Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers Rousseauís Raid (July 10-18, 1864) - Apr 22nd, 2004
Posted on 04/22/2004 12:00:08 AM PDT by SAMWolf
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In July of 1864, Union commander General William Tecumseh Sherman sent cavalry under Major General Lovell H. Rousseau into Alabama with the mission to cut the one remaining rail link to Confederate forces defending Atlanta. The West Point and Montgomery Railroad was the vital supply line for munitions from Selma and war material stored at Montgomery for the Confederate Army in Georgia under General Joe Johnston.
Maj. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau
Rousseau gathered 2,500 troops in Union occupied Decatur with cavalry from the Eighth Indiana, Second Union Kentucky, Fourth Union Tennessee, Ninth Ohio, and the Fifth Iowa. The artillery support came from the First Michigan, armed with ten pound parrot cannons. On 10 July 1864 Rousseau left Decatur and went south through Somersville, Blountsville, and Asheville. On 13 July 1864 the Union force reached the Coosa River ferry at Greensport.
During the night of 13 July 1864, Rousseau sent an initial force of 200 across the Coosa River by ferry at Greensport to secure the opposite side in advance of the crossing of the main Union cavalry. Four miles south of Greensport was Ten Islands Ford in St. Clair County, which offered another good position to cross the river. In the early morning of 14 July, the Rousseau advance force skirmished with Confederates on the east bank of the river. At the same time, the main portion of Rousseaus force began to cross the Coosa River at Ten Islands Ford. They were opposed by 200 Confederate cavalry under General James H. Clanton. The Confederate troops from the Sixth Alabama Cavalry and Eighth Alabama Cavalry attempted to stop the initial Union advance. The initial Union troops were reinforced by the Eighth Indiana, and met heavy but short resistance from Confederates on the east side of the river. Soldiers from the Fifth Iowa and Fourth Tennessee Union Cavalry took up positions on two islands in the river, and succeeded in driving the Confederates from the opposite side of the river, and thereby safely securing the river crossing. The Eighth Indiana was also successful in routing the Confederates from the road to Greensport.
The Janney Furnace was destroyed during Rousseau's Raid
After the engagement at Ten Islands Ford, Rousseau also destroyed the Janney Furnace in St. Clair County. The iron works had produced cannon balls and iron sheet metal for the arsenal at Selma, and was completely burned by the Union cavalry. A large amount of manufacturing equipment was also burned, which had previously been moved from the Janney Foundry in Montgomery.
On 15 July 1864 Rousseau occupied Talladega. Here his force burned a railroad depot, rail cars, and a gun factory. It also captured a large amount of food supplies, which was destined for Confederate forces in Atlanta. After leaving Talladega, Rousseau employed tactical deception and moved in the direction of Montgomery. This was in order to disguise his real aim of cutting the rail line to Atlanta. Last minute defensive preparations had been attempted in Montgomery, but would have been completely inadequate to repel a force of Rousseaus size. Rousseau then turned east and bypassed destroying the Tallessee Arsenal, which had recently begun manufacturing the carbine for use by the Confederate Army.
On 17 July 1864, Rousseau first reached his primary objective of the West Point and Montgomery Railroad at Loachapoka in Lee County. Here the Union cavalry began demolishing the railroad for several miles. The tactic used to destroy the railroad was common to forces under Sherman, and involved burning pine railroad cross ties and melting iron tracks until they were bent and completely unusable. The Union cavalry also burned a small supply depot at Loachapoka.
On 18 July 1864, troops from the Ninth Ohio Cavalry destroyed an additional six miles of the West Point and Montgomery Railroad between Auburn and West Point, Georgia. In addition, a large amount of supplies was destroyed and a train was captured that had been traveling from Opelika, and was destroyed. The Ninth Ohio was initially fired on by a small force of 18 that was hastily gathered from among the 400 Texas troops at the Confederate hospital in Auburn. This Confederate force was quickly repulsed.
At the same time as the action at Auburn, the Fifth Iowa, Eighth Indiana, and Fourth Tennessee Union Cavalry were sent to Chehaw Station in Macon County. A force of 500 Confederate troops had been rushed into the area by train from Montgomery. The vast majority of Confederate forces at Chehaw Station consisted of 16 and 17 year old boys from eight companies of H.C. Lockharts Battalion. There were also 50 University of Alabama cadets who had been on furlough, and conscripts from Camp Watts in Notasulga.
Rousseau sent in the Union forces to destroy part of the West Point and Montgomery Railroad that ran between Loachapoka and Notasulga. The Fifth Iowa Cavalry initially engaged the Confederate force. Armed with only old muskets, the Confederates put up stiff resistance before having to fall back to the safety of a ravine. The Fifth Iowa was then reinforced by the Eighth Indiana and flanked the new Confederate position to force a withdrawal. Rousseau reported Confederate causalities as forty dead and wounded in the engagement.
Rousseaus Raid achieved its principal aim with the destruction of over thirty miles of railroad and the disruption of critical war supplies to Atlanta by rail from central Alabama. This came as a critical blow for Confederate forces fighting in Atlanta. A massive repair effort was started for the West Point and Montgomery Railroad, but was hampered since the original railroad ties had been melted and bent beyond use by the Union. With the effort of slave laborers, it was over a month before the complete rail line to Montgomery was reopened.
[Gasp!] How dare they.
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