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Alexander Shaler, U.S.V.
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
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