Buckey was charismatic, but Brodie was the Rough Riders’ glue
By Jay Eby
Alexander Oswald Brodie III, like most Prescottonians of his day, and most of us, was not a native of Arizona. But he was "a thorough Westerner" Arizonan.
He was born November 13, 1849, in the family mansion near Edwards, New York to Joseph and Margaret (Brown) making him the heir of a long line of royal Scots.
Alex attended St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York and graduated from West Point in 1870. Commissioned Second Lieutenant First US Cavalry, June 15, 1870, he was assigned at Ft. Apache, Arizona Territory. While there he campaigned with General George Crook and then transferred to Walla Walla, Washington in April 1873 where he fought against the Nez Perce. As was usual for young officers of his time who bounced from post to post he was assigned briefly at Benicia Barracks, California, and then on to duty at Fort Colville, Washington.
Promoted to First Lieutenant of Cavalry on May 25, 1876, he married Kate Reynolds of Walla Walla but lost her in childbirth and their daughter a few months later. He resigned his commission on September 30, 1877 and returned to New York to attend his dying mother.
In August of 1883 he reenlisted at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and was again assigned to Arizona Territory. He again resigned his commission in February 1884. The story told by Tom Rynning is that he was involved in an altercation with another officer, brought up on charges but resigned his commission, as a true gentleman would, to protect the name of the young lady involved.
He came to Prescott and was chief engineer on the Walnut Grove dam on the Hassayampa River. Although the dam burst on February 22, 1891, with the loss of seventy lives, Brodie had argued for stronger construction and acquired no blame for the incident.
Territorial Governor John N. Irwin appointed him the first commander of the Arizona National Guard. Brodie served in this capacity until May of 1892.
Alex married 28 year old Mary Louise Hanlon on December 15, 1892. Their first son, Alexander Oswald Brodie IV, died in 1896 and their second son, Alexander "Sandy" Oswald Brodie V was born in 1898.
Through the fall of 1897 and spring of 1898 Brodie was involved with Prescott’s mayor William Owen "Buckey" O’Neill in recruiting the Arizona squadron of the Rough Riders. On March 3, 1898 Brodie telegraphed President McKinley and Governor McCord asking that he be allowed to raise a regiment of volunteers, preferably cavalry. April 25, 1898, he was appointed Major of Volunteers and only upon his insistence did McCord appoint Buckey O’Neill as captain of ‘A’ Troop.
Together they recruited most of one thousand men as light cavalry. But they were allowed only 210 select individuals to join Teddy Roosevelt to train in San Antonio for the war in Cuba. If Buckey O’Neill was the charisma that brought the Arizona Rough Riders together then Alex Brodie was the glue that held them together.
He along with Tom Rynning, George Wilcox, Will Davidson, Elmer Hawiey and Will Greenwood, all with prior military experience, helped Colonel Leonard Wood train the Rough Riders at San Antonio.
Major Brodie was at the head of his Arizona troopers in the first battle of the Santiago campaign at Las Guasimas. A Mauser bullet shattered his right wrist and only after a great loss of blood did he walk back to the dressing station. Evacuated from Cuba, he was hospitalized at Fort Wadsworth, New York. On August 11, he rejoined the regiment and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Roosevelt wrote of him that he was "a thorough Westerner without sinking the West Pointer – a soldier by taste as well as training, whose men worshipped him and would follow him anywhere…"
President Roosevelt appointed Brodie Arizona Territorial Governor July 1, 1902. At the ceremony in his office at the new capital an other Prescottonian, retiring Governor Nathan Oaks Murphy said, "Governor Brodie,…I am proud to congratulate the people of Arizona for having as their governor a man whose honesty and integrity will never be questioned."
On February 14, 1905, Brodie retired as governor of Arizona Territory and reentered the regular United States Army with the rank of major. With assignments in Washington D.C. and the Philippines, Brodie was assigned as adjutant general of the Department of the Dakotas in 1907 and in 1911 for the Department of California.
Colonel Brodie retired in 1913 to "Greenfield Hall" in Haddonfield, New Jersey. There he died on May 10, 1918 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The mansion is now the home of the Historical Society of Haddonfield. Upon his death the legislature of State of Arizona passed the following resolution: in part—-
WHEREAS, Alexander O. Brodie, a former Governor of the Territory of Arizona, is now no more,—-
WHEREAS, he had a heart that responded to every advance of sympathy and benevolence; a heart formed of the most ardent attachments; and was a loyal citizen, an affectionate husband, a kind parent, an honored soldier, and a valued friend;
THEREFOR, BE IT RESOLVED —That though the dust of Alexander O. Brodie now sleeps with that of his fathers, he still lives in the hearts of the people of Arizona who, with sincerity, deplore his death.
(Jay Eby is a retired forester and is a member of the Arizona Rough Riders)
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number:(po0122pa). Reuse only by permission.
In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon with his appointed Governor of Arizona, Alexander Brodie. Brodie’s real passion for life was found in the military so he barely served two years as chief of the Territory before resigning in order to accept a position with the War Department in Washington DC.