Macomb family papers: 1806-1892 (bulk 1813-1821)
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Biography

Alexander Macomb, Jr. (1782-1841) was a Major General who served in the United States Armed Forces from 1799 until his death. He was born April 3, 1782 in Detroit, when it was still classified as a garrison city within the Michigan Territory and died June 25, 1841 in Washington, D.C. He was the grandson of Irish immigrants John Gordon Macomb (1717-1796) and Jane Gordon (birth and death dates unknown) who settled in Albany, New York in 1755. The Macombs moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1769, where their sons engaged in the fur trade and provided supplies for the British Army -- the same profession as their father.

Alexander Macomb, Sr. (1748-1831) married Catherine Navarre (1757-1789) in Detroit on May 4, 1773. Born to this union were eleven children, eight of whom were born in Detroit, the remaining three were born in New York. Of this family line, Alexander Macomb, Jr. was the seventh child and his sister Jane Macomb (1776-?) was the third.

In 1785, when Alexander, Jr. was approximately two years old, his father moved the family to New York. In 1798, during the French Emergency, Alexander Macomb, Jr. joined the New York Rangers. The following year Macomb left the Corps and with the recommendation of Alexander Hamilton was commissioned as a Cornet in the Northern Army. Around 1802 Macomb went on to become the First Lieutenant of the Corps of Engineers. During this time he attended the West Point Military Academy where he also served as Adjutant of the Post. While at West Point, Macomb compiled a treatise upon martial law which became the forerunner of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

On July 18, 1803 Macomb married his first cousin on his father's side, Catherine Macomb (1757-1822). Of this union, twelve children were born. Catherine Macomb died in 1822, leaving Macomb a widow for four years until he married Harriet Balch in 1826.

In 1805 Macomb was promoted to the rank of Captain of the Corps and in 1808 he was promoted to the rank of Major (Superintendent of Fortifications). When the War of 1812 broke out, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, then Colonel. During the war Macomb commanded the Third Regiment of Artillery. He also served as Chief of Engineers, Adjutant General of the Army, and Colonel of Artillery. In 1814 he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and in that same year on September 11, together with Naval Lieutenant Thomas MacDonough, Macomb led a successful campaign along Lake Champlain against 14,000 British troops led by Lieutenant-General Sir George Prevost (1767-1816). As a result, Macomb was promoted to a brevet Major General rank by President James Madison. In addition to his promotion, Macomb received the Thanks of Congress and the Congressional Gold Medal for his gallantry and leadership.

Sometime after the War of 1812, Macomb returned to Detroit where in 1821 he was appointed Chief Engineer by President James Monroe. Macomb assumed command of the military station until 1828 when he was promoted to Major General. He served as the senior officer and commanding general of the Army until his death on June 25,1841.

Though detailed information on other members of the Macomb family may be limited, the legacy of the Macomb family name has resulted in a multitude of eponyms in honor of General Macomb and/or his family. On January 25, 1818, Macomb County was officially organized in General Macomb's honor as the third county in the Michigan Territory. Other places of note include Macomb, Illinois; Macomb Mountain in New York; Macomb, Ohio; Macomb Street in Plattsburgh, New York; and Macomb Hall at Plattsburgh State College, also in New York.