George Thacher Balch - Patriotism

George Thacher Balch (October 2, 1828 - April 15, 1894) was born in Biddeford, Maine on October 2, 1828. George's parents were John Theodoric and Elizabeth Jones (Thacher) Balch and little else is known about his early years.

On November 8, 1859 George married Harriet Delafield, the daughter of Hon. John P. Cushman, a judge in the New York state Supreme Court. Harriet and George had no children.

George attended West Point Military Academy and, following graduation in 1852, was commissioned a lieutenant of artillery. In April of 1861 he was ordered to Fort Pickens, Florida with the artillery where he served under the leadership of Colonel Harvey Brown. It was during this time, in Fort Pickens, that the War Department soon recognized his exceptional organizational and executive skills and he was called up to serve in the Ordnance Bureau in Washington.

During his time in the Ordnance Bureau(September 1863-September 1864) George Balch could have found himself sabotaged at every turn. The former leader, of the Bureau, Brigadier General James Ripley had been forced to step down from his position but there was little agreement on a replacement. President Lincoln wanted to appoint Col. George D. Ramsey to the position while his Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wanted to appoint Balch. In a compromise move Ramsey was officially designated to the top spot while Balch was, in theory, appointed to an assistant position under him. The reality was that Edwin Stanton saw to it that Balch had all the authority of the Chief of Ordnance. During this time jealousy and political infighting(between Edwin Stanton and George Ramsey) could have undermined the department, and the war effort, but George is credited with making things run smoothly.

Starting in September of 1864 George served as an instructor at West Point for the 1864-65 academic year. Following his stint as an instructor came the command of the Charleston, South Carolina Arsenal. This Arsenal had suffered major damage, during the war, and George helped restore the facility to functionality after the war. Finally in April of 1865 George resigned from the Army and entered civilian life.

After the war, and army service, George briefly formed and ran the Remington Plow Company. Not having a great deal of success in this area George soon moved on to the Erie Railway Company where he was hired to help straighten out its financial issues. In the Erie Railway Company he did such a thorough audit that he discovered forgotten properties that were valued at approximately one million dollars.

In 1886 Mayor Hewitt, of New York City, appointed George Balch to do a thorough study of the Health Department and to look into the street paving contracts of the city. In this role George discovered numerous instances of fraud perpetrated by various contractors.

Through his various auditing efforts George managed to build a reputation for thoroughness and accuracy. The attention this reputation received got him a job in the New York City Board of Education. It was in this Board of Education role that George began to promote the teaching of patriotism in schools. Encountering large numbers of foreign born students George saw a need for the teaching of "American principles" and the development of rituals and practices that could foster a sense of American identity in these students. Toward this end George would develop a ritual that would involve the American flag along with a pledge and salute that predated today's Pledge of Allegiance (by Francis Belamy). The pledge went as follows:

I give my heart and my hand to my country—one country, one language, one flag.

George would spend the last five years of his life dedicated to the cause of inspiring greater patriotism in children.

George Thacher Balch died on Sunday, April 15, 1894. George's obituary states that he died of apoplexy and that his body was taken to Troy, New York for burial (the home town of his wife).

Genealogy of George:

Father: John Theodoric Balch
Mother: Elizabeth Jones Thacher

Wife: Harriet Delafield
Married: November 8, 1859


1. No Children

Primary Sources/Links:

Genealogy of the Balch Families in America - By Galusha B. Balch

One Nation, Indivisible - Melanie Kirkpatrick

Ordinance Corp Hall of Fame - George T. Balch

Religious Freedom and Laïcité: A Comparison of the United States and France

New York Times Obituary for George Thacher Balch

Additional Sources/Links:

Annual reunion - By: The United States Military Academy. Association of Graduates

First Sioux War - Mention of George T. Balch

Letter from George T. Balch to Lt. Calvin Shedd (Jan. 23, 1864

Brief Mention of George T. Balch

Methods of Teaching Patriotism in Public Schools - George Thacher Balch

In and About the City - Patriotism in the Schools (NY Times, June 29, 1889)

Examining the Railroads - NY Times Article - George T. Balch Auditor

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