Orville Babcock was born in Franklin, Vermont, in 1835. He graduated from West Point in 1861 and on the outbreak of the American Civil War served under Banks in constructing defences around Washington. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, he fought at Vicksburg and in January, 1864, he became aide-de-camp to General Ulysses S. Grant.
After becoming president of the United States in 1869, Ulysses S. Grant appointed Babcock as his private secretary. In 1875 Benjamin H. Bristow, Secretary of the Treasury, discovered that a group of whiskey distillers were involved in a conspiracy to defraud government of taxes. Over 230 people were arrested including Babcock.
At Babcock's trial it was claimed that he had arranged for some of this illegal money to be used by the Republican Party to help re-elect Ulysses S. Grant as president. Grant testified on behalf of Babcock and was eventually acquitted of the charge.
Orville Babcock worked on several engineering projects until drowning in Florida in 1884.