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Bonneville, Benjamin L E

BONNEVILLE, BENJAMIN L E (1795-1878), American military engineer and explorer, was born in France about 1795. He emigrated to the United States in early youth, and graduated at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1815. He was engaged in the construction of military roads in the south-west, and became a captain of infantry in 1825. In 1831-1836, having obtained leave of absence from the army, he conducted, largely on his own responsibility, an exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains, proceeding up the Platte river through parts of the later states of Colorado and Wyoming into the Great Salt Lake basin and thence into California. After being absolutely cut off from civilization for several years, and having his name struck from the army list, he returned with an interesting and valuable account of his adventures, which was edited and amplified by Washington Irving and published under the title The Rocky Mountains: or Scenes, Incidents, and Adventures in the Far West; from the Journal of Captain Benjamin L.E. Bonneville of the Army of the United States (2 vols., 1837), subsequent editions bearing the title The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. Bonneville became a major in 1845, and was breveted lieutenant-colonel for gallantry in the battles of Contreras and Churubusco during the Mexican War. He became a colonel in 1855, commanded the Gila river expedition against the Apaches in 1857, and from 1858 to 1861 commanded the department of New Mexico. He was retired in 1861, but served during the Civil War as recruiting officer and commandant of barracks at St Louis, Missouri, receiving the brevet rank of brigadier-general in 1865. He died at Fort Smith, Arkansas, on the 12th of June 1878. The extinct glacial lake which once covered what is now north-western Utah has been named in his honour.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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