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Born August 30, 1864 at Dundas, Minnesota, he grew up there and in Kansas. He graduated from West Point in 1887 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry.
He embarked upon a career entirely unremarkable until it was nearly at an end. He served several periods as an instructor in Military Science & Tactics, Iowa Wesleyan College, 1891-95 and at Oregon State College in both 1907-11 and 1915-16.
During the Spanish-American War, with the rank of Captain of Volunteers, he took part in the Santiago Campaign and in 1900-02, 1905-06 and 1912-15, was on duty in the Philippines, commanding theÂ 13th Minnesota Infantry in the Spanish American War. OSU's McAlexander Fieldhouse is named after him. His 13th Minnesota campaigned with the 2nd Oregon in the Phillipines.
In 1906-07, he was assigned to duty with the General Staff in Washington. He was promoted to Captain in march 1899, Major in January 1911, Lieutenant Colonel, July 1916, and Colonel in May 1917. In June 1917, after a year as an instructor and inspector with the Oregon National Guard, he was ordered to France. From July to December he commanded the 18th Infantry and was then on the Inspector General's staff until May 1918.
Given command of the 38th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, he was assigned to a portion of the Marne River front near Moulins, France, where the great German offensive of July 1918, the second Battle of the Marne, occurred. German forces crossed the river early on July 15. All along a 50-mile front they advanced up to four miles beyond the Marne, except at Moulins, where the 38th, bearing the brunt of the initial attack and subsequently coming under fire from both flanks as other regiments fell back, held a wooded rise for 21 hours. That brilliant and courageous action blunted the offensive, which bogged down on July 16 and entirely ended on July 18. He and the 38th were both dubbed "The Rock of the Marne."
"A three-hour artillery pounding of the 3rd Division's position announced the beginning of the offensive. In the dark of night, boats ferried the first waves of troops from the German Seventh Army. In short order, French and American defenses closest to the southern flanks of the river crumbled and were overrun. The swarming enemy was so well established on the Division's right flank that its position should have been untenable. And exactly here stood McAlexander's 38th, beset from both sides. Apparently, McAlexander had expected just these developments." At this point in his story, writer Kelly quotes the historian S.L.A. Marshall from Marshalls book World War I. Said Marshall: "Without yielding his hold on the Marne embankment, McAlexander refused both flanks so that his regimental front stood like a horseshoe, one battalion forward, one on either side." Here, Kelly picks up the story again: "Try as they would, the Germans could not move this rock in their midst. His (McAlexanders) 38th held out...and held out. Robert McHenry in Webster's American Military Biographies reports it this way: "German forces crossed the river early on July 15; all along the 50-mile front they advanced up to four miles beyond the Marne except at the Moulins, where the 38th, bearing the brunt of the initial attack and subsequently coming under fire from both flanks as other regiments fell back, held a wooded rise for 21 hours. That brilliant and courageous action blunted the offensive, which bogged down on the 16th and ended entirely on the 18th." Kelly concludes: "Because of their steadfastness, McAlexander and his 38th Infantry Regiment became known from then on as the Rock of the Marne."
In August 1918, he was promoted to temporary Brigadier General and given command of a Brigade in the 90th Infantry Division, which he led in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne operations and which he also commanded in occupation duty in Germany until June 1919. He was made permanent Brigadier General in March 1921 and retired in July 1924 as a Major General.
He died at Portland, Oregon, September 18, 1936 and was buried in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery.
His wife, May Skinner McAlexander (1865-1920), is buried with him.
Distinguished Service Cross
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Brigadier General Ulysses Grant McAlexander, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while Commanding the 38th Infantry Regiment, 3d Division, A.E.F., near Jaulgonne, France, 22 July 1918. General McAlexander, then a colonel, commanding the 38th infantry, displayed exceptional gallantry when his regiment, attacking without support on either flank, was stopped by severe machine-gun and artillery fire, by going ahead of the most advanced elements of his command, and in full view of the enemy, leading his men by force of his own example to the successful assault of Jaulgonne and the adjoining heights. Later in the day, when progress was again checked, he personally reconnoitered to within 50 yards of hostile machine-gun nests, and through information thus obtained, was enabled to hold an advanced position, with both flanks exposed, for more than 36 hours.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 37 (1919) Action Date: 22-Jul-18
Army Distinguished Service Medal
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Brigadier General Ulysses Grant McAlexander, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I. General McAlexander commanded the 38th Infantry Regiment, 3d Division, with marked distinction in repelling the German attack at Mezy, south of the Marne, in July 1918. He exhibited particular skill and energy as a Brigade Commander in the operations at the St. Mihiel salient and in the Argonne-Meuse offensive. The successful accomplishment of the missions of his Brigade in all cases were in a large measure due to this sound judgment and leadership.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 59 (1919)
Military hero known as the Rock of the Marne, McAlexander served as Commandant of Cadets at Oregon Agricultural College from 1907 to 1911 and again from 1915 to 1916.
Major-General Ulysses Grant McAlexander was born 30 August 1864 at Dundas, Minnesota and graduated from West Point in 1887. He served at Fort Meade in the Dakota Territory and Fort Custer and Fort Missoula, Montana. McAlexander fought in Cuba during the Spanish American War and served in the Phillipines from 1900 to 1907.
In 1907, he was appointed Commandant of Cadets and Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Oregon Agricultural College. He was greatly admired by the students and the 1912 Orange was dedicated to him. The armory, built in 1911, was also dedicated to him and in 1971 was renamed the McAlexander Fieldhouse.
In July 1918, Colonel McAlexander commanded the greatly outnumbered 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment against German forces at the second Battle of the Marne, for which he was promoted to Brigadier General, awarded many military honors, and became known as the "Rock of the Marne".
McAlexander retired from the Army in 1924 and chose Newport, Oregon as his home. Oregon State Agricultural College conferred an honorary doctorate upon him in 1930. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the 1934 Republican gubernatorial primary election. McAlexander died at his home in Portland, Oregon, on 18 September 1936 and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.