Robert Alexander (United States Army officer)

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Robert Alexander
Major General Robert Alexander in 1919.jpg
Alexander in 1919
Born (1863-10-17)October 17, 1863
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died August 25, 1941(1941-08-25) (aged 77)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Place of Burial Arlington National Cemetery, United States
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1886–1927
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Unit USA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands held 41st Division
63rd Brigade
77th Division
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Distinguished Service Cross,
Croix de Guerre
Spouse(s) Mollie Augur Alexander (nee Thomas)

Major General Robert Alexander (October 17, 1863 – August 25, 1941) was a senior United States Army officer. He served in World War I, where he commanded the 77th Infantry Division on the Western Front.

Early life[edit]

Robert Alexander was born in Baltimore, Maryland on October 17, 1863. His parents were Judge and Mrs. William Alexander.[1] His father had been Justice of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City and the Court of Appeals of the State of Maryland.

Alexander studied law in the offices of J. B. and Edwin H. Brown in Centreville, Maryland. He attained admission to the bar, but decided against a legal career, instead enlisting in the United States Army's 4th Infantry Regiment as a Private on April 7, 1886.[2]


In 1887, he became the First Sergeant of his Company, and in 1889 received a promotion to second lieutenant.[1]

As he rose through the ranks he took part in the American Indian Wars, served in Puerto Rico during the Spanish–American War, and on the TexasMexico Border during the Pancho Villa Expedition.

When the United States joined the Allied forces in World War I, Alexander proved his valor and was able to rise through the ranks. was also given the responsibility as inspector general in Zone of Communications from November 1917 to February 1918. Alexander was promoted to brigadier general in February 1918 and then to Major General on August 1918.[1]

From the Headquarters of the 77th Division in France, Alexander was one of the officers who reported on the Lost Battalion Incident. A group of around 500 soldiers, in nine companies, had disappeared after going into the Argonne Forest expecting American and French Allied troops to meet them. This had followed an American attack on German forces and, with Major Charles White Whittlesey leading the group, the men found that the French troops had been stalled. As a result the battalion was cut off by the Germans who surprised them and suffered large losses with only 197 men coming out of the ravine. In the report he states:

      "General Order Number 30:
      I desire to publish to the command an official recognition of the valor and extraordinary heroism in action of the officers and enlisted men of the following organizations:
Companies A, B, C, E, G, H       308th Infantry
Company K                               307th Infantry
Companies C, D         306th Machine Gun Btln. 
      These organizations, or detachments therefrom, comprised the approximate force of 550 men under command of Major Charles W. Whittlesey, which was cut off from the remainder of the Seventy-Seventh Division and surrounded by a superior number of the enemy near Charlevaux, in the Forest d'Argonne, from the morning of October 3, 1918, to the night of October 7, 1918.
      Without food for more than one hundred hours, harassed continuously by machine gun, rifle, trench mortar and grenade fire, Major Whittlesey's command, with undaunted spirit and magnificent courage, successfully met and repulsed daily violent attacks by the enemy. They held the position which had been reached by supreme efforts, under orders received for an advance, until communication was re-established with friendly troops.
      When relief finally came, approximately 194 officers and men were able to walk out of the position. Officers and men killed numbered 107.
      On the fourth day a written proposition to surrender received from the Germans was treated with the contempt which it deserved.
      The officers and men of these organizations during these five days of isolation continually gave unquestionable proof of extraordinary heroism and demonstrated the high standard and ideals of the United States Army.
                                     Robert Alexander, Major General, US Army
                                     April 15, 1919[3]

In France, he commanded the 41st Infantry Division, 63rd Infantry Brigade, and 77th Infantry Division.[1]

After the war, he returned to the rank of Colonel and commanded the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade.[4]

In 1919, Alexander received the honorary degree of LL.D. from St. John's College of Annapolis, Maryland.[5]

He retired in 1927 at the rank of major general.[1]

He authored a memoir, 1931's Memories of the World War, 1917–1918. Also in 1931, Alexander received an honorary LL.D. from the College of Puget Sound.[6]


He was a freemason.[7]

Personal life[edit]

He married Mollie Augur Thomas (1871-1953), who was the daughter of Brigadier General Earl D. Thomas in 1892. Together, they had two sons: William Denison (1893-1978) and Robert (1900-1979). William Anderson became a Colonel and Robert Jr. became a Lt. Colonel of the United States Army and died within one year of each other. Both Mollie and William were buried in Arlington with Robert Anderson Sr.,[8] while Robert Anderson Jr. had his own plot and was laid to rest with his wife Cora Anderson (d.1992).[9]


He died in Manhattan, New York City on August 25, 1941.[1] He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[10]


He received the Distinguished Service Cross[1] for heroism at Grandpré, Ardennes in October, 1918.

He received two citations for the Croix de Guerre.[1]

He was awarded the Commandeur of the Legion of Honour.[7]

Ranks and Commissions[edit]

Private and Sergeant, Company G, 4th United States Infantry, 7 April 1886 to 29 January 1890

Second Lieutenant, 7th United States Infantry, 17 December 1889

First Lieutenant, 12th United States Infantry, 7 January 1897

Transferred to the 11th United States Infantry, 21 March 1898

Captain, 14th United States Infantry, 2 October 1899

Transferred to the 11th United States Infantry, 17 February 1900[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Davis, Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Raleigh, North Carolina: Pentland Press, Inc. p. 3. ISBN 1571970886. 
  2. ^ a b "Robert Alexander--Major General, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery. 2007 – via Arlington National Cemetery Website. 
  3. ^ "Report on the Last Battalion Incident". For Great War Society. 2000 – via Doughboy Center. 
  4. ^ Gary J. Clifford, Robert Porter Patterson, The World War I Memoirs of Robert P. Patterson: A Captain in the Great War, 2012, page 98
  5. ^ St. John's College (1922). Catalogue of St. John's College. Annapolis, MD: The Advertiser. p. 111. 
  6. ^ Simpson, Ralph (May 1, 1938). Alumnus. College of Puget Sound: Tacoma, WA. p. 29. 
  7. ^ a b Who Was Who in American History - the Military. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1975. p. 6. ISBN 0837932017. 
  8. ^ "Mollie Augur Thomas Alexander". Find A Grave. 2004 – via 
  9. ^ "Robert Alexander Jr.". Find A Grave. 2008 – via 
  10. ^ Washington State Historical Society, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Volumes 31–32, 1941, page 472

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Edward Vollrath
Commanding General 41st Division
February 1918 – August 1918
Succeeded by
Richard Coulter, Jr.
Preceded by
E. M. Johnson
Commanding General 77th Division
Succeeded by
Post deactivated