Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fort Cusseta - Chambers County

As white settlers moved into Alabama, it did not take long for them to come into conflict with the Creek Nation. The result was a series of wars and conflicts that culminated with the Creek War of 1836 and the Trail of Tears. In Chambers County, Fort Cusseta stands as a unique reminder of this turbulent era.

Built around the time of the Creek War of 1836, the 16 by 30 foot fort is one of the last surviving frontier log forts in the South. Located about 3.5 miles off I-85 between Opelika and Lanett in the small community of Cusseta, the log walls are slowly collapsing but are generally protected by a metal building erected to shelter them.

When the Lower Creeks rose against white settlers in and pressing against their territory in the spring of 1836, an array of similar forts arose across much of southern Alabama. Residents "forted in" and rough stockades and blockhouses were built as strong points for defense. Fort Cusseta may have been a little more substantial than many of these as it was built from heavy hand-hewn timbers that have stood the test of time.

So far as is known, the fort never came under attack, but its loopholed walls clearly show it would have been difficult to capture. It is thought to be one of the last surviving wooden forts in the South.

Please click here to learn more about Fort Cusseta:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lowndesboro - Alabama's Historic Antebellum Town

Located just north of U.S. 80 between Montgomery and Selma, Lowndesboro is one of the best preserved antebellum communities in Alabama.

Founded not long after the 1814 signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson that forced the Creek Nation to give up the surrounding lands, the settlement was long known as McGill's Hill. In 1832, however, the residents voted to rename their town Lowndesboro.

Almost miraculously, Lowndesboro was spared devastation at the hands of General James H. Wilson's Union raiders during the closing days of the Civil War. Local legend credits a town doctor with saving the town by falsely telling Wilson's men that a smallpox outbreak was taking place in Lowndesboro. Rather than risk catching the feared disease, the Union troops passed on quickly. The community was spared and today boasts one of the finest collections of antebellum homes and structures in the country.

In addition to a unique variety of types of antebellum structures, Lowndesboro is also home to the dome from Alabama's first state capitol building. The dome was moved to the steeple of the old C.M.E. Church in Lowndesboro after Old Cahawba lost its status as state capital in favor of Tuscaloosa and eventually Montgomery. The copper-plated dome is all that remains of the state's original capitol, with the possible exception of some underground ruins at Old Cahawba.  Along with many other historic landmarks, it is located along Broad Street in Lowndesboro.

To learn more about the historic town, please visit

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