William Price Craighill (1833-1909) may have been something of a prodigy as he entered the US Military Academy at West Point at age 16 in 1849.

duty honor country
W.P. Craighill, c. 1849

He graduated in 1853, ranked second in the class which included famous ACW Generals Sheridan and Hood, and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was an instructor at West Point, and though from Virginia, stayed with the Union, seeing War service on fortifications and other engineering projects across the US. His long Army career peaked in 1895 when he was appointed Brigadier General and Chief of Engineers, US Army.

I bring Craighill to you in several contexts – a kind of 3-for-the-price-of-one post …

He came to my attention for the first time this Christmas, when my favorite person gave me a reprint of his 1862 manual for Staff Officers of the US Army.

title page

Staff Officers

I’ve not read all of this small, densely packed volume yet, but have already found a couple of tidbits I’d like to pass on. These help explain the difference between two staff jobs frequently mentioned in military history and biography. I thought I understood them, but didn’t.

Art.20.–Duties of Adjutant-Generals [(AG) and Assistants (AAGs)].

… publishing orders in writing … reception of reports and returns … forming tables showing the state and disposition of troops; regulating details of service; corresponding with the administrative departments relative to the wants of the troops; the methodical arrangement and care of the records and papers of the office.

The active duties of adjutants-general consist in establishing camps; visiting guards and outposts; mustering and inspecting troops; inspecting guards and detachments; forming parades and lines of battle; the conduct and control of deserters and prisoners; making reconnoissances; and, in general, discharging such other active duties as may be assigned them.

Art. 21.–Aides-de-Camp [ADCs]:

These are ex-officio assistant adjutant-generals (Act March2, 1821). They are confidential officers selected by general officers to assist them in their military duties. A lieutenant-general appoints not exceeding four in time of war, and two in peace, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. A major-general appoints two, and a brigadier-general one. The act of August 5, 1861 enacts that “during the existing insurrection” the President may appoint aides-de-camp at will, with the rank of captains, majors, lieutenant-colonels, or colonels, upon the recommendation of the lieutenant-general, or of a major general commanding an army in the field. These appointments to be recalled when ever the President thinks proper.

Aides-de-camp are attached to the person of the general, and receive orders only from him. Their functions are difficult and delicate. Often enjoying the full confidence of the general, they are employed in representing him, in writing orders, in carrying them in person if necessary, in communicating them verbally upon battle-fields and fields of manoeuvre. It is important that aides-de-camp should know well the positions of troops, routes, posts, quarters of generals, composition of columns, and orders of corps; facility in the use of the pen should be joined with exactness of expression; upon fields of battle they watch movements of the enemy; not only grand manoeuvres but special tactics should be familiar to them. It is necessary that their knowledge be sufficiently comprehensive to understand the object and purpose of all orders, and also to judge, in the varying circumstances of a battle-field whether it is not necessary to modify an order when carried in person, or if there is time to return for new instructions.

I don’t know how authoritative Craighill’s manual was for ACW staff officers, but it’s the only wartime publication I know of on the subject, and certainly came from a reputable source: Lt Craighill was assistant professor of military science under D.H. Mahan that year at West Point.

This little book looks like a fine window into the world of the staff of 1862.

A Lighthouse

For most of his post-War career–the 30 year period from 1865 until his appointment in 1895 to the top engineering job in the US Army–Craighill was engineer and officer in charge of the Engineer Office in Baltimore, Maryland.

Among many projects of that office during his tenure was the cutting and dredging of a new channel for commercial shipping from the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore, and construction of range lights for navigation in it. The Coast Guard provides more on this:

Range lights are used in pairs to mark a channel. Each one of the pair supports a light of different heights. When the two lights are aligned [the ship] is in the channel. Named after an engineer and longtime member of the lighthouse board, Craighill Channel cuts roughly five miles off the southern approach to Baltimore, entering Brewerton Channel (the main Patapsco River / Baltimore channel). As a major segment of the approach to the commercial ports of Baltimore this was a very important channel and the need to use it at night was acutely felt. The four Craighill Channel range lighthouses are really two separate ranges built a bit over ten years apart. The older and larger pair is the Lower Range and its construction coincided with a major dredging and enlarging of the Channel in 1870.

I hadn’t known of the Craighill connection until now, but I had known a little about the lights after being introduced to them about a year ago by the current Lower Front light keeper, Cathy Taylor. She and her foundation are in the early stages of restoring the lighthouse, seen here:

lower lightclick to see larger image
Craighill Range Lower Front Light, 1873 (US Library of Congress)

I thought the ice a little fanciful, but apparently the Bay froze at that point in the winter of 1872-73, so perhaps not.


In a 2006 paper Brooklyn Law School professor Jason Mazzone expounds on a little-discussed legal issue he terms “copyfraud”. Copyfraud refers to an entity claiming copyright–wrongly–of Public Domain materials. It’s illegal, but apparently very rarely prosecuted. It’s not clear how many people are taken in by it, but it may be a large number. Professor Mazzone argues for specific legal remedies, but I don’t think there’s much of an outcry, so I expect no near term action on this.

Stackpole Books, publisher of the 2002 reprint of Craighill’s volume given me at Christmas, is one obvious example of a copyfraud perpetrator. Behold the copyright page from that edition:

Stackpole edition 'copyright' page

That page, not incidentally, is the only page in the Stackpole version, without exception, that is not a simple photographic reproduction of Craighill’s 1862 original. There is neither jot nor tittle in the entire edition that is original to Stackpole. There’s nothing copyrightable there. Nothing. For shame.

Don’t fall for this false copyrighting. In this volume or anywhere else.


The early photo of Craighill above is from the cover of Peter W. Houck’s Duty, honor, country: The diary and biography of General William P. Craighill : cadet at West Point, 1849-1853, Warwick House Publishing, Lynchburg: 1993.

The range light drawing is from the Annual Report of the U.S. Light-House Board, 1873, online from the Library of Congress. The USCGF quote is from the US Coast Guard Historian. Bonus: The US Coast Guard has a lovely 1885 photograph of the Craighill Range Lower Front light also online. The current keeper has done considerable research on the structure with some results also online.

A complete copy of the 1862 edition of Craighill’s Pocket Companion is online courtesy of Google Book Search. The Stackpole reprint is also online there, but has copyright limits/problems, too. I guess Google doesn’t understand copyright law either.

For pointers to more about the Public Domain and US copyright Law, see an older post on this blog.


Information Request

Would someone who has Cullum or other USMA reference let me know who graduated first in the Class of 1853, please?

8 Responses to “Craighill: staff officers, a lighthouse, and copyfraud”

  1. scott smart says:

    The light nomenclature is a little unclear. When I looked at the chart (12278) there are actually 3 ranges, given as Craighill Entrance (channel starts just past the bay bridge), Craighill, and Craighill Upper. From the description the Craighill channel is the “lower range”.

  2. Craighill Keeper says:

    Thanks for the plug, Brian! Scott, there are only two ranges. The “Lower” range is the first range seen when approaching the Patapsco from the south, but are actually placed north of the “upper” range. Millers Island light is the rear range light of the lower range. The upper range is on shore – the first at the VA hospital next to Ft. Howard and the 2nd on Bethlehem Steel’s property (much smaller lights).

    Among historic documentation I’ve seen, the ranges are referred to as many different names. I’m going to go to the National Archives in Philly in March to figure out exactly which name refers to which light because of the plans I ordered already, they are referred to as Craighill, Craighill I, and Craighill II, yet none were of the upper range and none of the labels have “upper” or “lower” on them.

    The chart on this page is a rough graphical representation of where they are placed.

  3. Will Keene says:

    You ask who graduated first in the Class of 1853. That I can tell you without having to look it up: James B. McPherson.

  4. Brian says:

    Thank you Will!

  5. Investigations of a Dog » The 46th History Carnival says:

    […] For present day historians, one of the most contentious property rights is copyright. Wallace McLean at CopyrightWatch.ca celebrates Public Domain Day 2007 by listing all the authors whose copyright has just expired. While documenting the military career of William Craighill, Brian at Behind Antietam on the Web highlights a case of copyfraud: a publisher falsely claiming to own public domain works. Copyright is a Mickey Mouse law in more ways than one, since it usually seems to be the Disney corporation pushing for extensions. At Red County California, cehwiedel finds Mickey heading the Disney team in an all star polo match, and Didier Ghez at Disney History reveals a Serbian version of the All American mouse. […]

  6. Kent Ekberg says:

    I gave my daughter the same copy of Craighill’s manual that I purchased at the West Point gift shop not too long ago. She is related to the Craihill’s of Lynchburg, Virginia. WP Craighill’s brother EA Craighill was a Confederate officer and a military doctor who fought in the Stonewall Brigade as a private before being recognized by Jackson’s personal physician, Dr. McGuire, and being put in charge of hospitals in the South. They had both graduated from the University of Pennsylvania medical school not too many years apart. Dr. Craighill’s memoirs are also published. He was the youngest Confederate surgeon and ran the hospitals in Lynchburg and elsewhere during the Civil War. I have been researching the Craighill ancestors before the Civil War. They were from Charles Town (now W. Virginia), home of the Washingtons (Charles was George Washington’s brother). WP Craigill claims the family knew President Monroe, but I have not been able to identify early ancestors, but there seems to be a link to Rutherfords and other early Virginians connected to the family, too. WP Craighill read Greek, Latin, French, and German, that he learned from his master in a one room school house in Charles Town. He read Sophocles in the original and Shakespeare for entertainment. One source claimed that he was nearly appointed director of West Point. RE Lee was the director of the academy when WP Craighill started at 15, I believe, not 16. There was a third brother, WPC was the oldest, who was an Episcopal minister in the Confederacy, I believe, but this brother did not write a memoir that has been published so I am a bit fuzzy on this. If anyone has information on the other Craighill ancestors before the Civil War, I would love to have the information and the sources for it.

  7. Alan K. Dawson says:

    James B. McPherson graduated 1st in the Class of 1853, 2nd William P. Craighill, 3rd Joshua W. Sill. McPherson and Sill became Union generals both in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and both are killed. McPherson at Atlanta, Georgia, and Sill at the Battle of Stones River.

  8. Esza says:

    How do I get a copy of John’s book The Twelfth Corps at Antietam ? I am particularly inesttered in Sam Crawford’s role, because I own several of his personal items.

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