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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/715

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SKETCH OF ORMSBY MACKNIGHT MITCHEL.

actual pictorial representations, but by language alone. He possessed the power of magnetism to a remarkable degree. He could at once gain the sympathy of his audience, and always held it till he had ceased to speak. To him, far more than to any other man, is due the interest that grew up in astronomical science in America between the years 1842 and 1860, for there was scarcely a town or city in the United States in which he did not speak during that period.

In 1859 he delivered a course of lectures in the Academy of Music in New York for the benefit of an observatory that it was proposed to erect in Central Park. The last lecture of this course was the last he ever delivered. It was a fitting close to a brilliant work. The Academy was crowded almost to the ceiling. On the platform were seated many of the most prominent men in New York. As he led his audience out into space, to planet and sun and system, it became powerfully moved. When he closed, the ordinary methods of applause seemed inadequate. His hearers rose from their seats and cheered—an act not uncommon at meetings of a political nature, but probably without precedent at an astronomical lecture.

In 1860 Professor Mitchel was called to the directorship of the Dudley Observatory at Albany, the building of which he had himself designed.

At the opening of the late civil war, Professor Mitchel felt called upon to turn the military education he had received to the account of the Government that had given it. He was appointed a brigadier-general of volunteers. At the time of his appointment, Cincinnati—his former home—was threatened by the Confederates, and he was sent to defend it. After fortifying the city, he desired to occupy East Tennessee. By order of the Secretary of War, he organized a force for the purpose; but it was necessary to move through a department commanded by another general. That general would not consent, and the expedition had to be abandoned.

In April, 1862, he found himself in command of a division of General Buell's army (detached from the main column, then proceeding on the route to Corinth), and directed to observe the country south of him. Without orders, he proceeded by forced marches to Huntsville, Alabama, surprised and captured that part of the railroad and territory lying between Stevenson and Decatur, with seventeen locomotives and eighty cars, and held the territory he had been ordered to observe. For this service President Lincoln promoted him to be major-general. He asked for troops with which to march through Georgia, but Mr. Lincoln replied that all available forces had been given to General McClellan and General Halleck. He then asked to be transferred to a more active field, but Mr. Lincoln directed him to remain for future operations in the territory where his "military genius had effected so much." Upon General Buell's arrival with the rest of the Army of the Ohio at Huntsville, in July, 1862, General Mitchel