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Alexander, William, 1726-1783

Called Lord Stirling, military officer: born in New York City in 1726; was a son of Secretary Alexander of New Jersey. His mother was the widow of David Provoost, a wealthy merchant of the city of New York. Attached to the commissariat of the army, he attracted the notice of General

Lord Stirling.

Shirley. and was for three years his aide-de-camp and private secretary. He went to England and Scotland in 1755, and before his return he prosecuted his claim to the earldom of Stirling, but was unsuccessful. He spent much of his fortune in the matter. It was generally believed that he was the rightful heir to the title and estates, and he assumed the title of Lord Stirling, by which he was ever afterwards known in America. When the quarrel with Great Britain began in the colonies Lord Stirling espoused the cause of the patriots. In 1775 he was appointed a colonel, and in March, 1776, was commissioned a brigadier-general in the Continental army. When General Lee went South, Lord Stirling was placed in command of the troops in and around the city of New York. After conspicuous service in the battle of Long Island (Aug. 27, 1776) he was made a prisoner, but was woon exchanged; and in [96] 1777 he was commissioned by Congress a major-general.

He fought with Washington on the Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777, and was specially distinguished at Germantown and Monmouth, commanding the left wing of the American army in the last-named engagement. He was one of the most faithful of Washington's soldiers during the war. William Alexander married a daughter of William Livingston, of New Jersey, and had been, like his father, surveyor-general. He was also an excellent mathematician and astronomer. He was one of the founders of the New York Society Library, and also of King's College (now Columbia University). Alexander Humphreys, born in Birmingham, England, in 1783, claimed the earldom of Stirling. In 1824 he obtained the royal license to assume the name of Alexander, because he had a maternal grandfather of that name, and his deceased mother was a great-great-granddaughter of John Alexander, fourth son of William Alexander, the last earl of Stirling, and all intermediate heirs had become extinct. For a short time he exercised the privileges of an earl, and he even claimed vast possessions in Nova Scotia; but after a legal investigation he was stripped of his titles and pretensions, and in 1839 he sank into oblivion. Many of the original surveys in New Jersey made by William Alexander and his father are now in the possession of the New Jersey Historical Society, and are frequently consulted by lawyers to quiet titles to real estate. William Alexander died in Albany, N. Y., Jan. 15, 1783.

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