Portrait of Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel

Ormsby M. Mitchel helped plan and authorize James J. Andrews’ unsuccessful raid on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, in Northern Georgia, also known as the Great Locomotive Chase. [Wikimedia Commons]

Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel - Facts

July 28, 1809 - October 30, 1862

Key facts about Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, a world-renowned astronomer and a Union major general during the American Civil War.

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Full Name:

  • Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel

Birth Date:

  • July 28, 1809

Birth Location:

  • Morganfield, in Union County, Kentucky

Parents:

  • John and Elizabeth (McAllister) Mitchel

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1829)

Occupation:

  • Miltary officer
  • Lawyer
  • Astronomer

Career Summary:

  • Second Lieutenant (USA)
  • Director of the Mitchel Observatory
  • Major General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • Louisa (Clark) Trask (1831)

Nickname(s):

  • Old Stars

Place of Death:

  • Beaufort, South Carolina

Date of Death:

  • October 30, 1862

Place of Burial:

  • Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York

Significance:

  • Ormsby M. Mitchel was the youngest child of Virginia planter John and Elizabeth (McAllister) Mitchel
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel’s parents moved their family and slaves to Kentucky in 1804.
  • When Ormsby M. Mitchel was three years old, his father died unexpectedly.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel moved with his mother to Lebanon, Ohio in 1814.
  • In 1825, Ormsby M. Mitchel successfully petitioned Judge John McLean and U.S. Representative Thomas Ross, for a position at the United States Military Academy.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel entered West Point on July 1, 1825.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel’s classmates included future Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel graduated fifteenth in his class of forty-six cadets at West Point on July 1, 1829.
  • After graduation, Ormsby M. Mitchel was brevetted to second lieutenant and detached from the U.S. 2nd Artillery to serve as an assistant professor of mathematics at West Point.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel married Louisa (Clark) Trask on August 28, 1831. Their union produced seven children, five of whom survived infancy.
  • On September 30, 1832, Mitchel resigned his commission and relocated to Ohio.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel settled in Cincinnati, where he passed the Ohio bar exam in 1832 and practiced law until 1834.
  • In 1834 Ormsby M. Mitchel secured a position as Professor of Mathematics, Philosophy, and Astronomy at Cincinnati College (now the University of Cincinnati).
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel served as chief engineer for the construction of the Little Miami Railroad from 1836 to 1837.
  • While teaching at Cincinnati College, Ormsby M. Mitchel became a nationally renowned lecturer on astronomy, organized the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, and was instrumental in the construction of the Mitchel Observatory.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel was director of the Mitchel Observatory from 1845 to 1859.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel served a one-year term as Adjutant-General of the State of Ohio (1847‑48).
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel served two-terms as Chief Engineer of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, (1848‑49 and 1852‑53).
  • In 1859 Ormsby M. Mitchel accepted a position as an astronomer of the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel accepted a commission as brigadier-general of Ohio volunteers on August 8, 1861.
  • On September 19, 1861, the War Department issued General Orders Number 80, placing Ormsby M. Mitchel in command of the Department of the Ohio.
  • Major-General Don Carlos Buell replaced Ormsby M. Mitchel as commander of the Department of the Ohio on November 15, 1861.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel commanded the 3rd Division of the Army of the Ohio from November 15, 1861 to July 2, 1862.
  • On April 11, 1862, Ormsby M. Mitchel’s troops occupied Huntsville, Alabama, marking the deepest penetration into the South by federal troops during the Civil War to date.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel helped plan and authorize James J. Andrews’ unsuccessful raid on the Western and Atlantic Railroad, in Northern Georgia, also known as the Great Locomotive Chase.
  • Due to disagreements with Major-General Don Carlos Buell and Major-General Henry Halleck, Ormsby M. Mitchel attempted to resign his army commission on June 30, 1862.
  • In July 1862, Ormsby M. Mitchel was promoted to the rank of major-general, effective April 11, 1862.
  • In early September, General-in-Chief Henry Halleck appointed Ormsby M. Mitchel as commander of the 10th Army Corps and Department of the South, headquartered in South Carolina.
  • Ormsby M. Mitchel assumed command of the 10th Army Corps and Department of the South on September 17, 1862.
  • After contracting yellow fever, Ormsby M. Mitchel died on October 30, 1862, at Beaufort, South Carolina, at the age of fifty-two.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel - Facts
  • Coverage July 28, 1809 - October 30, 1862
  • Author
  • Keywords Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date January 18, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021