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Wilcox, John Allen (1819–1864)

Thomas W. Cutrer Biography Entry

John Allen Wilcox, Confederate legislator, was born on April 18, 1819, in Green County, North Carolina, the son of Ruben and Sarah (Garland) Wilcox. He was probably raised and educated in Tipton County, Tennessee. In 1846 he was secretary of the Mississippi Senate. During the Mexican War he served as lieutenant colonel of the Second Mississippi Volunteer Infantry. In 1850, while practicing law in Aberdeen, Mississippi, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Union Whig, defeating W. S. Featherston, later a Confederate brigadier general. In 1852 Wilcox was defeated in turn by William T. S. Barry and the following year moved to San Antonio, where he continued the practice of law and reentered politics as a member of the American (Know-Nothing) party. He was appointed a Know-Nothing presidential elector in 1856 but by 1858 had become a Democrat. He attended the Democratic party convention that year. Wilcox was a delegate to the Secession Convention in 1861 and was named a member of the committee to draft the ordinance of secession. In November he was elected the House of Representatives of the First Regular Confederate Congress by a large majority, representing the First Congressional District. There he served as chairman of the Committee on Territories and Public Lands and served on the Military Affairs, Inauguration, and Enrolled Bills committees. Wilcox proved a staunch supporter of the Jefferson Davis administration, believing that in the crisis of Civil War, the executive should have broader powers than in time of peace. He seldom pleaded Texas's special interests except in the area of free trade. He was, however, active in the recruiting of Hood's Texas Brigade and in securing letters of marque for Charles DeMontel. Following the first congress Wilcox served as a volunteer aide to Gen. John B. Magruder with the rank of colonel and participated in the battle of Galveston. He was easily reelected to a second term. On February 7, 1864, however, some days before taking his seat, Wilcox died in Richmond, Virginia, of what was described as "apoplexy." He was buried in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery, and his funeral was attended by the entire Congress. Wilcox's estate was valued at a mere $275, and his burial expenses were borne by the Confederate government. His brother, Cadmus M. Wilcox, a major general and division commander in Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and a lifelong bachelor, thereafter provided a home for John Allen Wilcox's wife and two young children.

Mary Sexton Estill, ed., "Diary of a Confederate Congressman," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 38, 39 (April, July 1935). Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). Jon L. Wakelyn, Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1977). Ezra J. Warner and W. Buck Yearns, Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975).


  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Regimental and Staff Officers
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • State Legislators
  • Ninth Legislature (1861-1863)

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Wilcox, John Allen,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 28, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: