Peter Wellington Alexander


Peter Wellington Alexander
Thomas C. Hindman

Peter W. Alexander

Peter Wellington Alexander
Image courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Peter Wellington Alexander was born in Ruckersville, Georgia in 1825 to Peter W. Alexander, Sr. and Elizabeth A. Banks. Alexander attended the University of Georgia, where he excelled, obtaining the second highest standing in the class of 1844. After graduating Alexander studied law and was eventually admitted to the Georgia Bar. To supplement his income, Alexander reported for the local newspaper in Thomaston, Georgia.1

When the Civil War began, Alexander served as a war correspondent for the Savannah Republican. His detailed and honest writing made him a trusted and beloved reporter. Alexander focused on the common soldier and the trials and tribulations facing the Confederate States of America. Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, he published an article describing the Confederate soldiers as, “ragged and almost barefoot and hatless, many of the men limping along and not quite well of their wounds and sickness…their clothes riddled with balls and their banners covered with smoke and dust of battle, and shot to tatters.”2 Published in the Mobile Advertiser and Registrar on September 24, 1862, Alexander called upon the southern people to supply clothing, shoes and other goods to help sustain the army throughout the winter.

Alexander was considered to be one of the leading authorities on military journalism and was highly praised for his style of writing both during and after the war. Once the war ended, Alexander was encouraged to collect his newspaper stories and publish them, but he never did. He also declined requests from several publishers to write his reminiscences of the war.3 Alexander resumed his law practice with his friend James M. Smith in 1865. Smith was elected governor of Georgia in 1872 and made Alexander his private secretary, a role he filled for five years.4 Alexander eventually married Maria Theresa Shorter, and the couple had three children. In 1877, Alexander and his family moved to Marietta Georgia where he worked as a cotton merchant. Alexander continued to write, submitting articles to the Macon Telegraph until his death in September 1886.5

Collection Contributed by Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University in the City of New York

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  1. Patricia G. McNeely, Debra Reddin van Tuyll and Henry H. Schulte, Knights of the Quill: Confederate Correspondents and Their Civil War Reporting (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2010), 315.; David E. Patterson, “Peter Wellington Alexander: Lawyer, Journalist, and War Correspondent”, UHS Newsletter, Fall 1998,
  2. Gary W. Gallagher, The Antietam Campaign (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), pg 123-124.
  3. McNeely, Knights of the Quill, 340.
  4. McNeely, Knights of the Quill, 340.
  5. “Peter Wellington Alexander”, Linwood Cemetery, Columbus, Muscogee County, Georgia,