Thursday, July 8, 2010

Battle of Selma - Selma, Alabama

The key battle that ended the Confederacy's hopes of holding Alabama took place on April 2, 1865, at Selma. A Union victory, it resulted in the destruction of the city's vast industrial infrastructure and opened the heart of the state to raiding and destruction.

The real last hope of holding Selma had ended the previous day when General Nathan Bedford Forrest led his troops into action at the Battle of Ebenezer Church (for more on this engagement, see post of June 24, 2010). That battle ended in victory for the Federal army of General James H. Wilson when a portion of Forrest's command was unable to cross the Cahaba River as expected and carry out a rear attack on the Union troops.

Forced to fall back into the earthwork forts and defenses that ringed Selma itself, Forrest knew that the fight to defend the city would likely end in defeat for his forces. He simply did not have enough men to defend the miles of works and knew it. Even so, the Southern general opted to fight for Selma with courage and the battle that followed was severe and chaotic.

Advancing in two columns and in overwhelming force against Forrest's spread out troops, Wilson's soldiers pierced the Confederate line where it was intersected by the Summerfield Road despite a hail of cannon and musket fire. Not long after a second breakthrough took place and the Confederates withdrew into the city itself, fighting as they went. By the time the smoke cleared, the Union army was in possession of Selma and over 3,000 men had been killed, wounded or captured. Among them was Rev. Arthur Small, the pastor of the city's Presbyterian Church, who had taken up arms to fight in defense of his community.

Most of the Selma batlefield has been developed into residential and commercial districts and very little remains of the fortifications that once surrounded the city. An annual reenactment festival brings the event back to life, however, and the community is rich in the history of the battle. To learn more, please visit

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