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Posted 11/3/2015

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By Kevin Bokay


Maj. Gouverneur Kimble Warren was the first district engineer of the St. Paul District. After the Civil War, he came to St. Paul in 1866 and began work surveying the Mississippi, Chippewa, St. Croix and Wisconsin Rivers. He also began the preservation of St. Anthony Falls and designed the nation’s first reservoir system, the Mississippi River Headwaters Reservoir System. 

But just three years prior to his service in this district, G.K. Warren was a hero in the Battle of Gettysburg. During this period of the Civil War, Warren was the chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac. 

In the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the second day of the battle – then Maj. Gen. Warren came upon Little Round Top, a hill adjacent Big Round Top but a full 135 feet of lower elevation. From this point, Warren could clearly see the Confederate General John B. Hood's division moving against the Union Army. He also saw the entire Union battle line to the north. Realizing that Confederate artillery could rain down terror on the Union lines, if they took a position on the hill. Warren galloped down the hill to convince the 5th Corps commander to send a brigade as quick as possible to secure the hill. While a brigade of Rebels from Alabama was already assaulting the hill, a defense was quickly organized by Warren and the other Union commanders. 

The Union soldiers held off the Rebels for nearly two hours when Col. Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine ran out of ammunition and made a final charge down the hill. Little Round Top remained in Union hands, denying the Confederates the advantage of an elevated artillery position that could have given the battle to South. The Battle of Gettysburg would end in a much needed Union victory. 

Warren went on to fight valiantly in several other battles and campaigns, including the Battle of Bristoe Station, the Overland Campaign, the Battle of the Wilderness, the Siege of Petersburg, the Appomattox Campaign and the Battle of Five Forks. It was during this latter battle that Warren was relieved of command by his superior, Gen. Philip Sheridan. This dismissal was later deemed unjustified by a military court of inquiry, but the findings came too late to exonerate a living G.K. Warren. Although the general had spent the years after the war trying to clear his good name, the results of the court were not published till after Warren’s death in 1882. Six years after his death, an eight foot bronze likeness of Warren was placed on Little Round Top by members of the Fifth New York Volunteers, the unit he commanded. 

In the St Paul District, Warren is remembered for his establishing the district and quickly going to work on navigation, surveying and other issues in the Upper Midwest held in abeyance by the Civil War. Prior to the war, he had done surveys of the Mississippi Delta, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Gathering his only data and using records from other expeditions, Warren was able to put together the most detailed and comprehensive map of the northern plains. 

In his honor, the G. K. Warren Prize is awarded every four years by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences for distinguished accomplishment in fluviatile geology and closely related aspects of the geological sciences.

The St. Paul District’s towboat, the MV General Warren, was also named in his honor.

District Commander Maj. Gouverneur Kimble Warren St. Paul District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers