Sunday, September 22, 2013

Prattville Dragoons September Camp Meeting - Part 2

Mr. Charles Wayne Arnold addressed the Dragoons as guest speaker for the September camp meeting, presenting a history of the Battle of Ebenezer Church.  Mr. Arnold is a lifelong resident of Stanton AL where Ebenezer Church is located.  At the age of 12 he found a Springfield rifle in a creek near his home.  The rifle was actually cocked but the barrel and hammer mechanism were bent; the condition of the gun supported accounts from diaries which Arnold has studied that stores of arms were intentionally destroyed by Confederate forces before the retreat from Ebenezer Church.  Portions of the petrified wood stock remained on the gun.  Arnold has also found British Enfield and Spencer repeating rifles at the site of the battle. He has also found much ammunition and other artifacts in the area including a 12 pound cannon ball.

In 1865 the old Ebenezer Church was located where the parsonage now stands.  The old church actually had bullet holes in it from the battle.  The battle occurred on April 1, 1865 very near the end of the War.  Union commander General Wilson wanted to take Selma to destroy the arsenal and on the way to destroy the railroads and cotton gins.  At that time Selma was a bread basket for the Confederacy. Wilson's Raid was the fourth foray by the Union Army into the area.

Wilson's mission started March 22nd in Tennessee after he had spent months training and getting provisions from surround Tennessee units.  All Wilson's troops had Spencer repeating rifles and were mounted.  He was trying to make a cavalry out of infantry so much time was spent training the troops on horse and saber skills.  Wilson had a 100 strong wagon train for supplies.

Wilson believed Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and General Chalmers had joined forced but they had not so Wilson's troops outnumbered Forrest's forces by greater than two to one. Forrest was conducting a campaign to harass Wilson's forces as they advanced south from Tennessee.  Forrest sent word to Chalmers that he must reinforce Forrest's army at Stanton but the messenger was captured and Wilson had Forrest's intelligence, knowing he wasn't facing the combined Confederate forces.  Wilson split his forces and sent one group to burn the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa as the university was still producing 2nd Lieutenants for the Confederate Army.

Wilson parked his 100 wagon train north of Stanton in Randolph (where Union campgrounds have been found) in order to prevent Forrest from attacking his supply line.  Forrest set up his defensive line near Stanton where he built breastworks using railroad ties from the swamp on the east to the high ground on the west where the church was located.  Just to the west was a high ground called Lighthouse Point where it is thought a communication signal lighthouse was located. General Wirt Adams sent reserve troops up from Selma to help build the fortifications.

Along the high ridge west of Stanton County Road 45 ran and along this road part of Wilson's split forces advanced in a column two wide.  Captain James Taylor of Indiana led this detachment and he met Forrest and his escort north of Stanton and gave chase, seeking the $50000 reward and promotion to General offered for the killing or capture of Forrest.  They surrounded Forrest and he was wounded by Taylor's saber before Forrest drew his revolver and shot the Captain, the last man Forrest killed in combat during the War for Southern Independence.  Taylor actually died the next day, April 2nd of his wounds.

The battle lasted only a few hours and Wilson's forces spent the night in Plantersville, south of Stanton.  Various accounts claim 40 wounded and 12 died in the battle although other accounts place at least an additional 15 of Wilson's troops among the dead. The breastworks in the center of the line were manned by the Home Guard reserves with a wide range of weapons, old men and young boys who were never previously fired upon.  After initially holding off the charges of Wilson's two forces moving south along the two roads converging in Stanton, the Union troops regrouped and after an hour, pushed through. 

Forrest was looking for Chalmers to advance from the west and CSA General Armstrong's brigade to join from the north.  Had these forces joined together to reinforce Forrest, they would have constituted the largest cavalry battle of the War. But, Forrest had to retreat and couldn't slow the Federals advance on Selma. He was almost caught again in the retreat, jumping the Yankee line on his horse and escaping to Selma.  The defense of Selma was essentially over after the retreat of Forrest's forces from Ebeneezer Church. 

Lincoln's War on the South was almost complete.  The wealthy Southern agrarian economy supported the North's industrial and infrastructure projects including for example the dredging of the Boston and New York harbors at $1,000,000 each.  It was said that there would be a 70% pay cut and the U.S. would have an enemy at their southern border if the Confederacy was left to secede.  Hence Lincoln prosecuted the bloodiest conflict in the history of the nation, costing over 600,000 lives.  For the federal treasury. 
1st Lt Harold Grooms Makes Introduction at Camp Meeting

Dragoons September Camp Meeting
Charles Wayne Arnold Presents the Battle of Ebeneezer Church

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