Thursday, June 16, 2011

William L. Alexander's Civil War saddle

This is the first sesquicentennial year of the Civil War, the most deadly war the United States has engaged in, a war that claimed the lives of approximately 150 Lucas Countyans and changed the courses of life of virtually everyone else.

To mark the anniversary, we have collected several of our best Civil War-related artifacts and moved them to a new display in the John L. Lewis Building commons area. Among them is this saddle, which belonged to William Leidy Alexander --- a man little known here because his career in public and military took him far from his Iowa home, but worth remembering.

Alexander (1843-1915) was a Civil War veteran, Chariton businessman, Iowa adjutant general and, finally, a U.S. Army brigadier general. He was commissioned 1st lieutenant of Co. I, 30th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, on 23 September 1862 and was promoted to full captain on 1 October 1863. He probably acquired this M1859 McClellan saddle, substantially modified then or later, during his Civil War service.

After his discharge in 1865, Alexander moved to Chariton where his father, William Alexander, and brother-in-law and sister, Daniel and Lizzie Jane (Alexander) Eikenberry, already had located. He was engaged in a mercantile business here until 1878, when he was named adjutant general of the state of Iowa, a position he held until 1889.

During 1889, President Benjamin F. Harrison appointed Alexander captain in the U.S. Army Commissary Department. He was promoted to major on June 10, 1896; to lieutenant colonel on July 22, 1898; to colonel during 1899; and on July 27, 1903, he was made assistant commissary general. On Jan. 9, 1905, Alexander was promoted to brigadier general and placed on the retired list.

Alexander and his wife, Elsie, retired to Pasadena, Calif., where he died on the 1st of December 1915 and she, during 1932. They are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Gen. Alexander’s Civil War saddle came into the possession of the Eikenberry family at Chariton and was donated to the Lucas County Historical Society by his grand-nephew, the late Bill Eikenberry.

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