Biography and History

William Alexander, who claimed the disputed ns2:title of Earl of Stirling, was an American major-general during the American Revolutionary War. He married Sarah Livingston, sister of the New Jersey governor William Livingston. During the French and Indian War, he joined the British Army Commissariat, where he became aide-de-camp to Governor William Shirley. He traveled to London in 1756 to testify on behalf of Shirley, who was facing charges of dereliction of duty. While there he claimed the vacant ns2:title of Earl of Stirling in the Peerage of Scotland, as senior male descendant of the first earl's grandfather, and was permitted to vote in an election of the Scottish representative peers. The British House of Lords refused to recognize his claim without proof of descent, but he continued to style himself Earl of Stirling all his life. He returned to America in 1761, using the ns2:title Lord Stirling, and was appointed Surveyor-General of the Province of New Jersey and was a member of the Provincial Council. When the American Revolutionary War began, Stirling was made a colonel in the New Jersey militia. He outfitted the militia at his own expense and was always willing to spend his own money in support of the cause. He distinguished himself early by leading a group of volunteers in the capture of an armed British transport. He built his grand estate in Basking Ridge, N.J., where George Washington occasionally stayed during the War.

Source: From the finding aid for C1326

  • William Alexander Collection. 1778-1813 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1326

    This collection contains documents and correspodence of and about General William Alexander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. This correspondence maninly concerns military tactics and includes Colonel Peabody, Alexander Hamilton, and General John Peter Muhlenburg.