Alexander S. Webb

Last updated
Alexander Stewart Webb
Alexander S. Webb.jpg
2nd President of City College of New York
In office
Preceded by Horace Webster
Succeeded by John Huston Finley
Personal details
Born(1835-02-15)February 15, 1835
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 12, 1911(1911-02-12) (aged 75)
Riverdale, Bronx, New York, U.S.
Resting place West Point Cemetery
Anna Elizabeth Remsen
(m. 1855;his death 1911)
Relations William Webb (brother)
Henry Webb (brother)
Parents James Watson Webb
Helen Lispenard Stewart
Residence Beechwood
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Awards Medal of Honor
Military service
AllegianceUnited States (Union)
Branch/service U.S. Army (Union Army)
Years of service1855–1870
Rank Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier general
Union Army major general rank insignia.svg Brevet Major general
Commands Philadelphia Brigade
2nd Division, II Corps
Battles/wars Seminole War
American Civil War

Alexander Stewart Webb (February 15, 1835 – February 12, 1911) [1] was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War who received the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg. After the war, he was a prominent member of New York Society and served as president of the City College of New York for thirty-three years.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Union Army Land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War

During the American Civil War, the Union Army referred to the United States Army, the land force that fought to preserve the Union of the collective states. Also known as the Federal Army, it proved essential to the preservation of the United States as a working, viable republic.

American Civil War Internal war in the U.S. over slavery

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North, which also included some geographically western and southern states, proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights in order to uphold slavery.


Early life

Alexander Webb was born in New York City on February 15, 1835, to a prominent family with a strong military lineage. He was the son of Helen Lispenard (née Stewart) Webb and James Watson Webb, a former regular army officer who was a well-known newspaper owner and diplomat (serving as U.S. Minister to Brazil in 1861). [2] After his mother's death in 1848, his father remarried to Laura Virginia Cram, with whom he also had several children, including William Seward Webb, a doctor and financier who was married to Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt (granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt), and Henry Walter Webb, a railroad executive. [3] [4]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

James Watson Webb American journalist and diplomat

General James Watson Webb was a United States diplomat, newspaper publisher and a New York politician in the Whig and Republican parties.

The Regular Army of the United States succeeded the Continental Army as the country's permanent, professional land-based military force. Even in modern times the professional core of the United States Army continues to be called the Regular Army. From the time of the American Revolution until after the Spanish–American War, state militias and volunteer regiments organized by the states supported the smaller Regular Army of the United States. These volunteer regiments came to be called United States Volunteers (USV) in contrast to the Regular United States Army (USA). During the American Civil War, about 97 percent of the Union Army was United States Volunteers.

His paternal grandfather, Samuel Blatchley Webb, was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill and served on George Washington's staff during the American Revolutionary War, [2] and his paternal grandmother, Catherine Louisa (née Hogeboom) Webb, whose family was long associated with the Van Rensselaer's of New York. [3] His maternal grandparents were Alexander L. Stewart and Sarah Amelia (née Lispenard) Stewart (the great-granddaughter of merchant Leonard Lispenard and a descendant of the Roosevelt family). [3] [5]

Battle of Bunker Hill Early battle of the American Revoluntionary War

The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War. The battle is named after Bunker Hill in Charlestown, Massachusetts, which was peripherally involved in the battle. It was the original objective of both the colonial and British troops, though the majority of combat took place on the adjacent hill which later became known as Breed's Hill.

George Washington First President of the United States

George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America.


After preparing at Colonel Churchill's Military School in Sing Sing, New York (now Ossining, New York), [6] Webb entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1855, ranking 13 out of 34. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery and was sent to Florida to serve in the Seminole War. After serving his duty in Florida, he was given an appointment to serve as an instructor of mathematics at West Point. [6]

Ossining (village), New York Village in New York, United States

Ossining is a village in Westchester County, New York, United States. The population was 25,060 at the 2010 census. As a village, it is located in the town of Ossining.

United States Military Academy U.S. Armys federal service academy in West Point, New York

The United States Military Academy (USMA), also known as West Point, Army, Army West Point, The Academy, or simply The Point, is a four-year federal service academy in West Point, New York. It was originally established as a fort that sits on strategic high ground overlooking the Hudson River with a scenic view, 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. It is one of the five U.S. service academies.

In many of the world's military establishments, a brevet was a warrant giving a commissioned officer a higher rank title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct but without conferring the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank. An officer so promoted was referred to as being brevetted. The promotion would be noted in the officer's title.

Civil War

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Webb took part in the defense of Fort Pickens, Florida, was present at the First Battle of Bull Run, and was aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. William F. Barry, the chief of artillery of the Army of the Potomac, from July 1861 to April 1862. During the Peninsula Campaign, he served as Gen. Barry's assistant inspector general and received recognition for his assembling an impregnable line of artillery defense during the Battle of Malvern Hill; Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield wrote that Webb saved the Union Army from destruction. [7]

Fort Pickens United States historic place

Fort Pickens is a pentagonal historic United States military fort on Santa Rosa Island in the Pensacola, Florida, area. It is named after American Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens. The fort was completed in 1834 and remained in use until 1947. Fort Pickens is included within the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and as such, is administered by the National Park Service.

First Battle of Bull Run first major land battle of the American Civil War

The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, was the first major battle of the American Civil War and was a Confederate victory. The battle was fought on July 21, 1861 in Prince William County, Virginia, just north of the city of Manassas and about 25 miles west-southwest of Washington, D.C. The Union's forces were slow in positioning themselves, allowing Confederate reinforcements time to arrive by rail. Each side had about 18,000 poorly trained and poorly led troops in their first battle. It was a Confederate victory, followed by a disorganized retreat of the Union forces.

Brigadier general (United States) one-star general officer in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps

In the United States Armed Forces, brigadier general is a one-star general officer with the pay grade of O-7 in the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. The rank of brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed services. The NATO equivalent is OF-6.

During the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam, recently promoted to lieutenant colonel, he served as chief of staff in Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter's V Corps. After Antietam, he was ordered to Washington, D.C., where he served as Inspector of Artillery. In January 1863 he was again assigned to the V Corps, now commanded by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and served again as chief of staff. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, Meade gave Webb temporary command of Brig. Gen. Erastus B. Tyler's brigade and thrust him into battle. He performed well and Meade in his report on the battle paid particular detail to Webb's "intelligence and zeal". On July 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Webb brigadier general, to rank from June 23, 1863. [8] [9] Three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, Brig. Gen. John Gibbon arrested the Philadelphia Brigade's commander, Brig. Gen. Joshua T. Owen, and Webb was given command of the brigade (the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, II Corps). Initially, the brigade resented having the meticulously groomed and well-dressed Webb as their commanding officer, but he soon earned their respect through his attention to detail, his affability, and his discipline. [6]

Battle of Antietam Major battle of the American Civil War

The Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, particularly in the Southern United States, was a battle of the American Civil War, fought on September 17, 1862, between Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and Union General George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac, near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek. Part of the Maryland Campaign, it was the first field army–level engagement in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War to take place on Union soil. It was the bloodiest day in United States history, with a combined tally of 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing.

Lieutenant colonel (United States) officer rank of the United States military

In the United States Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force, a lieutenant colonel is a field-grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.

In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general. A major general typically commands division-sized units of 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers. Major general is equivalent to the two-star rank of rear admiral in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, and is the highest permanent peacetime rank in the uniformed services. Higher ranks are technically temporary and linked to specific positions, although virtually all officers promoted to those ranks are approved to retire at their highest earned rank.


Statue at Gettysburg by J. Massey Rhind Gburg mon Al S Webb.JPG
Statue at Gettysburg by J. Massey Rhind

When the Union Army repulsed the Confederates at Cemetery Hill, General Webb played a central role in the battle. Coddington [10] wrote about Webb's conduct during Pickett's Charge: "Refusing to give up, [Webb] set an example of bravery and undaunted leadership for his men to follow...." Webb's brigade was posted on Cemetery Ridge with the rest of the II Corps on the morning of July 2, 1863. The brigade repulsed the assault of Brig. Gen. Ambrose R. Wright's brigade of Georgians as it topped the ridge late in the afternoon, chasing the Confederates back as far as the Emmitsburg Road, where they captured about 300 men and reclaimed a Union battery. Soon after, Webb sent two regiments to assist in counterattacking the assault of Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early's division on Cemetery Hill. [11]

On July 3, Webb's brigade happened to be in the center of the Union line to defend against Pickett's Charge, in front of the famous "Copse of Trees." As the Confederates launched a massive artillery barrage to prepare for their infantry assault, Webb made himself conspicuous to his men, many of whom were unfamiliar with their new commander. He stood in front of the line and leaned on his sword, puffing leisurely on a cigar while cannonballs whistled by and shells exploded all around. Although his men shouted at him to take shelter, he refused and impressed many with his personal bravery. As Maj. Gen. George Pickett's Virginia division approached to within a few yards, two companies of Webb's 71st Pennsylvania fell back, and Webb feared the personal disgrace and the results of a breakthrough in his line. He shouted to his neighboring 72nd Pennsylvania to charge, but they refused to budge. He attempted to grab their regimental colors and go forward with them himself, but apparently the standard bearer did not recognize him, because he fought Webb for the colors before he went down, shot numerous times. Webb ultimately gave up on the 72nd and strode directly in front of the chaos as Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead's Confederate brigade breached the low stone wall, over to his 69th Pennsylvania regiment. Webb was wounded in his thigh and groin by a bullet, but kept going. With the help of two of Col. Norman J. Hall's New York regiments, and Brig. Gen. William Harrow's men, who ran over in a mass to get in their shots, Webb and his men brought the Confederate assault to a standstill, inflicting heavy casualties. [11]

Webb received the Medal of Honor on September 28, 1891, for "distinguished personal gallantry in leading his men forward at a critical period in the contest" at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. President Lincoln nominated Webb for appointment to the brevet grade of major general of volunteers for his service at Gettysburg, to rank from August 1, 1864, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on February 14, 1865. [12]

Later in the war

After Gettysburg, Webb received command of the division six weeks later and led it through the fall campaigns. His division played a prominent role in the Battle of Bristoe Station. When Gibbon returned to command in the spring of 1864, Webb went back to brigade command for the Overland Campaign. At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, in May, he was hit by a bullet that passed through the corner of his right eye and came out his ear, but did not impair his mental abilities. The wound resulted in a false report that he had been killed and his death was reported in the New York Times on May 9. [13]

He returned to the army on January 11, 1865, and was chief of staff of the Army of the Potomac from that date until June 28, 1865. [14] Webb was the assistant inspector general of the Military Division of the Atlantic between July 1, 1865, and February 21, 1866. [14] Webb was mustered out of the volunteer force on January 15, 1866. [14]

On April 10, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Webb for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general, USA (regular army), to rank from March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on May 4, 1866. [15] On December 11, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Webb for appointment to the brevet grade of major general, USA (regular army), to rank from on March 13, 1865, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment February 23, 1867, recalled the confirmation on February 25, 1867, and reconfirmed it on March 2, 1867. [16]

Postbellum life

Statue of Alexander S. Webb at City College of New York campus in Harlem, New York City CityCollegeNewYorkGeneralWebbHarlem.JPG
Statue of Alexander S. Webb at City College of New York campus in Harlem, New York City

General Webb stayed with the Army until 1870, assigned as a lieutenant colonel to the 44th U.S. Infantry Regiment, July 28, 1866, and the 5th U.S. Infantry Regiment, March 15, 1869. [14] He became unassigned, March 24, 1869. [14] During his final year, he served again as an instructor at West Point. He was discharged on December 5, 1870, with the final permanent rank of lieutenant colonel. [14]

From 1869 to 1902, General Webb served as the second president of the City College of New York, succeeding Horace Webster, also a West Point graduate. [1] The College's curriculum under Webster and Webb combined classical training in Latin and Greek with more practical subjects like chemistry, physics, and engineering.

General Webb was an early companion of the New York Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, being elected on March 18, 1866. He was a founder and first Commander General of the Military Order of Foreign Wars in 1894. He was also an honorary member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati. [6]

Personal life

On November 28, 1855, Webb was married to Anna Elizabeth Remsen (1837–1912), the daughter of Henry Rutgers Remsen and Elizabeth Waldron (née Phoenix) Remsen. [6] In February 1892, Webb, his wife, and their daughter and son, Caroline and Alexander, were all included in Ward McAllister's "Four Hundred". [17] Together, they were the parents of eight children, including: [18]

Webb died in Riverdale, New York on February 12, 1911. [1] He is buried in West Point National Cemetery. [36] A statue of General Webb was dedicated in the Gettysburg National Military Park in 1915. [37]


Through his daughter Helen, he was the grandfather of Marie "Civilise" Alexandre (1891–1967), who married U.S. Olympian Frederic Schenck (1886–1919) in 1917; [38] and Anna Remsen Alexandre (1895–1984). [26]


Webb was an articulate and graphic author who wrote extensively about the Civil War, including his book published in 1881, The Peninsula: McClellan's Campaign of 1862. A full-length bronze statue of him stands at Gettysburg Battlefield, overlooking the approach of Pickett's Charge. A full-length statue of General Webb, in full military uniform, also stands in his honor on the campus of the City College of New York. [39]

Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, chief of artillery of the I Corps, a friend and social peer of Webb in New York City, wrote that he was one of the "most conscientious, hard working and fearless young officers that we have." Meade's aide Theodore Lyman considered him "jolly and pleasant," although he was put off by Webb's "way of suddenly laughing in a convulsive manner, by drawing in his breath, instead of letting it out—the way which goes to my bones." But Lyman regarded Webb as a "thorough soldier, wide-awake, quick, and attentive to detail," despite this annoying quirk.

Civil War historian Brian Pohanka had a brief, uncredited appearance as Webb in the 1993 film Gettysburg , about the battle. [40]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "GEN. A. S. WEBB DIES.; Officer Who Held the Bloody Angle at Gettysburg Succumbs to Old Age". The New York Times . 13 February 1911. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  2. 1 2 Browning, Charles Henry (1891). Americans of Royal Descent: A Collection of Genealogies of American Families Whose Lineage is Traced to the Legitimate Issue of Kings. Porter & Costes. p. 403. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 Webb, James Watson (1882). Reminiscences of Gen'l Samuel B. Webb of the Revolutionary Army. Globe Stationery and Printing Company. p. 6. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  4. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. XXIV. New York City: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. 1893. p. 114. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  5. Whittelsey, Charles Barney (1902). The Roosevelt Genealogy, 1649-1902. Press of J.B. Burr & Company. p. 103. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 1457. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  7. Sword, p. 2081.
  8. Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN   0-8047-3641-3. p. 730
  9. President Lincoln nominated Webb for appointment to the grade of brigadier general on December 31, 1863, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on August 1, 1864. Eicher, 2001, p. 730
  10. Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg campaign; a study in command, Scribner's, 1984.
  11. 1 2 Tagg, pp. 50-51.
  12. Eicher, 2001, p. 715
  13. New York Times. May 9, 1864.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Eicher 2001, p. 558
  15. Eicher, 2001, p. 738
  16. Eicher, 2001, p. 709
  18. Moffat, R. Burnham (1904). The Barclays of New York: Who They Are And Who They Are Not,--And Some Other Barclays. R. G. Cooke & Company. p. 182. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  19. "MRS. J.E. ALEXANDRE DIES OF PNEUMONIA; Was Former Helen Lispenard Webb, Daughter of Civil War General--In Many Societies". The New York Times . 22 April 1929. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  20. "JOHN E. ALEXANDRE DEAD.; He Wanted His Daughter Married at His DeathbeduLicense Lacking". The New York Times . 23 August 1910. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  21. "Webb--Alexandre". The New York Times . 12 May 1887. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  22. "Mrs. George D. Parsons". The New York Times . 30 April 1926. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  23. "GEORGE B. PARSONS; Was President of the '82 Class at Columbia--Dies at 76". The New York Times . 30 June 1939. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  24. "Joined for Life.; the Wedding of Miss Webb and Mr. George B. Parsons". The New York Times . 15 November 1891. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  25. "MISS ANNE R. WEBB, ONCE WAR WORKER; Daughter of Gem A. S. Webb, Who Was the President of City College, 1869 to 1903". The New York Times . 13 July 1943. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  26. 1 2 "DIED. WEBB--Caroline LeRoy". The New York Times . 8 October 1950. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  27. "ALEXANDER WEBB, HEAD OF ASPCA, 77; Retired Financier, a Banking Executive Many Years, Dies -- Aided Humane Association". The New York Times . January 24, 1948. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  28. Sons of the American Revolution Empire State Society (1899). Register of the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The Society. p. 335. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  29. "Mrs. Alexander S. Webb". The New York Times . 11 September 1941. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  30. "MRS. F. S. RUSSELL TO WED.; Engaged to Alexander S. Webb, President of Lincoln Trust Co". The New York Times . 20 April 1916. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  31. "A.S. WEBB MARRIES MRS. W.H. RUSSELL; Bride's Son, a Harvard Student, Gives Her in Marriage at Her Home. AMID PALMS AND ROSES Relatives and Close Friends Only at Ceremony;-Bridegroom Is President of Lincoln Trust Company". The New York Times . 11 May 1916. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  32. Antietam, New York (State) Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg, Chattanooga and (1916). In Memoriam, Alexander Stewart Webb: 1835-1911. J.B. Lyon Company, printers. p. 106. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  33. "DIED. Wadsworth". The New York Times . 5 May 1910. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  34. "A Day's Weddings. WADSWORTH--WEBB". The New York Times . 26 October 1904. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  35. "MARRIED. Wadsworth--Webb". Army-Navy-Air Force Register and Defense Times. 36: 123. 1904. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  36. "GEN. A. S. WEBB'S FUNERAL; Military Honors for Veteran Here and at West Point Burial". The New York Times . 16 February 1911. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  37. New York Times, October 13, 1915, p. 7.
  38. Harvard Alumni Bulletin. Harvard Bulletin, Incorporated. 1918. p. 32. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  39. The statue is on the east side of Convent Avenue near both Shepherd Hall and the Administration Building.
  40. "IMDB" . Retrieved 2012-02-01.

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Academic offices
Preceded by
Horace Webster
President of City College of New York
1869 – 1902
Succeeded by
John Huston Finley