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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Alexander William Doniphan

DONIPHAN, Alexander William, soldier, born in Mason County, Kentucky, 9 July 1808; died in Richmond. No., 8 August 1887. His father, Joseph Doniphan, a native of Virginia, died in 1813. Alexander was graduated at Augusta College, Kentucky, in 1826, and on being admitted to the bar in 1830 began the practice of law at Lexington, Mo. Three years afterward he removed still farther west, to the village of Liberty, in Clay County. He soon came to be known as one of the foremost lawyers at the Missouri bar, but at the same time devoted himself with such zeal to military studies that he will be remembered chiefly as a soldier. It seems to have been under the influence of Albert Sidney Johnston, who was for some time stationed at Fort Leavenworth, that this military zeal was awakened in Mr. Doniphan. In 1838 he had risen in the state militia to the grade of brigadier general, when there was trouble with the Mormons. At the head of a considerable force of state troops, Doniphan imposed terms upon the prophet Joseph Smith ; the Mormons were obliged to give up their leaders for trial, lay down their arms, and leave the state of Missouri. When war began with Mexico, in 1846, Doniphan entered the United States service as colonel of the 1st regiment of Missouri mounted volunteers, and took part in General Kearney's expedition to Santa Fe; and, when Kearney, in September 1846, set out from Santa Fe for Callfornia, he ordered Colonel Doniphan to proceed with such troops as could be spared from New Mexico to the City of Chihuahua, and there report to General Wool. But before this order could be carried out it became necessary to reduce to submission the warlike Navajos Indians, and having accomplished this difficult task, Colonel Doniphan set out from Valverde on 14 Dec.

At Bracito River he was met by a superior force of Mexicans, who sent forward an officer with a black flag summoning Doniphan to surrender. " If you don't obey," said the Mexican, "we will charge, and give no quarter°" "Charge and be d d," was the laconic reply. In less than half an hour the Mexicans were put to flight, leaving more than 200 of their number killed or wounded. Of Doniphan's men not one was killed, and only seven were wounded. Two days later he occupied E1 Paso, where he was obliged to wait for artillery to be sent to him. On8 February 1847, he set out on a terrible march of 250 miles, through a savage and sterile country, for Chihuahua. On the 28th, haying surmounted most formidable hardships and arrived within seventeen miles of his goal, he was confronted by a force of 4,000 Mexicans at the pass of the Sacramento. Although his own force numbered but 924 men, and the enemy were strongly entrenched, he nevertheless attacked with such fury as completely to rout the Mexicans, who lost more than 800 in killed or wounded. Doniphan's loss was one man killed and eleven wounded. It was like the ancient fights between Greeks and Persians. The next day Chihuahua surrendered. After waiting for weeks until further orders were received, the brave nine army marched 700 miles to Saltillo, where they arrived on 21 May to find the active business of the war in that part of Mexico ended. After 1847 Colonel Doniphan led a quiet life at his home in western Missouri. In 1836, 1840, and 1854 he was elected to the legislature.

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