AUTHOR: Bradley R. Foley
(The following excerpt is from Mr. Foley’s book Letters Home: The Civil War Correspondence of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander C. McAlister)
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“Following his graduation from the University of North Carolina, [Alexander Cary] McAlister returned home to manage the family estate which comprised of a plantation containing 2,300 acres and 26 slaves. Later, McAlister was appointed postmaster to the Post Office located within the family-owned Desserette plantation in Bladen County, North Carolina on January 11, 1860.
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, McAlister experienced profound changes to his personal life. At twenty-two years of age, McAlister left his family estate and occupation to volunteer with the Confederate army. He enrolled for military service in Elizabeth Town, North Carolina on April 28, 1861 and was assigned to Company K, 18th Regiment North Carolina Troops with the rank of Sergeant. Following his enlistment McAlister married Adelaide Worth on May 22, 1861. Adelaide, a Randolph County native and former student of the prestigious Edgeworth School in Greensboro, was the daughter of prominent businessman John Milton Worth. The newlywedded couple set up their residence in Adelaide’s hometown of Asheboro, North Carolina. Their first child, Alexander Worth McAlister, was born March 21, 1862.
…McAlister saw success as a soldier. Upon the conclusion of his initial service period, McAlister reenlisted with the 22nd North Carolina Regiment and was awarded the rank of Lieutenant in August 1861. By March 1862, McAlister was promoted to the rank of Captain and transferred yet again to Company F of the 46th North Carolina Regiment. …Though his deeds do not rank with those holding mythical status like Robert E. Lee or Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, McAlister excelled as a leader. He won praise from his commanding officers for his abilities in was subsequently rewarded with higher rank. In 1863, McAlister was promoted to Major and was moved to the Field and Staff of the 46th Regiment. Following this elevation of rank, McAlister was commended for his part at the Battle of South Anna Bridge by Brigadier General John R. Cooke. The following year in January 1864, he was again promoted, this time to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Demonstrating his ability to command, McAlister was again lauded for his bravado at the Battle at Reams’ Station, Virginia in August 1864.
Having proven his mettle as a soldier, McAlister was assigned command of 600 troops detached from General Cooke’s and General Lane’s brigades in late February 1865. This detachment was charged with rounding up pro-Union gangs of deserters and draft dodgers in the Randolph County area of North Carolina. This operation—despite meeting with some success (netting 100 of the estimate 600 deserters)—was cut short as McAlister’s men were ordered elsewhere to defend against the approaching Union soldiers. In late April 1865, McAlister’s men were ordered into nearby Greensboro to protect the Confederate supplies from recently surrendered troops returning from Appomattox. McAlister was paroled in Greensboro on the first of May 1865, following the formal surrender of Confederate forces to the Union Army.”