William Alexander, Lord Stirling

William Alexander, Lord Stirling was born in New York City in 1726. He became one of George Washington’s most loyal military subordinates during the America Revolution.  Stirling previously served as a supply officer during the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), where he first met Lt. George Washington.  He was commissioned as a Brigadier General by Congress in 1776.

Alexander served as a provisioning agent for the British army during the French and Indian War. In this role, he worked closely as an aide de camp to Governor William Shirley. This position offered Alexander the opportunity to interact socially and professionally with many colonial elites, including George Washington.  In 1756, Alexander accompanied Shirley to England to testify on the latter’s behalf.  It was during his stay there that he learned of the vacant seat of Sterling in Scotland and began to pursue a claim to the title.  Although Alexander was never given the legal right to use the term Lord Stirling, Alexander called himself Lord Stirling throughout the rest of his life. In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, Alexander grew disenchanted with the British rule and joined the opposition to British policies.  He joined the active rebellion in 1775, becoming a general officer the following year.  Alexander’s most significant military contribution came in August 1776, when he held off the British troops during the Battle of Long Island long enough to enable Washington to evacuate the remainder of his forces.  As a result of these actions, Stirling was captured by the British and spent several months as a prisoner in New York City.  He was promoted to Major General on February 19, 1777.  In 1777,Alexander served in the Hudson Highlands for a time, and returned to the Philadelphia area afterwards, taking part in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown.  In the aftermath of these affairs, Alexander played a key role in exposing a conspiracy by Thomas Conway and others to unseat Washington as the commander of the Continental Army, the so-called Conway Cabal.  In 1778, Alexander took part in the Battle of Monmouth, where he handled the artillery with particular skill. That summer, between July 4 and August 12, Alexander presided over the Court Martial of Major General Charles Lee. Alexander supported the successful raid on Paulus Hook, after which he played an important role in the poorly managed Staten Island expedition of January 14-15, 1780. Alexander was at General “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s Court of Inquiry of two British spies in Summerseat in 1781. The spies were found guilty and taken to Summerseat’s basement under close guard. The spies were hanged the next morning at the ferry crossing in Colvin’s Ferry (today’s Morrisville).  Stirling also sat on the Board of Inquiry into the actions of Major John Andre. In October 1781, he was awarded command of the Northern Department with his headquarters at Albany. While holding this post, Alexander developed plans for a defense against an expected British thrust from Canada.  Lord Stirling died in Albany New York on January 15th 1783. 

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