GEN. ARTHUR C. DUCAT

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 415-417

GEN. ARTHUR CHARLES DUCAT was born in Dublin, Ireland, on the 24th of February, 1830. His father, Mungo Moray Ducat, was a gentleman who traced his lineage from a very ancient Highland family, renowned in the annals of Scotland. He was a native of Cupar Angus, but in early life removed to New Lawn, County Dublin, Ireland, where he also possessed large estates. His wife, Dorcas Julia Atkinson, was born in County Armagh, Ireland, and died in Downer's Grove, Illinois, in November, 1889, aged eighty-six years. Her father was an Englishman, of Cambridgeshire.

Arthur C. Ducat was educated at private schools in his native city, and at the age of nineteen years came to America with the intention of becoming a civil engineer. He pursued that profession for some years on important railroad lines and other public works. This occupation was abandoned when he was tendered the position of Secretary and General Surveyor of the Board of Underwriters of Chicago, which position he accepted and occupied until the opening of the Civil War. In the mean time he began to manifest a keen interest in the affairs of the city, and organized, drilled and disciplined the Citizens' Fire Brigade, a semi-military and armed body of citizens. Their duties were to attend fires and save and guard property and life. This action also had a deeper meaning, for Ducat had resolved to abolish the old "volunteer" fire department and introduce a new one in its place on a paid and disciplined basis, employing steam fire-engines. He was obliged to protect the first engines brought to Chicago from the demonstrations and attacks of mobs, incited by the bad element of the volunteer department, which he did by the aid of his fire brigade. He wrote the ordinances establishing and substituting steam engines for the old hand machines, and enlisted the vote of the Common Council to adopt it.

Upon the beginning of hostilities between the North and the South, he was one of the first to offer substantial aid in support of the Government. His taste had led him to the study of military history and science, and he knew as much of the art of war as a lieutenant fresh from West Point. The roar of the first guns had scarcely ceased before he had raised and offered – first to the State of Illinois and then to the National Government – a corps of three hundred engineers, sappers and miners. Many of these men were professionals who had seen service and understood the details of field and permanent fortifications, and works connected therewith, the rapid construction of bridges, roads, etc. The Government was not aware, however, of the struggle before it and perhaps thought that engineers would not be necessary. So Ducat was chagrined and disappointed by the rejection of what he foresaw would be a much-needed service. Notwithstanding this refusal, he immediately enlisted as a private, and in April, 1861, became a member of the Twelfth Illinois Infantry. He was without political, governmental or family influence, and resolved to do his duty and depend upon his merits for promotion. Although a good horseman, he selected the infantry arm of the service, as he believed it would do most of the fighting. His regiment was among the first that seized the important strategic point of Cairo and supported General Lyon in taking possession of the arsenal at St. Louis. It was not long before Ducat's military acquirements and capabilities were appreciated. Within a month he was commissioned Second Lieutenant, and afterwards appointed Adjutant of the regiment. Upon the expiration of the three months for which he had enlisted, he was again enrolled for three years in the same regiment, and appointed Captain of Company A. The Twelfth formed a part of the brigade that first occupied the sacred soil of Kentucky, taking possession of Paducah in August, 1861. Here he was promoted to be Major of his regiment, and in the month of April following, at Fort Donelson, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In August, 1862, he was appointed to the command of the grand guards, pickets and outposts for the Army of the Tennessee. When Major-General Ord was appointed to the command, Ducat was ordered to his staff, and when Major-General Rosecrans relieved General Ord, Ducat was attached to the staff of the former. At Rosecrans' great battle of Corinth and the subsequent pursuit of the enemy, he served as acting Chief of Staff and Inspector-General, and so conducted himself as to receive the warmest congratulations of his superior officers, not only for bravery, but for efficiency, making most important suggestions as to movements, and carrying them out with great success.

Subsequently he was directed by the general in command to conduct a flag of truce to the enemy at Holly Springs, Mississippi, distance of over seventy-five miles, through a country infested with a superior force of guerrillas and the enemy's cavalry, who were not to be depended upon to recognize a flag of truce. He succeeded, and displayed as much tact and discretion in the important negotiations entrusted to him as in the field. He was afterward detailed to arrange with General Burnside the Knoxville campaign, representing General Rosecrans on that occasion.

When Major-General Rosecrans took command of the forces known as the Army of the Ohio (which subsequently became the Army of the Cumberland), Colonel Ducat was ordered to accompany General Rosecrans and named as acting Chief of Staff and acting Inspector-General. In this important and responsible position he rendered the most efficient service in re-organizing, equipping, disciplining and drilling the army, in raising the siege of Nashville, and in opening the railway from that city to Louisville. He was afterward appointed by the War Department Inspector-General of the Fourteenth Army Corps, and after the battle of Stone River and the organization of the Army and Department of the Cumberland, he was appointed Inspector-General of that army and department (the most military of the staff positions), in addition to which he had charge of the grand guards, pickets and outposts, and the organization of the signal corps of the army. When it is recollected that Ducat was a self-educated soldier, his selection from among the many able and experienced men who had made war their profession is a distinction indicating a high degree of merit. He organized the Bureau of the Inspector-General on a system substantially new, but adapted to secure the greatest efficiency and discipline of a great army in the field. At first his strict and rigid exactions rendered him unpopular, but as soon as results began to manifest themselves in the greater efficiency of the troops, their sanitary condition and military spirit, he became, among officers and men, one of the most popular officers of that army. He formulated and put in practice a system of picketing and outputting an army which highly distinguished him. When General Rosecrans was relieved and Maj.-Gen. George H. Thomas took command, Ducat was ordered to the staff of the latter, in which capacity he served until he left the service at the close of the war, respected and beloved by all.

Many of these facts are obtained from an article written by General Rosecrans, who also said of him: "I  regard him as an extraordinary man, * * * an excellent tactician, * * a soldier by nature; so much so, that he never exacted the credit he easily merited, nor the promotion given to less able and more plodding men."

The following is from the pen of General Grant: "His services have been very valuable and have been highly appreciated." General Thomas wrote: "One of the most able and useful of the army staff and cannot well be spared." General Sheridan characterized him as "an officer of high standing and distinguished merit." Another writer on the war says: "Ducat was early distinguished for his thorongh [sic] knowledge of military details, his organizing powers and his executive ability; but especially for his sleepless vigilance and activity, that mastered all details of topography and the movement of hostile armies."

The late President Garfield, Quartermaster General Meigs, Major Generals Ord, Palmer, and others, addressed the war department, recommending the higher promotion of Ducat, but the lack of influence at headquarters, together with his own indifference regarding promotion, seemed to prevent him from receiving appointments to higher commands. He was always fully contented in any capacity in the army to which he was appointed.

Soon after the close of hostilities, the Home Insurance Company, of New York, appointed him to superintend its business in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, and shortly afterward he became its general agent in Chicago. His career as an active underwriter has been eminently successful, his popularity and acquaintance throughout the West being of great advantage to his employers. The firm of Ducat & Lyon, of which he is the head, carries on a general fire-insurance business. The business under his control has always been successful and profitable. One of the standard works of America is "Ducat's Practice of Fire Underwriting," which he brought out in 1857.

Before the great fire he was chairman of the committee that organized the celebrated Fire Insurance Patrol of Chicago. He remained chairman of the Patrol Committee five years after the fire, and infused into it the esprit du corps and military spirit that have characterized it and brought about the extension of the five limits to be co-extensive with the city limits – an important work, adroitly managed in the face of great opposition. He was chairman of the committee which framed the new building law after the great fire, and, in conjunction with Frederick Baumann, wrote the most elaborate and well-digested building law in this or any other country. The Board of Local Fire Underwriters was organized on the basis of his recommendation, in the capacity of committee for that purpose, to which position he was appointed soon after the great fire.

In 1873 there was a movement in Illinois to reorganize the National Guard of the State. The advice of General Ducat on this subject was sought, and the military code upon which the present efficient Guard was organized is the product of his brain and pen, for which he was made major general and its commander. In 1886 he was elected commander of the Illinois Commandery of the military order of the Loyal Legion. He is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and of the Masonic order, being identified with Apollo Commandery, Knights Templar; and is a member of the Chicago Club. He has ever been a stanch Republican, though never a candidate for civil office. He was married to Miss Mary Lyon, daughter of William Lyon, Esq., of Bedford, Pennsylvania. Her death occurred in Chicago, October 26, 1890, at the age of forty-three years.   In 1892 he was married to Miss Alice Jane Soutar, daughter of P. J. Soutar, an eminent lawyer of Dunfermline, Scotland. Six of General Ducat's children survive. Arthur C., Jr., a graduate of West Point, is a lieutenant in the United States Army; Kate, the second child, is the wife of C. P. Stivers, of Chicago; and Mary, Reginal, Elizabeth and Alice complete the family, whose members are communicants of the Episcopal Church, in which General Ducat was reared.

— Submitted by Sherri Hessick on January 14, 2001.

DISCLAIMER: The submitter is not related to the subject of this biography nor is she related to anyone mentioned in the biography.