William Alexander, Lord Sterling - American Nobleman

William Alexander, Lord Sterling - American Nobleman

Lord Sterling was the only British nobleman who served in the American Revolution.

He distinguished himself for bravery and made his way to the top of Washington's circle, becoming one of the Commander-in-Chief's most trusted officers.

Lord Sterling

Born in New York City, William Alexander was distantly related to Scottish nobility.  

When his father died, William realized that he was the oldest surviving mail heir to Earldom of Stirling.  Alexander decided to pursue his title of nobility, mostly due to the generous landholdings in America he would recieve.

Although the Scots viewed him as the legitimate Earl, the English (who controlled Great Britain) never did.  Despite this, William Alexander went by the title of Lord Sterling for the rest of his life.

Lord Sterling was the only member of the British nobility to engage in the American Revolutionary War.

Continental Army

After relocating to New Jersey (and establishing one of the first successful wineries in America), Lord Sterling felt the call of his nation.  At the outset of the American Revolution he raised a militia of men from his colony.

By March of 1776, Sterling was appointed as a Brigadier General for the Continental Army.  He led his men north to join General Washington in New York.

Lord Sterling fought in the Battle of Long Island at the Old Stone House.  At this House, Sterling bravely held the enemy off to give his men time to retreat.  

When the time came for surrender, Sterling decided he would never surrender to the British.  Instead, he ran headlong into the crowd of redcoats, breaking through their ranks to get to the Hessian soldiers (German mercenaries) who were fighting alongside the British.  He surrendered to the Germans to save himself the embarrassment of surrendering to the English.

Major General

When Sterling was released in a prisoner exchange he was immediately promoted to the rank of Major General and became one of Washington’s most trusted men.  Washington, having seen his capture from another hillside, knew of Sterling’s dedication to the liberty of their new country.  

Sterling stayed with the Continental Army for the duration of the American Revolution, proving his bravery time and time again in battle after battle after battle. 

When Washington took a two-month hiatus at the end of 1778 to meet with the Continental Congress, he named Lord Sterling as the temporary Commander-in-Chief.

Later, when Washington moved the Continental Army south to Yorktown, for the engagement which would end the war, Lord Sterling was left behind to take command of the Northern Department.  He was responsible for defending the North from the British who still occupied New York City.


Lord Sterling would pass away just before the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, seemingly due to a combination of poor health and pension for hard liquor. 

This man, the only noble among the Founding Fathers, dedicated the last years of his life to his country.  Sterling constantly threw himself in harms way, becoming one of the most (if not the most) respected men in the Continental Army.

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If you would like to read more about Lord Sterling, pick up 'The Life of William Alexander' which is the only full biography I know of.  Our links go through our affiliate Amazon and will get you the best prices available.

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