Author: Sean Patrick Adams


Claudius Crozet (1789–1864)

Claudius Crozet was a civil engineer best known for his work blasting tunnels through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Born in France, he received a technical education and artillery training before entering the French army. He was captured by the Russians at the Battle of Borodino in 1812 and served two years as a prisoner of war. From 1816 to 1823 Crozet taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, after which he began the first of two stints as principal engineer for the Virginia Board of Public Works. A difficult man, Crozet clashed with government officials over transportation projects in western Virginia. He resigned in 1832 and spent time working in Louisiana before returning to the position in 1837 and serving until 1843. Crozet taught at the Virginia Military Institute and was the first president of its board. In 1849, as chief engineer for the Blue Ridge Railroad Company, he began work on a series of tunnels through the mountains separating Charlottesville and Staunton. The largest, designated the Crozet Tunnel, opened in April 1858. By that time Crozet had moved on to a water project in Washington, D.C., and in 1859 became the chief engineer of the Virginia and Kentucky Railroad. He died in 1864. The town of Crozet in Albemarle County is named for him.

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