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Joseph Christmas Ives
Born (1829-12-25)December 25, 1829
New York City
Died November 12, 1868(1868-11-12) (aged 38)
New York City
Allegiance United States of America
Confederate States of America
Service/branch United States Army
 Confederate States of America Army
Years of service 1852–1861 (USA)
1861–1865 (CSA)
Rank Union army 1st lt rank insignia.jpg First lieutenant (USA)
Confederate States of America Colonel.png Colonel (CSA)
Unit Topographical Engineers
Battles/wars American Civil War
Spouse(s) Cora Semmes Ives
Children Eugene S. Ives
Other work Botanist, explorer

Joseph Christmas Ives (25 December 1829 – 12 November 1868) was an American soldier, botanist, and an explorer of the Colorado River in 1858.


Ives was born in New York City on Christmas Day, 1829. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1848 and received his M.A. in 1851. At Bowdoin, he was a member of the Athenaean Society. He was a graduate of the United States Military Academy in 1852. As a Second lieutenant from 1853 to 1854 he was appointed by the U.S. Army to the Topographical Engineers as assistant to Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple in the Pacific Railroad survey along the 35th parallel.

From 1857 to 1858 Ives commanded an expedition to explore up the Colorado River from its mouth. He designed, built and tested his own stern-wheel steamboat, then shipped it to the Colorado River Delta. At Robinson's Landing he reassembled then used the 54-foot steamboat Explorer to map and survey the river. His party included Smithsonian associate John Strong Newberry as geologist and German artist Balduin Möllhausen. He led his party up the Colorado to a point just above the head of Black Canyon of the Colorado and beyond to the vicinity of Fortification Rock. Next day, they went two miles farther to Las Vegas Wash, which Ives thought might be the Virgin River, but had doubts because it seemed too small. The difficulties of the rapids above Fortification Rock convinced Ives that the river at Fortification Rock was the practical head of navigation 550 miles above the mouth of the river:

I now determined not to try to ascend the Colorado any further. The water above the Black canon had been shoal, and the current swift. Rapids had occurred in such quick succession as to make navigation almost impossible, and there would be no object in proceeding beyond the Great Bend. The difficulties encountered in the canon were of a character to prevent a steamboat from attempting to traverse it at low water, and we had seen drift-wood lodged in clefts fifty feet above the river, betokening a condition of things during the summer freshet that would render navigation more hazardous at that season than now. It appeared, therefore, that the foot of the Black canon should be considered the practical head of navigation, and I concluded to have a reconnaissance made to connect that point with the Mormon road, and to let this finish the exploration of the navigable portion of the Colorado.

Returning to the Mohave Villages, he then struck out across northern Arizona to Fort Defiance. Ives reported his findings in his 1861 Report upon the Colorado river of the West The Ives expedition produced one of the important early maps of the Grand Canyon drawn by Frederick W. von Egloffstein, topographer to the expedition.

Ives next served as engineer and architect for the Washington National Monument from 1859 to 1860. At the beginning of American Civil War he declined a promotion to captain and, despite his Northern birth, he joined the Confederate Army in late 1861. He served in several engineering capacities, and was finally appointed aide-de-camp (with rank of colonel) to President Jefferson Davis from 1863 to 1865. After the war he settled in New York City where he died November 12, 1868.

In 1855 he married Cora Semmes Ives. New York State Senator and Arizona Territorial Council President Eugene S. Ives (1859–1917) was their son.

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