b. 15/02/1835 New York. d. 12/02/1911 Riverdale, New York.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 03/07/1863 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
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). 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.
After preparing at Colonel Churchill's Military School in Sing Sing, New York (now Ossining, New York), 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. Webb was the assistant inspector general of the Military Division of the Atlantic between July 1, 1865 and February 21, 1866. Webb was mustered out of the volunteer force on January 15, 1866.
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. 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.
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. He became unassigned, March 24, 1869. 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.
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. 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.
Distinguished personal gallantry in leading his men forward at a critical period in the contest.
BURIAL LOCATION: US MILITARY ACADEMY CEMETERY, WEST POINT, NEW YORK.
Section XXI, Row C, Grave 032
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