Army Engineers - A Proud Tradition
The Continental Congress first authorized an army with a chief engineer in 1775. In the years that followed, the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the construction of coastal fortifications, aided in mapping much of the American West and, in wartime, provided mapping and construction services and troop leaders in theaters of operations. During the Civil War, many men who had been Corps engineers became noted leaders, among them Union generals George McClellan, Henry Halleck and George Meade and Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Joseph Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard.
Army Engineers in Kentucky 1861-1865
Over the course of the war, army engineers in Kentucky constructed fortifications, stockades, and other defensive works to protect cities, supply depots, and the transportation network — the roads, railroads, and rivers used to supply the Union army. One of the first, Fort Duffield in West Point, was constructed in November 1861 to protect the Louisville - Nashville Turnpike. The first railroad to be fortified was the Kentucky Central, a major military supply line running between Cincinnati and Lexington. The man responsible for the railroad's defenses was Captain Thomas B. Brooks.
Capt. Thomas B. Brooks
What little we know about Capt. Thomas Brooks, who designed this earthwork, was gleaned from his service record. Brooks enlisted in the 1st New York Volunteer Engineers at Staten Island, New York, on August 15, 1861; he was 25. Mustered in as a lieutenant, Brooks was soon promoted to captain. In November 1862, Brooks was ordered to report to Nicholasville, Kentucky for temporary assignment with Capt. William E. Merrill. This assignment placed him under the command of Gen. Quincy Gillmore, commander of the 2nd Division of the Army of Kentucky. Gillmore, headquartered in Lexington, was charged with protecting central Kentucky.
In January and February 1863, Brooks traveled extensively in central Kentucky, supervising the construction of blockhouses on the Kentucky Central Railroad. When his plan to extend the defenses to include the Kentucky River was adopted, he helped design the works at the mouth of Hickman Creek (Camp Nelson), Frankfort, Clay's Ferry, Tate's Creek, and Boonesboro. Brooks was also instrumental in the construction of the fortifications at Lexington. While in Kentucky, Brooks acted as a topographical and a construction engineer; that is, he both mapped and aided in the construction of the defensive works in the District of Central Kentucky.
In June 1863 Capt. Brooks was ordered to report to Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore in Washington, D.C. From Washington, he rejoined the 1st NY Engineers in South Carolina, where he remained until he resigned from the army on April 15, 1864. Nothing is known about his life in later years.