Claudius Crozet Plaque.
Claudius Crozet (1789-1864) was the French military officer called by Thomas Jefferson "by far the best mathematician in the United States." The genius engineer arrived at West Point Military Academy by 1817, reportedly with an introduction from Lafayette. He introduced the first chalkboards to the US, designed several of the academy's buildings, published an engineering text on descriptive geometry, and in 1823 was elected Principal Engineer and Surveyor for the Virginia Board of Public Works.
For the next two decades Crozet promoted development of canals, roads, and railroads in his adopted state, including the Northwestern Turnpike (today's US Rt. 50 across the Appalachians into WV) and the Chesterfield Railroad, the first in Virginia.
When Virginia Military Institute opened in 1839, Crozet was the architect of the college's academic program and military organization. At its first meeting, the members of the VMI Board of Visitors elected Crozet president of the Board, a position he held for six years, all while remaining the state's Chief Engineer.
The same year Crozet surveyed the Blue Ridge Mountains and determined that the best way to allow the Blue Ridge Railroad, an extension of the Virginia Central Railroad, to cross the mountain would be through a series of four tunnels. The 4,273 feet long Blue Ridge Tunnel was in 1856 the longest tunnel in the United States and one of the longest in the world.
The work involved preparing the track through steep terrain, building tall embankments across deep ravines, constructing many stone culverts at the mountain streams, and blasting four tunnels through the mountains. Contractors hired hundreds of Irish immigrants and rented slaves who, for more than a decade, lived in the shanties built along the mountain tracks.
During the Civil War, CSA General Thomas Stonewall Jackson, a former instructor at VMI, used Crozet's tunnel to transfer his "foot cavalry" from the Shenandoah Valley to the east side of the Blue Ridge quickly, to the puzzlement and consternation of Union military leaders.
Crozet died in 1864 and is buried on the campus of VMI in Lexington, Virginia. The town of Crozet, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains where Claudius Crozet resided and supervised his railway's construction, proudly bears the name of this favorite son of Virginia.
Celebrate Crozet's history! All Claudius Crozet and Blue Ridge Tunnel plaque profits benefit the Crozet Library. 11 1/2" x 9" resin plaque, gold bronze color finish#CC