Category Archives: Alabama

Taylor Surrenders to Canby

May 8, 1865 – Federal forces accepted the paroles of Confederate soldiers from the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, thereby disbanding the last major Confederate force east of the Mississippi River.

Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, commanding the Confederate department from Meridian, Mississippi, had become the senior Confederate commander east of the Mississippi after Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to William T. Sherman. When Taylor learned of Johnston’s surrender, he contacted Major General Edward R.S. Canby at New Orleans and requested an armistice. Canby granted a 48-hour truce to discuss surrender terms on April 30.

Gens Richard Taylor and E.R.S. Canby | Image Credits: Wikipedia.org

The next day, Canby informed Taylor that the original “Basis of Agreement” between Johnston and Sherman had been rejected by Washington. Therefore, hostilities would resume as soon as the 48-hour armistice expired unless Taylor surrendered under the terms that Ulysses S. Grant had given to Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Hopelessly outnumbered, Taylor accepted. Canby informed Grant and then made arrangements for negotiations.

Taylor and Canby met on the 4th at Citronelle, Alabama, 40 miles north of Mobile on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. Under the surrender agreement, Confederate soldiers would be paroled, officers would retain their sidearms, and Taylor could use the railroads and waterways to send his men home.

The official surrender took place on the 8th at Citronelle. In addition to Taylor’s army, Commodore Ebenezer Farrand’s small Confederate naval fleet on the Tombigbee River (consisting of the C.S.S. Morgan, Balti, Black Diamond, and Nashville) capitulated. The total number of officers, soldiers, and sailors paroled was reported to be just over 42,400.

Brig Gen N.B. Forrest | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the legendary “Wizard of the Saddle” who had confounded Federal forces throughout the war, had considered fleeing to Mexico before finally deciding to surrender with the rest of Taylor’s men. He issued a farewell address to his cavalry command from Gainesville, Alabama, on the 9th:

“… That we are beaten is a self-evident fact, and any further resistance on our part would be justly regarded as the height of folly and rashness… Fully realizing and feeling that such is the case, it is your duty and mine to lay down our arms, submit to the ‘powers that be,’ and aid in restoring peace and establishing law and order throughout the land… Civil war, such as you have just passed through, naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge. It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings, and, so far as it is in our power to do so, to cultivate feelings toward those with whom we have so long contested and heretofore so widely but honestly differed… Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the government to which you have surrendered can afford to be and will be magnanimous.”

Taylor stayed with his staff at Meridian until all his men were paroled. He then went to meet Canby at Mobile, and from there Canby arranged for Taylor to return to his New Orleans home by boat. Taylor expressed gratitude for Canby’s generous terms, but he later regretted not continuing the fight. He wrote, “At the time, no doubts as to the propriety of my course entered my mind, but such have since crept in.”

Nevertheless, this dissolved the Confederate Military Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. Grant soon ordered Canby to prepare a Federal expedition to confront the last major Confederate army still in the field: Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Trans-Mississippi army.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 224; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 564, 566-67; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 379; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 21046-66, 21085-115; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 589-90; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 572; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 736; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 160; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 685-86; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 743-44; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 501

The Fall of Mobile

April 12, 1865 – Eight months after the Federal navy sealed off Mobile Bay, Federal troops finally captured the city itself.

Edward R.S. Canby | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, had repeatedly urged more aggressive action against Mobile. By late March, Major General Edward R.S. Canby, commanding the Federal Military Division of Western Mississippi, was finally ready to move. His force consisted of 16,000 troops from the reactivated XIII and XVI corps, supported by Admiral Henry K. Thatcher’s naval flotilla patrolling Mobile Bay. The key to capturing Mobile was to neutralize the two main Confederate garrisons defending the city:

  • Spanish Fort, east of Mobile, was held by about 3,000 troops under Brigadier General Randall L. Gibson.
  • Fort Blakely, five miles north of Spanish Fort, was held by about 4,000 troops under Brigadier General St. John R. Liddell.

Toward the end of March, Canby’s Federals crossed the Fish River and advanced along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. They met enemy resistance outside Spanish Fort, but the outnumbered Confederates quickly fell back behind the fort’s defenses. Canby divided his force and sent one part to lay siege to Spanish Fort while the other, augmented by about 5,000 black troops from Pensacola, moved north to attack Fort Blakely.

The Federals surrounded Spanish Fort as April began. Thatcher provided naval transport for the infantry as well as a battery of three 30-pound Parrott rifles on the banks of the Blakely River. By the 4th, the Federals were shelling Spanish Fort around the clock at a rate of one round every four minutes. They pushed their way to within 700 yards of the fort walls.

The Confederates held out until the 8th, when Federals of the 8th Iowa seized a key part of their defenses. Gibson evacuated most of his men through hidden pathways and marshes, while others escaped in rowboats. About 500 Confederates stayed behind, and they were captured when the Federals entered Spanish Fort. This isolated the Confederates in Fort Blakely.

Federal troops began surrounding Blakely on the 1st and eventually built three rings of fortifications, with the closest ring within 1,000 yards of the fort. The C.S.S. Nashville hampered Federal progress by sporadically firing on them from Mobile Bay. Confederates had also mined the ground in front of the fort to prevent a direct assault.

The defenders held firm until Spanish Fort fell and Canby could concentrate his whole force on Blakely. On the 9th, the Federals opened a massive bombardment using 37 field guns and 57 siege guns. At 6 p.m., Federal infantry advanced, easily avoiding the mines and trip wires. They overwhelmed the defenders within 30 minutes; many Confederates (including Liddell) surrendered while others escaped into the nearby woods. The Nashville tried rescuing Confederates gathering at the riverbank, but Federal sharpshooters drove her off.

Forts Tracy and Huger were the last remaining forts of any consequence still garrisoned by Confederates. The Federals began bombarding them on the 10th, and Major General Dabney H. Maury, commanding Confederate forces in the district, ordered Mobile evacuated. Tracy and Huger were abandoned the next day.

The Nashville and a few other Confederate vessels escaped up the Tombigbee River. Others ships that could not be moved were destroyed. Maury escaped with 4,500 men and 27 guns. The Confederates retreated toward Meridian, Mississippi, where Maury hoped to regroup and then move east to join General Joseph E. Johnston’s command in North Carolina.

Federal troops entered Mobile on the 12th, and Mayor R.H. Slough formally surrendered the city to Major General Gordon Granger, commanding XVI Corps. Federals raised the U.S. flag over city hall at 12:30 p.m. In the three-week operation, Federals sustained 1,578 casualties (232 killed, 1,303 wounded and 43 missing) while capturing about 5,000 Confederates.

Mobile was the last major Confederate city to fall into Federal hands. However, its capture was more symbolic than strategic because General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee had already surrendered the largest Confederate army, and therefore the war was likely over regardless of Mobile’s fate. Nevertheless, the Federals had long coveted this vital seaport city, and now it was theirs.

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 23099; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 555-56, 558; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 480-81; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20343-53; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 574, 577-78, 581-84; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 503-04; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 160; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 106; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 663-64, 669-75; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 271

The Fall of Selma

April 2, 1865 – Federal cavalry led by Major General James H. Wilson captured the important manufacturing city of Selma, Alabama.

Selma was one of the Confederacy’s largest military manufacturing centers still in operation. Over 10,000 people worked at the Ordnance and Naval Foundry, which produced rifles, cannon, ammunition, ironclad warships, and other war materiel.

Efforts to capture Selma had been made by Brigadier General Benjamin H. Grierson in 1863 and Major Generals William T. Sherman and Lovell Rousseau in 1864, but the city was too deep within the Confederate interior to be taken. But by this time, Confederate resources had been depleted to the point that they could hardly resist another thrust into southern Alabama.

Maj Gen J.H. Wilson | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

On March 22, Wilson set out from Gravelly Springs, Alabama, with three cavalry divisions totaling 13,500 men. This was the largest mounted force ever assembled on the continent. His opponent was Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose troopers had bested and confounded Federal generals throughout the war. But according to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, Forrest had “neither his old-time army nor his old-time prestige. He now had principally conscripts… not enough to even retard materially the progress of Wilson’s cavalry.” Moreover, Forrest’s troopers were dangerously scattered.

At dawn, Wilson advanced from Maplesville Station with the two divisions of Brigadier Generals Eli Long and Emory Upton. Long moved south on the Federal right, while Upton moved on a parallel road to Long’s left (east). The two divisions would join forces where the two roads joined to form the main Selma road. Wilson ordered them to “press the enemy vigorously and charge them whenever they attempted to make a stand.” The force totaled about 9,000 men.

Forrest was compelled to spread out what he had of his command to meet both Wilson coming from the west and a potential Federal thrust from Pensacola to the south. Forrest hoped to be reinforced by the two divisions of Brigadier Generals William H. Jackson and James R. Chalmers, but Jackson was blocked by the Cahawba River and Chalmers could not get there before the Federals attacked. Forrest fell back to the intersection of the Randolph road and the main Selma road, near Ebenezer Church. He hoped to hold the Federals there until Chalmers arrived. Forrest had just 2,000 men, most of whom were either teenaged boys or old men.

Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Advance elements of Forrest’s army held the enemy off until 4 p.m., but then the Federals broke through the Confederate center. The men engaged in ferocious hand-to-hand combat that included Forrest killing a Federal officer who had slashed him with his saber. The Federals fell back, but then they came on again, this time hitting both the Confederate center and the untried Alabama militia on the right. The Alabamans broke, prompting Forrest to order a retreat just before the Federals could surround and destroy his command. The Federals took three guns and over 300 prisoners. Chalmers never arrived.

Forrest entered Selma the next morning, with the “horse and rider covered in blood.” He advised Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, commanding the Confederates in the city, to evacuate Selma, and Taylor agreed. He placed Forrest in charge of the city’s strong fortifications. These included numerous redans, abatis, palisades, and trenches. The Alabama River served as a natural barrier to attack on one side of the city.

The fieldworks were designed for a garrison of 20,000 men, but even with additional volunteers and reinforcements coming into Selma, Forrest could muster no more than 4,000 for duty. To cover the entire line, the men had to stand 10 to 12 feet apart. Forrest knew that resistance was futile, but he hoped to stall until Taylor evacuated or destroyed the military supplies.

Wilson’s two divisions reached Selma’s outskirts around 2 p.m., having advanced 300 miles through the Deep South in just 12 days. The Federals had captured the engineer who designed the Selma defenses, and he sketched the layout for Wilson. Even so, had the works been adequately manned, they would have easily repelled a mounted assault.

Long was assigned to attack the Confederate right. The dismounted Federals had to march 600 yards across an open field, but they were armed with repeating carbines and supported by artillery. The Confederates opened on the approaching enemy with musket fire and solid shot, even though they could have gotten canister (which was much more effective against massed attacks) from the Selma ordnance factories just a few miles away.

The Federals sustained heavy losses (Long himself was among the wounded), but they finally climbed the parapets and seized the works after 30 minutes of vicious hand-to-hand fighting. Meanwhile, Upton’s division worked its way through a swamp and attacked the Confederate left. Wilson then led a mounted charge down the Selma road that was knocked back until he ordered his men to dismount and try again. This time the Confederate line broke.

Forrest tried making a final stand at the railroad depot, but by 7 p.m. he was outflanked and on the verge of being surrounded. The Confederates retreated across the Alabama River as night fell; many escaped by swimming across. Forrest, Taylor, and other top officers also got away. The Federals took 2,700 prisoners and captured 102 guns while losing just 359 men (46 killed, 300 wounded, and 13 missing).

The Federals quickly took charge of Selma and spent the next week destroying most of the military works, factories, mills, warehouses, buildings, and homes. This ensured that Selma would no longer contribute to the Confederate war effort. It also demonstrated that Federal forces could now control the interior of the Deep South.

With Selma in Federal hands, Wilson resumed his eastward raid by next targeting the first Confederate capital–Montgomery.

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References

Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 553-54; ExploreSouthernHistory.com: Battle of Selma; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 574-76; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 572; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 160; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 661-64; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 665-66, 834; Spearman, Charles M., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 832-33; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 235

Forrest Captures Athens

September 24, 1864 – Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry force raided Federal supply lines, including a vital depot in northern Alabama.

Gen Nathan Bedford Forrest | Image Credit: Flickr.com

After raiding Memphis in August, Forrest’s troopers went to join Confederates against a possible Federal attack at Mobile. When the Federals did not attack, Forrest led his force to northern Alabama and met with Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, the new commander of the Confederate Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. It was agreed that Forrest should raid Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal supply lines in Middle Tennessee.

Forrest’s main objective was the Tennessee & Alabama Railroad, which linked to the Memphis & Charleston Railroad and fed Sherman’s Federals at Atlanta. The main depot at Athens, Alabama, was guarded by a 600-man garrison of mostly black troops. Forrest’s 3,500 Confederates crossed the Tennessee River at Florence, Alabama, and rode east toward Athens, 40 miles away.

The troopers arrived outside the town on the night of the 23rd. The next day, they opened fire on the Federals with eight guns, and Forrest sent a messenger under a flag of truce to demand an “immediate and unconditional surrender.” If the Federals accepted, the “white soldiers,” Forrest wrote, “shall be treated as prisoners of war and the negroes returned to their masters.”

The Federal commander refused. However, when he agreed to meet Forrest in person, he was shown a list of Confederate personnel that made it seem like Forrest had a force three times its actual size. Unaware of the ruse, the Federals promptly surrendered. Forrest netted 1,300 prisoners, 300 horses, two guns, two locomotives, and many supplies. They destroyed anything considered useful to the enemy.

The Confederates moved north along the railroad and attacked a Federal garrison defending the Sulphur Branch Trestle, which was 72 feet high and 300 feet long with a blockhouse on each end. The Federals initially refused to surrender but relented after being bombarded with about 800 rounds of artillery. Forrest took 973 prisoners, 300 horses, two more guns, and more supplies. His men destroyed the blockhouses and the trestle.

Forrest’s command reached the Elk River, between Athens and Pulaski, Tennessee, on the 26th. The troopers destroyed a railroad bridge and continued to Richland Creek, where they wrecked a 200-foot bridge. Most Federals in their way either fled or surrendered. But despite this success, Forrest’s ammunition was running low and his force was dwindling because he had to detach units to guard the growing number of prisoners.

Moreover, Sherman had dispatched two divisions from Atlanta under Major General George H. Thomas to hunt Forrest down. Thomas would soon be reinforced by troops from Memphis and Chattanooga, and Major General Andrew J. Smith’s Federals were on the way from Missouri as well. Sherman instructed Thomas that “the whole resources” of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama must be “turned against Forrest… until he is disposed of.”

By the 27th, advance elements of these converging Federals under Brigadier General Lovell Rousseau were at Pulaski awaiting Forrest’s approach. Thomas wrote Rousseau, “Press Forrest to the death, keeping your troops well in hand and holding them to the work. I do not think that we shall ever have a better chance than this.”

As Forrest approached Pulaski, he informed Taylor, “Enemy concentrating heavily against me.” Forrest later reported:

“Six miles from Pulaski the enemy attacked my advance force and compelled them to fall back… The resistance of the enemy was most obstinate. He contested every inch of ground and grew more stubborn the nearer we approached town, but my troops drove them steadily back.

“Three miles from Pulaski he made a stand with seeming determination to yield no more ground… The engagement was becoming a general one. The enemy threw his right around for the purpose of making an enfilading fire upon my troops who had pushed far into his center.

“About this time my troops on the left advanced, and the artillery in that direction unexpectedly opened a destructive fire, which caused the enemy to make a hasty retreat. He was closely followed up and driven into town and into his fortifications.”

The Confederates finally reached Pulaski after a seven-hour fight, but the strong Federal defenses prompted Forrest to withhold an attack. The troopers instead headed north to wreck more railroad track between Pulaski and Columbia before turning to attack the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, 50 miles east. Forrest ended the month by skirmishing at Lynchburg and sending a detachment to wreck track at Tullahoma.

Forrest’s troopers had wreaked much havoc in northern Alabama and Tennessee, but dwindling manpower and ammunition meant that the raid would not last as long as Forrest had hoped.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 459, 461, 464; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12511-83; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 494-95, 497, 499-501; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 567, 569-70, 574-76

Mobile Bay: Federals Seize the Forts

August 8, 1864 – Confederates surrendered Fort Gaines at the entrance to Mobile Bay, apparently without authorization. This enabled the Federals to focus all their attention on capturing the last fort guarding the bay.

David G. Farragut | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

After Rear Admiral David G. Farragut’s Federal naval fleet captured Mobile Bay, the Federals looked to capture the three Confederate forts at the bay’s entrance: Forts Powell, Gaines, and Morgan. Fort Powell was the smallest garrison, consisting of 18 guns and 140 men under Lieutenant Colonel James M. Williams. It guarded the secondary bay entrance west of the main channel.

Federal entry into the bay on the 5th made Fort Powell irrelevant. Colonel Charles D. Anderson, commanding the Confederates at Fort Gaines, directed Williams to “save your garrison when your fort is no longer tenable.” Williams destroyed his magazines and evacuated Fort Powell that night.

Anderson then telegraphed the ranking Confederate commander in the bay, Brigadier General Richard L. Page, stationed at Fort Morgan, regarding Fort Gaines: “The enemy are planting batteries in the sand-hills within easy range. If the fleet opens upon me from the other direction I cannot cover more than half of my men, but will do the best I can. My situation is critical.”

Page advised Anderson to “do your best and keep the men in good cheer.” On the 6th, Anderson reported that two Federal ironclads were bombarding his fort, and he consulted with several officers (none of whom were Page) on whether to surrender. The next morning, Anderson wrote to Farragut:

“Feeling my inability to maintain my present location longer than you may see fit to open upon me with the fleet, and feeling also the uselessness of entailing upon ourselves further destruction of life, I have the honor to propose the surrender of fort Gaines, its garrison, stores, &c.

“I trust to your magnanimity for obtaining honorable terms, which I respectfully request that you will transmit to me, and allow me sufficient time to consider them and return an answer.”

Page saw the boat leaving Fort Gaines delivering the message under a flag of truce and ordered Anderson, “Hold on to your fort.” Farragut received the message and consulted with Major General Gordon Granger, the army commander whose troops were closing in to lay siege to Gaines. The officers gave their terms to Anderson: “The unconditional surrender of yourself and the garrison of Fort Gaines, with all of the public property within its limits.”

As Anderson came aboard Farragut’s flagship to arrange the surrender, Page continued sending messages trying to stop the process. But Anderson did not acknowledge the messages, and on the 8th, he formally surrendered Fort Gaines to Granger. Granger reported, “I have the honor to report that the old flag now floats over Fort Gaines, the entire garrison having surrendered to the combined forces of the army and navy this morning at 8 o’clock.” The Federals seized 818 prisoners, 26 guns, and large amounts of ammunition and supplies.

Page reported, “At 9:30 o’clock the enemy’s flag was hoisted over Gaines, the evidence and the emblem of the consummation of the deed of dishonor and disgrace to its commander and garrison.” Page called the affair “painfully humiliating,” caused by Anderson’s “inexplicable and shameful” conduct. Anderson was sent to New Orleans as a prisoner of war, where the Confederate government was unable to try him for his disobedience.

Now only Fort Morgan remained in Mobile Bay. Farragut, who had been friends with Page before the war, sent him a message: “To prevent the unnecessary sacrifice of human life, which must follow the opening of our batteries, we demand the unconditional surrender of Fort Morgan and its dependencies.” Page replied, “I am prepared to sacrifice life, and will only surrender when I have no means of defense.”

The Federals began assembling warships, land artillery, and Granger’s 3,000 troops to bombard Morgan into submission. The captured Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee was towed into a position where she could join in the bombardment of her former comrades. Farragut reported, “We are now tightening the cords around Fort Morgan. Page is as surly as a bull-dog, and says he will die in the last ditch. He says he can hold out six months, and that we can’t knock his fort down.”

By the 17th, all the Federal artillery was in position to lay siege to Fort Morgan. It consisted of 36 cannon and the guns of Farragut’s naval fleet. Page noted that “our brick walls were easily penetrable to the heavy missiles of the enemy, and that a systematic concentrated fire would soon breach them.”

Page ordered the destruction of his ammunition to prevent it from being exploded by Federal shells. During the five days of heavy bombardment, Granger’s troops inched their way to within 200 yards of the fort. A furious bombardment opened on the 22nd that “cut up the fort to such extent as to make the whole work a mere mass of debris.” Page, now with just two functioning guns, reported:

“My guns and powder had all been destroyed, my means of defense gone, the citadel, nearly the entire quartermaster stores, and a portion of the commissariat burned by the enemy’s shells, it was evident the fort could hold out but a few hours longer under a renewed bombardment. The only question was: Hold it for this time, gain the éclat, and sustain the loss of life from the falling of the walls, or save life and capitulate?”

At 6 a.m. on the 23rd, a white flag was raised over Fort Morgan as Page sent the Federals a message: “The further sacrifice of life being unnecessary, my sick and wounded suffering and exposed, humanity demands that I ask for terms of capitulation.” Farragut and Granger required unconditional surrender, “with all of the public property within its limit and in the same condition that it is now.”

However, the Confederates spiked their guns, troops destroyed their rifles, and officers broke their swords to render them useless to the Federals. Farragut angrily reported:

“The whole conduct of the officers of Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan presents such a striking contrast in moral principle that I can not fail to remark upon it. General Page and his officers, with a childish spitefulness, destroyed the guns which they had said they would defend to the last, but which they never defended at all, and threw away or broke those weapons which they had not the manliness to use against their enemies, for Fort Morgan never fired a gun after the commencement of the bombardment…”

The Federals took 400 prisoners, and now all the forts at the entrance to Mobile Bay were under their control. Farragut advised against continuing north to capture the city of Mobile itself because it was too heavily defended. Farragut’s men soon went to work clearing the floating mines (torpedoes) out of the bay. One of them exploded, killing five sailors and wounding nine. Nevertheless, the Federals had complete control of Mobile Bay, which was forever closed to blockade runners. Now only Wilmington, North Carolina, remained as a major functioning Confederate seaport.

As August ended, an exhausted Farragut asked Navy Secretary Gideon Welles for a sick leave:

“It is evident that the army has no men to spare for this place beyond those sufficient to keep up an alarm, and thereby make a diversion in favor of Gen. Sherman… Now, I dislike to make a show of attack unless I can do something more than make a menace, but so long as I am able I am willing to do the bidding of the Department to the best of my abilities. I fear, however, my health is giving way. I have been down in this Gulf and the Caribbean Sea nearly five years out of six, with the exception of the short time at home last fall, and the last six months have been a severe drain on me, and I want rest, if it is to be had.”

Meanwhile, the news of the spectacular Federal victory at Mobile Bay sparked massive celebrations throughout the North. One of Farragut’s New York neighbors informed him that his actions were “doing a great deal more than perhaps you dream of, in giving heart to the people here, and raising their confidence. Your victory has come at a most opportune moment, and will be attended by consequences of the most lasting and vital kind to the republic.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 177-78; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 445, 447, 449, 451; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 10588-630; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 483-84, 489, 491; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 553; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 183-84; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 553, 556, 559; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 212; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 276

The Battle of Mobile Bay

August 5, 1864 – Federal naval forces under Rear Admiral David G. Farragut won a sensational victory that closed a vital Confederate seaport to shipping and boosted sagging northern morale.

David G. Farragut | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Farragut had been assembling a naval fleet and planning to capture Mobile Bay since January. His flotilla consisted of 14 wooden warships and four ironclads. To access the bay, the ships had to pass through a narrow, 200-yard channel guarded by Confederates at Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island to the west and Fort Morgan to the east. The secondary bay entrance to the far west was guarded by Fort Powell.

Confederates placed 67 floating mines (or torpedoes) in the main entrance, which were marked with buoys. The Federals could avoid them, but they would have to steer closer to Fort Morgan and its 46 guns. Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan had a small naval fleet in the bay consisting of the wooden sidewheel gunboats C.S.S. Morgan, Gaines, and Selma, and the ironclad C.S.S. Tennessee. The 18 Federal ships outgunned the four Confederate vessels 147 to 22.

The Federal vessels began advancing on the flood tide at 5:30 a.m., with the ironclad monitors in a column closest to Fort Morgan that protected the wooden vessels. The wooden ships were lashed together in pairs so that if one was disabled, the other could pull her along. The U.S.S. Tecumseh led the ironclads, and the U.S.S. Brooklyn lashed to the Octorara led the wooden ships. The Brooklyn had a “cowcatcher” used to dredge for torpedoes. The admiral’s flagship, the U.S.S. Hartford, was behind the Brooklyn, lashed to the Metacomet.

Buchanan’s crew aboard the Tennessee woke him at 5:45 a.m. Buchanan assembled them on the gun deck and announced: “Now, men, the enemy is coming, and I want you to do your duty. If I fall, lay me on the side and go on with the fight.” Farragut reported, “The attacking fleet steamed steadily up the Main Ship Channel, the Tecumseh firing the first shot at 6:47.” An officer aboard the Hartford recalled:

“The calmness of the scene was sublime. No impatience, no irritation, no anxiety, except for the fort to open; and, after it did open, full five minutes elapsed before we answered. In the mean time the guns were trained as if at a target, and all the sounds I could hear were, ‘Steady boys, steady! Left tackle a little; so!’ then the roar of a broadside, and an eager cheer as the enemy were driven from their water battery.”

The Federal momentum temporarily halted as the fleet came under heavy bombardment from Fort Morgan, and the Tecumseh struck a mine and sank. Captain James Alden of the Brooklyn wrote:

“I observed the ill-fated Tecumseh which was then about 300 yards ahead of us and on our starboard bow, careen violently over and sink almost instantaneously. Sunk by a torpedo! Assassination in its worst form! A glorious though terrible end for our noble friends, the intrepid pioneers of that death-strewed path! Immortal fame is theirs; peace to their names.”

As Farragut sent the Metacomet to collect the Tecumseh survivors, the Brooklyn began reversing, which halted all the ships behind her. Farragut asked Alden why he was reversing, and he replied, “Torpedoes.” Farragut yelled, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead, Drayton! Hard astarboard; ring four bells! Eight bells! Sixteen bells!”

Farragut climbed the rigging to see better, and a boatswain lashed him to the shrouds to prevent him from falling. The Hartford moved directly through the minefield, hitting some torpedoes. However, they did not detonate because they were waterlogged. The remaining 16 vessels followed the Hartford into the bay by 8:35 a.m., in time to serve breakfast to the crew.

Soon after the Federal vessels entered Mobile Bay, Buchanan brought his small fleet forward to give battle. Farragut said, “I did not think old Buck was such a fool,” and trained his ships on the Confederates. The Morgan was grounded, the Gaines was sunk, and the crew of the Selma surrendered. This left the Tennessee alone to face Farragut’s 17 ships.

The fight in the bay | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Buchanan had moved the Tennessee under the guns of Fort Morgan, but now he brought her out in a last-ditch effort to drive the Federals out of the bay. The Hartford and two other vessels rammed the enemy vessel at five-minute intervals. Three more Federal ships converged with broadsides that destroyed Buchanan’s smokestack. And when fire destroyed Tennessee’s steering gear, a wounded Buchanan finally raised the white flag around 10 a.m.

A lieutenant from the U.S.S. Manhattan went aboard the Tennessee to collect her colors and later wrote that “her decks looked like a butcher shop. One man had been struck by the fragments of one of our 15-inch shot, and was cut into pieces so small that the largest would not have weighed 2 lbs.”

Without their ironclad, the Confederates could do little to stop the mighty Federal fleet from entering the lower bay and capturing the last port in the Gulf of Mexico east of Texas. The Federals suffered 145 killed (93 drowned on Tecumseh, including Commander Tunis A.M. Craven), 170 wounded, and four captured. Confederates lost 12 killed, 20 wounded, and 270 captured.

Northern morale, which had been at its lowest point of the war, was greatly boosted by this sensational Federal victory. However, the Confederates still held the forts at the bay’s entrance and the city of Mobile, 30 miles north. The Federals soon began working to take the forts.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 177-78; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 195; Chaitin, Peter M., The Coastal War: Chesapeake Bay to Rio Grande (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 145-47, 156; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 15324; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 745; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 444; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 480-82; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 503-04; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 183-84; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 551-52; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 760-61; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 209-12; Melton, Maurice, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 504, 746; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 325-26

 

The Mobile Bay Campaign

August 4, 1864 – Federal naval forces under Rear Admiral David G. Farragut prepared to attack one of the last remaining Confederate seaports open to blockade runners.

David G. Farragut | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Farragut had sought to capture Mobile Bay ever since he took New Orleans in April 1862. Farragut intended to not only close the port, but to divert attention from Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal threat to Atlanta. However, blockading duty and the opening of the Mississippi River took precedence until January, when Farragut finally began planning in earnest to take this vital seaport.

Capturing Mobile Bay meant subduing the forts defending the channel. These included (from east to west) Fort Morgan on the western edge of Mobile Point, Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, and the smaller Fort Powell, all commanded by Brigadier General Richard L. Page. The forts lacked sufficient firepower, but the Confederates made up for this by placing 67 floating mines (i.e., torpedoes) in the bay, as well as a small defense fleet under Admiral Franklin Buchanan. The fleet included the wooden gunboats Morgan, Gaines, Selma, and the ironclad ram C.S.S. Tennessee.

Farragut reported to his superiors:

“I am satisfied that if I had one ironclad at this time I could destroy their whole force in the bay and reduce the forts at my leisure, by cooperation with our land forces–say 5,000 men… Without ironclads we should not be able to fight the enemy’s vessels of that class with much prospect of success, as the latter would lie on the flats, where our ships could not go to destroy them. Wooden vessels can do nothing with them, unless by getting within 100 or 200 yards, so as to ram them or pour in a broadside.”

Farragut spent the first half of 1864 assembling his attack fleet, but the ironclads were slow in coming. He wrote pessimistically in May, “One thing appears to be certain, that I can get none of the ironclads. They want them all for Washington.” Farragut also reported on the Confederate progress in gathering a fleet during that time:

“I am watching Buchanan in the ram Tennessee. She is a formidable-looking thing, and there are four others and three wooden gunboats. They say he is waiting for the two others to come out and attack me, and then raid until New Orleans. Let him come. I have a fine squadron to meet him, all ready and willing.”

However, Buchanan would not bring his fleet out to confront the Federals, and Farragut soon became frustrated:

“I am tired of watching Buchanan and Page, and wish from the bottom of my heart that Buck would come out and try his hand upon us. The question has to be settled, iron versus wood; and there never was a better chance to settle the question as to the sea-going qualities of ironclad ships. We are today ready to try anything that comes along, be it wood or iron, in reasonable quantities. Anything is preferable to lying on our oars.”

In July, Farragut directed his fleet commanders, “Strip your vessels and prepare for the conflict. Send down all your superfluous spars and rigging. Trice up or remove the whiskers.” Farragut had 14 wooden ships and three ironclads–the U.S.S. Chickasaw, Manhattan, and Winnebago–with a fourth, the U.S.S. Tecumseh, on her way from Pensacola. Farragut wrote on July 31:

“The Confederates at Fort Morgan are making great preparations to receive us. That concerns me but little. I know Buchanan and Page, who commands the fort, will do all in their power to destroy us, and we will reciprocate the compliment. I hope to give them a fair fight, if I once get inside. I expect nothing from them but that they will try to blow me up if they can.”

He chose the 4th “as the day for landing of the troops and my entrance into the bay,” but he began panicking as the day approached and the Tecumseh had not yet arrived. Farragut planned to land about 1,500 Federal troops under Major General Gordon Granger on Dauphin Island while the ships advanced in two lines. The ironclads would move between Fort Morgan and the wooden vessels, with gunboats protecting the wooden ships’ western sides.

Granger’s Federals landed on the 3rd, but instead of assaulting Fort Gaines, Granger directed his men to deploy artillery and besiege the fort. That day, Farragut’s fleet captain, Percival Drayton, sent an urgent message to the Federal commander at Pensacola:

“If you can get the Tecumseh out to-morrow, do so; otherwise I am pretty certain that the admiral won’t wait for her. Indeed, I think a very little persuasion would have taken him in to-day, and less to-morrow. The army are to land at once, and the admiral does not want to be though remiss.”

Farragut postponed his attack for a day in hopes that the Tecumseh would arrive. He wrote:

“I have lost the finest day for my operations. I confidently supposed that the Tecumseh would be ready in four days, and here we are on the sixth and no signs of her, and I am told has just begun to coal. I could have done very well without her, as I have three here without her, and every day is an irretrievable loss.”

Farragut followed up Drayton’s message with one of his own: “I can lose no more days. I must go in day after to-morrow morning at daylight or a little after. It is a bad time, but when you do not take fortune at her offer you must take her as you can find her.”

That night, Federal vessels made their final reconnaissance of the bay in a heavy storm, as men tried deactivating as many torpedoes as possible and marking the locations of those they could not. Gunboats fired on Fort Powell, situated on the secondary channel west of the main bay entrance.

Major General Dabney H. Maury, commanding the Confederate Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, reported, “Thirty-seven vessels have already assembled off Mobile Bar. A large force of infantry landed on Dauphin Island last night and reported moving on Fort Gaines.” A correspondent from the Richmond Examiner wrote on the 4th:

“Yesterday and last evening, the enemy threw an infantry force upon Dauphin Island, 7 miles from Fort Gaines. The fleet outside is larger this morning… General Maury call on all to enroll themselves in battle. Great confidence prevails.”

The Winnebago briefly shelled Fort Gaines, as Farragut called a council of war to review the attack plan for the next day. Farragut explained:

“The service that I look for from the ironclads is, first, to neutralize as much as possible the fire of the guns which rake our approach; next to look out for the ironclads when we are abreast of the forts, and, lastly, to occupy the attention of those batteries which would rake us while running up the bay.

“After the wooden vessels have passed the fort, the Winnebago and Chickasaw will follow them. The commanding officer of the Tecumseh and Manhattan will endeavor to destroy the Tennessee, exercising their own judgment as to the time they shall remain behind for that purpose.”

Farragut planned to bypass the forts and occupy Mobile Bay, which would then starve the Confederates in the forts into surrender. Granger’s troops on Dauphin Island “will simultaneously attack Fort Gaines with our passage into Mobile Bay. What torpedoes or obstructions are in the ship channel we are ignorant. An effort on our part to pass in will be made, but the result is in the hands of the Almighty, and we pray that He may favor us.”

That night, Farragut wrote his wife: “I write and leave this letter for you. I am going into Mobile Bay in the morning, if God is my leader, as I hope He is, and in Him I place my trust… The Army landed last night, and are in full view of us this morning. The Tecumseh has not yet arrived.”

The Tecumseh finally arrived late that night and joined the line of battle. To succeed, the Federals had to enter a channel only 200 yards wide and avoid the torpedoes while under fire from Fort Morgan and the Confederate vessels in the bay.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 177-78; Chaitin, Peter M., The Coastal War: Chesapeake Bay to Rio Grande (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 143, 145; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 15315-24; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 444; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 479-80; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 10394-414; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 183-84; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 550-51; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 209

The War’s Harshness Intensifies

May 3, 1862 – Federal troops retaliated against Confederate attacks in northern Alabama by committing various atrocities against civilians. Incidents such as these indicated the beginning of a new and more brutal phase of the war.

Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel, whose Federal division had been detached from Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio to operate in central Tennessee and northern Alabama, had spent the past month clearing the area of Confederate guerrillas. On May 1, Mitchel bypassed Buell and reported directly to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, “This campaign is now ended, and I can now occupy Huntsville (Alabama) in perfect security, while all of Alabama north of the Tennessee floats no flag but that of the Union.”

Stanton informed Mitchel that his “spirited operations afford great satisfaction to the President,” especially considering that Federals were not having much success in other theaters of the war. However, Confederate attacks remained a constant threat as the Federals occupied an area surrounded by hostile partisans and residents. Civilians participated in many of the attacks, but General Buell had ordered Mitchel’s men not to attack civilians in accordance with the Articles of War.

John B. Turchin | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

John B. Turchin | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Men of the 19th Illinois Infantry sustained deadly attacks from raiders, and in one instance, a Federal soldier was burned to death when local residents refused to allow slaves to rescue him from a burning train. The 19th’s commander, Colonel Ivan Vasilevich Turchininov, a Russian immigrant now known as John Basil Turchin, sought revenge.

Turchin, who had served in the Russian Imperial Army and was alternately nicknamed the “Russian Thunderbolt” and “the mad Russian,” directed his men to plunder Athens, Alabama, by telling them in his accented English, “I shut mine eyes for von hour.” The Federals ripped through the town, raping several slave girls. They looted buildings and homes, filling their knapsacks with jewelry, watches, and silverware. When the troops returned without burning Athens, Turchin said, “I shut mine eyes for von hour and a half.” The Federals then torched the town.

The residents of Athens later filed 45 affidavits accusing the Federals of stealing property valued at $50,000. Turchin was later court-martialed and dismissed from the army for allowing such plunder and for allowing his wife to join him in battle. However, President Abraham Lincoln not only reinstated him but promoted him to brigadier general.

In another incident this month, Confederate guerrillas ambushed a train carrying the 3rd Ohio Infantry to Huntsville near Paint Rock. The regimental commander, Colonel John Beatty, wrote in his diary:

“I had the train stopped, and, taking a file of soldiers, returned to the village. The telegraph line had been cut, and the wire was lying in the street. Calling the citizens together, I said to them that this bushwhacking must cease. Hereafter every time the telegraph wire was cut we would burn a house; every time a train was fired upon we should hang a man; and we would continue to do this until every house was burned and every man was hanged between Decatur and Bridgeport. I then set fire to the town, took three citizens with me, and proceeded to Huntsville.”

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References

Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 562-63; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 152; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 22; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 766; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 12-15

From Thomas Lightfoot, 6th Alabama

Letter from 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Lightfoot, Company A, 6th Alabama Volunteer Infantry

Camp Davis near Corinth, Miss.

May 29, 1861

Alabama State Flag | Image Credit: AllFlagsWorld.com

Alabama State Flag | Image Credit: AllFlagsWorld.com

DEAR COUSIN:

We arrived here several days ago, but I have been so wearied that I was not able to write to you. I will now give you my views of a soldier’s life.

A soldier is worse than any negro on Chattahoochee River. He has no privileges whatever. He is under worse task-masters than any negro. He is not treated with any respect whatever. His officers may insult him and he has no right to open his mouth and dare not do it. My officers have always treated me with the utmost courtesy, and I expect will always treat me so, for I am going to obey orders. This is a hard life, but I like it very much. We make our pallets on the ground and we rise at the tap of the drum or we are placed on double duty. I have been so fortunate as to be always at my post.

We left Montgomery on Saturday last in very good 1st class passenger cars, and were getting along finely until we got to Chattanooga, where they placed us in box cars. Ladies crowded to every little depot to cheer us on (our) way. I can truly say I never saw as many and as pretty ladies in my life as there is on the road from Montgomery to Corinth. The cars were literally covered with bouquets from the beautiful ladies. I think when I want a wife I will come somewhere on this road to find her.

It is generally supposed down in our country that the people of North Alabama are not right on the present issue, but I can assure you that they are the most warlike people I have ever seen. Women cheer us, and the men go along with us. Every little village has at least 25 flags floating aloft.

You must write to me soon and give me all the news. Give my love to Uncle, Dr. and Lady, and all the rest of the family and accept the wishes of your most obedient servant and affectionate cousin,

T.R. LIGHTFOOT

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Source: Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 7-8

The Alabama Secession

January 11, 1861 – Delegates to the Alabama State Convention at Montgomery voted 61 to 39 to secede from the United States.

Alabama State Flag | Image Credit: AllFlagsWorld.com

Alabama State Flag | Image Credit: AllFlagsWorld.com

A week before convention delegates approved secession, Governor Andrew B. Moore issued orders for state troops to seize all Federal forts and military facilities in Alabama. Troops complied by seizing the Federal arsenal at Mount Vernon, taking some 20,000 stand of arms. They also took Forts Morgan and Gaines, two vital posts protecting the entrance to Mobile Bay.

The secession ordinance passed by a slimmer margin than in previous states, mainly because of anti-secession sentiment in northern Alabama. The margin may have been slimmer had some delegates who opposed secession not changed their votes to support it when they saw the ordinance would pass.

Large celebrations took place on the streets of Montgomery, as cheering crowds fired rockets and firecrackers, and many displayed the Southern Cross and the Lone Star emblems. In Mobile, a Federal judge yelled out his courtroom window that the U.S. Court for the South District of Alabama was “adjourned forever.”

The same day the delegates approved secession, they also resolved:

“In order to frame a revisional as a permanent Government, the people of the States of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, be and they are hereby invited to meet the people of the State of Alabama, by their delegates in convention, on the 4th day of February next in Montgomery.”

The delegates also retroactively endorsed Governor Moore’s order of last week to seize forts and military installations. Later this month, Alabama troops seized the lighthouse tender U.S.S. Alert and the revenue cutter U.S.S. Lewis Cass at Mobile.

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Sources:

  • Davis, William C., Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 128
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 8
  • Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 507
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 21-22, 30
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 46