Ormsby McKnight Mitchel was born August 28th 1809-10 in Union County, Kentucky. He grew up in Lebanon, Ohio where he worked as a clerk until receiving an appointment to West Point in 1825. Mitchel graduated 15th out of 46 in 1829. He stayed on at West Point for three years where he taught mathematics. Mitchel passed the bar and became an attorney, before returning to teaching mathematics and natural philosophy at Cincinnati College. In 1845 Mitchel was appointed director of the observatory at the College, which had the second largest refracting telescope in the world. In 1859 he moved on the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York, as their superintendent.
When the Civil War started Mitchel joined the Union army as a Brigadier General. He commanded the Union Department of the Ohio from September to November 1861. During this time Mitchel worked with James J Andrew to steal a train in Georgia to disrupt Confederate railroads, at the time Mitchel planned an attack on Chattanooga, Tennessee. Although the plan failed and Andrew was captured and hanged the raid become known as “The Great Locomotive Chase”. Mitchel led a division in the Army of the Ohio until July 1862. He seized the city of Huntsville, Alabama without a shot being fired in April 1862. He received a promotion to Major General for this. Mitchel was place in command of Tenth Corps and the Department of the South at Hilton Head, South Carolina in September 1862. He died in Beaufort, South Carolina of Yellow Fever October 30th 1862, and is buried in the Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.