First Alabama Volunteer Cavalry

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Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
Thread Medic
Answered the Call for Reinforcements
Aug 16, 2015
I came across this interesting article. Perhaps others can supply more detail about this unit....
Henry Peek.jpg

It comes as a surprise while walking through an Oregon, Illinois cemetery, to see a gravestone which proclaims that the interred person served in an Alabama cavalry regiment. The stone is etched:
Henry Clay Peek
Capt. Co. D 1st Ala. Vol.
Henry did serve in an Alabama-manned regiment, but it fought for the Union.
Henry was born in 1837 in Vermont and in 1838 his family moved temporarily to Grand Detour, Illinois but soon moved to a farm south of Polo. Grand Detour conjures up the name of John Deere and his steel moldboard plow. Deere and his wife, a sister of Henry's mother, had also moved from the same Vermont area a short time previous to the Peek removal.
When the Civil War came along, Henry enlisted and was mustered into Company L of the 15th Illinois Cavalry Regiment on January 1 of 1862. Peek, after almost two years of service, rose to the rank of sergeant while the regiment participated in several skirmishes and the Battle of Corinth.
When the Union forces moved into northern Alabama, it was found that in that non-cotton growing area, there were many local Alabamans who were still loyal to the Union. The U.S. government gave the okay for the loyalists to enlist in a Union Regiment. The regiment was called the First Alabama Cavalry Regiment.
The Army decided that the regiment would be officered by Northerners. Experienced enlisted men were offered commissions to serve in the new regiment, while the ranks were primarily Alabama men.
Henry Peek received a commission and went on to command Company D on Sherman's March to the Sea.
Captain Peek was mustered out in October of 1865. While on leave from the Army, Peek got married. That union produced 5 children, all of whom went to college. Two sons became heads of the John Deere Company, and later were golfing partners of President Eisenhower. FDR had named one of the sons to head up the Agriculture Adjustment Administration ("Triple A") in the early 1930's.
Captain Peek operated a grain elevator in Oregon, Illinois and served 10 years as sheriff of Ogle County. Peek's home still stands in Oregon. He died in 1924.
Submitted by Leonard J. Jacobs
<Henry Clay Peek Company L, 15th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry.>


Forum Host
May 7, 2016
This is an easy one as there was only 1 Union unit from Alabama in Fold3. Here are his records. The unit records are over 300 pages. This unit was all over the place. It was select by Gen Sherman as his escort unit during his march to the sea.



Brigadier General
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Mar 15, 2013
The 1st Alabama Cavalry US served with honor in a lot of assignments before they were selected as Sherman's escort. I'm guessing that's why they were chosen.

Brig Gen G M Dodge had this to say about the services of the 1st Alabama in NW Alabama in April 1863:
"Colonel Cornyn hearing firing in the rear, immediately fell back, and, with the First Alabama Cavalry, charged the rebels and retook the artillery and caissons, with the exception of one gun, which the enemy succeeded in getting off with."

and later in the same report:
"The fighting of the cavalry was excellent. The Tenth Missouri, Seventh Kansas, Fifteenth Illinois, and First Alabamaall did themselves credit; they invariably drove the enemy, no matter what their force."

And this, Oct 6, 1863 from Maj Gen S A Hurlbut:
COLONEL: I have the honor to inclose [sic] for the information of the general-in-chief my letter of instructions to Colonel George E. Spencer, First Alabama Cavalry. Colonel Spencer's regiment is wholly composed of refugees from Alabama. They have been in several engagements and behaved well. They are thoroughly acquainted with the country, well mounted and armed; have two light steel guns, take with them as volunteers 6 engineers who can either run or destroy railroads or steamers.....

And this from Maj Gen John Logan Feb 1864:
A great many Alabamians in the country desire to enlist in the Alabama regiment. They have shown themselves very useful men. If I had the authority I could fill the regiment and use them to a good purpose. They are the best scouts I ever saw, and know the country well clear to Montgomery.

And Brig Gen Morgan L. Smith, speaking of the regiment's assistance in April 1864 at Decatur, wrote:
"The loyal Alabamians are invaluable and exceed in number and are equal in zeal to anything we discovered in Tennessee."
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Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Jun 2, 2013
Columbus, OH
There is a LOT of information about this unit in my book on the March 10, 1865 Battle of Monroe's Crossroads, as the 1st Alabama bore the brunt of the fighting there. It's an interesting unit. It was not well disciplined, and also was the subject of scorn by the Alabama Confederate units in particular, who viewed this guys as traitors. There are two published regimental histories.
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