Alexander Macomb Chapter

Mount Clemens, Michigan

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General Alexander Macomb

April 3, 1782-June 25, 1841

Commanding General in the United States Army. Distinguished Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Congressional Medal Front Congressional Medal Back

Highlights of Alexander Macomb's Career

Alexander Macomb was born in British-held Detroit in 1782. He father was a wealthy merchant and fur trader owning large parcels of real estate, including most of Macomb County, Belle Isle, and Grosse Ile.
After the Revolutionary War, Alexander and his family moved to New York City where he received an early education at the Newark Academy in New Jersey.

His military career started in 1798, at age of 16, when he joined a New York militia company. In January of 1799 during the Quasi War (a conflict, or undeclared war fought mostly at sea during 1798-1800 between the United States and Republic of France), Alexander Hamilton recommended him for a commission as a cornet in the Regular Army. In March 1799 he was promoted to second lieutenant and honourably discharged in 1800.

In 1801 Macomb was commissioned a second lieutenant and served as secretary to a commission involved in the Southwest with Native Americans. A year later he married a cousin, Catherine Macomb, and then went on to receive the following promotions: June 1805-captain; February 1808-major; July 1810-lieutenant colonel. In July 1810, he was chief engineer in the Corps of Engineers and in charge of coastal fortifications in the Carolinas and Georgia.

During the war of 1812, Macomb was brigadier general in command of the frontier in northern New York. On September 11, 1814, at the Battle of Plattsburgh, with only 1,500 regular troops and a few detachments of militia, Macomb found himself opposed by a British force of 10,531 men under Lieutenant General George Prevost. Alexander's outnumbered troops fell back before the British columns in a series of encounters as Prevost advanced towards the American defensive works. However, what Prevost did not know was that in the weeks leading up to the battle, Macomb knowing that he would be heavily outnumbered, worked with his men to move trees and create fake roads in order to obscure the genuine roads and lead the British into dead-end traps far from the three nearby American forts. The British attack halted when the long narrow lines of marching solders were unable to easily stop and about-face. They became entangled in the narrow false roads, and were sitting targets for the waiting Americans.
As Prevost was about to launch an assault on the American defenses, he received news of the defeat of the British naval squadron on Lake Champlain. Provost needed the British Lake Champlain squadron to supply his planned advance into Vermont. Without it, he had no choice but to abandon the Expedition. The British invaders marched off back to Canada. Macomb was tagged as "The Hero of Plattsburg." He was promoted to major general for his conduct at the battle and received a Congressional Gold Medal.

Major General Jacob Brown, the U.S. Army's commanding general, died in February 1828, and Alexander was promoted on May 29, 1829, by John Quincy Adams to fill the vacant position. During his tenure, he recommended a doubling of Army strength to hold the Native Americans in check, increasing the enlisted men's pay to discourage desertion, implementing relief for widows and orphans of regular officers who had died of wounds and disease, and creating a system of officer retirement and replacement. Alexander Macomb died June 25, 1841, and was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C.

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