Battles in Alabama
There were no major conflicts in Alabama. However, after the major battles in Virginia and Tennessee, the area from Northern Alabama to Chattanooga was one of the most hotly contested regions in the nation. Here ran the superhighway of the South--the Tennessee River--and an extensive railroad system. Both were used to transport men and supplies across the Confederacy. Union and Confederate forces fought for control of the Tennessee River Valley and North Alabama changed hands many times. This caused tremendous hardships for civilians as each army took food and livestock. Athens, for instance, was the subject to organized plundering and suffered horribly.
In 1863 Union cavalry Col. Abel Streight attempted a raid across Northern Alabama to a Confederate railhead at Rome, Georgia. General Nathan Bedford Forrest learned of the raid and pursued Streight. This raid is one of the Confederate's most audacious victories. Streight's forces thought they had had outwitted Forrest when they burned a bridge after crossing it. But Emma Sansom showed Forrest where the stream was shallow enough for men and horses to cross without a bridge. Emma Sansom became one of the great heroines of the Confederacy. Though his forces were outnumbered three to one, Forrest deceived Streight into thinking that he was about to be attacked by superior Confederate forces. The weary Union general reluctantly surrendered, only to find that his 1466 men had been captured by 322 Confederate soldiers.
In the final weeks of the war, Union General James Harrison Wilson commanded the largest cavalry force of the war. His objective was to destroy important ironworks at Tannehill and Brierfield and the great foundry in Selma, a vital producer of the South's cannons and munitions. He also attacked General Forrest's troops. These raids left Alabama's important military objectives a smoldering ruin and greatly impaired the South's ability to make war.
Forrest finally surrendered his troops in Gainesville, Ala., nearly a month after General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. Forrest's men were the last troops of the Confederacy to lay down their arms.
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John C. Rigdon, editor
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