Alexander J. Williams

Captain, 2d Artillery, killed while being engaged in the Defense of Fort Erie, Upper Canada, where, in a hand-to-hand encounter, while repulsing the enemy’s fourth desperate assault (Forlorn Hope – 2) upon the bastion of the work.
(Born Pa. Ap’d Pa.)

Alexander John Williams: Born Oct. 10, 1790, Philadelphia, PA.

Cadet of the Military Academy, May 15, 1805, to Mar. 1, 1811, when he was graduated First in his Class,and promoted in the Army to Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Mar. 1, 1811.

Served: at West Point, N. Y., 1811 – 12; and in the War of 1812 – 15
(First Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1812) & (Captain, 2d Artillery, Mar. 17, 1813)

with Great Britain, in command of “Fort Mifflin”, Pa., 1812 – 14, – and in the Campaign of 1814 on the Niagara Frontier (Command of 3 18-pounder guns at Lundy’s Lane), being engaged in the Defense of “Fort Erie”, U. C., where, in a hand-to-hand encounter, while repulsing the enemy’s fourth desperate assault upon the bastion of the work, he was Killed, Aug. 15, 1814: Aged 24.

Buried, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.


Captain Alexander John Williams was the oldest son of Colonel Jonathan Williams, the first Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army. He was born Oct. 10, 1790, in Philadelphia, Pa.; entered the Military Academy, as a Cadet, July 9, 1806, and was graduated from that institution, and promoted, Mar. 1, 1811, to be a Second Lieutenant of Engineers. He continued on duty at West Point till 1812, when he was ordered to superintend the construction of “Fort Mifflin”, Pa., and while there was promoted, July 1, 1812, to a First Lieutenancy. Believing that he would see more active service and be more rapidly advanced in the Artillery, during the war now declared against Great Britain, he asked for a transfer to that corps, in which he was commissioned a Captain, Mar. 17, 1813.

His residence of over a year on the lowlands of the Delaware River, at this time, had brought on a dangerous fever, yet, so anxious was he to share the honors and perils of the campaign of 1814, that, before he was convalescent, he applied to be ordered to the Niagara army, which he joined in time to take part in the Defense of “Fort Erie”. Here his abilities were so conspicuous that he was selected for the important command of the old work before the assault was made upon it. Thrice, on the morning of Aug. 15, 1814, had he repulsed the enemy, and, when a fourth desperate assault was being made upon the bastion of the fort, he perceived a lighted port fire in front of the enemy, enabling them to direct their fire with great precision. Instantly he sprang forward, cut it off with his sword, and in the act fell mortally wounded, – thus nobly sacrificing himself to save his men. So perished this gallant and accomplished officer, not twenty-four years old, sincerely lamented by his friends for his private worth, and deeply regretted by the whole army, with which he was a favorite. Though ambitious of distinction, he was perfectly unassuming; with laudable spirit, he was indefatigable in the discharge of every duty; and, by his intelligence, zeal, and exemplary deportment, won the esteem and applause, not only his subordinates, but of every superior in command.

Bill Thayer’s Note:

1 Was the son of Colonel Jonathan Williams, the first Superintendent of the Military Academy, and Chief Engineer of the U. S. Army.

2 Forlorn Hope

During the Niagara campaign in 1814, Hindmanâ•˙s company commanders included Nathan Towson, Thomas Biddle, John Ritchie, and Alexander Williams. During the British attack on Fort Erie in August 1814, Hindman led an assault for which he later received a brevet promotion to lieutenant colonel for ╲gallant conduct in the defense of Fort Erie╡. In 1815, he received an additional brevet for ╲meritorious services╡. He is generally regarded as one of the most successful artillerists of the War of 1812.

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