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Major-General Alexander Shaler, U.S.V.

Major-General Alexander Shaler, the subject of this sketch, was born in Haddam, Connecticut, March i9, 1827. At the age of eighteen he joined the Third Regiment of Artillery, New York State Militia, and two years afterwards was transferred to the Twenty-seventh Regiment (National Guard), now the famous Seventh New York. After serving as captain for nearly eleven years he accepted the majority of the regiment. His reputation as tactician and instructor was deservedly high. While captain in the Seventh New York, he resided for five years in Hudson County, New Jersey, and for that length of time served that State also as colonel of the First Regiment, Hudson Brigade.

When the news reached New York that Sumter had been fired upon, he started for Washington the same day (April 13, 1861), and tendered his services to the Secretary of War, who urged him to return at once to New York and bring on the Seventh Regiment.

Mr. Cameron's wish was complied with. Upon the muster out of the Seventh he accepted the lieutenant-colonelcy of the Sixty-fifth New York Volunteers. He served continuously in the Army of the Potomac, and was engaged in every important battle until the spring of 1864. After the battle of Malvern Hill he was promoted to the colonelcy of the regiment. He displayed great gallantry in leading a successful assaulting column upon Marye's Heights, Virginia, May 3, 1863, and on the 26th of that month was commissioned brigadier-general United States Volunteers.

In the winter of 1863-64 he commanded the military prison at Johnson's Island, Sandusky Bay, Ohio. In the following spring he rejoined the Army of the Potomac with his brigade, and was himself made a prisoner of war in the battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864. He is probably the only officer who commanded a Union prison and was also an inmate of a rebel prison. He was transferred from Macon, Georgia, with fifty other officers of high rank to Charleston, South Carolina, and placed under the fire of Union batteries. Our government retaliated by sending to Hilton Head one hundred and fifty rebel officers, to be quartered within the range of the nearest rebel battery. This brought about an exchange, and General Shaler was ordered to report to General Canby at New Orleans. He was assigned to the command of the Third Brigade, Second Division, Nineteenth Corps, and shortly afterwards placed in command of the Second Division, Seventh Corps, and of the White River district, Department of Arkansas.

While serving in the Seventh Corps was appointed by the President brevet major-general United States Volunteers. Was mustered out of the United States service August 24, 1865.

General Shaler's long service in the National Guard gave him exceptional qualifications for service in the field, which commanding officers were not slow to recognize. He enjoyed the confidence and respect of his superiors to the fullest extent. He has held every office in the military service of the State, or of the United States, from private to major-general, except that of second lieutenant. In the fall of 1866 he was elected a supervisor of the county of New York, but resigned in January, 1867, to accept the office of major-general of the First Division National Guard, State of New York. He brought this organization up to a standard of unequalled efficiency, and after serving for about twenty years resigned, and the First Division as such was disbanded.

From 1867 to 1870 General Shaler was president of the Metropolitan Fire Department, and for three years afterwards a commissioner of the Fire Department of New York. To his zealous and active services New York is chiefly indebted for the honor of having the best Fire Department in the world. After the big fire in Chicago in 1874, he was called to that city to reorganize and discipline its Fire Department, and succeeded in three months' time in so increasing its efficiency as to secure to it the full confidence of the underwriters and of the citizens generally.

From 1883 to 1887 he was president of the Health Department of the city of New York, to which he applied his characteristic zeal and energy, improving the organization and increasing its efficiency. He is now president of the Board of Health of the borough of Ridgefield, New Jersey, where he resides; is also president (and has been for many years) of the New York City Association of Union ex-Prisoners of War; is an ex-commander of the Commandery of the State of New York of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, United States; a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and of many other military, social, and benevolent organizations.

Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419 pgs.

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