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

Picture Combined Service Record

Henry S Alvis

Henry S. Alvis was born about 1823, probably in Madison County, Alabama. He was the 10th child of David Alvis III and Elizabeth Degourie of Virginia. Henry married Margaret Cathrine Maynard about 1847. Before the war, Henry farmed near a settlement called Gandy's Cove in Morgan County.

Henry enlisted relatively late in the Civil War. Before he saw service in the 1st Alabama Cavalry, Henry hired himself out as an independent scout and guide. Family legend holds that he worked for both Union and Confederate officials depending on who paid the most at any one particular time. It is also rumored he would lure Confederate sympathizers to Union lines under the pretense of going into Confederate lines.

Henry S. Alvis enlisted as a Union soldier in Decatur, Alabama on 20 March 1864 and was mustered into service 27 March 1864 in Decatur. He spent part of the summer of 1864 sick in the Union Army field hospital at Decatur. He was stationed near Chattanooga in August of 1865. His service record mentions he was hospitalized for a time in a field hospital near Chattanooga in the summer of 1865. Henry was discharged from the Army on 20 October 1865 in Huntsville, Alabama. On this date, the First Alabama Cavalry disbanded and most of the soldiers went home. Henry went back home to live with his wife in Morgan County.

On 18 December 1888, when Henry was 66-years-old, he applied for a Union pension as an invalid. By then, Henry and his family had moved to near Jones Chapel in Cullman County. In the application he says that he contracted "heart disease and piles" as a result of his service in the military. He also states "I was never treated by no one except our company doctor. I was detached and was kept patched up by Dr. Maten [Martin?] who is now dead." Based on this application, the Federal Government saw fit to award Henry a pension.

On 3 December 1890, Henry’s wife Margaret died. Margaret was buried in the historic Shady Grove Cemetery near Logan in Cullman County.

At the time of Margaret's death, she and Henry Alvis were living near the farm of the widow Emily Echols. Emily had moved with her two sons and an invalid daughter to Cullman County from Georgia in the late 1870s.

Emily, born 21 October 1834, was a daughter of George and Elizabeth Duncan. She married William J. Echols 7 August 1852 in Coweta County, Georgia. About 1858, the Echols family moved to southern Arkansas and entered land in Ouachita County. The family is listed there in the 1860 Federal Census. About the time the war began, the family moved back to near Newnan, Georgia and William Echols enlisted in the Confederacy. William died in service in Oct 1863. After the war, the widow Emily moved to Texas for a time with her brother, and then went back to live with her father in Georgia by 1870, and eventually moved to Logan where she lived near the residence of Henry and Margaret Alvis.

On 26 July 1887, Emily applied for a Confederate pension through Cullman County on the service of her husband William J. Echols. Unfortunately, after 25 years or so, she could not remember his unit and company. As a result of the lack of documentation, she never received a Confederate widow's pension.

Henry and Emily became acquainted with each other while they lived in the Shady Grove and Jones Chapel area. About six months after Margaret died, Henry Alvis married the widow Emily Echols 8 June 1891 in Cullman County. Not long after that, they moved up to near Westpoint in Lawrence County, Tennessee. There, they rented a farm from S.W. Mabry, son of James P Mabry, one of Henry's comrades from the 1st Alabama Cavalry. Henry had a history of heart problems and died a little over three years later on 3 October 1894.

The exact circumstances surrounding Henry's last few years are a mystery. Emily had accumulated a good deal of land in Cullman County and some say after they married, Henry sold off the land to the exclusion of Emily's two sons and pocketed the money before he moved away to Tennessee. One story is the two sons never forgave Henry for that and in league with the Klan, caught up with Henry and hung him near Westpoint. In other words, his existing heart trouble was exacerbated by the rope around his neck. Another story, also involving the Klan, reported he was murdered for his Unionist leanings during the war. Whether Henry died of natural causes or was helped along to an untimely end will continue to be a source of speculation. No grave marker has been located for Henry S. Alvis in Lawrence County, Tennessee.

In an affidavit, S.W. Mabry said,

...[Henry] was a renter on my place at the time of his death. I was with him during his last sickness and was present at his death. This affidavit is made for the purpose of assisting the widow of the said Henry S. Alvis (dec’d) to secure a pension from the United States.

Another affidavit was submitted by John W. Alvis, Henry's son:

I, John W. Alvis do certify that I am a son of Henrey S. Alvis and Margaret M. Alvis and I lived at home with my parrence up to 1893. My mother died in 1890 on the 3rd day of December. My father, Henrey S. Alvis never had been married untill he was married to my mother, Margaet M. Maynard. After the deth of my mother, my father married Emily C. Echols on the 8 day of June 1891 and they never was devorced from each other . . . my father died 3 day Oct 1894. I lived at home with them for two year and they live together as man and wife. I know these facks from being with them and a part of the family.

Emily C. Duncan Echols Alvis finally collected her widow's pension, but from her second husband, a Unionist, not her Confederate first husband. Emily moved from Lawrence County, Tennessee back to Cullman County, Alabama in late 1894 or early 1895 and lived near her two sons and invalid daughter until her death 11 February 1909. Emily Alvis is buried near her children in the Emeus Cemetery near Logan in Cullman County.

Henry S. Alvis' son David H. Alvis also served in the 1st Alabama Cavalry. Other family members serving in the 1st included Henry's brother Gabriel Alexander Alvis, and nephews Franklin Newton Alvis, and William John Alvis.

About the Author
Robin Sterling is a descendant of William and Emily Echols. He is indebted to Alvis Hancock, a descendant of Henry S. and Margaret Alvis, for some of the details of this article. The Alvis family history can be studied in Alvis Family Heritage, 1998, compiled in part by Alvis Hancock.

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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