Selma, Alabama, during the American Civil War was one of the South's main military manufacturing centers, producing tons of supplies and munitions, and turning out Confederate warships. The Selma Ordnance and Naval Foundry complex included a naval foundry, shipyard, army arsenal, and gunpowder works. Following the Battle of Selma, Union Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson's troops destroyed Selma's army arsenal and factories, as well as much of the city.
Selma is a city in and the county seat of Dallas County, in the Black Belt region of south central Alabama and extending to the west. Located on the banks of the Alabama River, the city has a population of 20,756 as of the 2010 census.
The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.
The southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, Dixieland, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the western United States, with the midwestern United States and northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.
Because of its central location, production facilities, and rail connections, the advantages of Selma as a site for production of cartridges, saltpeter, powder, shot and shell, rifles, cannon and steam rams soon became apparent to the Confederacy. By 1863, most materiel was manufactured in Selma, employing at least ten thousand people.[ citation needed ] Selma, along with the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, was one of two sites producing the Brooke rifle, a rifled naval and coast defense cannon designed by John Mercer Brooke. The hulls for several Confederate ironclads, including the CSS Huntsville, CSS Phoenix, CSS Tennessee, and CSS Tuscaloosa were laid at the Confederate Navy Yard there. CSS Nashville was also partially outfitted in Selma.
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−, and is therefore an alkali metal nitrate.
A cannon is a type of gun classified as artillery that launches a projectile using propellant. In the past, gunpowder was the primary propellant before the invention of smokeless powder in the 19th century. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees, depending on their intended use on the battlefield. The word cannon is derived from several languages, in which the original definition can usually be translated as tube, cane, or reed. In the modern era, the term cannon has fallen into decline, replaced by guns or artillery if not a more specific term such as mortar or howitzer, except for high calibre automatic weapons firing bigger rounds than machine guns, called autocannons.
Materiel, more commonly matériel in US English and also listed as the only spelling in some UK dictionaries, refers to supplies, equipment, and weapons in military supply chain management, and typically supplies and equipment only in a commercial supply chain context.
The capacities and importance of Selma, in its relation to the Confederate war effort, had been evident to Northern strategists and too great to be overlooked by the Federal authorities as early as 1862. But reaching it with a Federal force was not attempted early in the war, as its distance from the front lines made it an extremely difficult target. As Selma grew in importance to the Confederate forces, the greater became the necessity to capture it. Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson, with a cavalry force from Memphis, was intercepted and returned in 1863. Major General William Tecumseh Sherman made an effort to reach it in February 1864, but after advancing as far as Meridian, within 107 miles (172 km) of Selma, he retreated to the Mississippi River. General Lovell Rousseau made a dash in the direction of Selma in 1864, but was misled by his guides and instead struck 90 miles (140 km) east of the city.
Benjamin Henry Grierson was a music teacher, then a career officer in the United States Army. He was a cavalry general in the volunteer Union Army during the Civil War and later led troops in the American Old West. He is most noted for an 1863 expedition through Confederate-held territory that severed enemy communication lines between Vicksburg, Mississippi and Confederate commanders in the Eastern Theater. After the war he organized and led the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment from 1866 to 1890.
Memphis is a city located along the Mississippi River in southwestern Shelby County, Tennessee, United States. The 2017 city population was 652,236, making Memphis the 25th largest city in the United States. Greater Memphis is the 42nd largest metropolitan area in the United States, with a population of 1,348,260 in 2017. The city is the anchor of West Tennessee and the greater Mid-South region, which includes portions of neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi. Memphis is the seat of Shelby County, the most populous county in Tennessee. As one of the most historic and cultural cities of the southern United States, the city features a wide variety of landscapes and distinct neighborhoods.
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the scorched earth policies he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States.
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Major General James H. Wilson detached Brig. Gen. John T. Croxton's brigade to destroy all Confederate property at Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After capturing a Confederate courier who carried dispatches from General Nathan Bedford Forrest describing the strengths and dispositions of his scattered forces, Wilson also sent a brigade to destroy the bridge across the Cahaba River at Centreville. This action effectively cut off most of Forrest's reinforcements. This began a running fight that did not end until after the fall of Selma.
James Harrison Wilson was a United States Army topographic engineer and a Union Army Major General in the American Civil War. He served as an aide to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan during the Maryland Campaign before joining Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army in the Western Theater, where he was promoted to brigadier general. In 1864, he transferred from engineering to the cavalry, where he displayed notable leadership in many engagements of the Overland Campaign, though his attempt to destroy Lee’s supply lines failed when he was routed by a much smaller force of Confederate irregulars.
John Thomas Croxton was an attorney, a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and a postbellum U.S. diplomat.
Tuscaloosa is a city in and the seat of Tuscaloosa County in west central Alabama. Located on the Black Warrior River at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line of the Piedmont, it is the fifth-largest city in Alabama, with an estimated population of 100,287 in 2017.
On the afternoon of April 1, 1865, after skirmishing all morning, Wilson's advanced guard ran into Forrest's line of battle at Ebenezer Church, where the Randolph Road intersected the main Selma road. Here Forrest had hoped to bring his entire force to bear on Wilson. However delays caused by flooding plus earlier contact with the enemy enabled Forrest to muster less than 2,000 men, a large number of whom were not veterans but militia consisting of old men and young boys.
Skirmishers are light infantry or cavalry soldiers in the role of skirmishing—stationed to act as a vanguard, flank guard, or rearguard, screening a tactical position or a larger body of friendly troops from enemy advances. They are usually deployed in a skirmish line—an irregular open formation much more spread out in depth and breadth than a traditional line formation. Their purpose is to harass the enemy—engaging them in only light or sporadic combat in order to delay their movement, disrupt their attack, or weaken their morale. Skirmishers' open formations and smaller numbers can give them superior mobility over the regular forces, allowing them to fight on more favorable terms, taking advantage of better position or terrain and quickly withdrawing from any threat of superior enemy forces.
The outnumbered and outgunned Confederates fought bravely for more than an hour as more Union cavalry and artillery deployed on the field. Forrest himself was wounded by a saber-wielding Union captain whom he killed with his revolver. Finally, a Union cavalry charge with carbines blazing broke the Confederate militia causing Forrest to be flanked on his right. He was forced to retreat under severe pressure.
Early the next morning Forrest arrived at Selma, "horse and rider covered in blood." He advised Gen. Richard Taylor, departmental commander, to leave the city. Taylor did so after giving Forrest command of the defense.
Richard "Dick" Taylor was an American planter, politician, military historian, and Confederate general. Following the outbreak of the American Civil War, Taylor joined the Confederate States Army, serving first as a brigade commander in Virginia, and later as an army commander in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. Taylor commanded the District of West Louisiana and was responsible for successfully opposing United States troops invading upper northwest Louisiana during the Red River Campaign of 1864. He was the only son of Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States.
Selma was protected by three miles of fortifications which ran in a semicircle around the city. They were anchored on the north and south by the Alabama River. The works had been built two years earlier, and while neglected for the most part since, were still formidable. They were 8 to 12 feet (3.7 m) high, 15 feet (4.6 m) thick at the base, with a ditch 4 feet (1.2 m) wide and 5 feet (1.5 m) deep along the front. In front of this was a picket fence of heavy posts planted in the ground, 5 feet (1.5 m) high, and sharpened at the top. At prominent positions, earthen forts were built with artillery in position to cover the ground over which an assault would have to be made.
Forrest's defenders consisted of his Tennessee escort company, McCullough's Missouri Regiment, Crossland's Kentucky Brigade, Roddey's Alabama Brigade, Frank Armstrong's Mississippi Brigade, General Daniel W. Adams' state reserves, and the citizens of Selma who were "volunteered" to man the works. Altogether this force numbered less than 4,000, only half of who were dependable. The Selma fortifications were built to be defended by 20,000 men. Forrest's soldiers had to stand 10 to 12 feet (3.7 m) apart in the works.
Wilson's force arrived in front of the Selma fortifications at 2 p.m. He had placed Gen. Eli Long's division across the Summerfield Road with the Chicago Board of Trade Battery in support. He had Maj. Gen. Emory Upton's division placed across the Range Line Road with Battery I, 4th U.S. Artillery in support. Altogether, Wilson had 9,000 troops available for the assault.
The Federal commander's plan was for Upton to send in a 300-man detachment after dark to cross the swamp on the Confederate right, enter the works, and begin a flanking movement toward the center moving along the line of fortifications. Then, a single gun from Upton's artillery would signal the attack by the entire Federal Corps.
At 5 p.m., however, Gen. Long's ammunition train in the rear was attacked by advance elements of Forrest's scattered forces coming toward Selma. Both Long and Upton had positioned significant numbers of troops in their rear for just such an event. However, Long decided to commence his assault against the Selma fortifications to neutralize the enemy attack in his rear.
Long's troops attacked in a single rank in three main lines, dismounted with Spencers carbines blazing, supported by their own artillery fire. The Confederates replied with heavy small arms and artillery fire of their own. The Southern artillery, in one of the many ironies of the Civil War, only had solid shot on hand, while just a short distance away was an arsenal which produced tons of canister, a highly effective anti-personnel ammunition.
The Federals suffered many casualties (including General Long himself) but not enough to break up the attack. Once the Union Army reached the works, there was vicious hand-to-hand fighting. Many soldiers were struck down with clubbed muskets. But, in less than 30 minutes, Long's men had captured the works protecting the Summerfield Road.
Meanwhile, General Upton, observing Long's success, ordered his division forward. The story was much the same for his men as on Long's front. Soon, U.S. flags could be seen waving over the works from Range Line Road to Summerfield Road.
After the outer works fell, General Wilson himself led the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment in a mounted charge down the Range Line Road toward the unfinished inner line of works. The retreating Confederate forces, upon reaching the inner works, all rallied and poured a devastating fire into the charging column. This broke up the charge and sent General Wilson sprawling to the ground when his favorite horse was wounded. He quickly remounted his stricken mount and ordered a dismounted assault by several regiments.
Mixed units of Confederate troops had also occupied the Selma railroad depot and the adjoining banks of the railroad bed to make a stand next to the Plantersville Road (present day Broad Street). The fighting there was heavy, but by 7 p.m., the superior numbers of Union troops had managed to flank the Southern positions causing them to abandon the depot as well as the inner line of works.
In the darkness, the Union rounded up hundreds of prisoners, but hundreds more escaped down the Burnsville Road, including Generals Forrest, Armstrong, and Roddey. To the west, many Confederate soldiers fought the pursuing Union soldiers all the way down to the eastern side of Valley Creek. They escaped in the darkness by swimming across the Alabama River near the mouth of Valley Creek (where the present day Battle of Selma Reenactment is held.)
The Union soldiers looted the city that night while many businesses and private residences were burned. They spent the next week destroying the arsenal and naval foundry. Then they left Selma heading to Montgomery.
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes more simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania, was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged from Confederate General Robert E. Lee's army and moved to the southeast, attempting to lure Lee into battle under more favorable conditions. Elements of Lee's army beat the Union army to the critical crossroads of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, and began entrenching. Fighting occurred on and off from May 8 through May 21, 1864, as Grant tried various schemes to break the Confederate line. In the end, the battle was tactically inconclusive, but with almost 32,000 casualties on both sides, it was the costliest battle of the campaign.
The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War. Although it is more popularly known as the Siege of Petersburg, it was not a classic military siege, in which a city is usually surrounded and all supply lines are cut off, nor was it strictly limited to actions against Petersburg. The campaign consisted of nine months of trench warfare in which Union forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Petersburg unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually extended over 30 miles (48 km) from the eastern outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, to around the eastern and southern outskirts of Petersburg. Petersburg was crucial to the supply of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's army and the Confederate capital of Richmond. Numerous raids were conducted and battles fought in attempts to cut off the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. Many of these battles caused the lengthening of the trench lines.
The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought from February 11–16, 1862, in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The Union capture of the Confederate fort near the Tennessee–Kentucky border opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South. The Union's success also elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, and earned him the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.
The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864, in Franklin, Tennessee, as part of the Franklin–Nashville Campaign of the American Civil War. It was one of the worst disasters of the war for the Confederate States Army. Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee conducted numerous frontal assaults against fortified positions occupied by the Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield and was unable to break through or to prevent Schofield from executing a planned, orderly withdrawal to Nashville.
The Battle of Nashville was a two-day battle in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign that represented the end of large-scale fighting west of the coastal states in the American Civil War. It was fought at Nashville, Tennessee, on December 15–16, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood and Federal forces under Major General George H. Thomas. In one of the largest victories achieved by the Union Army during the war, Thomas attacked and routed Hood's army, largely destroying it as an effective fighting force.
The Battle of Selma, Alabama, formed part of the Union campaign through Alabama and Georgia, known as Wilson's Raid, in the final phase of the American Civil War.
The Brooke rifle was a type of rifled, muzzle-loading naval and coast defense gun designed by John Mercer Brooke, an officer in the Confederate States Navy. They were produced by plants in Richmond, Virginia and Selma, Alabama between 1861 and 1865 during the American Civil War. They served afloat on Confederate ships and ashore in coast defense batteries manned by the Confederate States Army.
The Franklin–Nashville Campaign, also known as Hood's Tennessee Campaign, was a series of battles in the Western Theater, conducted from September 18 to December 27, 1864, in Alabama, Tennessee, and northwestern Georgia during the American Civil War.
The Battle of West Point, Georgia, formed part of the Union campaign through Alabama and Georgia, known as Wilson's Raid, in the final phase of the American Civil War.
The Meridian Campaign or Meridian Expedition took place from February 3 – March 6, 1864, from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Meridian, Mississippi, by the Union Army of the Tennessee, led by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman captured Meridian, Mississippi, inflicting heavy damage to it. The campaign is viewed by historians as a prelude to Sherman's March to the Sea in that a large swath of damage and destruction was inflicted on Central Mississippi as Sherman marched across the state and back.
Wilson's Raid was a cavalry operation through Alabama and Georgia in March–April 1865, late in the American Civil War. Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson led his Union Army Cavalry Corps to destroy Southern manufacturing facilities and was opposed unsuccessfully by a much smaller force under Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The Battle of Baton Rouge was a ground and naval battle in the American Civil War fought in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, on August 5, 1862. The Union victory halted Confederate attempts to recapture the capital city of Louisiana.
Francis "Frank" Crawford Armstrong was a United States Army cavalry officer and later a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He is also known for being the only Confederate general to fight on both sides during the Civil War.
The Battle of Meadow Bridge was an engagement on May 12, 1864, in Henrico County, Virginia, during Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following their victory at the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 11, Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan advanced in the direction of the Confederate capital of Richmond. Caught in the narrow area between the fortifications of Richmond and the rain-swollen Chickahominy River, the Union troopers were subjected to fire from the artillery of Confederate Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee. Michigan cavalry under Brig. Gen. George A. Custer forced a crossing of a damaged railroad bridge, which was quickly rebuilt by engineers, allowing the troopers to escape to safety and continue their raid.
The Pointe Coupee Artillery was a Confederate Louisiana artillery unit in the American Civil War made up primarily of men from the parishes of Pointe Coupee, East Baton Rouge, Livingston and other surrounding parishes as well as a large number of men from New Orleans.
Forrest's Cavalry Corps was part of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War and commanded by Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Formed during the summer of 1862, it took part in the various battles in the Western Theater during the second half of the war. At first serving as part of the Army of Tennessee, both Forrest and the corps were then transferred to northern Mississippi and often launched independent raids into Union occupied western and central Tennessee.
The Battle of Columbus, Georgia, was the last conflict in the Union campaign through Alabama and Georgia, known as Wilson's Raid, in the final phase of the American Civil War.
The Battle of Ebenezer Church was a battle that was fought near Plantersville, Alabama between Union Army cavalry under Brigadier General and Brevet Major General of volunteers James H. Wilson and Confederate States Army cavalry under Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest on April 1, 1865 during Wilson's Raid into Alabama near the end of the American Civil War.