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

Monday, June 21, 2010

William Weatherford's Grave - Baldwin County, Alabama

A stone cairn in Baldwin County marks the burial place of one of the most noted Indian leaders in American history - William Weatherford.

The son of a white trader and a Creek woman who was a sister of the famed Creek leader Alexander McGillivray, Weatherford was born in Alabama during the 1700s. William's father was not as a breeder of outstanding horses and the family's wealth increased dramatically under the younger Weatherford's guidance during the early 1800s. White settlers flooded to the Tensaw country (north of Mobile), creating markets for horses and other products from Weatherford's plantations.

A friend of the whites for much of his life, William Weatherford assisted in the capture of famed renegade William Augustus Bowles in 1803. In 1813, however, something dramatic happened in his life.

The Creek Prophet Josiah Francis, a disciple of Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa, had ignited a religious fervor among many in the Nation. Teaching that the Indians should end all association with the whites and return to their native ways, Francis developed a huge following. His followers were called Red Sticks because the displayed red war clubs in their villages.

There are various stories about how William Weatherford became a Red Stick. Some claim that he joined when his life was threatened. Others tell the story that he became a member of the movement in order to save his family. Benjamin Hawkins, the U.S. Agent to the Creeks, reported in 1813, however, that Weatherford had been captured by the Red Sticks at the Battle of Burnt Corn Creek.

However he joined, Weatherford went on to help lead Red Stick forces at the bloody Fort Mims Massacre in August of 1813 and later fought in other battles against the whites. He surrendered to Andrew Jackson in 1814, but his life was spared and he subsequently fought on the side of the United States against the remaining Red Sticks. When the wars ended, he returned to his plantation on the Alabama River.

To learn more about his grave site in Baldwin County, please visit

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Swann Covered Bridge - Blount County, Alabama

The sight of the historic Swann Covered Bridge stretching across the gorge carved by the Locust Fork of the Warrior River in Blount County is one of the most impressive in Alabama.

Built in 1933 to link the communities of Cleveland and Joy, the bridge is the longest surviving covered bridge in Alabama and is one of three still standing in Blount County. It is located near the modern city of Cleveland about 30 miles northeast of Birmingham.

Charming and picturesque today, covered bridges were developed by our ancestors as a way of extending the lives of wooden bridges. In the days before concrete and steel were commonly used in bridge construction, most spans were made of wood. As such, they were susceptible to rot from rain, snow and the elements in general. To better protect the flooring so the bridges would last longer, early bridge builders began fitting the structures with covers.

The Swann Covered Bridge, also sometimes called the Joy Covered Bridge because it was on the road to Joy, was built by Forrest and Zelmer C. Tidwell. Over 300 feet long, it features a main spain that is an impressive 75 feet long. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Easily accessible from U.S. Highway 231 at Cleveland, the bridge no longer carries traffic but is popular for sightseeing and photography. To learn more, please visit