Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Alexander, James Edward

ALEXANDER, Sir JAMES EDWARD (1803–1885), general, born on 16 Oct. 1803, was eldest son of Edward Alexander of Powis, Clackmannanshire, by Catherine, daughter of John Glas, provost of Stirling. He obtained a Madras cadetship in 1820, and a cornetcy in the 1st light cavalry on 13 Feb. 1821. He was made adjutant of the bodyguard by Sir Thomas Munro, and served in the Burmese war of 1824. Leaving the East India Company's service, he joined the 13th light dragoons as cornet on 20 Jan. 1825. He was given a lieutenancy on half-pay on 26 Nov. As aide-de-camp to Colonel (afterwards Sir John Macdonald) Kinneir [q. v.], British envoy to Persia, he was present with the Persian army during the war of 1826 with Russia, and received the Persian order of the Lion and Sun (2nd class). On 26 Oct. 1827 he was gazetted to the 16th lancers. He went to the Balkans during the Russo-Turkish war of 1829, and received the Turkish order of the Crescent (2nd class).

He was promoted captain on half-pay on 18 June 1830, and exchanged to the 42nd Highlanders on 9 March 1832. He went to Portugal during the Miguelite war (1832-1834), and afterwards visited South America and explored the Essequibo. Passing next to South Africa, he served in the Kaffir war of 1835 as aide-de-camp to Sir Benjamin D'Urban [q. v.]. He led an exploring party into Namaqualand and Damaraland, for which he was knighted in 1838. He went on half-pay on 24 April 1838, but exchanged to the 14th foot on 11 Sept. 1840, and went to Canada with that regiment in 1841. From 1847 to 1855 he was aide-de-camp to D'Urban and to Sir William Rowan, who succeeded D'Urban in command of the troops in Canada. He became major in the army on 9 Nov. 1846, lieutenant-colonel on 20 June 1854, and regimental major on 29 Dec. 1854.

His regiment having been ordered to the Crimea, Alexander rejoined it there in May, and remained in the Crimea till June. He received the medal with clasp, the Sardinian and Turkish medals, and the Medjidie (5th class). On his return to England he was appointed to a depot battalion, but on 30 March 1858 he returned to the 14th to raise and command its second battalion. He took that battalion to New Zealand in 1860, and commanded the troops at Auckland during the Maori war till 1862, receiving the medal. He had become colonel in the army on 26 Oct. 1858, and was granted a pension for distinguished service in February 1864. He was promoted major-general on 6 March 1868, and was made C.B. on 24 May 1873. On 1 Oct. 1877 he became lieutenant-general and was placed on the retired list, and on 1 July 1881 he was given the honorary rank of general. He inherited the estate of Westerton, near Bridge of Allan, was a magistrate, and deputy-lieutenant for Stirlingshire, and a fellow of the geographical and other societies. He saved Cleopatra's needle from destruction, and had much to do with its transfer to England in 1877. He died at Ryde, Isle of Wight, on 2 April 1885, In 1837 he married Eveline Marie, third daughter of Lieutenant-colonel Charles Cornwallis Michell. They had four sons and one daughter.

His singularly varied service furnished him with materials for a large number of volumes of a rather desultory kind. He wrote:

  1. 'Travels from India to England, by way of Burmah, Persia, Turkey, &c.,' 1827, 4to.
  2. 'Travels to the Seat of War in the East, through Russia and the Crimea, in 1829,' 1830, 2 vols. 8vo.
  3. 'Transatlantic Sketches,' 1833, 2 vols. 8vo.
  4. 'Sketches in Portugal during the Civil War of 1834,' 1835, 8vo.
  5. 'Narrative of a Voyage of Observation among the Colonies of West Africa, and of a Campaign in Kaffirland in 1835,' 1837, 2 vols. 8vo.
  6. 'An Expedition of Discovery into the Interior of Africa, through the Countries of the Great Namaquas, Boschmans, and Hill Damaras,' 1838, 2 vols. 8vo.
  7. 'Life of Field-marshal the Duke of Wellington,' 1840, 2 vols. 8vo (translated into German by F.Bauer).
  8. 'L'Aeadie, or Seven Years' Exploration in British America,' 1849, 2 vols. 8vo.
  9. 'Passages in the Life of a Soldier,' 1857, 2 vols. 8vo.
  10. 'Incidents of the Maori War, New Zealand, in 1860-61,' 1863, 8vo.
  11. 'Bush-fighting. Illustrated by remarkable Actions and Incidents of the Maori War in New Zealand,' 1873, 8vo.
  12. 'Cleopatra's Needle, the Obelisk of Alexandria, its Acquisition and Removal to England described,' 1879, 8vo.

[Times, 7 April 1885; O'Donnell's Historical Records of the 14th Regiment, p. 321 (with portrait); Burke's Landed Gentry; Alexander's works above mentioned.]

E. M. L.