BALDWIN, LOAMMI. (1740–1807). Civil engineer, Continental officer. Massachusetts. Born in Woburn, Massachusetts on 21 January 1745, Baldwin worked as a cabinetmaker, walking to Cambridge with his friend Benjamin Thompson to attend lectures on mathematics and physics at Harvard. Progressing from surveyor, he had become a civil engineer by the time the war started. He became a major in the militia and was at Concord on 19 April 1775. Enlisting in the Continental army, Baldwin was promoted to lieutenant colonel in Samuel Gerrish's Massachusetts Regiment on 19 May, becoming commander when Gerrish was cashiered 19 August. When the regiment was redesignated the Twenty-sixth Continental on 1 January 1776 and increased from eight to ten companies, Baldwin was promoted to the rank of colonel. He served through the siege of Boston, then went to New York with the main army. He saw action at Pell's Point, took part in the retreat to the Delaware, and led his regiment at Trenton on 26 December 1776. Because of continued ill health, he resigned on 31 December 1776.
After holding a number of political posts, including a position on the General Court from 1778 to 1779, Baldwin returned to a full-time pursuit of engineering. He was chief engineer of the Middlesex Canal, which joined the Charles and Merrimac Rivers, and served as director of this project from 1794 to 1804. The Middlesex was one of the first major canals in America, and Baldwin's work influenced future canal projects. A life-long autodidact, Baldwin received an honorary degree from Harvard in 1785. His interest in horticulture led him to develop the Baldwin apple. He died 20 October 1807. His son, Loammi Baldwin, Jr. (1780–1838), followed in his footsteps, becoming known as the "father of civil engineering in America."
Loammi Baldwin Papers, Harvard University Archives, Cambridge, Mass.
revised by Michael Bellesiles