1st Alabama Cavalry - Est. 1862
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It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Glenda McWhirter Todd. She passed away on September 3, 2017 surrounded by her family. She was a historian, genealogist, and author who prided herself on being a descendant of Andrew Ferrier McWhirter of the 1st Alabama Cavalry, USV. Her work over the past two decades and her dedication to the 1st Alabama Cavalry has created a legacy that will last for years to come.

Her life's work has touched thousands of people through the years, and I am glad that I had the pleasure to work with her as long as I did. My hope is that her work will live on for years to come to educate and inspire a new generation.


Stories about Troopers from the 1st Alabama

Tombstone Combined Service Record

Drury H Whitehead

Drury Henry Cox Whitehead was born on the 5 September 1831 in Lauderdale County, Alabama. Drew, as he came to be called, was the youngest child of Archibald and Nancey Smith Whitehead. He was probably named for a merchant in Lexington, Alabama named Drury Henry Cox who had evidently befriended the Whitehead family, and thus they named their youngest in appreciation. Archibald and Nancey moved the family to Fayette County, Alabama in the 1840's in order for Nancey to take possession of her inheritance from her Father, William Smith.

Drew grew up on the family farm and surely worked with his Father at the grist mill that the family owned on Stud Horse Creek near Glen Allen. Drew's childhood was probably much like every other child growing up at this time in rural Alabama. Farm life was not easy and children were made to work the fields along side adults. He had very little education, and according to some of his descendants he learned to read but had to rely on the proverbial "X" to sign his name. From all indications, Drew was a free spirited lad with an independent mind that must have inherited from his mother.

When talk of secession began in 1860 the Whitehead family decided to steer clear of the "secesh" movement. As the situation became more heated, the boys decided that they were not going to join the Confederate Army. One can envision the lively conversations that probably took place at Aston's Store in Glen Allen, the local gathering place for the citizens.

At first Jefferson Davis asked for volunteers. Then a conscript law was passed making service mandatory. When this scheme didn't work, especially in Northwest Alabama, a homeguard unit was created to find these slackers and "Tories" (a derisive term referring to the Tories that remained loyal to Britain in the Revolutionary war) and force them to sign up or be imprisoned.

Hartsook Prison was constructed just South of Winfield to house the Tory prisoners. The fear of capture was a daily occurrence as the homeguard roamed the countryside searching for them. Several of Drew's relatives were just as opposed to serving as was Drew. His older brother, Arch, Jr., suffered an untimely death in 1861. It is assumed by many that he may have died of injuries received because of his opposition to the war.

Feelings on both sides ran high. As the war dragged on, these feelings turned to persecution and what followed was some of the worst brutality against private citizens suffered anywhere in the country. Drew's neighbor and friend, Benjamin Northam was ruthlessly murdered because he was considered to be AWOL from the Confederate Army.

The men who were opposed to the war began to "lay out" in the woods and hills to avoid capture by the hated homeguard. According to family legend, Drew hid in a log on one occasion to avoid capture. Other men from the area joined the protest. Some of the families represented were Tuckers, McCalebs, Fowlers, Files, Hallmarks and Studdards. All of these families lived within a ten-mile radius of Drew's home. If they were not friends they were probably acquaintances. His neighbor and possibly a relative, Daniel Smith helped some of these men while they were hiding out. He provided them with food, clothing, guns, ammunition and information. He suffered persecution for it and supposedly was hanged by the homeguard, whom he referred to as "Dog Cavalry" because they used dogs to hunt the men down, but he survived. Drew would later testify before the Southern Claims Commission on his behalf and he for Drew on his pension claim. Smith had three sons who died while serving with the First Alabama Cavalry-USA. Drew and his nephews, George W. Whitehead, Joseph Pinkney Whitehead and William Mack Guess along with the Smith boys, as well as lilely kinsman Ephraim Whitehead, joined the 1st Alabama Cavalry-USV.

The circumstances surrounding Drew's enlistment are told in his application for a pension. He was arrested by Confederate conscript officers and taken to Tuscumbia, Alabama to begin service. He was there about two weeks and escaped. He made his way to Corinth, Mississippi where he joined the Union Army on 1/16/1863. On one occasion, while on leave, he brought the sad news to Daniel that all three of his sons had died while in service. Drew was captured at least once but managed to escape and return to his unit. He served until he was mustered out on 1/22/1864 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Drew made his way back home and resumed his life with his wife, Mary Jane Anthony, and five small children.

Mary Jane Anthony was the second daughter and the ninth child of William Anthony and Jennie McMinn. Her family remained loyal to the Confederacy during the Civil War. Several of her brothers, uncles, and cousins enlisted in the Confederate army. Her brother, Nathaniel, was wounded at The Battle of Fredericksburg and died of his wounds a few days later. The local Union Loyalists killed her uncle, Drewery Dallas McMinn, an officer in the Confederate Army. Her husband, Drew Whitehead had probably been a member of this loyalist group at some time.

Mary Jane’s family was avid in their support of the Confederacy, one even naming his son John Wilkes Booth McMinn, in honor of the assassin of President Abe Lincoln. Drew had some of this same fire in him for he named two of his sons after famous Yankee Generals, Drury Grant and John Sherman.

One can only imagine the sorrow and heartbreak this terrible conflict brought to Mary Jane and her family. Her older sister, Martha, had been married to Drew's older brother, Arch, Jr., who died earlier in the war. It is unknown if these family relationships were restored after the war. It has been said in times past that, "Women and children suffer most from the ravages of war." It is more than a guess that Mary and her sister certainly qualified in this respect.

Drew suffered reprisals from some of his neighbors and former friends. Wanda Wilson tells the story of one of his neighbors, Thomas Frank Tucker, who had served in the Confederate Army. He despised Drew. Wanda is descended from both men.

Certainly there were others.

Fear of reprisals lasted for many years. Young children were taught not to discuss the family's activities during the war with their friends. Fred McCaleb said his Mother was reluctant to talk about it as late as the early 1900's. Her Hallmarks were all loyal to the Union and some were murdered in cold blood for their stand. Many moved away to other parts of the country. An example is Jim Northam, Drew's son in-law and the son of Benjamin Northam mentioned earlier. Jim and Nancey Elizabeth moved to East Texas partly to escape the unpleasantness. Other families suffered the same fate. No family was untouched by this greatest of all tragedies in American history.

While some may question Drew's motives, I have to believe he operated on principle alone. A man does not generally risk his life for less. He had ancestors that fought the British in the war for independence. He did not own any slaves. He did not believe, to use an old term, "that he had a dog in this fight," but when forced to make a stand by circumstances he could not control he made the decision that he thought was right. He was not alone in his thinking. Many young men from Marion, Winston ,Fayette and Walker counties felt the same way and made their stand for the Union cause.

In any event, Drew and Mary Jane went on to have thirteen children and became respected citizens of their community and live long and productive lives. They are buried at Morris Cemetery in Glen Allen.

Database created and maintained by Ryan Dupree.

Service records compiled by Glenda Todd and used with her permission. This and other information about the history of the First and the men who fought with the unit can be found in her book, First Alabama Cavalry, USA: Homage to Patriotism.

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