The Yankee Invasion of Pickens County, April 5-7, 1865 Croxton's Sipsey River Campaign was submitted by Scott W. Owens, DVM of Eight Mile, AL. He advises that he has done extensive research concerning this subject and that he is the researcher and author of the following account. Scott may be reached at: 5254 A Lott Road, Eight Mile, AL 36613. Additional information and corrections concerning this page should be directed to your hosts, Betty Miller and Betty Phillips.

The Yankee Invasion of Pickens County, April 5-7, 1865
Croxton's Sipsey River Campaign

After four years of war, Pickens County in west Alabama finally tasted the hand of war upon her streets, hills, and streams in April 1865. Shifting and arraying of vast numbers of cavalry of the opposing sides in northern Alabama and eastern Mississippi ultimately brought the invading United States Army, with its attendant torch and sword, into collision with the tough but thinning ranks of the cavalry of the Confederate States.

On the morning of March 22, 1865, Maj. Gen. James Harrison Wilson, commanding the Cavalry Corps, Military Department of the Mississippi, USA, began to move his Cavalry Corps of the Military Department of the Mississippi out of camps on the Tennessee River. These 13,480 well equipped though variously- mounted troopers of his three divisions struck southward from Chicksaw in northwest Alabama, to strike the industrial heart of the Confederacy, Selma in the Alabama Black Belt.

Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, commanding cavalry of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, and headquartered at West Point, Miss., began to marshal his scattered graycoat horsemen in March 1865 to counter a perceived threat into south Alabama from the Federal operations from Pensacola, Florida. On March 23, 1865, the Meridian, Miss., the headquarters of Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, overall commander of the Department, ordered Forrest to begin moving his troops in Mississippi and west Alabama toward Selma, with expectations of continuing on to Greenville, Alabama, to meet the Federal threat from Pensacola moving north. Forrest ordered Brig. Gen. James Chalmers, with his division encamped around Pickensville, Alabama, to start Brig. Gen. Armstrong's brigade of his command toward Selma via Finch's Ferry, where a pontoon bridge spanning the Warrior River was being laid. By March 26 Brig. Gen. W.H. Jackson, commanding three brigades in his division, was ordered to begin an early march from West Point to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Both Chalmers' and Jackson's divisions passed through Pickensville and southward down the Selma-Columbus Road, crossing Sipsey River in southern Pickens County over the Sipsey Mills Bridge. Beyond the bridge the road forked; the left road went to Tuscaloosa, the right to APleasant Ridge, Clinton, and Finch's Ferry, and on to Marion and Selma.

About March 25, 1865, Brig. Gen. William Wirt Adams, C.S.A., received orders from Lt. Gen. Forrest to move his command from Macon to West Point, Miss. Adams' command was actually the combined remnants of two brigades, his own Mississippi troops and Colonel John S. Scott's brigade of Louisiana Cavalry, total effectives numbering some 1500 troopers. Adams indicated that two of his regiments, Wood's Confederate Cavalry and 38th Mississippi Mounted Infantry, which had arrived at Macon by that date, with Scott's command had begun the march to West Point the evening of the 26th. Scott's Louisiana Cavalry brigade consisted of the 1st and 3rd Louisiana Cavalry regiments and the 18th Louisiana Cavalry Battalion. By the 28th Adams had his command encamped at West Point; department headquarters directed Adams on this date to report all enemy movements on his front to Lt. Gen. Taylor as well as to Forrest. It was only by this date that Taylor's headquarters were informed by Gen. Daniel H. Adams (Wirt's brother) that the Federal column moving from north Alabama was of three divisions and commanded by Wilson.

On March 30, 1865, near Elyton in Jefferson County Wilson detached from his corps the First Brigade, First Division, commanded by Brig Gen. John T. Croxton, 1500 strong. This brigade was composed of the 4th Kentucky Mounted Infantry Regiment, 8th Iowa Cavalry, 2nd Michigan Cavalry, and the 6th Kentucky Cavalry. Croxton left Elyton that morning toward Tuscaloosa, where he had been ordered to destroy the University of Alabama along with Confederate military factories and depots in the area. After a skirmish at Trion with the rear of Confederate Brig. Gen. W.H. Jackson's division on April 1, Croxton crossed to the west bank of the Warrior to enter Northport, crossing into Tuscaloosa over the bridge early on the morning of April 4. They dispatched the few home guards and Alabama Corps of Cadets in a short but heated skirmish on the streets of Tuscaloosa. Croxton's brigade spent two days effecting the destruction of the University and the Confederate military and civilian facilities in Tuscaloosa.

On April 3rd, the day after Selma fell to Wilson's horsemen, Taylor's headquarters directed Adams to move east, with his own and Scott's brigades, by way of Pickensville, Awith every available man, taking only ordnance, cooking utensils, and hard bread; bacon would be furnished at depots on the line of march. Adams was to send a scouting party toward Selma, through Greensboro and Marion, to locate the enemy and generals Forrest, Jackson, and Chalmers, and was to join Forrest's forces when located. The command's route of march would pass through Columbus, Miss, where Capt. Warwick Hough, adjutant and inspector general from Taylor's headquarters, would provide further instructions. The next day Taylor's headquarters telegraphed Capt. Hough in Columbus to hasten Adams' force eastward: Captain Thomas Henderson's Scouts near Tuscaloosa had reported that a 1500 man Federal force had entered Tuscaloosa that morning. Adams was to establish contact with these scouts to be advised of the movement of the enemy brigade. He was to intercept and strike this force before the Federals could threaten Demopolis, their supposed objective, and thereafter continue on his reinforcement of Forrest. That day Adams marched his command from West Point to Columbus, arriving at about 10 o'clock that night. Adams' command, after drawing arms and ammunition from the armory in Columbus, left that place later in the morning of April 5th and arrived that afternoon in Pickensville in Pickens County, Alabama, where his 1500 cavalry camped near the Tombigbee River.

Captain Henderson's Scouts, operating out of Romulus in southern Tuscaloosa County, observed Croxton's brigade leaving Tuscaloosa at about 11 A.M on April 5th. The Federals crossed the bridge into Northport, over which they had assaulted to capture Tuscaloosa two days before. It was Croxton's intention to first feint toward Columbus, Miss., then turn south to do damage to the Alabama and Mississippi Railroad between Demopolis and Meridian. He had been assured that the Tombigbee River could be forded at south of Eutaw at Jones' Bluff, after which he could turn to march on the railroad. Leaving Northport the brigade proceeded west on the Columbus Road for seven miles, where a detachment of 25 troopers and two officers, Company D of the 6th Kentucky Cavalry, were placed under the command of Capt. William A. Sutherland. This detachment was sent on the Upper Columbus Road to extend the ruse of marching on Columbus. Sutherland, Assistant Adjutant General for the First Brigade, was a favorite and trustworthy staff officer whom General Croxton had entrusted frequently with special missions. His little command left with orders to rejoin the brigade at Jones' Bluff on the Tombigbee.

Croxton, with the remainder of the brigade turned south toward Romulus. Evidently between the dispatching of Sutherland and Company D and the brigade's arrival at Romulus later that afternoon, Croxton changed his mind about crossing at Jones' Bluff, and decided to march for Vienna, in Pickens County, which was a closer ferry crossing, to gain the west bank of Tombigbee. The brigade turned west toward Jena (in Pickens County in 1865) and crossed Sipsey River at King's Bridge (later known as Bailey's Bridge) and on to Pleasant Grove where they camped at King's Store. Altogether the brigade had marched some twenty-five miles since leaving Tuscaloosa. That evening two prisoners were taken, privates of Company B, 13th Mississippi Cavalry, likely assigned to Captain Henderson's Scouts who were reporting the Federals' movements to Adams at Pickensville.

Lieutenant Henry H. Belfield, adjutant and acting executive officer of the 8th Iowa Cavalry, left the bivouac near King's Store with a squad of troopers to scout for horseflesh. The Iowans traveled some fifty miles within Pickens County, taking in hand nine mules and leaving more than twenty behind. The group may have ridden as far as Bethany, where at the home of William Hughes the Yankees strung one fellow up by his thumbs to learn where animals and provisions were hidden. On their return Lt. Belfield's detachment ran into the swampy backwater area extending as much as half a mile from Sipsey's channel in that area, and had to find their way back to the King's Store campsite. At a widow's home in the area, the Federal troopers took notice of her daughters as they gathered her provender and looked for horseflesh. According to local legend, two Yankees returned later that night to visit the girls. The determined lady locked the girls in the house and, when the two troopers forced an entry, hit the intruders over the head with a coal-oil lantern, setting them on fire and driving them away.

At the Colbay Stapp home north of Pleasant Grove, Mrs. Mary Stapp heard a noise out in the smokehouse that night. She and her sister took an old lamp, and went outside to see what was happening. There were two Yankee soldiers who had ridden up from King's Store, and they were cutting down the hams and smoked sausage in the Stapp smokehouse. Mary started beating them with the broom, but they didn't pay any attention to the broom. Then her sister, who was there spending the night at the Stapp home, ran out the back door with an old muzzle-loader and started shooting. When she shot, the Federal marauders got on their horses and left, dropping the hams and smoked sausage, and didn't take them with them.

Captain Sutherland proceeded northwest along the Upper Columbus Road, crossing Sipsey River over the Shirley Bridge. Further westward Sutherland captured two Confederate couriers at the courier post on this road, evidently north of Gordo. Possibly Sutherland's detachment marched some twenty-five miles after being detailed from the brigade. From the Confederate couriers Sutherland learned that no Confederate forces were in Columbus. Indeed, Adams' command had vacated Columbus that morning. Capt. Sutherland's detachment passed through the town of Gordo with no opposition and no incident of note. Heading due west from Gordo Sutherland intended to avoid the swampy area of Little Lubbub and Bear creeks south of Gordo. If a good crossing of Lubbub Creek could be found north of Carrollton, this route would be the most expeditious course. By late afternoon the detachment reached the steep hills near the eastern bank of Lubbub Creek. Realizing he could not reach Carrollton by nightfall, Sutherland decided to bivouac near a good ford of the creek, in the vicinity of the Stancel community. He reasoned that after crossing Lubbub early in the morning at first light, the march south to Carrollton would be a quick seven miles. In the vicinity of the detachment's camp was the George A. Cox farm. A foraging party was sent from the camp to fill the commissary, and they came upon the Cox place to obtain what they needed.

Martha Caroline Cox, the eldest daughter, was busy caring for her father, husband Jordan Perry Cox, and possibly her brother Albert. Jordan had been serving in the 40th Alabama Infantry when he was seriously wounded in the knee at Ezra Church near Atlanta the previous July, and Albert was with the 11th Alabama when wounded at Petersburg in September 1864. Martha watched as the bluecoats raided the farm, taking chickens and hogs, cleaning out the smokehouse and springhouse. She had no idea what they would do with furloughed Confederate soldiers, even invalid ones. If food was all they wanted maybe they would go away when they got that for which they had come.

Later that evening after dark one of the Yankees returned to the Cox farm, seeming intent on further plunder. When he threatened to enter the house, Martha took down the rifle and forbade him to come closer. The Federal trooper continued to advance toward the house, and Martha opened fire at close range. The shocked soldier died on the spot. Martha and two slaves on the farm quickly hid the body, for surely the man's comrades would be searching for him.

Reveille sounded at 3 A.M. April 6th in the King's Store camps of First Brigade, and by five o'clock in the morning Croxton's Federal brigade was again on the march, continuing south from King's Store on the road to Pleasant Ridge. A sergeant of the 2nd Mississippi Cavalry, likely attached to Henderson's Scouts, was captured at Pleasant Grove as the brigade moved out. Further down the road, the Federals relieved young Everett Yerby, five years old, of his mount. Master Yerby had been sent to the mill near Benevola with a sack of corn to be ground into meal. The blue horsemen left Everett on the side of the road, sitting on his sack of corn. Near the Lofton house in Benevola, the head of the column had a brush with Confederate Cavalry, again probably Henderson's Scouts, who were falling back in front of the Federal advance, reporting the movements of Croxton's brigade to Adams.

Not much further down the road Croxton's brigade approached the Widow Craft homestead. John Craft, who had been an overseer for Thomas C. Lanier, had died two years earlier after serving in Company I of the 7th Alabama Cavalry. His widow Nancy was cooking a black skillet full of cornbread as the blue column appeared. As soon as she placed the skillet of cornbread in the old wood stove to cook, she looked up the road and saw two Yankee soldiers coming on horseback to her house. Nancy Craft knew full well that they were going to help themselves to everything in her house, and she didn't want them to have that cornbread. So she grabbed it out of the stove and put it in a dresser drawer. When they got to her house they helped themselves to some things in the pantry and that kind of stuff, but they didn't get the cornbread. After the looters left she took the cornbread out of the drawer, put it back in the stove, and finished cooking it. And that was her family's supper that night, with some buttermilk.

After marching about six miles from King's Store the Federal column came to William B. Jordan's Mill, southeast of Benevola. This small water mill ground corn as well as powering a sawmill. The mill was looted and burned and the brigade continued south. Mules, horses, and anything useful were taken from farms along the way.

As they passed south the head of the Federal column came near the Thomas B. Gardner plantation. This planter operated a water-powered gristmill on Lubbub Creek along with a steam sawmill at the site. Gardner had mustered with Capt. Gibson's Pickens Greys Home Guards in May of 1863, and may have been called into service at the county seat in Carrollton at that very moment. Mary J. Gardner with her five children were the sole residents that morning. The vanguard moved on except two officers, and they stopped at Mrs. Gardner's. Before they got there, she told the slaves to hide the silverware and the hams and smoked sausage in the smokehouse. They went out, hitched up the old mule, and plowed the garden. Down in the furrows, they put the hams and the smoked sausage and the silver. Then they plowed the dirt back over it, so it looked like they had just worked the garden. So when the two Yankee soldiers came to Mrs. Gardner's, she came out on the front porch and invited them in. She was just so nice and gracious until they sat down, and she said, A I'm sorry, I don't have anything cold for you to drink, and it's pretty hot to be April, but I do have some cold buttermilk I have in the well. I'll pull it up and give you a glass of that. So she gave them some cold buttermilk. And they were just charmed with Mrs. Gardner, they stayed and talked to her, and she told they about how her husband was off fighting, and her family, and this and that and the other, making pleasant conversation. So when they got ready to go, one these officers said, AWell, we've always heard of southern hospitality, but we didn't know you practiced it during the War. Then he told the other one to stay there and guard this house until all their troops got past, and Adon't let anybody take anything out of this lady's house. Which he did, he stayed there and guarded the house, and all the troops went down toward Sipsey, but they didn't take anything out of Mrs. Gardner's house.

A few more miles further toward Pleasant Ridge was Jordan's and Lanier's Sipsey Mills, a three-story brick structure built on the steep bank of Sipsey River, containing a large, three-runner grist mill complex, the largest in southern Pickens and Greene counties. William B. Jordan, a prominent planter in the Mantua area of Pickens County, and Thomas C. Lanier, also a prominent planter in Pleasant Grove, were proprietors of Sipsey Mills. . Lanier was a colonel in the Confederate army commanding the 42nd Alabama Infantry in the Army of Tennessee, at that time in North Carolina.

This facility had a considerable grinding capacity of both corn and wheat; approximately 60,000 bushels of each grain could be milled in one year. Twelve mill workers were employed at the facility in 1860, and by 1865 the mill also served as a Confederate Commissary Depot. Tax-in-kind pork, mostly cured sides of bacon, recently collected in March, filled the warehouse, as well as barrels of flour and corn meal; these were intended for the Confederate Army of Tennessee and Forrest's cavalry. The mill complex, on the southern edge of Pickens County, was situated about two miles north of the plantation community of Pleasant Ridge in Greene County, on the Selma-Columbus (Lower Columbus) Road, and just downstream of the strategic bridge on this major thoroughfare in west Alabama. At Pleasant Ridge the Selma-Columbus Road crossed the Vienna-Northport Road, which connected the river port on Tombigbee with Northport and Tuscaloosa on the Warrior.

At Sipsey Mills, which was eight miles north of Vienna, the Federals were told that a 3000-saber force of Forrest's cavalry was moving down Tombigbee from West Point, and that Wilson had taken and destroyed Selma. Due to recent rains, which flooded every stream encountered, Tombigbee was likewise flooded beyond fording. Croxton learned further that Forrest was near Marion and Jackson was still around Tuscaloosa. He reasoned that it was more expeditious to go back to Northport and find out where Wilson had gone rather than continue his mission against the railroad, risking disaster if engaged by such a superior force of the enemy. Certainly crossing the brigade at the swollen Vienna ferry in the proximity of such a force of graycoats would risk the loss of the entire brigade. After looting the Confederate Commissary Depot at Sipsey Mills of flour, corn meal, and bacon, then burning the mills, the brigade crossed Sipsey Mills Bridge, turning south on the Selma-Columbus Road. At the junction with the Vienna-Northport Road, Croxton turning northeast marched five miles, following Forrest's route traveled two weeks before back to Northport.

About 9 A.M Croxton's vanguard reached Hinton's Grove, a community north of Sipsey Mills and Pleasant Ridge on the Vienna-Northport Road, several miles from the mills. Here the Federal column stopped and fed their horses. The 6th Kentucky Cavalry was posted as rear guard, and Company F of that regiment was on duty in the vicinity of Sipsey Mills and bridge during the halt. It is possible that Sutherland's detachment, which would have taken the Selma-Columbus Road south from Bridgeville to reach Jones' Bluff, as ordered, was expected to arrive in that vicinity later that morning. Other elements of the 6th Kentucky were foraging in Pleasant Ridge, securing the crossroads on the Selma-Columbus Road. During the next two hours, patrols may have ventured into Pleasant Ridge and from Hinton's Grove toward Clinton. Horses and mules were taken from several planters in Pleasant Ridge, and two cousins who lived between Hinton's Grove and Clinton were made prisoner by Croxton's brigade: Phelan and Clement Eatman, both home on furlough from the 11th Alabama Inf. and 7th Alabama Cav, respectively. One squad of twelve men of Company D, 8th Iowa Cavalry was sent on a scouting mission, during which they took prisoners and removed horses and mules from farms between Hinton's Grove and Clinton. They had not returned to the brigade when Croxton ordered a continuation of the march back to Northport, two hours after the First Brigade had halted in the area.

The James C. Valentine homestead suffered from the invaders while the Federal brigade was halted in Hinton's Grove. James Valentine had served with Col. Lanier in the 42nd Alabama Infantry, and after a severe wound was home on furlough. And he was at home when they heard that the Yankee troops were coming through. His family took him, and hid him down in a hollow under the hill; they also hid the hogs down there, the cow, and the chickens. When the bluecoats got to their yard, much to the Valentine family's dismay, the hogs came running up the hill and into the yard. So the Yankees killed and butchered the hogs, put them in the big wash pot that Elizabeth Valentine had out in the yard, and cooked all the hogs. Then the Federals ordered Mrs. Valentine to bring some dishes out of the house so they could eat. She brought the dishes out, and after they had eaten up all the hogs, they broke every dish. Then the family didn't have a dish to eat upon after that day. But they never did find James, who was hidden under the hill, nor the cow. But before the Yankees left, the hen decided she'd cackle and the rooster decided he'd crow. So they said, Well, they've got chickens around here somewhere cause we hear >em, so they went to looking for them. And they found the chickens, and they took all of those chickens, wringing their necks off. They put them in the wagons and took them on, so they would they would have chicken for the next meal.

Sutherland's command was up and mounted soon after daylight on April 6th only to discover that one of their number missing. The soldiers began searching the area, looking for their lost man. Squads were sent out in all directions to find the lost trooper. One group approached the George Cox farm, but found nothing suspicious, and made no attempt to rifle through the house. Undoubtedly considerable time was spent in the fruitless search. Not finding the missing trooper, one by one the details returned to break camp. Finally the detachment gave up their search, and after crossing Lubbub Creek began to move south toward Carrollton, seven miles away. After the Yankees were long gone, Martha Cox and her father's slaves buried the trooper in the garden beside the house.

After leaving the area, Capt. Sutherland and Company D made steady progress toward Carrollton. Then a slow-moving cold front with torrential rainfall made the going much more difficult for the detachment. It was well after noon when Sutherland approached the county seat, where Adams had established a scout post. Indeed, his approach to Carrollton may have been undetected due to the thunderstorms.

At 7 A.M. April 6th Adams' command left Pickensville, moving southeast toward Finch's Ferry, where a pontoon bridge crossed the Warrior near Eutaw. About 10 miles out of Pickensville Adams set his command in motion at the double-quick (gallop) down the Selma-Columbus Road toward Sipsey Mills. The brush with Croxton's column by Henderson's Scouts near Benevola that morning must have been reported to Adams about this time. Shortly thereafter Adams passed through Bridgeville on Lubbub Creek in southern Pickens County as his squadrons galloped toward Sipsey Mills. Certainly the smoke from the burning mills would have revealed the Federal brigade.

At about 11 A.M. the lead squadrons of Adams' command, the 38th Mississippi Mounted Infantry, assaulted across Sipsey Mills Bridge against Company F of the 6th Kentucky Cavalry. Those Federals who were not killed or captured sceedadled for the rear, precipitating a mile and a half retreat toward the wagon train of the brigade. Six veteran troopers of Company F were made prisoner near the mill, while one soldier of Company A was killed in the action there. The train of the brigade consisted of three ambulances, the headquarters baggage wagon, a string of pack mules, and numerous horses and mules taken from farms and plantations along the route of march by the brigade. Among the wagons toward the rear of the column was the crowd of Acontrabands, over sixty slaves who had left their plantations along Croxton's march. Major William H. Fidler, commanding the 6th Kentucky, attempted to concentrate his scattered companies near the column of wagons, full of bacon, flour, and corn meal from the mills, and surrounded by this excited throng of "contrabands. While the 6th was still trying to organize a defense, Adams got many of his Mississippi companies across the bridge and formed a line of battle, charging the disorganized and dismounted 6th Kentucky. About this time a severe thunderstorm broke over the area, following the cold front which had passed through Pickens County that morning, and continued into the night for most of central west Alabama.

The 6th Kentucky was hampered by the fact that they were quite understrength, having lost some 35 at Trion a week earlier and the 25-man Sutherland detachment the day before. Many of the veteran companies had in December 1864 been brought to strength with soldiers from other Kentucky units, some infantrymen with only rudimentary cavalry training. Regimental cohesion suffered from this amalgamation of men who had little experience with each other in combat. Perhaps less than two weeks before marching south with Wilson's corps the Kentuckians had been issued new arms, the Spencer repeating carbine. Now founding themselves in a open field, dismounted with no cover, the harried troopers of the 6th Kentucky pulled down stacks of cured bacon from the ambulances and piled them up to form field fortifications behind which to fight. As the Confederate charge crashed into the rain-soaked Federal troopers, and the fighting became hand-to-hand, Maj. Fidler, who evidently was mounted, was unhorsed and along with two privates was separated from the remainder of the regiment. The three fled into the woods to the southeast of the melee to escape capture at the hands of the Confederate cavalrymen.

The shock of the gray horsemen's charge broke the defensive line of the Kentuckians, who then fled northward for the safety of the brigade, running over each other and abandoning wagons and contrabands to the Confederates. The 6th Kentucky lost at this point ten troopers and two officers captured, with two killed in action and one wounded as they fled the continuing onslaught of the Mississippians through the wetlands around the mouth of Shamblee Creek, aptly called in Federal reports ASipsey Swamp. The 6th Kentucky Cavalry had been thoroughly routed.

Standing on a hill on the plantation of his cousin Thomas P. Archibald, Samuel Miller Archibald, fifteen, watched the swirling mass of blue and gray below him as the rain fell. The T.P. Archibald plantation was situated on the Vienna-Northport Road where the Selma-Columbus Road turned north to cross at Sipsey Mills Bridge. Samuel's father, Edwin A. Archibald, a teacher at the Union Academy in Pleasant Ridge, had briefly served in Company B of the 7th Alabama Cavalry, and late last year in Capt. Bartholomew Turnipseed's Local Defense Company. Two uncles were officers in Confederate cavalry units: Samuel S. Archibald was a lieutenant in Company B of the 7th Alabama and Andrew B. Archibald had been a captain commanding Company D of the 8th Confederate Cavalry until his capture in Tennessee and death at Johnston's Island the year before. And the T. P. Archibald plantation was without its master, as Thomas himself was a private in Company B of the 7th Alabama Cavalry. Young Samuel could only wonder as he watched the Yankees flee before the gray host rushing down the road from Sipsey Mills.

The 2nd Michigan Cavalry, which was ahead of the wagon train in the line of march, sent four companies, under the command of Captain Walter Whittmore, toward the commotion. Near King's Bridge, possibly just north of Hinton's Grove, the 2nd Michigan detachment deployed with two companies dismounted and two mounted companies on the flanks. The Michigan troopers were able to halt the charge of the southern horsemen with the heavy firepower of their Spencer repeating carbines. position. These were much superior to the single-shot Sharps carbines or Enfield muzzle loading rifles used by the Confederate cavalry. No doubt the repeating carbines, with sealed rim-fire metallic cartridges, were more effectively worked in the falling rain than single-shot weapons, with linen or paper cartridges. Three troopers of the 2nd Michigan were wounded in the fight with Adams, as the Michigan men tried to make a stand near King's Bridge.

Several companies of the 8th Iowa Cavalry were deployed on the far flank in the fighting near King's Bridge, though Adams' troopers were able to overwhelm these troops; fully thirty-five men of the 8th Iowa were missing at roll call the next morning; twenty-three Iowans were captured at the fight near King's Bridge, and the rest were scattered in the woods as they attempted to retreat toward the 2nd Michigan position. The remnants of the 6th Kentucky were able to pass through the ranks of the 2nd Michigan and re-form.

When the attack on the rear guard was first reported to General Croxton, he dismissed the affair as unorganized bushwhackers. At the fight near King's Bridge, an officer of Wood's Confederate Cavalry was captured. Likely Croxton learned the commander and strength of the Confederate force in his rear from this prisoner. He may have at this point dispatched the courier sent to find Captain Sutherland and Company D.

Adams evidently tried to charge the Federals again, who again halted the onslaught and withdrew as soon as the survivors of the 6th Kentucky were moved on north along the road. Nevertheless, Adams' continued his pursuit of the Federal brigade. One trooper of the 2nd Michigan indicated that Adams "pitched into" the rear of Croxton's column throughout the afternoon as the running fight moved north, along the Vienna-Northport Road between King's Bridge and Romulus, which became increasingly impassable in the pouring rain. After the 2nd Michigan was able to withdraw from the stalemate near King's Bridge, Adams reorganized his bloodied regiments, brought up reinforcements, saw to the wounded, secured the prisoners he had taken, and carried on the pursuit, despite the heavy rain.

The squad of Company D of the 8th Iowa was cut off by the attack and route of the 6th Kentucky, and were counted among the missing. They may have encountered some local home guard forces from Greene County, and one of their number was taken prisoner by southern forces. Two other troopers may also have been taken prisoner, but were able to escape and return to the group. The squad was able to take several prisoners of its own, including a furloughed Confederate soldier who was pressed into service as a guide. At the time of the capture, when they approached the man's house, he ran out of the house over to some timber along a little creek back of the house. The Iowa men pursued. When Sergeant Addison Ruby came up to where he was, one of the Federals was cursing him. Sergeant Ruby did not allow such verbal abuse and made him stop. Losing contact with the brigade, the lost squad wandered north, attempting to locate friendly troops. Likely they camped that night in central Greene County, well south of Romulus and their comrades.

Near dusk, as the Federal rear guard was approaching Romulus in southern Tuscaloosa County, a "very advantageous position" was found and two companies of the 2nd Michigan dismounted and formed a line on the "brow of a hill. From this position the heavy fire from the repeating carbines allowed this small force to withstand three charges by Wood's Confederate Cavalry, mostly made in the dark and the continuing rain, before Adams discontinued his attacks. Captain William R. Luckett and two troopers of Company M, Wood's Confederate Cavalry were killed in these dusk attacks, and in the ensuing confusion, the Michigan men could hear the Confederates talk about how hard they were hit, and bemoaning those who had fallen. These Federal rear guard companies fell back through swamps further north toward Romulus, delivering a final random volley in the dark to end contact and turn back Adams' pursuit about eight o'clock in the evening of April 6th.

In addition to thirty Federal prisoners, Adams captured two of the Federal brigade's three ambulances and the headquarters baggage wagon with Croxton's personal effects, papers, and dress uniform. Furthermore, Adams was able to recover his bacon, albeit a bit shot up, which was to be furnished his command at commissary depots along his line of march. Possibly the Valentines' chickens were recovered. Despite Croxton's statement in his report to the contrary, the one wounded of the 6th Kentucky was left to the care of Adams' surgeons. Fifty or 60 displaced slaves were also taken by the Confederates, as well as recovering numbers of horses and mules which had been taken by the Federals, in addition to the Yankee pack mules and their burdens.

Major Fidler and his two men, meanwhile, were hiding in the woods trying to elude Confederate horsemen. They evidently took to the swamps further east around Shambley Creek. John D. Horton, whose plantation was nearby, visited the skirmish site after the fight and became aware of their presence in the nearby swamps. Horton, a prominent planter in Pleasant Ridge, had offered three sons to the Confederate Cause: one had been killed in action, another in the 8th Confederate Cavalry died of pneumonia in 1863, and a third in the 42nd Alabama Infantry lay in a hospital at that very moment in North Carolina. Horton gathered up his "runaway dogs trained to execute the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act, and returned to the scene of the engagement where the hounds found the Yankees' trail. By one account the three were literally treed by the pack. At any rate John D. Horton apprehended the commanding officer and two enlisted personnel of the 6th Kentucky Cavalry, and, with the aid of the local home guard, delivered the three to the Sheriff in Eutaw to incarcerate them in the Greene County Jail.

Likely within the week the three Kentuckians were transferred to Forrest's provost guard. Many Federals taken prisoner in this area and at this time were held at the prison stockade at Meridian, where Fidler and his companions may have been held before their exchange. Major Fidler's story unfortunately ended in tragedy. After his exchange April 21st at Vicksburg, he was placed aboard the steamboat Sultana, on which he was the ranking former prisoner of war, and was lost with the steamer north of Memphis.

After the rain had slackened near Carrollton, Captain Sutherland's detached company, led by Captain James B. Rogers, charged into the streets of Carrollton about mid-afternoon of April 6th, surprising the not-so-vigilant scout post and capturing nine of Adams' scouts. Evidently the citizenry of the Pickens County seat of government took it upon themselves to defend their town, firing upon the blue horsemen as they patrolled the streets in securing the place. Interrogation of the prisoners enlightened Captain Sutherland that Adams and Croxton had been engaged in severe fighting much of the day. Sutherland ordered the burning of the county courthouse, destroying all probate and tax records, and of the Confederate Commissary Depot, two blocks east of the courthouse in Carrollton.

Continuing south toward Bridgeville from Carrollton, Sutherland's company was confronted by scattered squads of home guards, with whom the Federal troopers skirmished intermittently. The road undulated over some twenty hills and ridges in its course between Carrollton and Bridgeville, where the home guards could harass and interrupt the Federal detachment's progress southward. The local units were unable to unite against the bluecoats, however, and each encounter yielded prisoners for Sutherland's men. Upon reaching Franconia, a village nine and a half miles south of Carrollton and a few miles north of Bridgeville, Sutherland was convinced by his prisoners that Adams' entire command occupied Bridgeville, though most of Adams' force was on the south side of Sipsey by late afternoon. Fearing confrontation with a vastly superior force, Sutherland ordered a countermarch from Franconia to the Union Chapel area, and taking the Bonner Mill road through Unity proceeded to King's Store, at Pleasant Grove. Through this distance of over twenty miles, Sutherland, the twenty-seven men of his detachment, and thirty-seven prisoners, all mounted, crossed three major streams (Lubbub, Bear, and Snead's creeks) and struggled up two or three steep hills, over roads which must have been quite wet and muddy. When the exhausted cavalcade arrived at King's Store well after dark, Sutherland received word from Croxton confirming the attack upon the brigade by Adams, which had driven Croxton from his intended line of march. Unable to wait upon Sutherland, the brigade's rear had crossed Sipsey and continued on, leaving Sutherland to his own devices. Sutherland must have assumed that Croxton was continuing toward Jones' Bluff, as the adjutant concluded that he would not be able to rejoin the brigade. He decided to camp the night of April 6th at King's Store, where the brigade had been encamped the night before. The next morning Sutherland could extract his little command out of hostile territory by proceeding northward to Decatur in north Alabama.

One of Sutherland's prisoners taken that afternoon was John L. Hunnicutt, a fifteen-year-old young man from the Reform-Gordo area. He had joined the home guards as soon as he was old enough, and was beginning Ato feel almost like a man. That afternoon, however, Hunnicutt found himself in combat with veteran Yankee cavalrymen. After his capture he was taken to the Federal's camp at King's Store. There a young lieutenant exchanged some decrepit boots and hat for the fine ones Hunnicutt wore. About midnight of April 6th, Hunnicutt saw an opportunity to slip out of camp, and, assisting a captured mule in its escape, made good his get-away. The next morning when the bluecoats were attacked by southern cavalry, Hunnicutt, still in the Pleasant Grove area, took in hand a loose Federal mount. Another captive of Sutherland did not fare so well. Alexander B. Cotton, whose family lived nearby, attempted escape as well, perhaps encouraged by Hunnicutt's success. Sutherland's men, however, were then on the alert and shot Cotton, who died from the wounds.

The sodden commands of Adams and Croxton camped in the rain in the area where pursuit ended, supposedly in the Romulus vicinity in southern Tuscaloosa County. Casualties amounted to thirty-four on each side for the whole day: Croxton says he had thirty-two wounded and one killed, with one missing in action, altogether two officers and thirty-two enlisted; actually three killed in action are documented and five wounded; the rest were captured. Despite Croxton's assertion in his report that the wounded were carried off, two wounded troopers of the 6th Kentucky were left in the hands of the Confederates. Adams counted nine killed and twenty-five wounded, including Captain Luckett and two privates of Company M, Wood's Confederate Cavalry, killed in action in the last charges near Romulus. Croxton's brigade did not go into camp until eleven o'clock that night. The companies of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry, which were engaged much of the day, did not reach the bivouac until after midnight, when they caught up with the rest of the Federal brigade around Romulus. Adams' command camped south of Romulus.

During Sutherland's bivouac at King's Store, the home guards from Carrollton and Bridgeville had organized into a more cohesive force, and on the morning of April 7th attacked Sutherland's company in camp. Several troopers were stunned by the assault, Private Albert Dean being seriously wounded in the knee, possibly by the same projectile which, passing through the horse's chest, killed his mount. Undoubtedly this took place during close-hand combat, as such would have had to be fired at point-blank range. Dean's comrades struggled under fire to remove the struggling, dying animal off of him, and move him to safety. They took shelter near the home of William J. Bailey across the road from King's Store. It was discovered that not only had Dean's knee been severely injured, but he had also suffered a hernia when his dying horse fell upon him. Another trooper, Thomas H. Haydeman, was taken prisoner by the home guards. Both were left behind as Captain Sutherland hurriedly got his troops mounted and retreated from King's Store.

Albert Dean was hidden by the Bailey family under the house to protect him from the home guards and preserve his life. Martha J. Bailey reasoned that were her son, James, serving in Company B, 42nd Alabama Infantry, in similar circumstances a kind Northern family would do the same for him. Food and water were passed to Dean for days through a hole cut in the floor of a front room. Later he was nursed in the Bailey home for several months, finally being transported to Federal hospitals in Columbus, Miss., then later to Vicksburg in November 1865. Private Haydeman, on the other hand, was exchanged in the next few weeks and unfortunately was herded aboard the Sultana, perishing in the explosion of the steamer with Maj. Fidler and so many others.

Sutherland's force, abandoning their prisoners and losing mounts as well as captured horses and mules, raced the mile and a half to King's Bridge across Sipsey. The Federals may have met sufficient opposition at the bridge by another of Adams' detachments holding the span to prevent the Federals from crossing King's Bridge. Indeed, at this time the Vienna-Northport Road, immediately opposite King's Bridge, was filled with Adams' entire command returning from Romulus. Turning north Sutherland followed the north bank of Sipsey, concerned that the Confederates might be around Tuscaloosa or Northport, though unaware that Croxton's brigade was but a few miles away, marching from Romulus to Northport. Possibly Sutherland feared Jackson's division might have returned to occupy Tuscaloosa and Northport.

Breaking camp south of Romulus early on April 7th, Adams moved his rain-soaked brigades some fifteen miles back down the Vienna-Northport Road to the vicinity of Hinton's Grove. Undoubtedly the command's field hospital, ordnance train, and provost with prisoners had remained in this area after the initial skirmish the day before. Here the Mississippi and Louisiana troopers could dry out and rest their jaded mounts. Several of the men of the 8th Iowa Cavalry who had been separated in the fight near King's Bridge were rounded up and taken prisoner. On this low ridge a dryer campsite could be found. This location also provided a point from which to further confront Croxton should he return south, or if the Federals threatened Columbus and the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, Adams could easily reach that place by the Selma-Columbus Road.

Earlier that morning, Taylor's headquarters had received two-day old dispatches from Henderson's Scouts describing the Federal brigade leaving Tuscaloosa on the morning of the 5th. A message was immediately telegraphed to Gainesville to be delivered by courier to General Adams, directing him to defeat the Federal column of Croxton, attempting to capture stragglers and wagons. Adams, of course, had received this same information directly from Henderson's Scouts at least by the evening of April5th, and had been in regular courier contact with the scouts since then. So when the courier from Gainesville reached Adams' tent at Hinton's Grove on the afternoon of April 7th, the message was old news to the brigadier. Adams had already driven the Federal column back to Northport from whence it had come, Acapturing wagons and stragglers. Captain Montgomery's Company of Mississippi Scouts, of Wood's Confederate Cavalry, was deployed north of Romulus to keep the Federal brigade under observation as it moved back to the Northport area. Adams issued orders for his command to move at 7 A.M. on April 8th, likely to continue toward Finch's Ferry to join with Forrest's corps in the Marion area, as ordered.

Moving north from Romulus at daybreak of April 7th, Croxton's brigade, with the 8th Iowa Cavalry in advance, took most of the morning to move the thirteen miles from their camp back to Northport. The locals spread rumors that Jackson's Confederate division was in the Tuscaloosa area. Halting six miles west of Northport, companies I and K of the 8th Iowa were sent forward to reconnoiter the town. Finding Northport devoid of Confederates, the remainder of the 8th Iowa moved into the town. As the Iowa troopers moved into Northport, they came under fire from southern forces across the Warrior River, and a brisk skirmish ensued. Several graycoats were wounded and one killed. Company I lost one corporal severely wounded in the fight. During the engagement Croxton's brigade once more occupied Northport. The torrential rains had extinguished the fires of destruction from two days ago, and little was to be found for man or beast. About dusk a cease-fire was arranged under a flag of truce, allowing Company K of the 8th Iowa to cross the river and enter Tuscaloosa unmolested.

Late in the afternoon of April 7th some detachment of the Federal brigade must have undertaken a reconnaissance toward the west on the Upper Columbus Road. Possibly Sutherland's fugitives were sighted in that direction. Adams' scouts erroneously reported to the Confederate brigadier that Croxton was making forced marches on Columbus; meanwhile at 8:30 P.M. the Confederate post at Columbus reported to Taylor's headquarters in Meridian that some enemy forces were within thirty miles of Columbus. After midnight Adams was convinced that Columbus was threatened and decided he should immediately move his command back to that place.

By 2 A.M. on April 8th the Confederate brigades were saddling up and racing to Columbus at the gallop, back over the Sipsey Mills Bridge and up the Selma-Columbus Road. When the prisoners were moved on the road later in the morning, a group of Iowans made a break to escape. They fled north to elude their captors. While some of the group was swimming Sipsey near King's Bridge, Private Wellington Thayer, Co G, 8th Iowa was drowned in the stream. Others were able to make good their escape, and returned to the brigade over the next few days.

Adams' command began to arrive in the Mississippi town about one o'clock that afternoon, awaiting the Federal advance, which never came. Horses fell exhausted, and much of the command did not enter Columbus until late afternoon. After reaching Columbus Adams telegraphed Lt. Gen. Taylor's headquarters in Meridian of his activities. Wounded soldiers of the command and wounded Federals taken on the field of action were left at the Ebenezer Methodist Church in Pickensville for continued care. Later that day Adams was directed by Taylor's headquarters to remain in the Columbus/West Point area for reorganizing and resting of his command, and to maintain scouts as far as Decatur, Alabama, to watch the Tennessee valley. One hundred mules were sent to Adams, and the Mississippi Reserves were made available to him to strengthen his command.

Having no knowledge of Croxton's brigade's presence in Northport, Sutherland took Company D on a four-day forced march northward to Decatur, Alabama, perhaps finally crossing Sipsey at the Shirley Bridge where they had crossed three days before. All along the way the little Federal command encountered Confederates who had escaped the fall of Selma, returning to their homes. Ten of these were taken prisoner, but the tired bluecoats on their weary mounts could not keep them from escaping. On April 10th, the day before Croxton moved his brigade north from the Northport area, Sutherland arrived in Federal-occupied Decatur.

The lost Iowa squad and their prisoners slogged their way toward Romulus, determined to enter Tuscaloosa. Taking the Sanders' Ferry Road from Romulus, they were able to cross the Warrior River in boats, likely swimming the horses and mules. Approaching Tuscaloosa on the Foster's Ferry Road, the group sent a runner ahead to the town, the mayor agreeing to allow the Federals to pass through if no violence was to be attempted. Upon reaching the site of the Warrior Bridge to Northport, which Croxton had destroyed three days before, the Iowa detachment crossed again in some decrepit boats with the assistance of an old black man they found nearby.

Later in the morning of April 8th, finding little left in Northport to sustain his troops or mounts, Croxton moved his command some eleven miles north of Northport on the Byler Road to the plantation of John Prewitt. There his horses were able to graze on the pastures along the North River fork of the Warrior. Entering Northport, the lost squad of the 8th Iowa made contact with the rear of Croxton's force as it moved north on the Byler Road. The Iowan's guide and prisoners were paroled at this point, their services no longer needed and provisions scarce. Lt. Henry Belfield, adjutant of the 8th Iowa Cavalry, had been given up as captured when he failed to return on an excursion to round up horses in the countryside. Lt. Belfield, having apprehended a horse and fifteen mules, likewise caught up with the rear of the brigade as it left the Northport area.

After four days of fruitless attempts to communicate with Wilson's corps, Croxton began marching north along the Warrior to cross back into the Elyton Valley. He would then proceed eastward across Alabama, continuing to destroy the state's fledgling iron industry, until finally finding his commander in Macon, Georgia, on May 1, 1865.

Thus ended the Federal brigade's excursion into Pickens County in 1865. In the engagements at Sipsey Mills Bridge, Pleasant Ridge, King's Bridge, Carrollton-Franconia, and Romulus on April 6th, and at King's Store and Northport on the 7th, perhaps five to six hundred troops were engaged on each side; seventy-one total casualties were suffered. Most of the Federals taken prisoner were later exchanged at Vicksburg and many, along with Major Fidler, became passengers aboard the Sultana, many perishing with the steamer in the Mississippi River.

Last Updated 26 January 2013

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