A Civil War Biography

Zealous Bates Tower

Tower was born 12 January 1819 in Cohasset, Massachusetts. He graduated 1st from the West Point Class of 1841. Twenty-one of the thirty-seven members of this class surviving in 1861 would become general officers in either the Union or Confederate armies. Tower was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Engineering Corps on 1 July 1841 and was assigned for a year as an assistant to the Board of Engineers. In 1842 he became an assistant professor of engineering at West Point. He spent the years from 1843 to 1846 working on the fortifications at Hampton Roads. Promoted to 1st lieutenant in 1847 he served during the war with Mexico on the staff of Winfield Scott. Tower then returned to engineering duties, mainly on the Pacific Coast. He was promoted to captain on 1 July 1855 and major of engineers on 6 August 1861.

When the Civil War began Tower was assigned as chief engineer at Fort Pickens, Florida. His services proved invaluable during the 23 November 1861 defense of the fort. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 12 June 1862. He commanded the 2nd brigade/ 3rd division/ III Corps at Cedar Mountain and the second battle of Bull Run, where on 30 August 1862 he was severely wounded. Tower remained on sick leave recuperating from his wound until July 1864 when he was named Superintendent at West Point. He served in this capacity until September then returned to field duty this time in the West. As chief engineer he supervised the construction of the defenses in front of Nashville and participated in the 15-16 November battle. He remained with the Western army until the end of the war. Tower was brevetted brigadier general and major general in the regular army on 13 March 1865. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 12 June 1865. At the end of the war he was a lieutenant colonel in the Corps of Engineers.

He remained with the Corps of Engineers and was connected with a number of significant engineering projects before he retired in 1883. He died 20 March 1900 in Cohasset.

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