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Fayette County, Alabama
 
~ Sixty-six Soldiers ~
of the First Alabama Cavalry USA
Who Died During the Unit's Encampment
at Nashville, Tennessee
(September 1862 through January 1863)


Generously contributed by
Terry Thornton

It has been observed that the American Civil War in the 1860s was the last war fought prior to widespread acceptance of the modern theory of germs as the cause of illnesses.  In fact, the Civil War was probably the last great gathering of human beings into close contact prior to the development of the germ theory of disease.  As a result of the lack of knowledge about what causes disease, many of those men who were caught up in the activities of warfare died, not of bullets and cannonballs, but of diseases so common as to be considered "childhood" diseases by more modern standards.
 
When thousands of men were gathered up in camps, they were extremely susceptible to communicable disease especially during the first few months of their service.  Those from rural sections were more susceptible — and the younger men were very susceptible to communicable disease.
 
During the Civil War more men suffered from disease than from battle wounds — some researchers put the numbers at approximately 4 to 1.  For every one felled by battle, four were made incapable of fighting from infectious disease.  It is estimated that about 110,000 Union soldiers died from battle wounds but more than 250,000 Union men died from disease.
 
Among the dead from disease in the First Alabama Cavalry USA were several Northwest Alabama volunteers.  Many of these men died within the first few months of their service.  The first disease epidemic to usually hit a new regiment of soldiers, especially volunteers from isolated rural locations, was measles.  The lack of knowledge about what caused this disease when combined with poor sanitation, poor diet, crowded living conditions, and improper care often meant that measles would create complications, especially pneumonia, from which many would die.
 
In an attempt to examine the impact of communicable disease on a group of rural volunteers in a military encampment during the early part of the Civil War, the service records [as published by Todd] were studied.  Death records from the First Alabama Cavalry USA were examined for the months of September, October, November, December 1862 and January 1863 at the unit's encampment in Nashville, TN, to determine the effect of communicable disease on the death rate.  Information was extracted to determine the dead soldier's name, his age, where he enlisted, the disease the military medical staff stated as the cause of death, and the recruit's place of birth.
 
In Nashville alone during those five months studied, 66 soldiers from this single military unit died.  Measles [or rubeola] was the major cause listed for those deaths; and the younger the man, the more likely he was to die of communicable disease.  The majority of the dead men were enlisted at Huntsville, AL, and most can be presumed to be farmers from throughout the northwest part of Alabama.  The place of birth stated in the military records of the dead men give some indication of where they were from (although the service record does not state where they lived at the time of enlistment) — Morgan County, Walker County, Fayette County and Lawrence County are the most frequent birth counties listed.  Some of the military records have additional notes which indicate that several of the men who died were residing in Marion, Walker and Fayette counties at the time of enlistment.
 
All of the deaths in the First Alabama Cavalry USA during September 1862 through January 1863 were of troops who were designated as being in either Company I or Company K.  It is possible that the other companies of the First Alabama Cavalry USA had not yet been created at the time of the encampment in Nashville.  Company I had 30 men to die during the five months from which data were extracted for this study; Company K had 36 deaths during the same time period.  The Union volunteers that formed these companies were recruited primarily from North Alabama and as soon as the units were formed, they were stationed at or near Fort Campbell, Nashville, TN.  Within just a few weeks of the unit's formation, disease became rampant and the 66 deaths from Company I and Company K resulted.
 
The earliest deaths during the Nashville encampment for the First Alabama Cavalry USA occurred in September 1862.  Three men died (the first death was on the 3rd of September; the second death was on the 9th of Typhoid fever; and the third death from was on the 26th of Rubeola).  The first soldier to die was an 18-year-old from Walker County, AL; his cause of death is not listed.  The second man to die was a 28-year-old who was born in Morgan County, AL, and enlisted in Decatur, AL.  The third was a 38-year-old soldier who enlisted in Huntsville but was born in Green County, GA.  These three deaths in September were a prelude to the deaths to come in October (29 deaths), November (17 deaths) and December (13 deaths).  By January, only four deaths were reported from the Nashville encampment; the epidemic had run its course.  No records were examined to determine the number of soldiers ill from disease but who recovered.
 
Among those dying from disease were brothers, cousins, fathers and sons (and possibly one case of a grandfather and his grandson), uncles and nephews.  Their ages range from 18 (but probably some were younger and mis-stated their true age upon enlistment) to the eldest, 68.  Most were described as farmers.
 
My relative, Martin V. Thornton, died in Nashville in November 1862.  His circumstances are typical for the majority of the others of his unit who died — young (Martin was 19), from a rural background (Martin was a farmer from Fayette/Walker County, AL), new recruit (Martin had been in service only four months when he died), death from complications of rubeola or measles (Martin died of rubeola).
 
The cause of death was not listed on 25 of the soldiers during the months of September, October, November, December 1862 and January 1863.  It is assumed that the majority of those deaths were due to illness rather than warfare — there is no record of which I am aware to indicate that any of the early volunteers of the First Alabama Cavalry USA were engaged in battle during the time examined in this study.  In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the First Alabama Cavalry USA was not armed with weapons until later in 1863.  A closer examination of each service record of these dead soldiers' in Washington, D.C., probably would clarify the cause of death for some of those 25.  Readers are cautioned, however, that military records from that time are not complete in many cases.
 
In the tables below are summaries of the data dealing with the 66 deaths in the First Alabama Cavalry USA in or near Nashville, TN, during the months of September, October, November, December 1862 and January 1863.  The names of the 66 men who died are listed.  Perhaps you will recognize some of the surnames.

Table 1
Number of Deaths by Company, 1st Ala Cav USA
September 1862 - January 1863

Deaths in Company I 30
Deaths in Company K 36



Table 2
Number of Deaths by Age of Soldiers, 1st Ala Cav USA
September 1862 - January 1863


YRS OF AGE # DEAD
18-19-20-21 25
22-23-24-25 12
26-27-28-29 08
30-31-32-33 08
34-35-36-37 02
38-39-40-41 02
42-43-44-45 04
46-47-48-49 02
50-51-52-53 01
54-55-56-57 01
58-59-60-61 00
62-63-64-65 00
66-67-68-69 01



Table 3
Place of Birth for Soldiers of 1st Ala Cav USA Who Died
September 1862 - January 1863
*

PLACE OF BIRTH #
Morgan Co., AL 19
Walker Co., AL 07
Fayette Co., AL 05
Lawrence Co., AL 05
Blount Co., AL 
04
All other AL counties 04
TN counties 07
GA counties 04
SC counties 02
NC counties 03
VA counties 01
Not stated in record
05

* Record does not indicate place of residence at time of enlistment but only in a few of the service records.  Additional notes to the records show, however, that several of the soldiers were residing in Marion, Fayette and Walker counties at time of enlistment.



Table 4
Cause of Death for Soldiers of 1st Ala Cav USA
September 1862 - January 1863


CAUSE OF DEATH
#
Rubeola 23
Measles 03
Rubeola/Typhoid fever 01
Pneumonia/measles 01
Pneumonia 03
Acute bronchitis 01
Bronchitis 01
Disease 03
Hepatitis 01
Intermittent fever 01
Typhoid fever 03
Cause not stated 25



Table 5
Number of Deaths by Month, 1st Ala Cav USA
Nashville, TN


MONTH
#
September 1862 03
October 1862 29
November 1862 17
December 1862 13
January 1863 04



Table 6
Enlistment Site for 1st Ala Cav USA Soldiers Who Died
September 1862 - January 1863


LOCATION #
Huntsville, AL 57
Decatur, AL 05
Limestone Co., AL 04



Table 7
Name, Age, Birthplace, Cause of Death, of 66 Troops of the 1st Ala Cav USA
Who Died of Disease in or Near Nashville, TN
September 1862 - January 1863


#
NAME
AGE
BIRTHPLACE
CAUSE
ENROLLED
1.
Bain, Aldred 25 Not stated Not stated Huntsville, AL
2. Bain, John D.H. 24 Morgan Co., AL Not stated Huntsville, AL
3. Blevins, Dillard 26 Walker Co., AL Measles Huntsville, AL
4. Brooks, John A. 28 Lauderdale Co., AL Measles Huntsville, AL
5. Brown, Elijah
44 Lawrence Co., AL Not stated Huntsville, AL
6. Brown, William 28 Lawrence Co., AL Rubeola Huntsville, AL
7. Calvert, Ralphord 30 Winston Co., AL Not stated Huntsville, AL
8. Campbell, Adam 24 Pendleton, SC Rubeola Huntsville, AL
9. Campbell, Alexander 30 Pendleton Dist., SC Bronchitis Huntsville, AL
10. Canady, Isaac A. 33 Morgan Co., AL Not stated Huntsville, AL
11. Davis, Archibald 18 Blount Co., AL Disease Huntsville, AL
12. Davis, Jesse
25 Surry Co., NC Disease Huntsville, AL
13. Davis, Robert   
18 Surry Co., NC Typhoid Fever Huntsville, AL
14. Edwards, James 32 Morgan Co., AL Disease Huntsville, AL
15. Felton, Abraham 30 Paulding Co., GA Typhoid fever Huntsville, AL
16. Finerty, Thomas W. 36 Rockingham, VA Rubeola Huntsville, AL
17. Hallmark, George W. 22 Fayette Co., AL Typhoid fever Huntsville, AL
18. Hightower, Monroe 19 Gilmer Co., GA Not stated Huntsville, AL
19. Inman, Henry 51 Lincoln Co., TN Not stated Huntsville, AL
20. Jaggers, Benjamin F. 30 Morgan Co., AL Measles Huntsville, AL
21. Jett, Isaac 28 Jackson Co., AL Intermittent fever Huntsville, AL
22. Jones, John B. 20 Morgan Co., AL Pneumonia Decatur, AL
23. Jones, McDonald (Thos.) 28 Morgan Co., AL Typhoid Fever Decatur, AL
24. Lawrence, William F.A. 38 Green Co., GA Rubeola Huntsville, AL
25. Lentz, John P. 18 Lauderdale Co., AL Rubeola Huntsville, AL
26. Logan, James M. 27 Fayette Co., AL Pneumonia Limestone Co., AL
27. Lott, Simeon H. 18 Morgan Co., AL Rubeola Decatur, AL
28. Martin, Daniel 54 Hawkins Co., TN Rubeola Huntsville, AL
29. Martin, Nathaniel G. 25 Lawrence Co., AL
Not stated Huntsville, AL
30. McColloch,* Leroy M. 19 Lawrence Co., AL Rubeola Huntsville, AL
31. McColloch, Samuel 45 Lincoln Co., TN Rubeola Huntsville, AL
32. McWhirter, Andrew F. 44 Warren Co., TN Rubeola Huntsville, AL
33. McWhirter, George W. 18
Walker Co., AL Rubeola Huntsville, AL
34. Miles, William H. 20 Lincoln Co., TN Rubeola Huntsville, AL
35. Milligan, William K. 21 Not stated Pneumonia Huntsville, AL
36. Mitchell, John C.
18 Morgan Co., AL Not stated Huntsville, AL
37. Mooney, Peter, C. 18 Walker Co., AL
Rubeola Decatur, AL
38. Nelson, Thomas M. 25 Morgan Co., AL Rubeola
Huntsville, AL
39. Oden, Andrew J. 25 Morgan Co., AL Not stated Huntsville, AL
40. Pettus, Egbert J. 21 Not stated Not stated
Huntsville, AL
41. Rhone, John R. 40 Walton Co., GA Rubeola Huntsville, AL
42. Riggs, James 18 Morgan Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
43. Russell, George W. 31 Morgan Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
44. Russell, James J. 25 Morgan Co., AL Pneumonia Huntsville, AL
45. Self, Allen J. 18 Walker Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
46. Self, Allen R.
49 Bledsoe Co., TN Not stated
Huntsville, AL
47. Self, Martin D. 20 Blount Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
48. Self, Matthew G. 26 Blount Co., AL Acute bronchitis Huntsville, AL
49. Sheets, John T. 21 Not stated Not stated
Huntsville, AL
50. Smith, Allen 68 Pitt Co., NC Rubeola Limestone Co., AL
51. Smith, John M. 19 Fayette Co., AL Rubeola Limestone Co., AL
52. Smith, Matthew J. 21 Fayette Co., AL Rubeola Limestone Co., AL
53. Speegle, Carroll K. 23 Morgan Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
54. Speegle, Thomas C. 19 Morgan Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
55. Stanton, Elijah A. 20 Morgan Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
56. Stanton, John 21 Walker Co., AL
Not stated
Huntsville, AL
57. Stephenson, Joseph 26 Morgan Co., AL
Not stated
Huntsville, AL
58. Stewart, Andrew J. 34 Walker Co., AL Hepatitis Huntsville, AL
59. Stringer, James 49 Not stated Not stated
Huntsville, AL
60. Swan, Lambert 18 Walker Co., AL
Rubeola Huntsville, AL
61. Tedford, Thomas J.
44 Lawrence Co., AL Not stated
Huntsville, AL
62. Thornton, Martin V. 19 Fayette Co., AL Rubeola Decatur, AL
63. Turrentine, Martin F. 22 Morgan Co., AL
Not stated
Huntsville, AL
64. Woodall, William E. 32 Morgan Co., AL Rubeola Huntsville, AL
65. Wood, Joseph R. 19 Blount Co., AL Rubeola Huntsville, AL
66. York, Marion L. 23 Giles Co., TN Rubeola Huntsville, AL
_____________________________________
* Spelling varies.  The surname is recorded as both McColloch and McCulloch in Todd's work.  Other similar surnames are spelled McCullough.


Notes and sources:

The data for this report was extracted from Glenda McWhirter Todd, First Alabama Cavalry USA: Homage to Patriotism, (Heritage Books, Inc., 1999).  Chapter 7, pp. 71–88, lists the names of the soldiers who died by place and date.  Because the unit was encamped at Nashville during the time frame I wished to examine, information from pp. 82–85 was studied to determine the names of those who died during September 1862 through January 1863.  Those names were then selected from the roster of the soldiers in Chapter 10, pp. 165–396 and the age, cause of death, place of birth, and enlistment location noted.
 
Some of the general background material concerning the germ theory of disease and the American Civil War was taken from my remarks at the memorial service for Martin V. Thornton on the occasion of the 140th anniversary of his death, November 10, 2002, and previously published in The Thornton News, Issue 10, November 18, 2002.
 
Most of the material in this article was previously published in the article "A Study of the Fifty-nine Soldiers of the First Alabama Cavalry USA Who Died During the Unit's Encampment at Nashville, Tennessee, October, November, and December 1862," in The Thornton News, Issue 44, May 2005.   ~ W.T. "Terry" Thornton




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This page last updated 01 Jun 2005.