Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Meigs, Return Jonathan
MEIGS, Return Jonathan, soldier, b. in Middletown, Conn., 17 Dec. 1734; d. in Cherokee agency, Ga., 28 Jan., 1823. He marched with a company of light infantry to the vicinity of Boston immediately after the battle of Lexington, and was assigned to duty under Col. Benedict Arnold with the rank of major. He accompanied the expedition through Maine to Canada, and was captured in the assault on Quebec, but was exchanged during the following year. He then devoted his energies toward raising a regiment, and in 1777 was promoted to colonel. In May, 1777, at the head of 170 men, he attacked the British troops at Sag Harbor, L. I., making ninety prisoners, and destroying twelve vessels and much forage without the loss of a man. For this brilliant exploit, congress voted him thanks and a sword. Col. Meigs commanded a regiment under Gen. Anthony Wayne at the storming of Stony Point, and was honorably mentioned by Washington. Subsequently he served in various places until the close of the war. He was one of the earliest settlers of Ohio, going there in 1788, and he drew up a system of regulations for the first emigrants, that was posted on a large oak-tree, near the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. In 1801 he was appointed Indian agent of the Cherokees, among whom he passed the remainder of his life. The origin of his name is of peculiar interest. His father, when a young man, was very attentive to a fair Quakeress, who resided in the vicinity of Middletown, but he was unsuccessful in his suit and repeatedly rejected with “Nay, Jonathan, I respect thee much; but I cannot marry thee.” But on his last visit, as he slowly mounted his horse, the relenting lady beckoned him to stop, saying: “Return, Jonathan ! Return, Jonathan !” These, the happiest words he had ever heard, he gave as a name to his first-born son. Col. Meigs journal of the expedition to Quebec, which is said to be the best account extant, appeared in the “American Remembrancer” of 1776, and was published with and introduction and notes by Charles L. Bushnell (New York, 1864). - His son, Return Jonathan, senator, b. in Middletown, Conn., in November, 1765; d. in Marietta, Ohio, 29 March, 1825, was graduated at Yale in 1785, and then studied law. In 1788 he went to Ohio with his father and settled in Marietta. He was sent on a commission to the British commander at Detroit by Gen. Arthur St. Clair in 1790, and subsequently participated frequently in the Indian fights of that period. During 1803-'4 he was chief justice of the Ohio supreme court, and he then had charge of the St. Charles district in Louisiana until 1806, with the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel in the U.S. army, being also judge of the supreme court in that district during 1805-'6. Mr. Meigs was appointed judge of the U.S. district court of Michigan in April, 1807, and continued in that office until 1808, when he was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. senate from Ohio, serving from 6 Jan., 1809, till 1 May, 1810. He was elected governor of Ohio in 1810, and held that office until 1814. During the war with Great Britain in 1812-'15 he did more than any other governor to aid the country during that conflict by the prompt organizing of militia, by garrisoning the forts and securing safety to the exposed settlements, and by the aid that he rendered to the army under Gen. William Henry Harrison. On the resignation of Postmaster-General Gideon Granger in March, 1814, President Madison invited Col. Meigs to fill that place in the cabinet, and he continued in office under Monroe until December, 1823, when he retired to Marietta, Ohio, and there passed the remainder of his life. - The second Return Jonathan's nephew, Return Jonathan, lawyer, b. in Clark co., Ky., 14 April, 1801, was educated at various academies and after studying law was admitted to the bar in Frankfort, Ky., in October, 1822. He then visited his grandfather, who was stationed at that time as Indian agent in Hiawassee garrison, East Tenn., and subsequently, after that relative's death, administered his estate. He was made special agent to the Cherokee and Creek Indians in 1834, and was appointed in March, 1841, U.S. district attorney for the middle district of Tennessee. Later he served for one term as state senator. In 1863, on the organization of the supreme court of the district of Columbia, he became its clerk, which office he still (1888) holds. He has published “Reports of Cases in the Supreme Court of Tennessee” (Nashville, 1839); “Digest of all the Decisions of the Former Superior Courts of Law and Equity, and of the Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals in the State of Tennessee” (1848); and “The Code of Tennessee,” prepared in connection with William F. Cooper, under enactment of the legislature of Tennessee (1858). His son and grandson, who are residents of Washington, D.C., bear the same name. - Return Jonathan's brother, Josiah, educator, b. in Middletown, Conn., 21 Aug., 1757; d. in Washington, D.C., 4 Sept., 1822, was graduated at Yale in 1788, where among his classmates, were Joel Barlow, Uriah Tracy, Noah Webster, and Oliver Wolcott. In 1781 he was appointed tutor in mathematics, natural philosophy, and astronomy in Yale, and at the same time studied law, being to the bar of New Haven in April, 1783. He resigned the tutorship in 1784, and in conjunction with Daniel Bowen and Eleutheros Dana established a printing-office, and published weekly “The New Haven Gazette,” to which in time he added the sub-title of “Connecticut Magazine,” and ultimately became its sole publisher. To its columns many of the distinguished men of the time contributed, but it was not a financial success, and finally ceased in 1788. In 1784 he was elected city clerk of New Haven, which office he held until 1789, during which year he also delivered a series of philosophical lectures in the chapel of Yale college. He went to Bermuda in 1789 for the purpose of establishing a law-practice, and appeared as the defender of American vessels that were captured by British privateers. This course led him into difficulties, and he was tried for treason, but was acquitted, and in 1794 returned to New York. In that year he became professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in Yale, where he remained until 1801. On the opening of the University of Georgia in 1800, he was chosen the first professor and acting president, continuing in the latter office until 1810, but retaining the professorship of mathematics, natural philosophy, and chemistry a year longer. In 1812 he was appointed surveyor-general, and in 1814 became commissioner of the general land-office of the United States, which office he held until his death. Mr. Meigs was always an active student of the sciences, and showed great interest in their advancement. He advised that meteorological registers be established in each of the U.S. land-offices, and that monthly returns be made. In 1821, having been president of the Columbian institute since 1819, he became professor of experimental philosophy on the establishment of Columbian college in Washington, and delivered there lectures during the last year of his life. His name was on the rolls of several scientific societies. See “Life of Josiah Meigs,” by his great-grandson, William M. Meigs (Philadelphia, 1887). - Josiah's son, Charles Delucena, physician, b. in St. George, Bermuda, 19 Feb., 1792; d. in Delaware county, Pa., 22 June, 1869, was graduated at the University of Georgia in 1809, and began the study of medicine at first as an apprentice, and then at the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his degree in 1817. Meanwhile he had settled in Augusta, Ga., and there practised until 1817, when he returned to Philadelphia and attained note in his profession. In 1830 he began to lecture on midwifery at the School of medicine, and continued to do so for several years. He was invited in 1841 to fill the chair of obstetrics and the diseases of women and children in Jefferson medical college, and remained there until 1861. In 1818 he received the honorary degree of M.D. from Princeton. Dr. Meigs was a member of the medical societies and of the scientific organizations in Philadelphia, to which he frequently contributed papers. In 1827 he became a fellow of the Philadelphia college of physicians, of which he was censor in 1841-'8, and vice-president in 1848-'55. He was one of the original editors in 1826 of the “North American Medical and Surgical Journal,” and delivered various public addresses and lectures. His literary work was very great. Besides contributing memoirs of Dr. Samuel G. Morton (1851) and of Dr. Daniel Drake (1853) to the “Transactions of the Academy of Natural Sciences,” he translated Velpeau's “Elementary Treatise on Midwifery” (Philadelphia, 1830); Colombat de L'Isere's “Treatise on the Diseases and Special Hygiene of Females” (1845); and “L'Abbaye de Typhanies,” a novel. He was author of “The Philadelphia Practice of Midwifery” (1838); “Woman, her Diseases and Remedies” (1847); “Obstetrics, the Science and Art” (1849); “Observations on Certain Diseases of Children” (1850); “Treatise on Acute and Chronic Diseases of the Neck of the Uterus” (1854); and “On the Nature, Signs, and Treatment of Child-Bed Fevers” (1854). See “Memoir of Dr. Charles D. Meigs,” by John F. Meigs (1872).
Charles Delucena's son, Montogomery Cunningham, soldier, b. in Augusta, Ga., 3 May, 1816; d. in Washington, D.C., 2 January, 1892, and was graduated at the U.S. military academy in 1836 with an appointment in the artillery, but in 1837 was transferred to the corps of engineers. He was advanced to 1st lieutenant in 1838 and captain in 1853. Meanwhile he was occupied in the building of Fort Delaware, in the improvement of harbors in Delaware river and bay, and in various other works along the Atlantic coast until 1841, when he became superintending engineer of the construction of Forts Wayne, Porter, Niagara, and Ontario, and so continued during 1841-'9. He then spent the year of 1849-'50 in Washington, D.C. in the engineer bureau, after which he served again as superintending engineer on the building of Fort Montgomery, where he was sent in 1852, but his orders were changed to Washington, D.C., and he was given control of the survey for the aqueduct before he took charge of this work. In November, 1852, he returned to Washington, under orders to take charge of designing and constructing the Potomac aqueduct, also superintending the building of the new wings and iron dome of the capitol extension, and the extension of the U.S. general post-office, and completion of Fort Madison in Annapolis, Md. He was sent to Florida in October, 1860, to take charge of the building of Fort Jefferson, but in 1861 was appointed to organize an expedition to relieve Fort Pickens, Fla., which was besieged by the Confederate forces. On 14 May, 1861, he was promoted to colonel of the 11th infantry, and on the 15th was made quartermaster-general of the U.S. army with the rank of brigadier-general, which post he continued to hold until his retirement in 1882. During the civil war he was engaged in directing the equipment and supply of the armies in Washington, although he was present at the battle of Bull Run in July, 1861, and during 1863-'4 was specially engaged in providing transportation and supplies for the forces at Chattanooga, being present during the investment and bombardment of that city, and the subsequent battle in November, 1863. During the overland campaign in 1864 he had, by orders of the War department, for a short time personal charge of the base of supplies of the Army of the Potomac at Fredricksburg and Belle Plain. He commanded a brigade of quartermasters men and other troops during the threatened invasion of Washington in July, 1864, and was brevetted major-general on 5 July, 1864. Subsequently he visited Savannah, Ga., supplying and refitting the army under Gen. William T. Sherman, and shipping captured stores, after which he was in Goldsborough, N.C., during March, 1865, directing the opening of communications for again supplying Gen Sherman's armies. After the war he continued in Washington, and in connection with the duties of his office inspected the workings of the department under his control in Texas and the southwest in 1869-'70, in California and Arizona in 1871-'2, the western posts and railroad routes in 1872, and in California and Columbia in 1873-'4. He visited Europe in 1867-'8 for his health, and again in 1875-'6, on special service, to study the constitution and government of European armies, and then was made a member of the commission for reform and reorganization of the army in 1876. Gen. Meigs has also been a member of the board to prepare plans and specifications for the new war department building in 1866, the new building for the National museum in 1876, and in preparing a plan for a hall of records in 1878. Since his retirement he has been architect of the building for the pension bureau in Washington, which was completed during 1887. He is a regent of the Smithsonian institution, and a member of various scientific societies, including the National academy of sciences, to which he was chosen in 1865. He has published annual reports of the quartermasters' department in 1861-'82, and other government reports. - Another son of Charles Delucena, John Forsyth, physician, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 3 Oct., 1818; d. there, 16 Dec. 1882, was educated at private schools, and graduated at the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1838. In 1841 he travelled and studied in Europe, after which he engaged in the practice of his profession in Philadelphia, devoting his attention especially to diseases of women and children. In 1843 he lectured on obstetrics at the Philadelphia association for medical instruction, and continued his courses until 1854. He was one of the attending physicians of the hospital from 1859 till 1881. He was a member of the College of physicians, and an active member of the Union league of Philadelphia, which was formed in his office. He was a frequent contributor to medical periodicals, and was the author of “Medical Diseases of Children” (Philadelphia, 1848); “History of the 1st quarter of the 2d century of the Pennsylvania Hospital” (1876); and “Memoirs of Charles D. Meigs, M.D.” (1876) - Montgomery Cunningham's son, John Rodgers, soldier, b. in Washington, D.C., 9 Feb., 1842; d. near Harrisonburg, Va., 3 Oct., 1864, was graduated at the U.S. military academy in 1863, standing first in his class, and entered the army as 1st lieutenant in the corps of engineers. He served as engineer on the staffs of various commanders during the campaigns in Maryland and at Harper's Ferry, and was aide-de-camp to Gen. Philip H. Sheridan during the Shenandoah valley campaign in 1864. For the battles of Opequan and Fisher's Hill he received the brevets of captain and major. He attained the office of chief engineer of the Army of the Shenandoah, and while making a military reconnoisance was shot by guerillas.