1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alger, Russell Alexander
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Alger, Russell Alexander
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ALGER, RUSSELL ALEXANDER (1836-1907), American soldier and politician, was born in Lafayette township, Medina county, Ohio, on the 27th of February 1836. Left an orphan at an early age, he worked on a farm to pay his expenses at Richfield (Ohio) Academy, was a schoolmaster for two winters, and, having studied law in the meantime, was admitted to the bar in 1859. He began practice at Cleveland, Ohio, but early in 1860 he removed to Michigan, where he abandoned his profession and engaged in the lumber business. Enlisting in a Michigan cavalry regiment in September 1861, he rose from captain to colonel, distinguished himself in the Gettysburg campaign and under Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, and in 1864 and 1865 respectively received the brevets of brigadier-general and major-general of volunteers. After the war he invested extensively in pine lands in Michigan, and accumulated a large fortune in the lumber business. In 1884 he was elected governor of Michigan on the Republican ticket, serving from 1885 to 1887. In 1889-1890 he was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. From 1897 to 1899 he was secretary of war in President McKinley's cabinet. His administration of the war department during the Spanish-American War was severely criticized for extravagance in army contracts, for unpreparedness, and for general inefficiency, charges which he answered in his The Spanish-American War (1901). The extent of his personal responsibility is at least uncertain. In 1902 he was appointed by the governor of Michigan, and in 1903 was elected by the state legislature, as United States senator to complete the unexpired term of James McMillan (1838-1902). He died at Washington, D.C., on the 24th of January 1907.