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Edward Porter Alexander

Edward Porter Alexander
Edward Porter Alexander
photo taken between 1862 and 1864
Born (1835-05-26)May 26, 1835
Washington, Georgia
Died April 28, 1910(1910-04-28) (aged 74)
Savannah, Georgia
Place of burial Magnolia Cemetery, Augusta, Georgia
Allegiance United States
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
 Confederate States Army Engineers, Artillery
Years of service 1857–61 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
Rank Second Lieutenant (USA)
Brigadier General (CSA)
Commands held Artillery

American Civil War

Other work Railroad executive, planter, and author

Edward Porter Alexander (May 26, 1835 – April 28, 1910) was a military engineer, railroad executive, planter, and author. He served first as an officer in the United States Army and later, during the American Civil War (1861–1865), in the Confederate Army, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

Alexander was the officer in charge of the massive artillery bombardment preceding Pickett's Charge, on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and is also noted for his early use of signals and observation balloons during combat. After the Civil War, he taught mathematics at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, spent time in Nicaragua, and wrote extensive memoirs and analyses of the war, which have received much praise for their insight and objectivity. His Military Memoirs of a Confederate were published in 1907. An extensive personal account of his military training and his participation in the Civil War was rediscovered long after his death and published in 1989 as Fighting for the Confederacy.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Civil War service 2
    • Gettysburg cannonade 2.1
    • Longstreet's Chief of Artillery 2.2
  • Later life 3
  • In Popular Culture 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life and career

Alexander, known to his friends as Porter, was born in

External links

  • Klein, Maury. Edward Porter Alexander. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1971. ISBN 0-318-77984-6.

Further reading

  • Alexander, Edward P. Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander. Edited by Gary W. Gallagher. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8078-4722-4.
  • Alexander, Edward P. Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative. New York: Da Capo Press, 1993. ISBN 0-306-80509-X. First published 1907 by Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Brown, J. Willard. The Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion. U.S. Veteran Signal Corps Association, 1896. Reprinted 1974 by Arno Press. ISBN 0-405-06036-X.
  • Dupuy, Trevor N., Curt Johnson, and David L. Bongard. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. ISBN 978-0-06-270015-5.
  • Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84944-5.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Gallagher, Gary W., ed. Three Days at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-87338-629-9.
  • Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. "Edward Porter Alexander." In Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
  • Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. ISBN 0-395-86761-4.


  1. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. 5, 613, 618.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Eicher, Civil War High Commands, p. 101.
  3. ^ Brown, p. 21; Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. 13–14.
  4. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, p. 14.
  5. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, p. 612.
  6. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. 16–21.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Heidler, pp. 29–31.
  8. ^ Brown, pp. 43–45; Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. 50–51. Alexander recalls that the signal was "You are flanked."
  9. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. 69–72.
  10. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. 115–17.
  11. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, p. 144. In his earlier work, Military Memoirs, p. 232, Alexander incorrectly identified the cavalry as under the command of Brig. Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg.
  12. ^ Estimates of guns employed vary; see footnote in Pickett's Charge.
  13. ^ Sears, p. 397.
  14. ^ Alexander's counterpart, Union Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, was able to conserve his artillery and deceive Alexander about its remaining effectiveness; see Pickett's Charge.
  15. ^ Gallagher, p. 47.
  16. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. 531–33.
  17. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, p. 531.
  18. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, p. xvi.
  19. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, pp. xix, 559.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Alexander, Fighting for the Confederacy, p. xiii.
  22. ^ Eicher, Civil War in Books, p. 63.
  23. ^ Dupuy, p. 30.


See also

In Popular Culture

Unlike such Confederate officers as Augusta, Georgia.

After the war, Alexander became a well-respected author. He wrote many magazine articles and published his Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A Critical Narrative (1907), praised by Douglas Southall Freeman as "altogether the best critique of the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia."[21] Long after his death, it was realized that Alexander had produced the Military Memoirs, which sought to be a professional work of military history and analysis, after a long effort of editing a collection of much more personal memoirs that he had started compiling during his time in Greytown, Nicaragua, at the behest of his family. Those earlier memoirs were edited and published posthumously in 1989 as Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander.

Alexander was selected to give the Confederate veteran's speech on Alumni Day during the centennial celebration at the United States Military Academy on June 9, 1902. The speech was so well received that it was reprinted in the NY Times in its entirety in the 15 June 1902 edition. The NY Times referred to the speech as "decidedly the feature of Alumni Day."[20] The audience included President Theodore Roosevelt as well as Alexander's former commander, General Longstreet.

Alexander became friends with Grover Cleveland and the two spent many hours hunting for ducks on Alexander's estate. In May 1897, President Cleveland appointed Alexander as the arbiter of the commission tasked with fixing and demarcating the boundary between the Republics of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, with a view towards the possible construction of an interoceanic canal to be dug across Central America. Alexander spent two years at the head of that commission, headquartered in the coastal village of Greytown (now San Juan de Nicaragua). He completed the work to the satisfaction of the two governments and returned to the U.S. in October 1899.[18] His wife Bettie became ill while he was in Nicaragua and she died shortly after his return, on November 20, 1899. In October 1901, Alexander married Mary Mason, his first wife's niece.[19]

After the surrender, Alexander briefly toyed with joining the Central Rail Road and Banking Company of Georgia until 1891.

Later life

At Appomattox Court House, it was Alexander who made the famous proposal to Robert E. Lee that the army disperse, rather than surrendering. Lee rebuked him, and Alexander later wrote about regretting his suggestion. Although this incident is sometimes described as a proposal for "guerrilla war", Alexander describes his proposal in his memoir, Fighting for the Confederacy, as one in which "the army may be ordered to scatter in the woods & bushes & either to rally upon Gen. Johnston in North Carolina, or to make their way, each man to his own state, with his arms, & to report to his governor."[16]

During the Battle of the Crater caught the Confederates by surprise, although it ended in a significant Union defeat. Alexander returned to the Army in February 1865 and supervised the defenses of Richmond along the James River. He retreated along with Lee's army in the Appomattox Campaign.[7]

Alexander accompanied the First Corps to northern Georgia in the fall of 1863 to reinforce Gen. Braxton Bragg for the Battle of Chickamauga. He personally arrived too late to participate in the battle, but served as Longstreet's chief of artillery in the subsequent Knoxville Campaign and in the Department of East Tennessee in early 1864. He returned with the corps to Virginia for the remainder of the war, now with the rank of brigadier general (as of February 26, 1864). He served in all the battles of the Overland Campaign, and when Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant slipped around Lee's army to cross the James River and assault Petersburg, Alexander was able to move his guns quickly through the lines, emplacing them to repel the main attack.[7]

Longstreet's Chief of Artillery

[15]] a fight as he did this."sic Alexander would blame Lee for the defeat at Gettysburg, writing in 1901: "Never, never, never did Gen. Lee himself bollox [[14] Alexander's most famous engagement was on July 3, 1863, at the

The monument on Seminary Ridge that marks the location of Alexander's artillery.

Gettysburg cannonade

Porter Alexander is best known as an artilleryman who played a prominent role in many of the important battles of the war. He served in different artillery capacities for Longstreet's First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, starting that role on November 7, 1862, after leaving Lee's staff to command the battalion that was the corps' artillery reserve. He was promoted to colonel on December 5.[2] He was instrumental in arranging the artillery in defense of Marye's Heights at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, which proved to be the decisive factor in the Confederate victory. While the rest of Longstreet's corps was located around Suffolk, Virginia, Alexander accompanied Stonewall Jackson on his flanking march at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, and his artillery placements in Hazel Grove at Chancellorsville proved decisive.[7]

Alexander continued in charge of ordnance for the Northern Virginia Campaign (Second Bull Run) and the Maryland Campaign (Antietam).[7] He barely missed capture by Federal cavalry, under Col. Benjamin F. "Grimes" Davis, that had escaped from Harpers Ferry during the Maryland Campaign; over 40 of Longstreet's 80 ammunition wagons were captured.[11]

During the early days of the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, Alexander continued as chief of ordnance under Johnston, but he also fought at the Battle of Williamsburg, under Maj. Gen. James Longstreet. When Gen. Robert E. Lee assumed command of the army, Alexander was in charge of pre-positioned ordnance for Lee's offensive in the Seven Days Battles. Alexander continued his intelligence gathering by volunteering to go up in an observation balloon at Gaines' Mill on June 27, ascending several times and returning with valuable intelligence regarding the position of the Union Army.[10]

Alexander was promoted to major on July 1 and lieutenant colonel on December 31, 1861.[2] During much of this period he was chief of ordnance, under Johnston's command, managing supplies and ammunition in what later became the Army of Northern Virginia. He was also active in signal work and intelligence gathering, dealing extensively with spies operating around Washington, D.C.[7][9]

At the Nathan "Shanks" Evans, "Look out for your left, your position is turned".[8] Upon receiving a similar message, Beauregard and Gen. Joseph E. Johnston sent timely reinforcements that turned the tide of battle in the Confederates' favor.[7]

After learning of the Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at Manassas Junction, Virginia. He became the chief engineer and signal officer of the Confederate Army of the Potomac on June 3.[2]

Civil War service

Alexander met Bettie Mason of Virginia in 1859 and married her on April 3, 1860.[4] They would eventually have six children: Bessie Mason (born 1861), Edward Porter II and Lucy Roy (twins, born 1863), an unnamed girl (1865, died in infancy prior to naming), Adam Leopold (1867), and William Mason (1868).[5] Lt. Alexander's final assignments for the U.S. Army were at Fort Steilacoom, in the Washington Territory,[6] and at Alcatraz Island, near San Francisco, California.[7]

[2] Alexander was promoted to second lieutenant on October 10, 1858.[3] and the inventor of the code for "wig-wag" signal flags, or "aerial telegraphy".Signal Corps, the first officer assigned to the Albert J. Myer expedition. That mission ended before he could reach Johnston, and Alexander returned to West Point. He participated in a number of weapon experiments and worked as an assistant to Major Utah War for the Albert Sidney Johnston Brig. Gen. of engineers. He briefly taught engineering and fencing at the academy before he was ordered to report to second lieutenant a brevetted in 1857, third in his class of 38 cadets, and was West Point at United States Military Academy He graduated from the [2].Jeremy F. Gilmer and Alexander R. Lawton He became the brother-in-law of [1]

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