Captain Alexander McRae Marker, Fayetteville
This memorial is dedicated to Captain Alexander McRae from Fayetteville who attended West Point and
then retained his commission as an officer in the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War.
His four brothers fought for the Confederacy. The bronze plaque describes his service record
and death at the Battle of Valverde, New Mexico in 1862 against Confederate forces. The
plaque is attached to a large irregular shaped black lava stone weighing 275 pounds that was brought
from the battlefield area in New Mexico.
CAPTAIN ALEXANDER MCRAE / USMA 1851 / 3RD U.S. CALVARY / KIA FEBRUARY 21, 1862 AT
VALVERDE, NEW MEXICO / BORN TO JOHN AND MARY MACRAE IN FAYETTEVILLE ON
SEPTERMBER 4, 1829, ALEXANDER MCRAE / (HIS SPELLING) GRADUATED FROM THE U.S.
MILITARY ACADEMY AT WEST POINT IN 1851 AND / COMMISIONED AS A LIEUTENANT IN THE
U.S. MOUNTED RIFLES, LATER REDESIGNATED THE U.S. / CAVALRY IN 1861. HE WAS ASSIGNED
DUTY TO THE SOUTHWEST AND AT THE OUTBREAK OF THE CIVIL / WAR HE CHOSE TO RETAIN
HIS FEDERAL COMMISSION TO SERVE IN THE UNION ARMY. HIS FOUR / BROTHERS SERVED IN
THE CONFEDERATE ARMY.
ON FEBRUARY 21, 1862 AT THE BATTLE OF VALVERDE, NEW MEXICO CAPTAIN MCRAE WAS / COMMANDING A BATTERY OF ARTILLERY WHEN IT WAS OVERRUN BY CONFEDERATE TROOPS FROM TEXAS / UNDER GENERAL HENRY SIBLEY. DURING THE RESULTING HAND-TO-HAND FIGHTING IN DEFENSE OF THE / ARTILLERY, CAPTAIN MCRAE HAD BEEN WOUNDED TWICE WHEN HE RECEIVED A FATAL BULLET WOUND / TO THE HEAD. AFTER THE BATTLE HIS COMMANDER, COLONEL CANBY, WROTE “PURE IN CHARACTER / UPRIGHT IN CONDUCT, DEVOTED TO HIS PROFESSION, AND OF A LOYALTY THAT WAS DEAF TO THE / SEDUCTIONS OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS, CAPTAIN MCRAE DIED AS HE HAD LIVED, AN EXAMPLE OF THE / BEST AND HIGHEST QUALITIES THAT A MAN CAN POSSESS.” IN 1867 HIS BODY WAS EXHUMED FROM / ITS NEW MEXICO GRAVE, PLACED IN A CASKET, AND GIVEN A HEROS ESCORT FROM ARMY POST TO / ARMY POST ON ITS WAY TO HIS FINAL RESTING PLACE AT THE U.S. CEMETRY AT WEST POINT.
THE STONE BEHIND THIS PLAQUE IS FROM THE AREA OF THE VALVERDE BATTLEFIELD
[Left] TRANSPORTATION AND LOCAL AREA / HISTORY MUSEUM / FAYETTEVILLE, NC
[Center] SONS OF UNION VETERANS OF THE CIVIL WAR / DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA / MAJ GEN THOMAS H. RUGER CAMP #1 / FAYETTEVILLE, NC
[Right] SOCORRO COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY / SOCORRO, NEW MEXICO
Transportation and Local Area History Museum
May 18, 2013
35.051420 , -78.878720 View in Geobrowse
Parker, Roy, Jr. “Moment In The Sun Brief For Fighting MacRaes,” Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), Thursday, August 18, 1994
Phillips, Gregory. “Marker For Fallen Union Officer From Fayetteville Placed At Old Courthouse Saturday," Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), May 19, 2013
Phillips, Gregory. “Stone Marker To Honor Fayetteville Man Who Was A Union Hero In Civil War Battle In New Mexico,” Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), April 29, 2013
“Alexander McRae,” Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com, (accessed November 11, 2015) Link
Bronze, lava rock
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Major General Thomas H. Ruger Camp #1, Fayetteville NC led efforts to place the marker with support from the Transportation and Local Area Museum, Fayetteville, NC and the Socorro County Historical Society, Socorro, New Mexico
The unveiling ceremony on a warm and breezy Armed Forces Day was attended by about three dozen family and their friends. The ceremony blended Confederate and Union traditions. The Reverend Robert Alves rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church read from a prayer book compiled for Union soldiers and the Fayetteville Light Infantry presented the colors. Doug Elwell, a local member of the Sons of the Union Veterans read from a letter sent to Alexander’s father by Confederate Gen. Henry Sibley who led the Confederate forces during the battle. "The universal voice of this Army attests to the gallantry of your son. He fell valiantly defending the battery he commanded. There are few fallen soldiers that are admired by both armies of a conflict. Capt. Alexander McRae was one."
The McRae story is one of the few documented cases of the oft-repeated legend of families
split by the Civil War. Alexander's four brothers, James Cameron MacRae, Thomas Ruffin
MacRae, John MacRae and Robert Strange MacRae all served with the Confederacy and his
father wrote to him in New Mexico urging him to change sides. Fighting for the Union led to his
service record being little known in his home state and the Fayetteville Observer did not even
report his death in a story on the battle at Valverde. MacRae became an honored figure in New
Mexico history with streets, a Civil War Army post and a canyon named for him. The U.S. Army
also honored him as an early hero of the Civil War. McRae’s grave when relocated after the war
was placed four gravestones from that of George Armstrong Custer in the cemetery at West
Point. The large black tombstone is pointed out as the resting place of one who stayed with the
The marker stands in front of the Old Historic Cumberland County Courthouse on land that was once the homestead of Captain McRae’s grandparents.
James Cameron MacRae, Alexander's brother, was a judge who became dean of the law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His portrait still hangs in the former courthouse downtown. His sister Mary MacRae was the first woman to register for enrollment at the University of North Carolina.
The marker is located at 130 Gillespie Street to the left of the entrance to the Old Historic Courthouse. A marker for the State Banking House, another building that once stood on this site, is located a few feet away.
The memorial stands on the front lawn with evergreen bushes planted behind it.