Benjamin Alvord was born August 18, 1813, in Rutland, Vermont. He was the lineal descendant of one Alexander Alvord who had settled in Connecticut about 1645. Young Alvord entered the Military Academy at the age of sixteen and was graduated in the class of 1833. For the next twenty-one years he was an officer of the 4th Infantry, serving with it continuously except for a two-year tour of duty as an instructor at West Point. During the Florida War against the Seminoles he was with his regiment, and in the Mexican War he fought at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma under Zachary Taylor and in the advance on Mexico City under Winfield Scott. He was brevetted major for his services during the latter operation and, after some garrison duty in the early 1850's, changed from line to staff by accepting an appointment as paymaster with rank of major. From 1854 until 1862 Alvord was chief paymaster of the Department of Oregon—an area which included the present states of Oregon and Washington as well as much of Idaho. On April 15, 1862, he was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers and placed in command of the recently created District of Oregon, serving there until the spring of 1865. His principal problem during the war years was that of mediating between the Nez Perces, whose treaty rights had been repeatedly ignored and violated, and the whites who swarmed into the region in search of gold. General Alvord was relieved from command of the district in late March, 1865, and was ordered East. He resigned his volunteer commission in August and the following month became paymaster at New York City. From that time until his retirement in 1880, General Alvord was, successively, chief paymaster at Omaha, chief paymaster of the Department of the Platte, and paymaster general of the U. S. Army after 1872. He was made brigadier general, U. S. Army, in 1876. Meantime, he had become well known for his research and writings in a variety of technical fields, especially mathematics and agriculture in the West. Alvord died in Washington, D. C, on October 16, 1884, and was buried near his birthplace in Rutland.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.