MORDECAI, ALFRED (1804–1887), U.S. soldier, engineer, and ordnance expert. Born in Warrenton, North Carolina, son of Jacob *Mordecai, Alfred was educated at the West Point Military Academy, passing out first in his class. He was commissioned in the Engineers, but transferred in 1832 to the Ordnance Department, where he remained until his retirement, with the rank of major, in 1861, on the eve of the Civil War. Mordecai served from 1839 to 1860 on the U.S. Ordnance Board, where he helped to develop and systematize weapons, ammunition, and equipment. His greatest contribution to American military technology was the introduction of scientific research and development to the military art. He was twice sent to Europe to study arms systems and production methods and commanded the arsenals at Frankford, Pennsylvania, Washington, d.c., and Watervliet, New York. He wrote several military works, notably Second Report of Experiments in Gunpowder (1849), and Ordnance Manual for the Use of the Officers of the United States Army (1841, 1850). His son alfred (1840–1920) was also an ordnance officer and rose to the rank of brigadier general.
S.L. Falk, Soldier-Technologist: Major Alfred Mordecai and the Beginnings of Science in the United States Army (1959), incl. bibl.; idem, in: aja, 10 (1958), 125–32; A. Mordecai, in:North Carolina Historical Review, 22 (1945), 58–108; S.L. Falk, in: A.J. Karp (ed.), The Jewish Experience in America, 3 (1969), 300–22.
[Stanley L. Falk]