The 1841 census on Norwich St. Stephen provides, it would seem, the last recorded appearance of the entire family, despite the assumed names of Horatio father and son. Neither Horatio is with the family in the 1851 census on Heigham, and we know nothing more about the elder Horatio until his death in 1855. So where was he, and what was he doing, between 1841 and 1855? We know that his son Horatio enlisted in the British army in 1842, and family descendants have suggested that both men did. Yet while we have a full record of the younger man’s military career, nothing has emerged in respect of his father; and one wonders, moreover, whether the army would have been interested in a man of no previous military experience and approaching his 50th year. We need to find Horatio in the 1851 census, or indeed in military records, or elsewhere, to have any certainty regarding his later life. Norwich Workhouse records indicate that he was admitted just one week before his death.

No such uncertainty exists with respect to his son. He enlisted at Norwich in the 77th Regiment of Artillery on the 3rd of August 1842 when he was aged 16 years and 11 months. He is described as having been born in St. Benedict Norfolk (sic), a cord spinner, his regimental number 1567. He would have received a signing-on bounty of 3 pounds and 5 shillings. The record goes on to confirm that Horatio is considered to have deserted on the 29th of September 1846 at St. Johns, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Initially in his military career Horatio was stationed at Sheerness, Tilbury Fort and Chatham from 1842-1843, and was ‘On Pass’ from the 19th to 30th of January 1843. He remained present with the Depot of the Regiment at Dover during 1843 and 1844. 1844-1845 lists him at Dover, Chatham, Clonwell, Carlow, Waterford and Athlone, being sick at Cork and absent from duty the 21st and 22nd of May 1844. He was also sick throughout the entire muster July-September 1844. On the 16th of June 1846, Horatio joined the main battalion, now stationed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from the Depot, and was on detachment at Cape Breton in July 1846. Absent from the 29th of August 1846, he was officially declared to have deserted on the 29th of September 1846.

By the same year Horatio had become Horace in America, and he remained so for the rest of his life. Horatio and Horace were somewhat interchangeable as names, but as a deserter from the British army Horatio might have felt it prudent to cover his tracks and use the alternative name form. Horace enlisted in the U.S. army in November 1846. He was aged 21, had ‘blue’ eyes, ‘light hair’, and was 5 feet and 7 and a half inches tall. He enlisted at ‘White Hall, New York’, his record stating that he was ‘born in the County of Norfolk, England in 1825’ and his ‘occupation was that of a rope maker’. He completed his service engagement on the 18th of November 1851 at ‘Fort Croghan, Texas’ as a private soldier. His first year of service was in the Mexican War of 1846-47, after which he completed his 5-year term in the U.S. army until 1851. The Americans had gained Texas from Mexico by 1845, but the urge to push further south and west, and fulfil what many Americans believed was ‘Manifest Destiny’, led to the war with Mexico from 1846 to 1848 and the resulting annexation of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah to the United States. Fighting men were urgently needed since nearly 14,000 American soldiers were killed in the conflict, and young men like Horace would have been readily welcomed without, one would assume, too many questions being asked about his background. He was probably fortunate to survive.

Survive he did, however, and on discharge from the US army in 1851 he was aged 26 and mindful to settle in Texas, there being no question clearly of his return to England as a deserter from the British army. So he settled in Colorado, Texas, working as a painter, and on the 23rd of November 1853 he married Susana HOWAT of Scottish descent; the ceremony was officiated by Don. F. Payne, justice of the peace of Colorado County. Susana’s parents were John HOWAT and Margaret PEACOCK who married on the 17th of April 1826 in Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. The 1841 census on Scotland lists John (40), Margaret (30), with children William (13), Susanna (7), Jessie (5), Thomas (3), and Robert (1). By 1850 the family had emigrated to America and can be found in the 1850 US Federal census on Colorado, Texas. John is a 49 year old farmer, Margaret 41, Susannah 16, and Thomas 13, followed by the remaining children. Ten years later the Federal census for the same County and State records Horace, aged 37, a painter and real estate owner, his wife Susan (25), and two sons, William (3), and George R. (1).

Approaching age 40, Horace would have assumed his army days to be over. His civilian life in Texas was well established with a growing family, busness and property. But war again intervened, and Horace, it would seem, needed no encouragement to join the Confederate cause when civil war broke out in America in 1861. It was a defining time in American history with eleven southern states seceding to the Confederacy; by 1865, when the Unionists finally triumphed, more than 600,000 had lost their lives on both sides. Horace was probably fortunate that he did not see front-line engagement, that his age and previous military experience guaranteed him less dangerous duties.

A surviving document from the Official Confederacy Militery Records (part of the National Archives in Washington DC) shows Horis(sic) ALDIS as a sergeant in the Company of “Bates’ Reg’t of Texas Vols” from 24 October to 29 December 1861. He had enlisted at Columbus for 12 months without payment. A similar document describes Horace ALDIS as “on daily duty as drill sergeant”, now with payment. A later document records Horace’s promotion to officer rank, being paid $160 for service between January and March 1863. A letter written on the 8th of March 1862 from Velasco on the Texas coast by Col. Bates to General Herbert states that Horace was “a soldier of 5 years experience….I have employed him as an Infantry Drill Instructor….You will oblige me, by appointing him as Instructor of Infantry Tactics, with the Rank and Pay of 2nd Lieutenant.” A further letter from Colonel Bates, dated 15 July 1862, states: “I have the honor again to urge on you the commission of Hollis Aldis, as an Instructor of Infantry Tactics. He has acted in that capacity, at this Post for the last 9 months, in a manner highly satisfactory, without compensation, other than his pay as a soldier. The number of recruits and the scattered condition of my command, render his services very needful to me, and being over the age of conscription and limited in means, he will not, and cannot remain in the army, without some recognition of his services”. Yet another letter dated 28th of September 1863, written from Houston Texas, to Capt. E.P. Turner, states: “On my tour of inspection to the mouth of the Brazos (River), Col. Bates applied to me to have Lt. Aldis detailed as Inspector of Tactics for the State Troops under his command….If not inconsistent with the service, I would respectfully recommender that Lt. Aldis be ordered to report to Col. Bates, as the Col. has no officers that he can detail for this duty”. This letter is signed by Brigadier-General Luckett. A letter from Horace himself on the 14th of March 1864 from Alleyton, Texas, reads: “Sir, the last duties to which I was assigned, was to drill the First Regiment of Mounted State Troops (Col. Jones) since which time I have not been assigned to any duty. I am at this place waiting orders, at the residence of my family. I shall remain here until the Commanding General assigns me to duty. I have the honor to be very Respectfully Your Obt. Sevt. Horace Aldis, 1st Lieutenant, Drill Officer, C S Army unattached”. Horace was soon ordered to report for duty to Houston in person for further assignment.