James Henry Van Alen

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James Henry Van Alen (August 17, 1819 — July 22, 1886) was a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


James Henry Van Alen was born in 1819, in Kinderhook, New York, to an affluent merchant. His education was through private tutors and he never devoted himself to business besides managing his wealth. At the beginning of the Civil War, Van Alen recruited and equipped the 3rd New York Cavalry. He became the unit's colonel on August 28, 1861, when the unit was stationed in defending Washington, D.C. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 15, 1862. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, Van Alen served as the aide-de-camp of General Joseph Hooker. Later he was assigned to Aquia Creek, Virginia, however he resigned in July 14, 1863. After the war, he traveled frequently. On a voyage returning from England with three grandchildren, Van Alen either jumped or fell off the RMS Umbria on July 22, 1886; his body was not recovered.[1][2]

He was the father of James J. Van Alen and the great grandfather of socialite and tennis enthusiast Jimmy Van Alen.


  1. ^ Warner, Ezra J. (1992). Generals in Blue. Louisiana State University Press. pp. 520–1. ISBN 978-0-8071-5229-4. LCCN 64-21593. Retrieved May 6, 2015. 
  2. ^ Hannings, Bud (2010). Every Day of the Civil War. McFarland. p. 313. ISBN 9780786456123. Retrieved May 6, 2015.