A Review of Joseph W. Danielson, War’s Desolating Scourage: The Union’s Occupation of North Alabama, University Press of Kansas, 2012; Charles A. Misulia, Columbus Georgia 1865: The Last True Battle of the Civil War, The University of Alabama Press, 2010.
On Easter Sunday, April 16, 1865, Union forces under the command of General James Harrison Wilson attacked, captured, and sacked Columbus, GA in the last major battle of the War east of the Mississippi. Wilson’s campaign began in North Alabama and quickly moved South.
By this point in the War, Alabama could offer little resistance. Even the great Forrest could not stop Wilson at Selma. The “army” defending Columbus–like Forrest’s army at Selma–was little more than young boys and old men. Hastily constructed forts on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee River were unmanned.
The Battle of Columbus began well enough for the Confederate defenders. They duped the Union cavalry into trying to cross a bridge packed with oil soaked cotton bales. As the Union charged the position, a Confederate battery overlooking the bridge opened fire and the bails were set ablaze. This temporarily halted the assault, but when the rest of the cavalry showed up later that day, Wilson decided on a night attack.
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