A Civil War Day Tripper’s Sojourns

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A Civil War Day Tripper’s Sojourns ...it is the province of the historian to find out,
not what was,
but what is.

-Thoreau

02/10/2023
Check out the Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion Arkansas if you are in the area!  A great little museum that will be in ...
15/08/2023

Check out the Sultana Disaster Museum in Marion Arkansas if you are in the area! A great little museum that will be in a totally new building that they have plans to move into in the short term future. Lots of history regarding the worst maritime accident in history…even worse than the Titanic in regards to loss of life.

Looks like Shiloh National Military Park is getting a new museum in the visitors center!
15/08/2023

Looks like Shiloh National Military Park is getting a new museum in the visitors center!

Kindred Spirits
10/06/2023

Kindred Spirits

03/06/2023

Founding Father Francis Lightfoot Lee lived at Menokin, a Georgian style home built for him by his wife’s father, between 1769 until his death in 1797. Francis Lightfoot Lee signed the American Declaration of Independence.

Per Wiki, Menokin changed hands several times and “went into serious decline around 1935 when it lay, for the most part, vacant and crumbling before coming into possession of The Menokin Foundation in 1995.”

Though Menokin is now a ruin and has partially collapsed, the Menokin Foundation has developed a plan to restore the house using glass panels (essentially windows) to fill missing portions of the building instead of trying to restore the house to its original condition. This will allow the display of the framing, masonry, and interior for visitor observation when completed by 2026. Recommended on a grand scale.

You can donate to Menokin at: https://www.menokin.org.

The below link is not for Menokin donations! It is for people wanting to subscribe to this blog. Consider becoming a Subscriber to High’s Roadside. Subscribers have access to exclusive posts as a thank-you for their financial contribution. Click the link below to join.

https://www.facebook.com/becomesupporter/highsroadside/

Macon, Georgia Civil War Sites:  During “The War Between the States” the young city of Macon was threatened with destruc...
16/01/2023

Macon, Georgia Civil War Sites: During “The War Between the States” the young city of Macon was threatened with destruction on two separate occasions when Union and Confederate forces met just across the river from the city. Both conflicts took place on the grounds of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. Today, the Dunlap trail leads to one of the few surviving Civil War earthworks in Macon, a reminder of another time in history adding to the heritage that is Ocmulgee. Around 1856, Samuel F. Dunlap selected a hilltop in close proximity of Walnut Creek to build his house and establish a dairy farm. Less than ten years later, in 1864, the city of Macon was sending small arms, cannon and supplies to the Confederate Army in Atlanta. By this late date the Southern forces were defeated but not yet ready to give up the fight. The North needed decisive victories to bring the war to an end. Sherman’s “March to the Sea” became a major factor in the ultimate outcome of the conflict. That march led Union forces to Macon. Join me as I visit some of Macon's Civil War sites that are still in existence including the former grounds of 'Camp Oglethorpe Prison' and the CSA Laboratories as well as earthwork fortifications and a gazebo Jefferson Davis spoke from during his final post-war visit to Macon. (Credit: Much of the above information was extracted from a NPS brochure.)

Confederate Memorial Park is the site of Alabama's only Confederate Soldiers' Home. Located about 1/2-hour drive north o...
28/10/2022

Confederate Memorial Park is the site of Alabama's only Confederate Soldiers' Home. Located about 1/2-hour drive north of Montgomery, Alabama. The site operated from 1902-1939 as a haven for disabled or indigent veterans of the Confederate army, their wives, and widows. The majority of veterans served in Alabama outfits, while others moved to Alabama after the war. The last veteran died at the home in 1934, 69 years after the end of the Civil War. The facility closed in 1939 when the five remaining widows were moved to Montgomery for better care. This is a photo tour of my visit from 2004. A very nice park with a lot of history...

After the battles of Shiloh, Tenn., and Corinth, Miss., Union General Ulysses S. Grant planned to capture Vicksburg, Mis...
01/10/2022

After the battles of Shiloh, Tenn., and Corinth, Miss., Union General Ulysses S. Grant planned to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, by following the Mississippi Central Railroad. Confederate General John C. Pemberton established a strong defensive line, known as the Yalobusha Line, along the Greenwood & Columbus Railroad. The city of Grenada is located at the intersection of the Central MS Railroad and the Greenwood & Columbus Railroad, where eight forts were constructed during the winter of 1862 to protect this vital rail center. Two of these Confederate Forts are located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Property on Grenada Lake and are open to the public. One of these fortifications has been restored and the other remains in its original unrestored state for contrast. A major Civil War Battle would have taken place in Grenada if it were not for General Earl Van Dorn's successful cavalry raid on Grant's Base of Supplies in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on December 20, 1862. Come with me to take a look at this remarkable piece of history as there is history all around us if we just look...

Battle of Coffeeville, Mississippi - December 5, 1862My day-long sojourn to Coffeeville to view the battlegrounds where ...
25/09/2022

Battle of Coffeeville, Mississippi - December 5, 1862

My day-long sojourn to Coffeeville to view the battlegrounds where the battle of Coffeeville took place between L. Lyle Dickey's Army of the Tennesse (Union) and Mansfield Lovell's / LLoyd Tilghman's 1st Corps of the Army of West Tennessee (Confederate). This was a running battle in which Union strength was estimated at 1,500 - 2,500 souls and the Confederate strength was estimated at 1,300 - 2,500 souls. Union casualties were estimated at 300 on the high side and Confederate casualties were estimated at 60 on the high side. The battle was hard fought and resulted in a Confederate victory which went a long way in deterring U.S. Grant's overland campaign to take Vicksburg and sent him back to rethink his strategy for removal of the linchpin holding the Confederacy together. This is one of the hardest battlefields I have toured as far as understanding what happened and where it happened as all of the battlefield property is privately owned but can all be seen and taken-in along the course of three county roads totally surrounding the entire area of action. There is no interpretation and there is one wartime era cemetery that can be visited within the area that the battle took place. I used Don Sides' excellent book on the Battle of Coffeeville to obtain most of my information as well as to formulate my pre-planning to visit this pristine battlefield. Here is what I was able to see on my sojourn from yesterday, September 24, 2022....

Johnsonville State Historic Park is named for former President Andrew Johnson who also served as the Union Military Gove...
18/09/2022

Johnsonville State Historic Park is named for former President Andrew Johnson who also served as the Union Military Governor of Tennessee during the Civil War. This 1,075-acre park commemorates the site of the Johnsonville Depot, the Battle of Johnsonville, and the historic townsite of Johnsonville that existed from 1864-1944 prior to the formation of Kentucky Lake, an impoundment of the Tennessee River created by the construction of Kentucky Dam in 1944 which flooded a vast portion of Johnsonville. Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led a 23-day raid culminating in an attack on the Union supply base at Johnsonville. Forrest positioned his artillery across the river from the Federal supply base. Upon discovering the Confederates finishing their entrenchments and battery emplacements, the Union engaged the Confederates in an artillery duel. The Rebel guns were well-positioned, so the Federals were unable to hinder them. Fearing that the Rebels might cross the river and capture the supplies and troop transport boats, the Federals set fire to them. Seeing the fire, the Confederates began firing on the steamboats, barges, and warehouses to prevent the Federals from putting out the fire. An inferno illuminated Forrest’s night withdrawal, and he escaped Union clutches without serious loss. Damages totaled $2.2 million. The next morning, some Confederate artillery bombarded the depot but then left. Although this victory further strengthened Forrest’s reputation and destroyed a great amount of Union materiel, it failed to stem the tide of Union success in Georgia. By this time Forrest had often harassed the Union Army, but, as this engagement demonstrated, he could not stop their operations. Here is a tour from my one-day visit to Johnsonville State Park... See less

Castillo de San Marcos, also known as Fort Marion during the Civil War.  Located in St Augustine, Florida.
11/09/2022

Castillo de San Marcos, also known as Fort Marion during the Civil War. Located in St Augustine, Florida.

Windsor Ruins - Port Gibson, Mississippi
08/09/2022

Windsor Ruins - Port Gibson, Mississippi

04/09/2022

Confederate Cemetery - Gainesville, Alabama
This cemetery has the graves of Gainesville’s earliest settlers, including founder Moses Lewis. There are also graves of over 200 unknown Confederate and Union soldiers who were brought to Gainesville from battlefields to be nursed in hospitals housed in the hotel, schoolhouse, and homes. Some of the dead having been thrown from retreating troop trains. Located in the cemetery is a Naval Brooke Cannon that was one of four cast in Selma at the Naval Ordnance Works toward the end of the war being the largest production cannons of the Civil War. Designed by Confederate Navy Capt. John M. Brooke these were considered the finest made cannon on either side and the double banding made them safer than northern Parrotts. There is much information in the Official Records of the Navies regarding the manufacturing of these fine pieces. This piece was shipped to Mobile, but Mobile had already fallen. It was then shipped to Gainesville, which was also on the point of surrender. The cannon was scuttled into the river to keep it out of Northern hands. Years after the war, it was dredged from the river by the town’s citizens and placed in the cemetery as a monument to the fallen soldiers that are buried in a mass grave. Brooke number S-26 is an 8-inch smoothbore placed at the cemetery and dedicated in 1876. The “S-26” in its name indicates that it was the 26th gun made at that arsenal, which was located along Arsenal Place, off of Church Street in present-day Selma. It was cast December 11, 1863 and delivered to Mobile June 27, 1864. Sources say that this type of cannon was the most powerful cannon used in the Civil War, with an impressive range of up to 2,200 yards, that is, the length of over 18 football fields. Positioned at Oven Bluff on the Tombigbee River, it weighs 10,370 pounds. It was turned over by the CS Navy to the Army on 11 Aug 1864 for use at Battery McIntosh (an earthen fortification 1862-1865 that was part of the defenses of Mobile Bay) then delivered to the Ordnance Warehouse at Mobile on 4 March 1865 and sent to Oven Bluff upon reactivation. Nathan Bedford Forrest paroled his men at the end of the conflict not very far from this burial ground location.

This cemetery is located on the east side of Gainesville, AL on Cemetery Road

Morning Sunrise at Brice’s Crossroads on August 30, 2022. Sent to me by a friend rolling through on his way home from wo...
31/08/2022

Morning Sunrise at Brice’s Crossroads on August 30, 2022. Sent to me by a friend rolling through on his way home from work…

'The West Point Of The South' - The University Of Alabama (UA) was considered a major target of destruction by the North...
29/08/2022

'The West Point Of The South' - The University Of Alabama (UA) was considered a major target of destruction by the Northern Army during the Civil War as many of it's cadets that graduated went on to become officers in the Confederate cause during the war. The campus was hit by Brigadier General John Croxton’s Company, a division of Wilson's Raiders, and was burned on April 4, 1865 after an unsuccessful attempt to stop the raid into Tuscaloosa at the Black Warrior River bridge crossing by the UA Cadets and the Tuscaloosa Home Guard. The remaining UA cadets were comprised of young boys and their instructors since many of the older student cadets had left the university to join the Confederate cause and were stationed throughout the South. The Tuscaloosa Home Guard was comprised of young boys and old men. Only four major campus structures were saved from burning. The University of Alabama survived, recovered, and went on to become one of the greatest Universities in the United States of America. Join me on my tour of the sites related to this historic event...

Fort Clinch State Park located on Fernandina Beach, Florida. Construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847. It was part of t...
20/08/2022

Fort Clinch State Park located on Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847. It was part of the Third System of coastal defenses. The fortified compound is pentagonal in shape, with both inner and outer walls, and consists of almost five million bricks. There are corner bastions and embrasures in the outer walls and several structures in the interior courtyards, including a two-story barracks. The fort was named in honor of General Duncan Lamont Clinch after his death in 1849 (Ed Bearss once stated that you never want to be named after a Fort as that usually means you are dead). General Clinch fought in the War of 1812 and was an important figure in the First and Second Seminole Wars. Confederate forces seized the fort in early 1861 by default. It was used as a safe haven for Confederate blockade runners during the first year of the Civil War. However, changes in technology, specifically the development of rifled cannon, had improved weaponry to the point that the fort's brick walls were vulnerable to attacks and thus obsolete. In March 1862 General Robert E. Lee ordered abandonment of the fort in order to use scarce troops in other areas. Afterwards Federal troops re-occupied the fort, taking control of the adjacent Georgia and Florida coasts. They used the fort as the base of Union operations in the area throughout the Civil War. Fort Clinch was the first state park for Florida being designated as such in 1935 and opening to the public for tours in 1938. This one is definitely at the top of my list out of all of the coastal forts I have had the opportunity to visit. Here are a few photos from my journey to this historic location...

Fort Pillow: My visit to Fort Pillow on Thursday 7/21/22 and my hike from the Visitor's Center to the site of the fort h...
23/07/2022

Fort Pillow: My visit to Fort Pillow on Thursday 7/21/22 and my hike from the Visitor's Center to the site of the fort high up on the Chickasaw Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River located in Henning, Tennessee about 80 miles north of Memphis. It was a hot 5 mile round trip hike in which I traversed up and down steep slopes following the troop movements from the battle that secured a Confederate victory for Nathan Bedford Forrest on April 12, 1864. Here are some photos of some of the marker stops along the way...

My visit to Fort Pillow in Henning, Tennessee on Thursday July 21, 2022.  I had the entire visitor's center and park to ...
23/07/2022

My visit to Fort Pillow in Henning, Tennessee on Thursday July 21, 2022. I had the entire visitor's center and park to myself during the duration of my visit as there wasn't another visitor that showed up during my entire stay of roughly 4 hours. This post will feature the park visitor's center and the next post will feature the actual battlegrounds and fort. Fort Pillow State Historic Park is a state park in western Tennessee that preserves the American Civil War site of the Battle of Fort Pillow. The 1,642 acre Fort Pillow, located in Lauderdale County on the Chickasaw Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, is rich in both historic and archaeological significance. In 1861, the Confederate army built extensive fortifications and named the site for General Gideon Johnson Pillow of Maury County. It was attacked and held by the Union Army for most of the American Civil War period except immediately after the Battle of Fort Pillow, when it was retaken by the Confederate Army. The battle ended with a massacre of African-American Union troops and their white officers attempting to surrender, by soldiers under the command of Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The park is preserved and interpreted extremely well.

The tompion was used to keep the rain,snow or mud out of the end of a musket barrel. These are made of wood and the end ...
04/07/2022

The tompion was used to keep the rain,snow or mud out of the end of a musket barrel. These are made of wood and the end is slotted to allow the tompion to fit snug in the barrel, but still be able to pull it out if the wood swells. The tompion measures about 5" long.

Confederate General S.D. Lee’s former home…$99,750….  ‘Hickory Sticks’ (ca. 1817-1830), Columbus, Mississippi’s oldest h...
19/06/2022

Confederate General S.D. Lee’s former home…$99,750….
‘Hickory Sticks’ (ca. 1817-1830), Columbus, Mississippi’s oldest home still standing, is currently on the market! Hickory Sticks is a one-and-a-half-story log and frame house which faces west from a wooded three-and-a-half-acre site two hundred feet above the old Hamilton (Columbus-Aberdeen) Road in Columbus, Mississippi. Supported by a foundation of brick piers,the raised cottage-type house has a gable roof and a full front gallery with six wooden columns spanned by a simple wooden railing. The Greek Revival appearance of the house is the result of mid-nineteenth century additions to a double-pen log structure which probably dates from the earliest period of settlement in Columbus, ca. 1817-1830. According to Columbus historian Dr. William L. Lipscomb, "up to 1830 more than one-half of all the houses built in Columbus were made of logs," the typical log house being "either single or double, one and a half stories high…with piazza running the length of the whole house in front" (Lipscomb, pp. 48-49). When it stood alone, the original log portion of Hickory Sticks faced south and probably fit Lipscomb’s description exactly. As the house is presently arranged, the surviving pen of the log structure frames the two rooms, one above the other, at the northwest corner. The hand-hewn, crudely notched logs are of varying woods, apparently selected for their size. Robert Haden evidently enlarged and remodeled the log house soon after he purchased it in 1846 (Deed book 22:272). A three-room floor plan with stair hall was achieved by the addition of a large, high- ceilinged parlor to correspond with the log-framed rooms across a center hall probably created from the space formerly occupied by the "piazza"of the longhouse. The ceiling of the west pen of the log structure was raised with timber framing to allow for a finished second-story room, the front gallery was added under a new roof, six-over-six sash windows were installed above paneled jib windows opening onto the gallery from the new parlor, interior walls were plastered, and the exterior was sheathed in clap board shingles. Three simple wooden Greek Revival mantels which survive in place, other six-over-six and six-over-nine sash windows, the window and door architraves, the four-panel interior doors, and a simple but graceful
wooden stair rail also appear to have been installed in the 1840s. The terracing of the steeply sloping grounds, with brick steps which still lead from the street level up to the front door, was probably accomplished by Haden at the same time. In 1949, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ivy, former owners of Hickory Sticks, installed a central heating and air conditioning system and added a rear wing containing a kitchen, a dining room, a sitting room, bathrooms, and another second-floor bedroom. The back (east) pen of the original log structure, by that time severely deteriorated, was removed to allow more space for the addition, while the remaining old portion of the house was carefully renovated. The history of Columbus, Mississippi's settlement, growth, and development are reflected in the house and grounds of Hickory Sticks. Certain features of the grounds suggest that there may have been some prehistoric settlement there; the nineteenth century house represents, in its two phases of construction, two important periods of Columbus history; and the builders of the house, as well as subsequent owners, occupied prominent positions in the growing Tombigbee River community. As the subject of twentieth century preservation and renovation, the home has been open in prior years to the public annually during the Columbus Pilgrimage. The most famous owner of Hickory Sticks was General Stephen Dill Lee (1833-1908), who purchased the thirty-three acres, with "dwelling house and other improvements, vineyard, etc.," in 1879 (Deed book 55:485), A South Carolina native distinguished as a lieutenant-general in the Confederate Army, Lee settled in Columbus when he married Regina Harrison there in 1865. He was elected to the state senate in 1878, chosen a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1890, and served as the first president of Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1880 until 1899, when he resigned to accept an appointment as a member of the commission to organize the Vicksburg National Military Park. At the time of his death in 1908, S. D. Lee was commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans (Malone, 11:130-31). The Hickory Sticks property was inherited by General Lee's only son, Blewitt Lee, who lived in Chicago and evidently did not plan to return to Columbus (Minute book 11:335). He soon deeded eleven acres of the land to the city of Columbus to be used forever as a public park, now called Lee Park (Deedbook92:430). The Hickory Sticks house site and remaining twenty-two acres of surrounding land were sold separately, however, and the house continued to be occupied as a private residence (Deed book 100:563). During the ensuing decades the private acreage was further subdivided until 1949, when the three- and-a-half-acre parcel containing the Hickory Sticks house was purchased and sensitively renovated by it’s owners, Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Ivy (Deed books 210:293; 219:89-90). While renovating the house, Mr. and Mrs. Ivy discovered the log section that had been hidden under plaster for over one hundred years. They were careful to retain all that could be salvaged of the original structure and, to allow future interpretation of the development of the house, they left exposed the log and frame construction of a second-floor room.

Coquina Quarry - Anastasia State Park - St. Augustine, FloridaWithin Anastasia State Park lies the Spanish Coquina Quarr...
12/06/2022

Coquina Quarry - Anastasia State Park - St. Augustine, Florida

Within Anastasia State Park lies the Spanish Coquina Quarries, the primary source of coquina, a variation of limestone consisting of a conglomerate of fossilized sand and mollusk shells infamous for its porous properties that would absorb the impact of a cannon ball without destroying it's surrounding walls as the ball would sink into the material like a sponge. This material was used to build the famous Castillo de San Marcos, also known as Fort Marion during the American Civil War, and other buildings in the Spanish colonial town of St. Augustine, known as America's oldest city.

The fort, with its durable construction, protected the seat of Spanish colonial power in La Florida in the 17th century. The quarries were listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Feb. 23, 1972. The quarries provided the building blocks for this ancient city and still serve as a learning tool for education and park interpretation.

The coquina from this site was the foundation of the history of St. Augustine and of Florida. Without its discovery, there are many “what ifs” that come into play.

Sixteen Coquina Quarries and most of the 36 surviving colonial residences in St. Augustine contain walls built with the stones dug from these quarries. The Castillo De San Marcos was quarried from the area within Anastasia State Park and shows the ingenuity of man and the majesty of nature while providing us with a look into the history of this historic city and it's unique and original structures.

Vicksburg Courthouse Museum Tour - 2022Located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Old Court House Museum has showcased Vicks...
08/05/2022

Vicksburg Courthouse Museum Tour - 2022

Located in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Old Court House Museum has showcased Vicksburg's cultural history for 74 years. Originally built in 1858, the building served as Warren County's courthouse until 1939 and was the place where Jefferson Davis launched his political career. Through the efforts of Mrs. Eva Whitaker Davis, a Historical Society was formed in 1946 with the sole ambition of transforming the abandoned structure into a museum of local history. A National Historic Landmark and Vicksburg's Crown Jewel, the museum is filled with items of historical and cultural significance including one of the largest collections of Civil War memorabilia in the South.

Update on the Civil War era house located in Verona, Mississippi.  This is the house located near Nathan Bedford Forrest...
14/04/2022

Update on the Civil War era house located in Verona, Mississippi. This is the house located near Nathan Bedford Forrest's Verona Headquarters site that was featured in an earlier post here. I decided to drive by today to see what kind of shape it was in since I took the photos shown in my original post a few years ago. I am sorry to say that the house is no longer standing as shown in the two new photos presented here. It looks like it was torn down. I am unsure of the circumstances of course but I am saddened to see another piece of history gone. Forrest convalesced in this home to recover from a wound he received in battle.

Shiloh, Tennessee- April 9,2022 - Hornet’s Nest
10/04/2022

Shiloh, Tennessee- April 9,2022 - Hornet’s Nest

April 8, 1865, Nathan Bedford Forrest was present in Cahaba, Alabama where he met with Union General James H. Wilson (Wi...
09/04/2022

April 8, 1865, Nathan Bedford Forrest was present in Cahaba, Alabama where he met with Union General James H. Wilson (Wilson's Raiders) after the battle of Selma, Alabama to discuss the exchange of prisoners. The two men met at what is known today as the Crocheron Mansion, named after it's original owner Richard Conner Crocheron, but known as the Colonel Matthews home at the time the two opposing leaders met. Wilson noted of Forrest after the meeting, "With good cheer, the formalities were relaxed and all embarrassment disappeared, so that by the time the meal was over, we were treating each other like old acquaintances, if not old friends." Little did they know, Generals Lee and Grant would meet the very next day at Appomattox Court House to bring an end to the hostilities of the Civil War. Crocheron's columns are all that remains of Cahaba's most elaborate mansion and can be seen at Old Cahaba park located close to Selma, Alabama. Many other preserved areas of Cahaba can also be seen with several that have links to the Civil War. The preservation and interpretation within the past few years has been remarkable and it is worth a visit to take it all in. Cahaba was eventually abandoned due to repeated flooding from the Cahaba and Alabama Rivers. Another site I have visited many times in my journey to walk in Forrest's footsteps.

Ask Rufus: General Grant’s Columbus ployBy Rufus Ward Visitors to Columbus (Mississippi) — especially during pilgrimage ...
03/04/2022

Ask Rufus: General Grant’s Columbus ploy
By Rufus Ward

Visitors to Columbus (Mississippi) — especially during pilgrimage — often ask why Columbus wasn’t burned by Union troops like so many other Southern towns, especially since it was a major Confederate military industrial and supply center during the Civil War. Growing up I remember being told that General N.B. Forrest always saved Columbus. Forrest was often in Columbus and his troops did defend the town. However, most of the credit for Columbus not being burned should probably go to Union General U.S. Grant and what I like to call his Columbus Ploy.

In an Oct. 8, 1863, letter, General Grant wrote, “Columbus, Miss. is a point of vast importance to the (Confederate) army.” On Oct. 1, Union Major General S.A. Hurlbut had reported that a Union “scout” who had made his way into Columbus (possibly C. S. Bell, a Union spy who spent several days in Columbus and attempted to blow up a locomotive at the M&O depot) observed: “Columbus has been fortified with 20-odd miles of earth-works and … It would take about 50,000 men to occupy these fortifications — a small number could not do any good. Engineer Low, who fortified the place, said, “It was thought it may be of use to General Bragg in the future. The town is situated on the east side of Tombigbee River. The river is bridged with a very long bridge. Near the bridge is a small stockade, which can hardly keep 20 men in — a dash of 100 cavalrymen, can take it. The river can be forded at Main Street, but this ford is fortified with ditches and earth-works. But there is a ford three miles below the town, which is not well fortified, and they could not stop the crossing of cavalry as well as in town. (That ford was probably at “Rock Shoals” 2 ½ miles below Columbus which I grew up calling the “blue rock”. The hard rock shoals extended across the river until the Army Corps of Engineers blasted a 35 foot-wide steamboat channel through it in 1881.) But the best place to cross the Tombigbee River is between Cotton Gin and Aberdeen, Miss.”

General Hurlbut’s report on Columbus seemed to be the initial planning for a Union raid on Columbus. By the war’s end, Columbus escaped any of the fighting and destruction associated with other places of military importance, but it was not for lack of importance that Columbus survived. In the spring of 1862, the large Confederate Briarfield Arsenal was located in Columbus. It was said that over 1,000 people were employed in a range of work from repairing rifles to even making cannons. By June the arsenal was producing 20,000 cartridges and repairing 50 rifles a day. Adjoining the arsenal was Leech and Rigdon, a manufacturer of swords and pistols. The two facilities moved from Columbus in January 1863 because of the increasing threat of Union raids. The last of the ordinance from the arsenal was moved from Columbus to Selma, Alabama, by the Steamboat Alice Vivian around Jan. 20, 1863.

The former armament production buildings turned to another and equally important use. That use was well stated by Hurlbut’s scout in October 1863. “In Columbus can be found several millions of Government goods, as Maj. W. J. Anderson has (at the arsenal building) one of the largest army clothing factories in the Confederacy, and plenty of every other article usually found in the quartermasters department.” Columbus had become, with its availability of steamboat, railroad and road transportation, a major Confederate supply depot.

In addition, Columbus had developed into one of the Confederate Army’s largest hospital centers. Plans for a Columbus military hospital were made early in 1862. The Battle of Shiloh, however, expanded Columbus’ role from just a hospital to one of the largest military hospital centers in the south. Rev. James Lyon witnessed the flood of wounded soldiers brought by rail to Columbus after Shiloh. He described the horrific scene at the Columbus railroad depot where he saw more than 3,000 sick or wounded soldiers “stacked like cord wood” around the depot.

There were three large military hospitals located in Columbus. The unfinished Gilmer Hotel was converted into a 450-bed hospital that at times overflowed with more than 750 sick and wounded soldiers. The newly constructed college building of the Columbus Female Institute became the Newsom Hospital with 190 beds but at times was filled with almost 300 sick and wounded. (That building is now Callaway Hall at Mississippi University for Women, whose origins go back to the Columbus Female Institute which was founded in 1847.) There was also another large hospital constructed on the south side of town near the railroad depot and the arsenal. (That hospital was turned into the Freedman’s School in the fall of 1865. It burned in 1867 and the building built to replace it became known as Union Academy.) In addition, there were five other buildings and several homes used as hospitals when Columbus was overwhelmed with thousands of sick and wounded soldiers in April 1862, after the Battle of Shiloh.

Why was Columbus never attacked when the war raged all around? That is thanks to General U.S. Grant who, by using Columbus as a diversion for other attacks and raids, in effect saved Columbus from potential destruction. On Oct. 8, 1863, Grant wrote Gen. Hurlburt a letter which may be found at the Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/scsm001073/). Grant told of the deployment of troops to Oxford, toward Okolona and of plans to attack Canton and Jackson. He then wrote: “Columbus, Miss. is a point of vast importance to the army and if threatened would necessarily cause the enemy to detain a large force at that point. The Cavalry will try to create the impression that they are going thru.”

Grant saw threats to the massive Confederate manufacturing facilities and supply depot at Columbus as an effective means to tie up Confederate troops defending Columbus and thereby open up other important Confederate centers for attack. On several occasions Union troops threatened Columbus while larger forces attacked elsewhere. Victims of Gen. Grant’s Columbus ploy included Jackson and Meridian, both of which were burned. Columbus can thank U.S. Grant for saving the town from destruction.

Thanks to Carolyn Kaye and Gary Lancaster’s for help with the research for this column.

Rufus Ward copyright on 'Ask Rufus' article content.

All photos from Steven Hippensteel.

Rufus Ward is a local Columbus, Mississippi historian.

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