Captain B. R. Alden
Bradford Ripley Alden
New Yorker Traces Steps of Indian-Fighting Grandfather
In Medford, Ft. Jones Areas
Mr. and Mrs. Roger Alden Derby of New York City recently left Medford for their home after a stay of several days, during which Mr. Derby visited spots in this vicinity where his grandfather, Captain Bradford Ripley Alden, fought the Indians in 1853. The New Yorkers went first to Fort Jones, near Yreka, Calif., where Captain Alden was in charge of a garrison for a time, and later visited Jacksonville and the scene of a battle on Evans Creek where the captain was wounded in action.
Mr. Derby is in possession of a number of letters written by his grandfather during the time of the officer's western service. Letters by brother officers, and other documents in the descendants' possession also bear on the subject. The letters to Captain Alden's wife cover his experiences after arrival at Fort Columbia [sic], Vancouver, Wash., and give a vivid account of pioneer-day existence.
In the winter of 1852, Captain Alden had set out from the east coast for Fort Roger Jones in command of Company E, 4th Infantry, comprising 60 men, six wagons and 60 mules, the outfit having been ordered to garrison the far distant fort.
Start Oregon TrekCrossing the Isthmus of Panama, Capt. Alden embarked his men on a ship for Vancouver, from which point they commenced their march across Oregon toward northern California sometime in April 1853.
The strenuous journey required 37 days, and when the command reached the Umpqua River a number of the men deserted, lured by the tales of riches to be gained in the gold fields of that area. A bit further along Capt. Alden encountered more trouble when it became impossible to take the lumbering military wagons through the Canyon, near where [Canyonville] now stands. But despite the desertions and hardships, the leader finally brought 22 men to Fort Jones sometime in May of 1853.
Settling into garrison routine had barely been accomplished when a petition was received August 8 from residents of the Rogue River Valley to come to their aid, the settlers reporting 250 warriors of Rogue River, Shasta and Klamath tribes had killed a number of valley residents, burning their homes and threatening extermination of all whites in the valley. The warlike tribesmen were reported to have taken up a position near Table Rock after visiting their wrath on the hapless settlers.
Hasten to AidCapt. Alden at the time had only 11 effective soldiers, but he packed all available rifles and ammunition on muleback and set out for the scene on August 7. He had heard that the settlers were unarmed.
At Yreka, 80 volunteers joined the little band and through forced march the rescue expedition pulled into the Rogue River Valley the night of August 11. The sight of burning homes was too much for the volunteers, who left the military party to go after the Indians individually.
Capt. Alden, in an effort to keep some semblance of coordination among the forces opposing the Indians, appointed four commissioners. Additional volunteers joined the group, which had set up headquarters at Camp Alden near Jacksonville. Alden, having organized a considerable force of men, wagons and supplies, then relinquished the command to General Joseph Lane, who had reached the scene from his [home] in the Umpqua Valley.
Lane led the combined force after the Indians, who retired to the northwest, setting fire to the forest behind them. The punitive expedition then divided into two forces. One went down the Rogue River to the mouth of Evans Creek and following up the creek. The other force, led by Lane, went around Table Rock, and the two met at the west fork of Evans Creek, which is now called Battle Creek.
The Indian force was found deployed on Battle Mountain quite high up, but view of the enemy was obstructed by underbrush. The Indians had fallen trees and made breastworks.
Capt. Alden WoundedFirst contact with the Indians was made by Capt. Alden, leading Goodall company, and soon after the fight began Capt. Alden was shot in the neck by an Indian sharpshooter, perched in a tree. General Lane, in an advance, reached the spot where Alden lay wounded, only to be wounded himself, an Indian bullet striking him in the shoulder.
Both leaders were able to retire from the scene and the Indians, led by chiefs Joe, Sam and Jim, soon convinced that their stand was hopeless, asked for peace.
Some in the punitive expedition were all for exterminating the redskins, but Gen. Lane, insisting on orderly processes, refused to sanction the wholesale slaughter and granted an armistice until September 10.
On that date the Indians and whites gathered at Table Rock and signed a treaty of peace at a spot which is now marked by a monument. [The monument is a considerable distance away from the actual treaty site.]
Capt. Alden, because of the wound suffered in the Battle Mountain engagement, was forced to resign from the army and later on the wound made it impossible for him to gain readmission to the army, which he sought in order to serve under the Union banner in the Civil War. The captain died in 1870 at Newport, R.I. His old Company E, which had gone out to Fort Jones with him, continued to garrison that strong point until it was abandoned in 1858, later commanders being Capt. Judah and Lt. Bonnycastle.
Letters from General Joseph Lane and Captain Bradford Ripley Alden to the adjutant general of the army, in Washington, D.C., and published in the Congressional [Globe], give further details of the battle with the Indians in this region which the two officers led in 1853.
Names of several of those mentioned in the letters are still familiar here and, in fact, some of those prominent in the winning of this country still have descendants here.
From his headquarters at Camp Alden near Jacksonville [the camp was on the Rogue River], General Lane in August reported to the adjutant general as follows, in part: [This version is abridged, but contains a few details not contained in another version of his report, transcribed here]:
"On August 17 I received information at my residence in the Umpqua Valley that the Rogue River Indians, assisted by the Klamaths, Shastas, the bands living on the Applegate and Grave creeks, had united and attacked the settlements in Rogue River Valley; that a number of persons had been killed, a large amount of stock killed or driven off, and houses and grain burned, and that companies were being formed for the defense of the settlements and for a general war upon the Indians.
Starts for Scene"I promptly notified citizens of the neighborhood and advised with Major Alvord, who was then engaged in location of the road from Myrtle Creek to Camp Stuart, and immediately proceeded accompanied by Captain Armstrong, Messrs. Clugage, Nickell and some ten others, to the scene of the hostilities.
"On the 21st I arrived at the headquarters of our forces on Stuart Creek. Here I found Captain Alden of the 4th Infantry with 11 men of his command, from Fort Jones, all who were fit for duty, and all the volunteers for whom arms could be procured. Alden's force consisted of companies under Captains Goodall, Miller, Lamerick and Rhodes, commanded by Col. John Ross.
"At the request of Col. Alden and the troops I assumed the command of the forces, and on August 22 at 4 a.m. left camp for the mountains, having divided the forces into two battalions in order better to scout the whole country. [It is noted that Lane hereafter refers to Alden as "colonel."--Mail Tribune ed.]
"After advancing about 15 miles beyond Table Rock, I discovered the Indians' trail. We followed it next day with difficulty, the Indians having used every precaution to conceal it. The country was exceedingly mountainous and almost impassable for animals. The Indians had fired the forest behind them, the falling of the burning timber and the heat delaying our progress.
Indians Located"The Indians were finally found two days later in a dense forest, thick with brush. We prepared for battle, and Colonel Alden, at the head of Goodall's company, proceeded on the trail to attack the enemy in front, while a portion of Captain Rhodes' company followed a ridge to the left of the trail. Colonel Alden proceeded to engage them in the most gallant manner. On arriving on the ground I found Colonel Alden, who had been shot down early in the fight, dangerously wounded, in the arms of his faithful sergeant, and surrounded by a few of his men.
"The battle was now raging with great fierceness, our men coolly pouring in their fire, unshaken by the hideous yells and war whoops of the Indians, or by their rapid fire. I determined to charge them but soon received a rifle ball in my right arm near the shoulder. Finding myself weak from loss of blood, I retired to the rear to have my wound examined and dressed.
"The Indians then cried out to our men that they wished to talk, that they desired to fight no longer, that they desired peace. Mr. Tyler was dispatched by Captain Goodall to inform me. Robert Metcalfe and James Bruce were sent into the Indians' line to talk and found the Indians much superior in numbers, being about 200 warriors, well armed with rifles and muskets and plenty of ammunition.
"Entering the lines I met the principal chief, Joe, and the subordinate chiefs, Sam and Jim, who told me their hearts were sick of war, and that they would meet me at Table Rock in seven days, where they would give up their arms, make a treaty and place themselves under our protection.
Alden Praised"Too much praise cannot be awarded to Colonel Alden; the country is greatly indebted to him for the rapid organization of the forces, when it was entirely without defense. Captains Goodall and Rhodes, with their companions, distinguished themselves from the beginning to the end of the action.
"Our loss was three killed: Captain Pleasant Armstrong, Privates John Scarborough and Isaac Bradley. The Indians lost eight killed and 20 wounded.
"Soon after my return from the mountains, Captain A. J. Smith, First Dragoons, arrived at camp with his troops from Port Orford. The governor of the territory ordered Captain Nesmith and a company from Fort Vancouver with a large quantity of arms and ammunition.
"To Robert Metcalfe, John Cosby and James Bruce, who acted as scouts and guides, I am indebted for faithful discharge of their duty.
"Dr. Edward Sheil, George Dart, Richard Dugan and L. A. Davis, appointed as commissioners by Colonel Alden, were most active in discharge of their duties, and kept the command supplied with provisions, transportation and other necessities."
Writing from Yreka, Calif., October 18, to the adjutant general, Colonel Alden reported in part:
"I regret that I have suffered so much from debility, consequent upon my wound, that I have been unable to make a detailed report of my participation in the late military operations. As some official communication from me may be of importance in showing the necessity of furnishing more regular troops of the defense of this frontier, and also to prove the necessity of the call I made upon the volunteers, I made an effort today to communicate a brief statement.
"On August 7 last I received at my post, Fort Jones, Calif., a petition from principal citizens of Jacksonville, Ore., representing that the settlers were threatened by a combination of several tribes. They earnestly requested me to furnish them with all the men and arms at my disposal for their defense.
Many Men Ill"Of the 22 men of my company present, 11 were on sick report and unable to march. I packed 25 muskets, 5 carbines and 600 rounds of ammunition on mules and with all my disposal force, amounting to 11 men, marched for the scene. Passing through Yreka I enrolled 80 volunteers. I enrolled two companies of volunteers at Jacksonville and on the 11th instant mustered the companies at Camp Stuart, seven miles from town. A company of 20 independent volunteers joined me there, making the whole force, including my own men, about 200.
"I learned that the Rogue River Indians had taken a strong position near Table Rock, about 10 miles distant from Camp Stuart. Their force was estimated at 250 warriors. I planned to attack them that night when suddenly a man rode into camp at full speed, announcing in the hearing of all the troops that the Indians had appeared in force in the valley, killed two white men and burned a house and several haystacks and that families in the north of the valley were in imminent danger of massacre.
"At this announcement, 20 men of the independent volunteers darted off on horseback in the direction of the burning house, light of which was distinctly visible at the camp. I was compelled to suspend the attack and permit the companies raised in the valley to mount and hasten to the defense of the houses and homes. This disconnected the movement and it was not until the 16th instant that I had force enough present to organize another plan of attack."
Colonel Alden busied himself with organizing his supplies and believing the valley would be endangered if he continued to carry the burden of the details of all subordinate departments, "did not hesitate to request General Lane to relieve me from the command of the volunteers. On August 20 General Lane assumed the command and on the 22nd marched in pursuit of the Indians."
Colonel Alden added that he hoped to be able by next mail to forward a report in detail, including two skirmishes of Lieut. Griffin's scouting party with a large body of Applegate Indians, the scattering of the troops from the 11th to the 16th, the gallant defense of Lieut. Ely's scouting party of 25 men against a band of 100 Indians, and the prompt movement of Captain Goodall with his company of volunteers preceded by a small detachment led by J. D. Cosby and Elijah Heard to the rescue of Lieut. Ely.
Serialized in the Medford Mail Tribune, September 2-4, 1947
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Brevet 2nd Lieutenant Bradford R. Alden, to be 2nd Lieutenant, 15th September 1833, vice Harford resigned.
"Fourth Regiment of Infantry," Washington Globe, Washington, D.C., November 6, 1833, page 2
Second Lieutenant Bradford R. Alden, 4th Infantry, to rank from 15th Sept. 1833, vice Harford resigned.
"Memoranda," Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C., July 17, 1834, page 3
Conformably to the order of the President of the United States in the case, Major General [Winfield] Scott assumes the command of the Army.
His aides de camp are First Lieutenant B. R. Alden, 4th Infantry, and First Lieutenant E. D. Keyes, 3rd Artillery.
"Duties Assumed," Lancaster Examiner and Democratic Herald, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, July 21, 1841, page 2
The Academic Board is composed of the following gentlemen: . . . Bradford R. Alden, Captain 4th Infantry, instructor of infantry tactics . . .
"Examination of the First Class Cadets for Degrees and of the Cadets Generally," New York Herald, June 24, 1849, page 1
We are informed by Mr. Horsley, Cram, Rogers & Co.'s Express messenger, that John D. Colden, messenger from Col. Alden, arrived in Yreka just before he left, bearing the intelligence that Col. Alden was yet alive, although in an extremely critical condition. He was shot with a half-ounce ball while stooping behind a log just in the act of firing at an Indian. The ball entered his neck near the jugular vein and came out just below the arm on the opposite side of his body, inflicting a ghastly wound of sufficient size to enable a man to thrust two fingers into it. Just about the time he fell the old chief Sam stepped out and proposed a parley with the "Big Boston," when another gentleman was sent to him in place of the Colonel. The result of this talk was that some dozen of the whites were permitted to enter the Indian camp, where they observed the dead bodies of twelve Indians piled up ready to be burned. The Indians asked to make a treaty, and the whites had agreed to meet at Table Rock in a few days and talk over the matter. The probability was that on that day either a treaty would be formed or a general battle fought.
Some of Sam's Indians packed Col. Alden some sixty miles from the battle ground, and within twelve miles of Jacksonville, where he now lies.
Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, September 3, 1853, page 3 Jacksonville is about thirty-five miles by trail from the battle site.
A correspondent of the Herald, writing from Jacksonville on the 29th, says: Col. B. R. Alden, and some of the other men wounded in the last battle, reached town yesterday. The Colonel is doing well and in fine spirits, and I am happy to learn that his wound is not considered dangerous.
"From the North," Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, September 10, 1853, page 3
Ft. Reading Cal.Dear Freeman,
Cottonwood P. Office
Septr. 7, 1853.
The newspapers of this region contain an announcement that Capt. Alden is mortally wounded in an encounter with Indians about 200 miles north of this [the battle was about 70 miles from Cottonwood], and as I fear this false intelligence may reach his wife by the next steamer I write you to give you the facts in the case. We have received here a letter from his subaltern Lieut. Collins stating that his wound is not dangerous. So he has only been inflicted with glory instead of death, a difference which I hope you will communicate to his family as speedily as possible, as it may save them much anguish. Please to mention also to Mrs. Alden that the daguerreotype sent out by Mr. Trowbridge has been sent to the Capt. and is no doubt in his hands now. I brought it in my trunk from San Francisco and put it in charge of Dr. Sorrel, who left here for Fort Jones a week since; it will reach its destination very opportunely. I have never seen Mrs. Alden, but I have frequently heard of her, and I never was more tempted to break a seal than when I had her daguerreotype in my charge. Tell her that instead of regretting the circumstance, she has cause for congratulation as it may be the means of her seeing the Captain much sooner than under other circumstances.
60 men from Benicia arrived here yesterday on their way north to the region of the difficulties. There may be no necessity for them, but they will probably continue their march until the matter is certain.
I am very busy and only write to relieve Mrs. Alden and the Captain's other friends.
With many kind feelings & wishes for you & yoursLt. Col. W. G. Freeman
I am very truly
Your friend & classmate
Bradford Ripley Alden papers, MS 29, California Historical Society
HEADQUARTERS PACIFIC DIVISION,SIR: I have the honor to forward herewith a slip from the Placer Times and Transcript of this morning, containing a report from General Joseph Lane of the operations against the Rogue River Indians, to which I have nothing to add, having received no statements more full or differing in any particular from the report.
San Francisco, September 30, 1853.
Captain Alden reports that he is rapidly recovering from his wound, his arm being yet stiff, however. He is now at Fort Jones.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. A. HITCHCOCK,Lieut. Col. L. THOMAS,
Col. 2nd Infantry, B.B. Gen. Commanding.
Assistant Adjutant General
Headquarters of the Army, New York City.
Ex. Doc. 76, 34th Congress, 3rd session, 1857, page 81
21st day of September 
The captain that was severely wounded by the Indians at the last battle arrived here [Yreka] today, having recovered so as to be able to ride in a wagon. A company also arrived this way going to Rogue River. Col. Wright commanded them.
The citizens of Yreka, hearing of Col. Alden's coming, assembled together and greeted him with a hearty welcome. He is much esteemed by the citizens here, and respected by those of Jacksonville for his promptness in coming to their relief. On once seeing him you behold the gentleman. When he fell at Evans Creek and was supposed mortally wounded, his men crawled around him, determined to die as a man rather than fall back and leave him exposed to the fury of the Indians.
Elizabeth Hurst Ellwood, The Life of Captain Stephen Palmer Blake from his Journals, Genealogy Publishing Service 1995, page 331
Capt. Alden, U.S.A., has been removed to Fort Jones. His general health is restored. One arm, however, seems paralyzed, and fears are felt that it will be useless for life.
"From Yreka," Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, October 1, 1853, page 3
An unpublished account of the Rogue River war, and incidents connected therewith, is promised us. The author says there was another person figured in the war. He is known out there by the name of Capt. Alden. He is just the man, he says, for almost any emergency, and has a heart as big as a mountain. He thinks there is not much éclat to be gained in an Indian fight nohow, but if there be never so little it ought not to be wrongfully appropriated. A stranger would think, on reading the accounts already given, that there was no person else there except Gen. Lane. He did all the fighting--he did all the wawa-ing and per consequence he ought to have all the credit. This self-glorification appears cool to us.
Oregon Spectator, Oregon City, October 20, 1853, page 2
WASHINGTON, D.C., March 19, 1854.SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt yesterday, at 4 p.m., of your communication, dated the 17th instant, requesting me to state what understanding I had with the volunteers organized to repress Indian hostilities in Rogue River valley, Oregon, in August last, or what representations I made with regard to their pay and expenses.
In reply to your inquiries, I have to state that I informed the captains of companies that I had no authority to enroll volunteers, and that a special appropriation of Congress would be required to meet all the expenses of the war. I assured them, however, that as there was ample evidence of the existence of a dangerous Indian outbreak, I would represent to the government, in my official capacity, the state of the case, and should strongly urge the justice of the claims of volunteers for payment.
These are the only representations made to them in regard to the mode and prospect of their payment.
I assured them further, that I should recommend their pay to be that of dragoons, at the highest rate of pay received by such troops in California and Oregon.
I enrolled the troops for fifteen days, or during the war, and was compelled to fix upon four dollars a day as the price I would recommend to be paid for the use of each horse for the first fifteen days. For the remaining time, it was understood that the hire of the horses should be settled by commissioners whom the Secretary of War would probably appoint.
After examining the volunteer rolls, I had proposed to file in the Adjutant General's office, on the 15th instant, a statement in full of my remarks upon them, when, unfortunately, I was attacked with a severe fit of illness, which confined me to my bed until yesterday. If such remarks are now desired by the Secretary of War, I can prepare them.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,Hon. JEFFERSON DAVIS,
B. R. ALDEN.
Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.
Ex. Doc. No. 99, 33rd Congress 1st Session, Expenses of Rogue River War
Remarks on certain accounts and bills presented by citizens of Oregon and California for services and supplies furnished during the Rogue River war of 1853; also remarks concerning muster-rolls if volunteers in that war.Of the muster-rolls of volunteers in the hands of the Secretary of War, to the best of my belief and knowledge, the following are substantially correct--as correct as could be expected under the circumstances--viz: Captain Goodall's, Lamerick's, and Miller's.
Captain Fowler's company was enrolled by the commissioners of military affairs in Rogue River valley, as a guard for the defense of the town of Jacksonville. When they advised with me on the subject, I suggested the enrollment of thirty men. I suppose the muster-roll in the hands of the Secretary to be correct.
Captain Owens' company was enrolled by my authority--twenty-five men--but was soon after disorganized. The men quarrelled with the captain, and drove him off at the risk of his life. I would suggest that an estimate be made for the company, but that special instructions should be given to the board ordered to make payments to this company.
Captain Rhodes' rolls have not yet come into my hands. I enrolled his company of mounted men--about fifty-five men; the average term of service being thirty days.
Of the other companies I have no knowledge. Captain Williams' and Terry's companies cannot, I suppose, expect as high allowance for the hire of mules and horses as those that I enrolled. The staff-roll appears to be correctly made out. I would recommend it to be adopted as it stands.
About August 20, 1853, I hired a mule pack-train, at $4 a day for each mule while kept in service, and to be discharged at the pleasure of the commanding officer. At that time mules could not have been hired at a cheaper rate. I did not suppose that it would be necessary to retain the train in service more than thirty days. Before the month expired, however, the pack-train was sent by General Lane to the emigrant trail with a company of volunteers to furnish supplies to the suffering emigrants, and to protect them against the Indians in that quarter. I would suggest consultation with General Lane to determine the rate at which these packers shall be paid while on this service; and also whether the expenses of that movement shall be included iu the bill for defraying the expenses of the Rogue River war.
The blacksmith bills for shoeing horses of volunteers should properly be deducted from the pay of the men; but as the captains were unable to present correct lists of the names of the men who had their horses shod, I would suggest that one-half of the horse-shoeing bill at least should be deducted from the hire of mules and horses.
I consider the forage a little too large, and would recommend a general deduction of one-third on all bills for forage over $300.
I would suggest that the prices of articles of subsistence be regulated so that different merchants shall not be paid different prices for the same article: this to apply to merchants in northern California (in the vicinity ofYreka) and in Rogue River valley.
B. R. ALDEN,WASHINGTON, D.C., March 24, 1854.
Late Captain Fourth United States Infantry.
Ex. Doc. No. 99, 33rd Congress 1st Session, Expenses of Rogue River War
This letter is dated Antwerp, Belgium, Aug. 21st, 1856.
Memorandum book vol. 20, B. F. Dowell papers, University of Oregon Special Collections Ax 031
OBITUARY.--Capt. Bradford Ripley Alden, a former resident of the oil regions and well known to the operators and business men of this section, who lived here ten years ago, died at Newport, R.I. on the 10th instant. Mr. Alden, in partnership with the late Capt. Cornelius S. Chase, deceased, the son of J. L. Chase, of this city, leased the John McClintock farm, now a part of the flourishing town of Rouseville, at a very early day, and put down the next successful oil well after Col. Drake's. The mode of drilling at that time was with the old-fashioned spring pole. Mr. Alden, afterward, disposed of the greater part of his interest to the Bliven Oil Co., New York City, realizing a handsome competence from the sale. The residence of Capt. Alden has been New York City for several years. He was a native of Meadville. The deceased had been an officer in the regular army, and had, before the Rebellion, seen considerable military service on the frontier, in Indian hostilities. He carried his professional habits about with him, in respect to exactness in all his dealings and a certain severity of manner. But by all he was respected for his integrity of character, and was cordially liked by his intimate friends. Capt Alden was about 60 years old, and leaves a wife and three children, his eldest son being now in Yale College.
Titusville Herald, Titusville, Pennsylvania, September 14, 1870, page 3
Bradford R. Alden.We are indebted to Major Lardner for a copy of the Army and Navy Journal, of October 22nd, containing a memorial sketch of the late Col. Bradford R. Alden, whose decease was noticed a few weeks since, and of whom we gave some reminiscences. The deceased had a few years since a large circle of friends and acquaintance in the oil region, who will be interested in the communication which we reproduce from the columns of the Journal, as follows:
Colonel Bradford R. Alden, who died in Newport, R.I., on the 10th September, 1870, aged 60, was a gentleman whose long association with our army, as well as his high personal character, demands far more than a passing notice. He was born in Meadville, Pa., graduated at West Point in 1831, and was an officer of the Fourth U.S. Infantry until he resigned in 1853. At that date he was stationed as captain of the Fourth Infantry at Fort Jones, in Northern California, with but one small company in his command. In August, 1853, a universal and formidable uprising of the Indians on Rogue River, in Southern Oregon, occurred, and a call for aid was sent to him. He instantly repaired thither, distant 200 miles [sic], and beyond his ordinary sphere of supervision, with a small detachment of regulars, and immediately called out and raised a battalion of volunteers for the defense of the valley, of which he was elected colonel. They met the Indians in a stiff battle on the 24th of August, 1853, near Jacksonville, Oregon, and he was badly wounded in the shoulder and spine, a wound from which he never fully recovered. The people of that valley always spoke in enthusiastic terms of him and his prompt, heroic and gallant services--services which we doubt not saved that beautiful valley from a great calamity.
He had previously served for several years as aide-de-camp to General Winfield Scott, and was commandant of the corps of cadets at West Point from 1845 to 1852. Thus large numbers of its graduates can bear witness to the purity and sterling traits of his character. After his resignation he traveled in Europe repeatedly for his health. Unable to ride horseback from his wound, and therefore unfitted to share in the Civil War, he went in 1861 to the petroleum region in northwestern Pennsylvania and was fortunate in initiating some of the most successful petroleum enterprises in that region.
Colonel Alden was the son of Major Roger Alden, aide-de-camp to General Washington in the Revolution, who passed upon him the highest encomiums; and the son certainly inherited like virtues. No man who ever lived possessed more heroic and noble traits of character. Imbued with decided religious principles from his earliest youth, his pure and genial Christian character was ever exhibited in numberless acts of benevolence, many of which were unknown to mortal eyes. Real want and misfortune were ever met by him with sympathy, and he had a heart as big as the rest of the world. Of polished manners and elegant tastes, he was highly accomplished in his knowledge of literature and art; and extensive travel, with an observing mind, made him a charming companion. He has left behind him a pure spotless fame, illustrating the brightest qualities of the true American gentleman. The only difficulty his friends encounter in writing of his qualities is how to re-train the pen within moderate limits when attempting merely to do bare and simple justice to his memory.
Titusville Herald, Titusville, Pennsylvania, October 24, 1870, page 3
Wood Carvings in Yale.Yale University has acquired possession of the famous Alden wood carvings, which for some years have been deposited in the Yale art school. These carvings are upon confessionals and panels of a monastery of the sixteenth century at Ghent, and are said to be worth $15,000. They were bought 40 years ago by Col. B. R. Alden of the United States army and brought to this country.
Naugatuck Daily News, Naugatuck, Connecticut, June 24, 1897, page 8
YALE'S ART TREASURES.
The Wood Carvings of the Sixteenth Century.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., Aug. 7.--At the recent commencement exercises of Yale, President Dwight announced that the School of Fine Arts had secured the famous Alden wood carvings. These carvings belong to the sixteenth century and are among the most famous in existence. They were purchased in Ghent about forty years ago by the late Colonel Bradford R. Alden of the United States army. They were the property of a suppressed monastery, which was rich in its art treasures. Colonel Alden after securing these carvings deposited them in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. When the museum was removed to Central Park the carvings were deposited in the Yale Art School through the influence of Professor John Weir, the dean of the Yale School of Fine Arts.
The carvings have remained in Yale's keeping ever since. On Colonel Alden's death they became the property of his widow. Recently, through the death of Mrs. Alden and the settlement of the estate, the carvings were offered for sale, and, with the aid of Mr. R. Percy Alden, an honorary alumnus of Yale, the art school secured the carvings.
The collection comprises three elaborately carved confessionals and the wall paneling of a monastery chapel in Ghent. The carvings now fill a large room in the art school. The panels occupy a space 9 feet in height and 120 feet in length. The confessionals also include considerable adjacent wall paneling. The carvings are all of oak.
The style of the carving is of about the same date as the stalls of the cathedral of Antwerp. The Alden carvings rival these stalls in point of beauty. Competent judges have set a high value upon them. A Belgian critic, referring to their removal from Ghent, termed these carvings "the pearls of Belgium."
Yale had a peculiar interest in securing the panels, aside from the fact that they had been in the safekeeping of the university for a number of years. Yale already possessed the Jarves art collection of early Italian paintings, which dates from the eleventh to the seventeenth security, and the Alden carvings, together with these paintings, form a strong link with the art of the Old World. They give the Yale School of Fine Arts a unique place among the depositories of art in this country. The close competition between the museums of art makes it very difficult to secure original works of past centuries of such rare excellence as the Alden carvings. In addition to these treasures from foreign lands Yale possesses the Trumbull collection of portraits and historical paintings of the American Revolution.
Much of the credit of securing these art treasures for Yale is due to the untiring efforts of Professor John F. Weir, the director of the art school. Professor Weir first secured the carvings for safekeeping and then succeeded in getting possession of them for the university. There are very few original wood carvings in America, and none so valuable as these, either in point of design or workmanship.
Des Moines Daily News, August 7, 1897, page 5
Robert Percy Alden.
Robert Percy Alden, a lawyer and a descendant of John Alden, the Puritan, died yesterday in his apartments in the Hotel Devon, 70 West Fifty-Fifth Street, of paralysis, after a long illness, aged 61. He was the son of Bradford R. Alden, U.S.A., and was graduated from Yale in the class of 1870. He was graduated from the Columbia Law School in 1875. He married Miss Mary Warren, who was the daughter of George Henry Warren, and who died ten years ago. He leaves two sons, John Percy and George Henry Alden. He was a member of the University Club.
New York Times, April 5, 1909, page 7
Col. B. R. Alden, Colorful Oil Region Figure, Negotiated Seneca Leases
By John P. Herrick
Col. Bradford R. Alden, who secured the first oil leases from the Seneca Nation of Indians, was one of the most colorful figures to whom the oil regions beckoned.
Born at Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1811, a son of Major Roger Alden, who served under General Washington, he was graduated at sixteen from the military academy at West Point. He served in a garrison in Florida four years, then eight years at West Point as assistant teacher of French, professor of mathematics, and instructor in infantry tactics. For two years he served as aide-de-camp on the staff of Major General Winfield Scott, to whom he so endeared himself that after the general's death Alden became executor of the Scott estate.
On Frontier DutyWith the rank of captain, he was on frontier duty in Louisiana and Texas, returning to West Point in 1845 for a seven years' duty as Commandant of Cadets and instructor in infantry tactics. In 1853, while on frontier duty on the Pacific Coast, he was promoted to a colonelcy. In a battle with hostile Indians in Oregon, a musket ball penetrated the spine, causing his resignation (and his death seventeen years later). After his resignation, he traveled extensively in Europe in the vain hope of restoring his health.
While on a visit to his native town of Meadville in the summer of 1859 the famous Drake well was completed at Titusville, only 21 miles distant. A visit to the well convinced him of the value of the discovery, and he was among the first to envision the birth of a new industry. He at once engaged in the oil business, and under his direction 46 wells were drilled.
Negotiated First LeasesOne of Col. Alden's partners was Jonathan Watson of Titusville, Pa., rated as the first oil millionaire. It was Mr. Watson who sent him to Olean to make his headquarters in that village while negotiating with the Seneca Indian Council for leases of the Allegany and Oil Spring reservations. The leases dated December 19, 1859 were, as far as known, the first oil leases granted in the state. The same day the leases were granted Col. Alden transferred an undivided one-third interest in the leases to Samuel W. Bradley of Olean, a like interest to Jonathan Watson, and retained a one-third interest. The firm name decided upon was Jonathan Watson & Company.
With the opening of the Civil War in 1861, Colonel Alden tried to re-enlist in the regular army, but Major General Scott, his old chief, refused him a commission, knowing that his zeal was greater than his strength. Returning to the oil regions, he amassed a fortune, a liberal portion of which he disbursed in generous charity.
Death came to Colonel Alden September 24, 1870, at Newport, Rhode Island.
Oil City Derrick, Oil City, Pennsylvania, March 28, 1952, page 20
Last revised June 3, 2021