Written by Lynna Kay Shuffield, Oran M. Roberts Chapter 440, United Daughters of the Confederacy
First Sergeant John Henry Alley was a member of Company E, 4th Texas Cavalry (also known as the Milam County Guards or Captain Charles Buckholts’ Company, 1st Regiment, Sibley’s Brigade, Texas Mounted Volunteers). During the Civil War, John enlisted in the Milam County Guards on Saturday, 4 May 1861 as a Private at Cameron by Captain Buckholts. He is shown on the company’s rolls at Camp Silby in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas on Tuesday, 17 September 1861. While serving in the Guards, John served as a Third Sergeant and was promoted to First Sergeant on Thursday, 7 November 1861.
He was taken as a Prisoner of War (POW) on Wednesday, 16 April 1862 at Albuquerque, New Mexico by Colonel Benjamin S. Roberts, Union Army. He was confined at Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois and exchanged at Vicksburg, Mississippi on Saturday, 20 September 1862.
Under the rules of the prisoner exchange cartel established in July 1862, all POWs were to be exchanged or paroled within 10-days of capture. Prisoners were to be exchanged, "man for man and rank for rank" with allowances made for officers to be exchanged to an equivalent number of soldiers (example: 1 general = 60 enlisted men). Paroled prisoners were not allowed to return home or engage in further military activities until properly exchanged. Although numerous disagreements hampered the effectiveness of the cartel, it was still in operation and exchanges of paroled prisoners were generally conducted on a monthly basis.
See the narrative of F.M. & Wayne Cave for information on the activities of the 4th Texas Cavalry from September 1861 through May 1862. To learn more about the Battle of Val Verde, Battle of Gloreita Pass, Sibley Campaign or the 4th Texas Cavalry, please refer to the Handbook of Texas in print form or on-line at http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/search.html.
History shows that the Camp Douglas, a Union prison for Confederates, was located at 31st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago, Illinois on land belonging to Stephen A. Douglas. In early 1862, this 60-acre tract of land was a training camp for Illinois volunteers. When it was designated as a prison camp, it was enclosed to secure the Southerners. A total of 30,000 Confederates were held at this Prisoner of War Camp during the Civil War. The prison was located on low ground, badly drained, with no protection from the strong winter winds. There were complaints about inadequate food, however, the primary danger was frostbite. There were reports of prisoners being forced to stand outside in freezing temperatures for long hours as punishment. Some frozen limbs had to be amputated. Other prisoners were beaten with clubs and leather belts. The barracks were 90-feet by 24-feet with 20-feet partitioned off for a kitchen and 170 men having to sleep in the remaining 70-foot space.
John was born on Friday, 27 November 1829 in either Alabama or Mississippi and currently the names of his parents are unknown. He was married to Mary Elizabeth Stewart on Thursday, 12 July 1860 in Milam County. They had three children: Robert Henry Alley (died as an infant), Martha Bowlin Euzene “Mattie” Alley (married: John Wesley Lantrip), and Sarah F. Alley (married: Thomas B. Fowler).
The Late Great Unpleasantness ended for John and he came home from the war a sickly man. He died on Tuesday, 23 February 1869 and although he is known to be buried in the Pin Oak Cemetery in Milam County, Texas, the exact location of his grave is not known.
After John’s death, his wife Mary ran a store in the Hanover Community (near Pin Oak). She died on Monday, 28 October 1918 in Milam County and is buried in the Liberty Cemetery. Mary was born on Saturday, 18 January 1845 in Rome, Georgia and was the daughter of Robert and Freelove Cornett Stewart.
Created on 20 May 2003 and last revised on 14 Mar 2007