James Henry Van Alen

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James Henry Van Alen
Gen. James H. Van Allen - NARA - 528495.jpg
Born(1819-08-17)August 17, 1819
Kinderhook, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 22, 1886(1886-07-22) (aged 66)
At sea between Liverpool and New York
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1861–1863
RankUnion Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier General
Commands held3rd New York Volunteer Cavalry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
RelationsJames John Van Alen (son)
Other workMerchant, soldier, politician

James Henry Van Alen (August 17, 1819 – July 22, 1886) was a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.[1]

Early life[edit]

James Henry Van Alen was born in 1819, in Kinderhook, New York. He was the only son of James I. Van Alen (1788–1874),[a] an affluent merchant, and Lucy (née Trumbull) Van Alen (1788–1867) of the Connecticut Trumbulls.[3][5] His sister Sophie Van Alen (d. 1916)[2] was married to Robert Minturn Grinnell (1829–1898), the son of merchant Henry Grinnell.[3]

His education was through private tutors and he never devoted himself to business besides managing his wealth. He owned considerable real estate, which he left to his son upon his death in 1886.[6][7]


At the beginning of the Civil War, Van Alen recruited and equipped the 3rd New York Cavalry Regiment. He became the unit's colonel on August 28, 1861, when the unit was stationed in defending Washington, D.C.[8]

Van Alen 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 in Virginia. After a twenty-day sick leave for disabling fevers, he resigned in July 14, 1863.[8] After the war, he traveled frequently and became a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.[1]

After the presidential election of 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Van Alen, a Republican, as one of the visiting statesmen to Louisiana.[3][9] Upon his return to New York, Van Alen gave a well known address on January 3, 1877 entitled "The Vote of Louisiana" before the Republican Reform Club in which he detailed fraud and intimidation of black voters on the part of Democrats in Louisiana.[3][10]

Personal life[edit]

Van Alen was married to Mary Young Steward (1818–1852), the daughter of John Steward and Martha Jackson Steward.[11] The Van Alens had a home in Newport, Rhode Island called " The Grange " where James lived year-round.[12] Together, they were the parents of one surviving child, a son:[1]

On a voyage returning from England with three grandchildren,[3] Van Alen either jumped or fell off the RMS Umbria on July 22, 1886;[13] his body was not recovered.[14][15] The New York Times reported after his death that "The sad, mysterious death of Gen. James H. Van Alen has cast a gloom over the place [Newport]. The New-York papers were eagerly read for the latest news regarding the affair, which was the sole topic of discussion in society and by the local residents, who knew and respected the deceased."[16]

Estate and descendants[edit]

In his will dated September 13, 1884, his left $300,000 and The Grange, his Newport estate, and other properties to his son. The residue was left in trust to be divided in three parts: two parts of $250,000, at least, for the benefit of his granddaughters Mary and Sarah, and the third and residue for his grandson, James Laurens Van Alen.[17]

Through his son James, he was the grandfather of Mary Van Alen (1876–1959),[18] who married Griswold A. Thompson (1875–1945) in 1913;[19] James Laurens Van Alen (1878–1927),[20] who married Margaret Louise Post (1876–1969) in 1900;[21][22][23] and Sarah Steward Van Alen (1881–1963),[24] who married Robert Joseph Collier (1876–1918) in 1902.[25]

Through his grandson James Laurens, Van Alen was the great-grandfather of socialite and tennis enthusiast James Henry Van Alen IV (1902–1991).


  1. ^ His father, James I. or T. Van Alen,[2][3] is sometimes mistakenly referred to as U.S. Representative James Isaac Van Alen (1772–1822), the half-brother of U.S. President Martin Van Buren, who did not marry nor have children.[4]
  1. ^ a b c "James Henry Van Alen". www.newnetherlandinstitute.org. New Netherland Institute. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b "DIED. GRINNELL". The New York Times. November 2, 1916. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Overboard in Midocean; Strange Disappearance of Gen. J. H. Van Alen. Lost on the Voyage from Liverpool to New-York--His Death Believed to Be Accidental". The New York Times. 26 July 1886. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  4. ^ The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Vols. 82-83. New York, NY: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. 1951. p. 148.
  5. ^ "Guide to the James H. and Candace Van Alen papers, 1746-2002 and undated (bulk 1949-1991)" (PDF). redwoodlibrary.org. Redwood Library and Athenaeum. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  6. ^ "LATEST DEALINGS IN THE REALTY FIELD; James J. Van Alen Sells Eight Old Harlem Houses in 130th Street. WAVERLEY PLACE PURCHASE Dwelling Sale Near Sutton Place-- Deals in Chelsea and on Canal Street". The New York Times. 15 February 1921. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  7. ^ "GEN. VAN ALEN'S WILL". The New York Times. 24 August 1886. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b Welsh, Jack D. (2005). Medical Histories of Union Generals. Kent State University Press. p. 349. ISBN 9780873388535. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  9. ^ "The New-Orleans Republican Committee.; Visit Yesterday to Gov. Hayes at Columbus--View of the Members of the Committee--New Affidavits of the Outrages in Louisiana to Be Published". The New York Times. 5 December 1876. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  10. ^ "The Vote of Louisiana.; Gen. James H. Van Alen's Opinion. the Republican Reform Club Addressed by Gen. Van Alen on the Louisiana Election a Non-Partisan View of the Contest Conclusive Evidence of Democratic Intimidation and Fraud the Views of the Committees Discussed and Explained. the Vote and Its Canvass. Intimidation of Negro Voters. Gov. Hayes' Views on Official Corruption in the South. the Evidence of Democratic Frauds Conclusive". The New York Times. January 4, 1877. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  11. ^ The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. 1996. p. 175. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  12. ^ "REAL ESTATE IN NEWPORT.; A FARM BOUGHT FOR $12,000 NOW WORTH A MILLION AND A HALF". The New York Times. 28 December 1881. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  13. ^ Herringshaw, Thomas William (1914). Herringshaw's National Library of American Biography: Contains Thirty-five Thousand Biographies of the Acknowledged Leaders of Life and Thought of the United States; Illustrated with Three Thousand Vignette Portraits ... American Publishers' Association. p. 527. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Hannings, Bud (2010). Every Day of the Civil War. McFarland. p. 313. ISBN 9780786456123. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  16. ^ "The Newport Season.; an Unusually Pleasant Day and Many Entertainments". The New York Times. 27 July 1886. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Gen. Van Alen's Will". The New York Times. 24 August 1886. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  18. ^ Times, Special To The New York (10 May 1959). "MRS. G.A. THOMPSON DIES; Granddaughter of William Astors Was Broker's Widow". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  19. ^ Appeals, United States Court of Customs (1915). Court of Customs Appeals Reports: Cases Adjudged in the United States Court of Customs Appeals. The Court. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  20. ^ Times, Special To The New York (19 June 1927). "James L. Van Alen Buried". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  21. ^ "A VANDERBILT-ASTOR ALLIANCE; Wedding of J. Lawrence Van Alen and Miss Daisy Post. A Quiet Ceremony, Only Sixty-two Guests Being Present -- Some of if the Guests and Gowns". The New York Times. 11 December 1900. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  22. ^ "WHAT IS DOING IN SOCIETY". The New York Times. 8 December 1900. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  23. ^ "Wealthy Newport Dowager, Mrs Brugiere, Dies at 92". Nashua Telegraph. 22 January 1969. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  24. ^ Times, Special To The New York (6 September 1900). "J.J. VAN ALEN'S DINNER DANCE.; Wakehurst Beautifully Decorated -- Miss Sarah Van Alen Introduced to Newport Society". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  25. ^ "R. J. Collier Dies At Dinner Table. Editor, Just Returned from the Front, Is a Victim of Heart Attack. Recall Had Been Reported. Washington Admits His Credentials Had Been Canceled, but Denies Knowledge of the Reason. Stricken at Dinner Table. Had Many Libel Suits" (PDF). New York Times. November 9, 1918. Retrieved 2009-08-04. Robert J. Collier, editor of Collier's Weekly and President of the publishing house of P.F. Collier Son, died of heart attack at his home at 1,067 Fifth Avenue at 7:45 last night, a few hours after he had landed from an army transport upon which he had returned...

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