Skip to main content
Please contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections for assistance with accessing these materials.

Ord Family Papers 1

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS146

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Ord family papers consist of correspondence exchanged between, among others, three family members who were important American military figures. Namely, James Ord (c.1789-1873), an officer in the U.S. Navy for a short time, and later a lieutenant in the army during the War of 1812; his son, Edward Otho Cresap Ord (1818-1883), a noted Civil War general; and his son, Edward Otho Cresap Ord II (1858-1923), who served in the Indian campaign in Texas in 1880, commanded the Seminole Indian scouts in 1882, and served among the first troops to land in Cuba during the Spanish-American war in 1898. Another family correspondent is James Placidus Ord, the brother of Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, and a member of the Michigan legislature. The bulk of these letters are to his wife Julianne Clarke Andre. In addition, there are a few letters from the children of Placidus and Julianne: James Cresap, an army captain; Clarissa Rebecca; Josephine, and Placidus Andre. Some correspondence is also included from General Ord's other siblings: his brothers Dr. James Lycurgus, Judge Pacificus, John Stephen, William Marcellus, and his sister Georgiana Catherine (affectionately called 'Sissy,' 'Georgy,' or 'Kate'). A complete listing of correspondents is provided by the Index at the end of the original printed finding aid (available on request). Note that female names are cross-referenced under maiden and married names. Other material includes genealogical information on the Ord family in the form of wills, news clippings, a printed family register, and typescript data organized by Vida Ord Alexander, the daughter of James Cresap Ord. A total of 14 black and white photographs of many of the family members comprise a part of this collection, which is completed by several awards and presidential appointment certificates presented to James Placidus Ordand his son James Cresap Ord. The richness of the Ord family correspondence derives not only from the genealogical interest but also from the historical insights provided by the remarkably descriptive writing. Aspects of life in nineteenth-century America - economical, political and social - are described for a variety of locales that span the country from East to West, and include Maryland, Virginia, Mississippi, Michigan, Texas, and California. Particular references are made to the Gold Rush in California and Michigan, as well as to farming and produce (including winemaking in Monterey) in California. Personal experiences of significant events in American history are recounted, covering the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, campaigns against American Indians, and the Reconstruction period.


  • 1840 - 1963
  • Majority of material found within 1840 - 1870

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Edward Otho Cresap Ord was born at Cumberland, Maryland, Oct. 18, 1818. He was educated at the West Point military academy, and after being graduated in 1839 was appointed a brevet second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. artillery. He served with distinction in the Seminole Indian war in the Florida Everglades, 1840, and during the Civil War. The battle of Dranesville, in 1861, was won under his leadership. He was severely wounded at the battle of Hatchie 1862, and at the assault on Fort Harrison, 1864. He was promoted several times for meritorious conduct and became commander of the department of Virginia and North Carolina in 1865, leading the Army of the James until the end of the war. In March, 1865, he received the brevet of major-general in the regular army, and subsequently held successive command of the departments of Arkansas, California, Texas, and the Platte. In 1880 he was placed on the retired list, and soon after accepted the position of engineer in the construction of the Mexican railway. General Ord died July 22, 1883, in Havana, Cuba where he had been taken ashore en route from New York to Vera Cruz after an attack of yellow fever. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery, Virginia.

Edward Otho Cresap II, was born at Benicia Barracks, California, November 9, 1858. He attended the public schools of San Francisco and Omaha, Nebraska. He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1876, but withdrew the following year. In 1879 he was appointed second lieutenant in the 22nd Infantry, U.S. Army. He served in the Indian campaign in Texas in 1880, and commanded the Seminole Indian scouts in 1882. He participated in the campaign against Sitting Bull in 1891-1892. At the beginning of the Spanish-American war (1898) the 22nd Infantry was among the first troops landed in Cuba, and he was promoted captain of infantry. After the war, Captain Ord remained in Cuba for nine months as interpreter on the staff of Gen. Alexander R. Lawton. He was then sent to the Philippines when rebellion broke out, but was forced to retire on October 10, 1903 due to physical disabilities contracted in Cuba. Subsequently, Captain Ord did relief work after the San Francisco earthquake. He was then military instructor at St. Matthew's school, San Mateo, California, and later military aide on the staff of the governor of Arizona, and saw service on the Mexican border. On June 3, 1916, he was advanced to the grade of major on the retired list. After a year as military instructor at the University of Alabama he returned to full active duty, serving at Big Bend, Texas; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He eventually retired in 1918 because of ill health and spent the rest of his life in California. Ord was also an expert linguist and possessed exceptional artistic ability, devoting much of his leisure time to landscape and marine painting and to writing poetry. He was a Roman Catholic by religion. He died at Eagle Rock, California, April 4, 1923.

James Ord's background is somewhat mysterious, if not controversial. The following biographical sketch is drawn from material currently in the Georgetown University Archives Alumni Files. Sources include a xerox copy of a manuscript entitled “History of James Ord as related by himself with other facts collected by his sons” (located in Maryland Province Archives GTMGamms119, Box 19, Folder 5) ; and a xerox copy of a privately printed pamphlet entitled, “Memoranda Concerning James Ord who died January 25th, 1873 by his granddaughter Mary Ord Preston 1896” [original publication located in Booth Family Center for, Special Collections, Rare Books Collection # 90A469].

James Ord never knew the identities of his true parents, but was led to believe from papers of, as well as comments by, his reputed uncle James Ord, Sr., that he was in fact the son of Mrs. Fitzherbert, wife of King George IV of England. Ord's first recollection is that of living with his so-called uncle James Ord and the latter's sister Mary. James Ord, Sr., had apparently emigrated from England in 1790. He resided at Great Bridge near Norfolk, Virginia, and was employed by John Brent as ship builder. James Ord remembers that his uncle “always gave me to understand that I was his nephew, the child of Ralph Ord and his sister Mary” [from “History of James Ord…”]. Ralph Ord was already deceased at the time of the Norfolk residence, and his wife Mary died in 1796. After her death, James Ord, Sr., moved to Charles County, Maryland, to a residence of John Brent's, and lived there until 1799, still in the ship building business. At the end of 1799, the family moved again, to Washington, D.C., where they resided on a farm called "Non Such" near the city. The farm belonged to a Rev. Notley Young, a Catholic priest and teacher at Georgetown College.

According to Georgetown University records, James Ord was entered as a student at the college on April 24, 1800. He eventually joined the Society of Jesus in 1806, intending to become a Jesuit priest. From 1810 to 1811 he taught at the college. In 1810, his uncle died, and in 1811, James Ord left the Society, "it being decided that it was not my vocation" [from “History of James Ord…”]. He then joined the navy as midshipman from 1811 through 1813, and later, the army as first lieutenant of the 36th Infantry from 1813 to 1815, serving in the War of 1812. He was eventually promoted to army general.

In 1815, James Ord married Rebecca Ruth Cresap, the daughter of Col. Daniel Cresap of the Revolutionary War. On February 14, 1815, Ord resigned his commission in the army and went to live with his wife and her family in Allegheny County, Maryland, until 1819. From 1819 to 1837, Ord lived in Washington, D.C., holding various government positions. He was a magistrate from 1821 to 1837. In April 1837, he traveled to Chicago with Gen. John Garland as an Indian disbursing agent, and subsequently, to Sault St. Marie as an Indian agent until April 1850. He then returned home to Washington until July 1855, when he embarked for California.

James Ord died at the home of his son Gen. Edward Otho Cresap Ord in Omaha, Nebraska, on January 25, 1872. He was first buried in a Catholic cemetery there, but was later reinterred at Arlington Cemetery, Virginia, October 3, 1931.

Regarding his parentage, James Ord states that his uncle was always very reticent in speaking about the subject. In spite of the fact that he every reason to believe that he was the son of Mary and Ralph Ord, James Ord recounts instances when his uncle made impressive and mysterious comments about his heritage: "...shortly after the death of my reputed mother, as he was walking with me in the streets of Norfolk holding me by the hand, he said, "James, if you had your rights you would be something very great" [from "History of James Ord…”].

James Placidus Ord, born December 25, 1821, died after being thrown from a carriage by a runaway horse, July 9, 1876, in San Antonio, Texas. [See obituary and biographical details, Folder 3:43.] He attended Georgetown College 1835 1837, and was a major in the army during the Civil War, often serving under his brother, Gen. Edward O.C. Ord. James Placidus Ord also served as a member of the Michigan legislature, 1846.

Other Ord family sons who attended Georgetown College include [sources are cited in brackets]

James Lycurgus Ord, entered 9/15/1835, left 7/25/1837 [Georgetown University Alumni Files].

John Stephen Ord, entered 5/27/1850, left 1/30/1851 [ibid.]

Jules Garesche Ord, son of Edward Otho Cresap Ord. Born 1865, killed at San Juan Hill 7/1/1898, a member of the 6th US Infantry. Although an alumni card exists, a note indicates, "No evidence that he was ever here except in College Journal xxviii 216, xxvii 189."

James Cresap Ord, son of James Placidus Ord. Entered Georgetown 9/23/1864 [Georgetown Alumni Files].

A rough genealogical tree was created during the processing of this collection and is available to view on request. It should by no means be considered either definitive or error free, and was drawn from the biographical sources cited above, the correspondence in the collection, and largely from the genealogical typescript by Vida Ord Alexander.

Sources include the Dictionary of American Biography, the National Cyclopedia of American Biography, and material from the Georgetown University Alumni Files.


2.50 Linear Feet (3 Hollinger Document Cases, 1 Hollinger Slim Case, 1 Hollinger Record Storage Box)

Language of Materials


Ord Family Papers 1
Lisette Matano, Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057