Ulysses G. McAlexander

Last updated
Ulysses Grant McAlexander
111-SC-33419 - NARA - 55225987-cropped.jpg
Brig. Gen. Ulysses McAlexander as commander of the 180th Brigade in October 1918.
Born30 August 1864
Dundas, Minnesota
Died18 September 1936
Portland, Oregon
AllegianceFlag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Army.svg  United States Army
Years of service1883–1924
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Commands held
Battles/wars American Indian Wars

Spanish–American War
Moro Rebellion
World War I

Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal
Spouse(s)May Skinner McAlexander

Major General Ulysses Grant McAlexander (30 August 1864 – 18 September 1936) was an American officer who served in the United States Army. He was heavily decorated for valor, and is one of the iconic fighting men of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. He is most famous for commanding the 38th Infantry Regiment during the Second Battle of the Marne, and earning himself and the regiment the moniker, "Rock of the Marne" (later adopted by the entire 3rd Infantry Division).


Early life

Ulysses Grant McAlexander was born on 30 August 1864 in Dundas, Minnesota during the American Civil War. He was named after General Ulysses S. Grant, the commander of the Union Army. His father was Commodore Perry McAlexander (named after Commodore Matthew C. Perry) and his mother was Margaret (Tilton) McAlexander. [1] Ulysses was the fifth child of the family, and his elder siblings are: Mary Diana (1850–1941), Sarah Ellen (1852–1922), Alice Grace (1857–1880), and Emily (1861–1914). He also had a younger brother, Monroe (1868–1950). His youngest brother, Albert W.(b. 1875) did not live past his first year. [2] Ulysses' father died in 1879 in McPherson, Kansas, and his mother died there in 1880. Growing up in Minnesota and Kansas, Ulysses excelled in academia and physical activities, and was accepted into the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, sponsored by Judge John D Milliken of McPherson, Kansas. He began his freshman (plebe) year there in 1883 as a Cadet.

Military career

Ulysses G. McAlexander graduated West Point at the head of his class and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of infantry in 1887. He was posted to Fort Meade, Dakota Territory, and Forts Custer and Missoula, Montana for service in the American Indian Wars. He served on the frontier without seeing combat until 1891, when he became the Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Iowa Wesleyan College. This was the first time Lieutenant McAlexander would train Cadets, and this experience helped him later in his career.

In 1898, when the Spanish–American War broke out, he joined the US Volunteers so he could serve overseas. Receiving a commission as Assistant Quartermaster of Volunteers, with the rank of captain, McAlexander entered the 28th US Volunteer Infantry Regiment and sailed for Cuba. During the Siege of Santiago, Capt. McAlexander received the Silver Star for "gallantry in action in the Santiago de Cuba Campaign, 22 June to 17 July 1898. [3] "

After returning to the United States, the young captain was soon placed in charge of the 13th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment sailing for the Philippines to combat the Philippine Insurrection. This unit was a veteran unit and had taken part in the Battle of Manila and the Battle of Malolos, and had experienced tough fighting in northern Luzon. [4] Ulysses took over in 1900 and served in counter-insurgency operations until 1902. He and the regiment returned to the Philippines and fought from 1905–1906 until they were sent back to America. Until 1907, he served in Washington, D. C. as a member of US Army Headquarters general staff.

In 1907, Capt. McAlexander was sent to become the Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Oregon State College where he was admired by Cadets and the community of Corvallis, Oregon alike. He oversaw the training of the Oregon State University Army ROTC battalion along with the construction of the armory, which was completed in 1911 (in 1971, the armory was renamed the "McAlexander Fieldhouse"). Upon his promotion to major in 1911, Ulysses G. McAlexander was sent to be an active duty trainer and inspector for the Oregon Army National Guard. He served in this position until 1915, when he was again transferred to command the Oregon State Army ROTC battalion. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in July 1916.

World War I

When the United States entered the First World War in April 1917, LTC McAlexander was promoted to Colonel in May and sent to France to command the 18th Infantry Regiment [5] of the 1st Infantry Division. He commanded that regiment during their early tenure in France when it was being trained in tactics by the French Army. However, he was relieved of command shortly after. It is said that Col. McAlexander was relieved from his command position by General R. Bullard for profanely refusing to believe that the French could teach him anything about war. [6] He was sent, instead, to serve with the Inspector General's staff.

Col. McAlexander's talents as a commander would soon be put to good use, however, and he was assigned to command the newly arrived 38th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division in May 1918. After the regiment was trained in trench warfare and modern tactics, it was moved into the line to help bolster the French positions. The French commander, General Jean de Montdésir, wanted to piecemeal the Americans among his troops, but Col. McAlexander would have none of it, and the 38th wasn't budged until the 3rd Division was given a front of its own, in June, near Chateau-Thierry.

In July, the Germans launched an assault against the Allied line, known as the Second Battle of the Marne. A three-hour artillery pounding of the 3rd Division's position announced the beginning of the offensive. In the dark of night, boats ferried the first waves of troops from the German Seventh Army. In short order, French and American defenses closest to the southern flanks of the river crumbled and were overrun. The swarming enemy was so well established on the 3rd Division's right flank that its position should have been untenable. And exactly here stood McAlexander's 38th, beset from both sides. Apparently, McAlexander had expected just these developments. [7] Without yielding his hold on the Marne embankment, McAlexander refused both flanks so that his regimental front stood like a horseshoe, one battalion forward, one on either side. Try as they would, the Germans could not move this rock in their midst. McAlexander's 38th held out, and maintained their position. [7] Because of their steadfastness, McAlexander and his 38th Infantry Regiment became known from then on as the Rock of the Marne. [7] The German offensive was halted by 18 July 1918. For his decisive action, Col. McAlexander received the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

On 22 July, the 38th Infantry Regiment launched an assault on Jaulgonne to prize it from the enemy. In the words of Capt. Jesse W. Woolridge, he enjoyed his finest five minutes of the war believing he was the spear of the assault, when he bumped into Col. McAlexander, crawling forward at the very front of his regiment. Col. McAlexander received the Distinguished Service Cross for this action, when he "displayed exceptional gallantry when his regiment, attacking without support on either flank, was stopped by severe machine-gun and artillery fire, by going ahead of the most advanced elements of his command, and in full view of the enemy, leading his men by force of his own example to the successful assault of Jaulgonne and the adjoining heights. Later in the day, when progress was again checked, he personally reconnoitered to within 50 yards of hostile machine-gun nests, and through information thus obtained, was enabled to hold an advanced position, with both flanks exposed, for more than 36 hours. [3] "

Receiving a promotion to Brigadier General, Ulysses G. McAlexander was sent to command the newly arrived 180th Infantry Brigade of the 90th Infantry Division, the "Alamo Division. The 180th Brigade, the "Texas Brigade," consisted the 359th Infantry Regiment, the 360th Infantry Regiment, and the 343rd Machine-gun battalion. Most of the soldiers came from Texas, and were new to combat. McAlexander led them into their first battle at Saint-Mihiel on 12 September 1918, and quickly accomplished his objectives. [8] Jumping off again in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, McAlexander's Texans took the fight to the enemy and attributed their success to their leader. After the war, the Texas veterans commissioned a portrait of General McAlexander (currently on display in Austin, Texas) that evokes their admiration of their commander.

When the Great War ended on 11 November 1918, Brig. Gen. McAlexander stayed with the Allied occupation force in Germany until 1919, when he returned home.


When Ulysses Grant McAlexander returned to his family in 1919, he served in the Army a while longer until retiring with the rank of Major General in 1924. He moved to Newport, Oregon that same year. Before he retired, he was commandant at Fort Douglas, just east of Salt Lake City, Utah. He was key in helping public relations with the Fort's civilian neighbors as he had a joint partnership in building the Fort Douglas Country Club in 1923. [9] He helped with the construction of the Memorial Union on the Oregon State campus, and in 1930, Oregon State College bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate. In 1934, he unsuccessfully ran for governor in the 1934 Oregon gubernatorial election on the Republican ticket, but was defeated by Joe E. Dunne. Ulysses G. McAlexander died in Portland, Oregon on 18 September 1936, and is buried in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery. [10]

Related Research Articles

3rd Infantry Division (United States) United States Army infantry division

The 3rd Infantry Division is a combined arms division of the United States Army based at Fort Stewart, Georgia. It is a direct subordinate unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps and U.S. Army Forces Command. Its current organization includes a division headquarters and headquarters battalion, two armored brigade combat teams, one National Guard infantry brigade combat team, a task force unit, one aviation brigade, a division artillery, a sustainment brigade and a combat sustainment support battalion along with a maneuver enhancement brigade. The division has a distinguished history, having seen active service in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Global War on Terror. The Medal of Honor has been awarded to 60 members of the 3rd Infantry Division, making the division the most honored in the Army.

George Crook 19th-century U.S. Army officer

George R. Crook was a career United States Army officer, most noted for his distinguished service during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. During the 1880s, the Apache nicknamed Crook Nantan Lupan, which means "Chief Wolf."

Battle of Fort Donelson Battle of the American Civil War

The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought from February 11–16, 1862, in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The Union capture of the Confederate fort near the Tennessee–Kentucky border opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South. The Union's success also elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, and earned him the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

41st Infantry Division (United States) Military unit

The 41st Infantry Division was composed primarily of National Guard units from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming that saw active service in World War I and World War II. It was one of the first Army units to engage in offensive ground combat operations, during the last months of 1942. In 1965 it was reorganized as the 41st Infantry Brigade. The brigade has seen combat in the Iraq War in 2003 and 2008. Then again in Afghanistan in 2014.

Battle of Cloyds Mountain

The Battle of Cloyd's Mountain was a Union victory in western Virginia on May 9, 1864 that allowed the Union forces to destroy the last line connecting Tennessee to Virginia.

George Sykes

George Sykes was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War.

Alexander Patch United States Army general

Alexander McCarrell Patch was a senior United States Army officer who fought in both world wars, rising to rank of general. During World War II, he commanded U.S. Army and Marine Corps forces during the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific, and the Seventh Army on the Western Front in Europe.

Alexander Hays

Alexander Hays was a Union Army general in the American Civil War, killed in the Battle of the Wilderness.

4th Infantry Regiment (United States) Military unit

The U.S. 4th Infantry Regiment ("Warriors") is an infantry regiment in the United States Army. It has served the United States for approximately two hundred years.

The Battle of Fort Bisland was fought in the American Civil War between Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks against Confederate Major General Richard Taylor during Banks' operations against the Bayou Teche region in southern Louisiana.

William McCandless was an American military officer and politician from Pennsylvania. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War and commanded a regiment and then a brigade in the Pennsylvania Reserve Division. He served as a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania State Senate for the 1st district from 1867 to 1868 and as the first Secretary of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania from 1875 to 1879.

Jacob B. Sweitzer

Jacob Bowman Sweitzer was a Pennsylvania lawyer and soldier who commanded a regiment and then a brigade in the Army of the Potomac in the American Civil War. He and his men were significantly engaged at the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, where they reinforced and helped temporarily stabilize the Union defensive line on the second day of fighting.

Daniel D. Bidwell Union Army general

Daniel Davidson Bidwell was a civic leader in Buffalo, New York, before the outbreak of the American Civil War. He enlisted early in the war and then was appointed colonel of a regiment of infantry. He was promoted to general in command of a brigade in early 1864, leading it until he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek.

George L. Willard

George Lamb Willard was an officer in the United States Army who served in the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. He lost his life leading a brigade in the II Corps at the Battle of Gettysburg. Colonel Willard was the namesake of Fort Willard.

Gilbert R. Cook United States Army general (1889–1963)

Major General Gilbert R. Cook was a senior United States Army officer. He had a thirty-six-year military career and served in both World War I and World War II. During World War I he served in France and Germany, and commanded the 104th Infantry Division, and the XII Corps during World War II.

John E. Smith

John Eugene Smith (1816-1897) was a Swiss immigrant to the United States, who served as a Union general during the American Civil War.

21st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment American Civil War Union Army regiment

The 21st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was organized in Worcester, Massachusetts and mustered into service on August 23, 1861.

Edward Mann Lewis

Major General Edward Mann Lewis, KCMG, was a highly decorated United States Army officer who served his nation for 46 years. During the First World War, he led the 30th Infantry Division when they broke the Hindenburg Line. Upon arrival in France in 1917, he was placed in command of all U.S. forces in Paris. In 1918 he led the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at Château-Thierry where he was responsible for planning and leading the attack on the strategic town of Vaux. General John J. Pershing then promoted him and placed him in command of the 30th Infantry Division in July 1918. Assigned to the Fourth British Army, the 30th Division broke the Hindenburg Line on September 29, hastening the end of the Great War.

Edward Herrick Phelps was a Lieutenant-Colonel who served under General Ulysses S. Grant in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He served in the battle of Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga, Tennessee, and while already wounded, was shot and killed while still leading his men into the battle. Considered a hero for his sacrifice, a tribute was later given to Phelps by a fellow office in an Ohio newspaper, while the men under his command paid for his monument.

The 3rd Missouri Infantry Regiment served in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. The infantry regiment was officially mustered into service on January 17, 1862. It fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas in March before being transferred across the Mississippi River. While stationed at Corinth, Mississippi, the regiment played a minor role in the Battle of Farmington before the evacuation of the town. In September, the unit saw light action at the Battle of Iuka before being heavily engaged during the Second Battle of Corinth as the Confederates attempted to retake the town in October. In early 1863, the regiment was transferred to Grand Gulf, Mississippi, in order to strengthen the defenses of the Mississippi River at that point. At the Battle of Grand Gulf on April 29, the unit helped repulse a Union Navy attack against the Confederate defensive works. After elements of the Union Army of the Tennessee landed below Grand Gulf, the regiment fought in a delaying action at the Battle of Port Gibson on May 1.


  1. "Ulysses G Mcalexander 1864–1936 – Ancestry". www.ancestry.com.
  2. "Commodore Perry McAlexander 1828–1870 – Ancestry". www.ancestry.com.
  3. 1 2 "Valor awards for Ulysses Grant McAlexander". valor.militarytimes.com.
  4. Ward, Kyle. "13th Minnesota Infantry". www.spanamwar.com.
  5. Davis Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Pentland Press, Inc. p. 248. ISBN   1571970886. OCLC   40298151
  6. Stallings, Lawrence (1963). The Doughboys. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. p. 83.
  7. 1 2 3 "Shadow box". army.togetherweserved.com.
  8. Stallings, Lawrence (1963). The Doughboys. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. p. 213.
  9. "Douglas Country Club: BIDDING FOND FAREWELL". 15 August 1997.
  10. Burial Detail: McAlexander, Ulysses G – ANC Explorer