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Russell Alexander Alger

Born February 27, 1836 - Died January 24, 1907

Russell Alexander Alger was an American politician.

Alger was born on February 27th, 1836 in Lafayette Township in Medina County, Ohio. At the age of 13 he was orphaned and worked on a farm to support himself and his two younger siblings. He attended Richfield Academy in Summitt County, Ohio. Later he taught school for two winters. He studied law in Akron, Ohio before being admitted to the bar in 1859. He practiced law briefly in Cleveland, Ohio before moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan and entered the Lumber business.

In 1861, Alger enlisted in the Army to serve in the American Civil War. He was commissioned as a captain and later as a major with the 2nd Michigan Calvary Regiment. He was considered a military strategist and had a prominent career during the war. In his first engagement he was ordered by Colonel Phillip Sheridan to attack the enemy from the behind at the battle of Boonesville. The Confederates were soundly defeated, Alger was wounded and captured though, he promptly escaped the same day. His unit was one of the first to arrive at Gettysburg and stood with President Lincoln on the battlefield surveying Union supplies. He resigned from the Army in 1864. In 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Alger for grade of brevet brigadier general, which the Senate promptly confirmed. In 1867, President Johnson again nominated him for the grade of brevet major general, which again was approved by the Senate.

After the war, Alger returned to Michigan and the lumber industry. There he made his fortune and created three railroads, largely to transport his lumber.

In 1884, Alger was elected as the Governor of Michigan, serving only one term. In 1888, he was a nominee for the Republican Presidential ticket, he would lose the nomination to Benjamin Harrison who went to win the Presidency. In 1897, President William McKinley appointed Alger as Secretary of War. Serving during the Spanish-American War, Alger was largely criticized for the inefficient operation of the Army during the war. At McKinley's request, Alger resigned in 1899. For Alger, one of the highlights of his time in the McKinley administration was that he was able to exact revenge on a former adversary during the Civil War. Colonel John Mosby was a Confederate partisan and during the war several of Alger's men were caught by Mosby's men setting fire to homes. Mosby's men executed Alger's men as war criminals, an act which was a war crime itself. Alger never forgot, or forgave, the incident and despite Mosby not being there at the executions, Mosby did concur with the action of his men. Because of this incident when Mosby attempted to gain a position in the McKinley administration, Alger made sure that any of the positions that Mosby wanted were immediately filled and by the time Mosby reached Washington, D.C., at the time Mosby was coming from California, Mosby discovered all the positions had been filled.

In 1902, Alger was appointed to finish a term in the United States Senate when the sitting Senator passed away. In 1903, Alger was elected by the Michigan Legislature to a new term as a United States Senator. Alger passed away while in office on January 24th, 1907.

Alger was a member of Corinthian Lodge No. 241 in Detroit, Michigan.