In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

176CIVIL WAR HISTORY theological reasons for his church's lack of appeal to Negroes. This would have been a valuable contribution. Could it be, for instance, that black people, both slave and free, found greater solace in believing that all of God's children have crowns than in believing that only the favored few will be so honored? Nevertheless, this is a significant scholarly work. Similar works on other denominations are greatly needed. Arvarh E. Strickland Chicago State College Charles Eilet, Jr.: The Engineer as Individualist. By Gene D. Lewis. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1968. Pp. viii, 220. $7.50.) A key figure in the wave of internal-improvement projects that swept over America in the first half of the nineteenth century was the civil engineer. He surveyed routes for proposed canals and railroads, designed bridges, and planned river improvements. Besides these technical functions, he might, especially in the 1820's, assume promotional duties for a project or, in the 1840's, perform bureaucratic, inspectorial duties for a corporation employing him as an "organization" man. Because of the diversity of his tasks, he found it difficult to define his professional role; and because of the increasing dominion of bureaucratic controls, he saw his individuality threatened. An engineer who exemplified the development of civil engineering during this period was Charles Eilet, Jr. (1810-1862), the subject of Gene Lewis' biography, a study based on a variety of sources but particularly on Ellet's personal papers. Eilet served ably on a number of canal and railroad projects, notably as the chief engineer of the James River Company and the Virginia Central Railroad. He was an innovator in the design of suspension bridges though his reputation suffered somewhat when his Wheeling bridge, the showcase of his work, collapsed during a storm in 1854. His most innovative ideas, unimplemented during his lifetime, called for the construction of upland reservoirs for control of floods in the Mississippi River valley. Beyond his usual engineering pursuits, he won some repute for constructing and commanding a fleet of steam rams that played a part in the Union capture of Memphis in 1862, an engagement in which Eilet suffered a fatal wound. More than a "practical" engineer, he was a pioneer in formulating theories of transportation economics, setting forth many of them in his book An Essay on the Laws of Trade. To a greater degree than contemporary engineers, Eilet acted as a contractor, consultant, and economist, thus fragmenting his role as an engineer. As title of this biography suggests, he sought always to maintain autonomy in the face of demands of private and public agencies. Though Lewis makes a case for Eilet as the "engineer as individualist," BOOK REVIEWS177 it is not explicitly developed in my opinion. And though he sees Eilet's continuous strife with fellow engineers and employers as a manifestation of his subject's stern individualism, one wonders, despite his fair treatment of the principals involved, whether Ellet's individualism was not really a species of egomania. Some readers may wish that Lewis had treated Eilet within the general framework of individualism and conformity in American life. Perhaps, too, he could have given his subject additional dimension by looking at him as a social character type, for example, as Riesman's "inner-directed" man. But these are not substantive criticisms. As the study stands it is an uncluttered account of an engineer who contributed significantly to technological change in America. It also invests the realm of technology, notwithstanding Ellet's limitations as a warm human personality, with a sense of personality. Historians of American technology and historians of nineteenth century America will find this biography interesting and valuable despite some stylistic lapses. Readers with a minimal knowledge of the technical and social role of nineteenth century civil engineers can more profitably use it if they first read Daniel H. Calhoun, The American Civil Engineer, a study that Lewis employs effectively in describing the tasks and role of the civil engineer. The quality of this biography is enhanced by the uncomplicated maps that clearly relate to the narrative. Wright State University Carl M. Becker August Belmont: A Political Biography. By Irving Katz. (New York: Columbia...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 176-177
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.