 1866.

    In 1838 Congress established a separate Corps of Topographical Engineers and decided it would be responsible for all civil work. During the Civil War having two separate units of engineers did not work. The Corps of Topographical Engineers was abolished and its members were reassigned under the command of the Chief of Engineers in 1863.

    I - F:  Early navigation and its dangers

    The earliest mission of Engineers in the St. Louis District related to Navigation. During that time, the greatest threat to riverboat traffic was the different types of snags in the river. The snags accounted for more than 40% of the mishaps on the river.

    Because of the concern for more navigable rivers with the increased economic activity in the west, the first River and Harbor Act was passed in 1824. The passage of this act marked the beginning of large-scale involvement in waterway improvement.

    In 1828, Henry Shreve was appointed by Secretary of War James Barbor to the post of Superintendent of Western Rivers. Shreve was a successful builder, owner, and steamboat Captain. His one design "a snagboat" was successful in pulling snags out of the rivers. From 1828 to 1830 the damage done by snags dropped from $100,000.00 to $0.00, a phenome

    For additional information contact :
    Harry Benn
    Bowling Green Middle
    Bowling Green R-I
    (573) 324-2181

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