Introduction – Civil War Columbus, GA. – Part 1
COLUMBUS, GA. — On February 14,1865, General U.S. Grant wrote a letter to Major General G.H. Thomas, commander of Sherman’s forces in Tennessee, instructing him to launch an invasion south of the Tennessee River into Alabama. Grant’s decision would hold tremendous consequences for the citizens and industries of Columbus, Georgia. This little river town on the eastern bank of the Chattahoochee River and powered by the waters of Coweta Falls had become a hotbed for Confederate industrial activities over the course of the war. Columbus’ status was due largely to the town’s location deep in the heartland of the South, where it remained relatively untouched by the war’s destruction.
General Grant’s decision to unleash the wrath of his 28-year-old cavalry commander, Major-General James H. Wilson, would have dire effects on many southern cities and towns located in what was called “the industrial heartland of the Confederacy.” This was an area stretching across central Georgia, Alabama and eastern Mississippi. This area was rich with natural resources, factories, and a local population loyal to the Confederate cause. Wilson’s Raiders cut this heartland right down the middle; this caused devastation to the local people and industries for many years to come. The raid’s primary objective was to bring the Confederate war-supplying machines to a halt and without a question was very successful in doing so.
As I continue with this article, over the next week or two, I plan to bring before you a factual and informative presentation of the effects of Wilson’s raid by focusing attention on two issues.
Civil War Columbus, GA.
First: Why did the Union leaders feel it was necessary for General Wilson’s Cavalry to perform such a destructive raid into the Confederate Heartland. This issue is particularly intriguing when one considers the fact that, by the Spring of 1865, the Confederacy had little resistance left to offer in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. The South no longer possessed the resources to continue waging such a large-scale conventional war against a wealthier Northern enemy. Although, there were several options available to the Confederate leaders that could have prolonged the conflict. There was much speculation in the Southern leadership that prolonging the war could wear down northern determination to persist, and thereby end the war under terms more favorable to the South than those offered in the winter of 1865.
(Personal Thought: Doesn’t this sound like the same strategy being used by Iraq’s enemies to make American citizens shut down our efforts in helping the people of Iraq win their freedom?)
Second: This issue will be on the battle of Columbus; though the battle was relatively brief, it is an essential part of this story. I will begin by describing the route that Wilson’s Raiders took from Alabama to Columbus, and briefly discussing some of the battles and events which occurred along the way. Some of the most colorful figures of the war, both Yankee and Rebels, played a role in this saga of the Civil War story. Their participation makes the context that the battle of Columbus occurred in very interesting. The fact that the Rebels believed it more important to consolidate their forces at Columbus in defense of the town rather than gather to defend Montgomery ( the first capital of the Confederacy) demonstrates just how important Columbus had to be to the War effort. By April of 1865, Columbus was one of four major industrial centers remaining for the South. The other three were Tuscaloosa, Selma, and Montgomery. These industrial towns were the last hope for the Confederate Government to be able to prolong the conflict. The Union success depended on the destruction of these towns to end the war and the South’s hopes to prolong it.
Research help By William Rollins & Melisa Rollins