Lieutenant Charles Alley
Fifth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry
Lieutenant Charles Alley was one of the regiment's proud Irish veterans. He enlisted on October 8, 1861, at the age of twenty-nine. He would serve with the Fifth Iowa Cavalry until the regiment was finally mustered out on August 11, 1865 at Nashville, Tennessee. Not only did Alley bring a level of maturity to the regiment, but he also possessed previous experience with arms, due to his service in the Royal Irish Constabulary (with uniforms from the 1870s pictured above). He and his brother Frederick had followed their father, Sergeant John Alley, in joining this paramilitary organization. The two brothers emigrated to the United States in 1856, while their brothers Henry and John chose to find their own destinies in New Zealand, when they left their home in Queens County, Ireland.
Alley's experience and outstanding personal character were quickly recognized, and he was promoted to Company Quartermaster Sergeant and First Sergeant in rapid succession. With his reenlistment and transfer into the Fifth Iowa Cavalry Consolidated, Alley was commissioned to officer ranks, becoming a Second Lieutenant on November 20, 1864, and a First Lieutenant on August 3, 1865.
Lieutenant Alley was a man of sincere Christian convictions, and his diary provides ample evidence to the way this influenced his interpretation of the War Between the States. The following brief citations provide some insight into what motivated this man and others of his nature, to risk their own lives in the cause of preserving the Union.
January 1, 1863
New Year's Day and fine warm weather. Another year has gone into eternity. How many thousands of my fellow creatures have gone into eternity. How many even of my own company and yet I am alive, healthy and strong. Surely in these things God has been good to me. And what return have I made him that of a Christian. Ah, how littler do I differ from the other men. Too often do I give way to evil thoughts, to angry words, to an evil disposition. Lord enable me to dedicate myself more entirely to thy service. Make me to be more meek, more forbearing patient, more contented, more kind and obliging to others, less selfish, less censorious, less willing to give way to any evil. May I wage constant and increasing warfare against the world of the flesh and the devil. Enable me to dedicate myself, my soul and body entirely to thy service. Seeking first the kingdom of God and the righteousness; and trusting all my concerns entirely to him, knowing that he is able to care for me and will do it.
June 7, 1863
Today we reached Clarksville [from camp near Fort Donelson] after a rather dusty march of about 25 miles. The country improved a good deal as we advanced and was better settled and cultivated. Passed through a couple of villages, one named Indian Mound, I suppose it was built in a very deep hollow; but the mount was not in the village. There was a very large one just back of it, I would not venture to say it was raised by the Indians though. This was about 10 miles from Fort Donelson. Another was called Oak Woods, for a very good reason - oak woods all around it. Providence was the name of a flourishing town about two miles from Clarksville. Clarksville, a town of about 8000 inhabitants is a fine looking place. The site is high rolling but not bluffy. It has 10 or more churches. P.E.; M.E.; Presbyterian; Baptist; etc. I got leave from the captain to go up in town to go to church if there was any. Found on inquiry there was no service for "white folks" in the afternoon. But there was for "Niggers". I concluded to go to the M.E. church as it was then (3 o'clock) open. The sermon by a white minister was from Isaiah 1:19-20. "If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat of the good of the land. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured by the sword for the mouth of the lord hath spoken of it." And there followed a thing--the speaker would probably call a sermon--that was enough to disgust any man. He told the congregation that the land meant Heaven. That they must not look to eat of the good things of the earth; they were not for them. That God required them to be obedient to their masters and if they were treated all their days even with the oppression and violence they must not think to resist but must be patient looking to God to reward them. What Angels the fellow would have the slaves to be, he a rebel against the just laws of his country. After I left the church I found patrols were being placed in every street and that orders had been given to arrest every man of the 5th Iowa found in the town with a pass but the guards would not arrest us.
June 15, 1863
Ordered out this morning with three days rations and 110 rounds of ammunition to the man. This looks as though it was meant we should pay or respect to the enemy while we are out. Lord make us to be successful and enable us to go forth trusting in Thee, and giving Thee the Glory of every success, and for me--be my shield and buckler in the day of battle, and if I too should lie on the bloody field--may my spirit be caught up to thy throne in heaven and then all with me shall forever be well. May thy love and blessing go with my adopted country still--with my dear old mother country…
Alley was born on July 8, 1832 and spent his final years in the Old Soldiers' Home in Sawtelle (Los Angeles). He died on June 28, 1910 and was buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery. On October 31, 1867 he had married Zaider Irene Judd in Nebraska. Although she preceded him in death by more than a decade, they had seven children: Agnes, Alice, Mary, Margaret, John, Ann and Grace. Interestingly, the Roster fails to mention an incident addressed in his pension records. In 1862, while cleaning his revolver, it accidentally discharged, resulting in the loss of the ring finger of his right hand. Like so many other veterans, he carried the remainder of his life a visible reminder of his service on behalf of his adopted nation.
The Fifth Iowa Cavalry site is very grateful to Rosemary Alley of Australia, whose husband is a great-great-great-nephew of Lieutenant Alley… and a pastor like his other American great-great-great-uncle, Frederick, who helped to found Doane College.