Editor’s note: Beginning July 1, 2014, Norfolk District celebrates its 135th anniversary. Stay with us throughout the year as we look back at our former commanders, completed projects and distinguished employees.
William Price Craighill ranked second in his U.S. Military Academy class of 1853, and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.
After working on several Atlantic coast forts, Craighill taught engineering at the Military Academy from 1859 to 1862.
Another Virginian who stood for the Union, Craighill was division and department engineer during the Civil War and worked on the defenses of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, San Francisco, and New York.
After the Civil War, he was superintendant, in charge of construction of defenses at Baltimore Harbor and Hampton Roads, Virginia.
He headed the Engineer Office in Baltimore from 1870 to 1895, overseeing river and harbor work in Maryland, parts of Virginia, including Norfolk’s Hampton Roads area, and North Carolina.
When the Corps began to build locks and dams on the Great Kanawha River in West Virginia in 1875, Craighill assumed charge there as well.
He completed the first of the moveable wicket dams built in the United States, after visiting France to study their use.
He became the Corps’ first Southeast Division Engineer, overseeing coastal fortification projects in Hampton Roads.
On July, 1, 1887, Craighill took command as the officer in charge of of what would later become the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He relinquished command June 30, 1890.
Craighill established the camp for the Yorktown surrender celebration, the first sanitary-type later adapted to Army camps.
He was a member of the Board of Engineers, 1886-89, and in 1895 Brig. Gen. Craighill was appointed Chief of Engineers by President Grover Cleveland.
Craighill retired two years later and died Jan. 18, 1909, in his hometown of Charles Town, Virginia (formerly West Virginia).