Alexander Brydie Dyer

Alexander Brydie Dyer was born in Richmond, Virginia, on January 10, 1815. Appointed to West Point from the state of Missouri in 1833, he was graduated sixth in the class of 1837—Braxton Bragg stood fifth. Dyer served in the Florida War as a lieutenant of artillery and in 1838 transferred to the Ordnance Department. As chief of ordnance of the army invading New Mexico under S. W. Kearny, Dyer took part in some little publicized actions of the Mexican War, including the suppression of insurrection at Taos and the affair at Santa Cruz de Rosales near Chihuahua City under Sterling Price who, like Braxton Bragg, became a prominent Confederate general. With the brevet (and later full) rank of captain, Dyer performed routine ordnance service until the outbreak of the Civil War when, although a native Virginian, he chose loyalty to the Union. He was put in charge of the Springfield armory in August, 1861, and soon quadrupled its production to manufacture a thousand rifles a day. He once declined the post of chief of ordnance proffered by Abraham Lincoln in January, 1862, out of regard for the incumbent General James W. Ripley, but after Ripley's retirement, Dyer was promoted to the office, with rank of brigadier general, U. S. Army, on September 12, 1864. His contributions to the Union cause were great and ranged from the donation of his patented "Dyer shell" to resistance to the threats of "political demagogues, charlatan inventors, and knavish contractors" by whom he was surrounded. A court of inquiry requested by him resoundingly endorsed his stewardship of the ordnance bureau, after grievances of the same pressure groups were aired in Congress. At the termination of hostilities he was brevetted major general in the Regular Army "for Faithful, Meritorious, and Distinguished Services in the Ordnance Department." He continued in charge of this bureau, but his health began to give way in 1869. Five years later, on May 20, 1874, he died in Washington and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. With the possible exception of Generals Winfield Scott (who went into retirement in November, 1861) and George H. Thomas, no native-born Southerner had so distinguished a Civil War career in the Union Army.

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Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.