As home of the Confederacy, Alabama is rich in Civil War history and continued interest has prompted the state to create the “Alabama Civil War Trail.”
Six interesting sites along the trail include Fort Tyler, the “Gallant Pelham” statue, a tour of historic Blakeley State Park, historic Fort Gaines, the Grand Hotel and the Huntsville Depot.
Fort Tyler, on the east side of the state, was an earthen fort built atop a hill above the Chattahoochee River. The fort was the location of one of the last skirmishes of the Civil War and the battle took place in April 1865. The site can be found at 18th St. in Lanett.
A statue honoring the “Gallant Pelham” can be seen in on the eastern side of the state at Church and James Streets in Jacksonville. Major John Pelham was born near Jacksonville and attended West Point but left to join the Confederate military where he fought with J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson. Pelham was known as a brilliant military strategist and his abilities led General Robert E. Lee to name him “Gallant Pelham” His career was cut short at the age of 24.
Historic Blakeley State Park is located on Alabama’s Gulf Coast and visitors to the site can see the remains of earthen forts, old rifle pits, redoubts and battery sites on the 3,800 acres that make up the park. Fort Blakeley was taken following the Union attack on nearby Spanish Fort on the night of April 8, 1865. On the evening of April 9 a general advance on Blakeley started at 5:25 p.m., six hours after Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Union General Grant. The Union troops quickly overtook Blakeley’s 4,000 troops, making it the last battle of the Civil War. The site is off Alabama 225 in Spanish Fort.
Nearby is historic Fort Gaines where on August 5, 1864 the guns there and across Mobile Bay at Fort Morgan, engaged in a battle with a Union fleet of 18 vessels under the direction of Admiral Farragut. Confederate Col. Charles Anderson commanded the 800 troops at Fort Gaines. During the battle, the Union monitor Tecumseh struck a torpedo and sank. At that point, seeing the propellers of the sinking ship spinning in the air, Admiral Farragut shouted his famous words “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Once his ships were able to get inside Mobile Bay they engaged Fort Gaines and the Confederates surrendered on Aug. 8. Fort Gaines is located at 51 Bienville Blvd. on Dauphin Island.
Just up the bay, the Grand Hotel continues to welcome guests as the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa. But this “Queen of Southern Resorts” dates back to 1847 when the Alabama Infantry had a garrison on the hotel grounds and part of the facility was used as a Confederate hospital. Today visitors will find a cemetery near the 18th tee of the Azalea Golf Course where 300 soldiers were buried following the Battle of Vicksburg. The “Grand” is located at One Grand Blvd., Point Clear.
In the northern part of the state is the Huntsville Depot, used as a Union Hospital, prison and living quarters for Union soldiers. Visitors to the site can still see the graffiti they wrote on the walls. An annual Civil War Encampment education program is held to teach about the routines of a soldier’s life. The Depot is located at 320 Church St. Huntsville.