Thursday, June 24, 2010

Battle of Ebenezer Church - Stanton, Alabama

It is an often forgotten fact that the famed Confederate "Wizard of the Saddle" fought for the last time on ground of his own choosing at the Battle of Ebenezer Church in western Alabama.

The vast mounted army of Union General James H. Wilson was plunging south from the Tennessee River in April of 1865. With his troops scattered to deal with incursions from various directions, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest struggled to pull together enough men to oppose the oncoming Federals.

Always thinking of how to take the offensive, even against overwhelming odds, Forrest hoped not only to halt Wilson's Raid, but to destroy the much larger Union army. With this goal in mind, he drew up a plan to trap Wilson before he could get close enough to drive the outnumbered Confederates into the extensive fortifications of Selma.  The Alabama city was a major manufacturing center for the Southern war effort and Forrest knew he did not have enough men to properly man its defenses. The only hope of defeating Wilson was to stop him before he reached Selma.

After viewing the ground and scouting the disposition of the Union army in person, Forrest decided to form his men along high ground at Ebenezer Church, a country congregation located in a sharp bend of Bogler Creek. He hoped that the strong position would give his outnumbered force the chance to hold off Union attacks until 3,000 approaching reinforcements under Brigadier General William H. Jackson could cross the Cahaba River and hit the rear of Wilson's army. At the same time, Forrest expected his main line to be reinforced by additional troops under General James R. Chalmers. Had the plan worked, an officer in Forrest's command noted, the "cavalry battle of the ages" would have been fought at Ebenezer Church.

It was not to be. Both Chalmers and Jackson were delayed and Forrest wound up facing Wilson alone. After a fierce fight, the Confederate lines were broken and General Forrest and his men fell back to Selma. He would never again lay a trap for a Union army on ground of his own choosing.

To learn more about the Battle of Ebenezer Church, please visit

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