Stirling, William Alexander
STIRLING, WILLIAM ALEXANDER, (titular) EARL OF (1726-1783), American soldier, was born in New York City. He was the son of James Alexander (1690-1756), at one time surveyor-general of New York and New Jersey, a noted colonial lawyer who was disbarred for a year for his conduct of the defence in the famous trial of John Peter Zenger. William served first as commissary and then as aide-de-camp to Governor William Shirley at the beginning of the French and Indian War, and in 1756 he accompanied Shirley to England, where he was persuaded to claim the earldom of Stirling (see above). In 1759 an Edinburgh jury declared him to be the nearest heir to the last earl of Stirling, and in 1761 he returned to America and assumed the title, although the House of Lords in 1762 forbade him to use it until he had proved his legal right. Soon after his return t<^ America he settled at Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and became a member of the New Jersey Provincial Council and surveyor-general of the colony. Warmly espousing the colonial cause at the outbreak of the War of Independence, he was appointed in November 1775 colonel of the first regiment of continental troops raised in New Jersey, and in the following January distinguished himself by the capture of an armed British transport in New York Bay. In March he became brigadier-general, and for some time was in command at New York and supervised the fortification of the city and harbour. At the battle of Long Island he was taken prisoner, but was soon afterward exchanged, and in February 1777 became a major-general. He participated in the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine and Germantown, and especially distinguished himself at Monmouth. He took an active part in exposing the Conway Cabal, presided over the court-martial of General Charles Lee, and enjoyed the confidence of Washington to an unusual degree. In October 1781 he took command of the northern department at Albany to check an expected invasion from Canada. He died at Albany on the i5th of January 1783. He was a member of the board of governors of King's College (now Columbia University) and was himself devoted to the study of mathematics and astronomy.
See W. A. Duer, " Life of William Alexander, Earl of Stirling," in vol. ii. of the Collections of the New Jersey Historical Society (New York, 1847).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)