Alabama Civil War
Industry and Ironworks
Selma was one of the most important manufacturing centers in the Confederacy especially later in the war, and ironwork plants here produced a variety of material for the Confederate armed forces including the ironclads CSS Tennessee and the CSS Tuscaloosa.
Unbothered by Union raids for most of the war, the town fell April 2, 1865, after a sharp battle involving defenders led by Gen. Nathan B. Forrest. Union Gen. James H. Wilson’s troopers destroyed most of the town and its manufacturing capability during the short Federal occupation.
A tour of the Old Live Oak Cemetery includes the graves of many famous figures including Catesby ap Roger Jones who ran the Naval Foundry here and commanded the famous CSS Virginia (USS Merrimac) during its battle with the USS Monitor in March 1862. Find a copy of the cemetery tour and Selma’s “Windshield Tour,” which includes a wealth of Civil War information, at www.selmaalabama.com (click on tourism information, then tours).
Old Depot Museum
4 Martin Luther King St, Selma AL 36701
Housed in the restored antebellum railroad station, this museum covers topics ranging from Civil Rights to Civil War and railroading. Exhibits include much on Civil War manufacturing in the town. Open Monday-Friday 10 am–4 pm. $4/adult.
Joseph T. Smitherman Historic Building
109 Union St, Selma AL 36701
The museum rooms of this 1840s mansion display many Civil War items including Selma-manufactured Civil War artifacts retrieved from the Alabama River. The building was used as a hospital during the war.
Open Tuesday–Friday 9 am–4 pm; Saturday 8 am–4 pm. $3/adult.
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
12632 Confederate Parkway, McCalla AL 35111 (2 miles from I-59 exit 100)
At the height of production during the Civil War, the furnaces here turned out 22 tons of pig iron a day. The furnaces were finally destroyed during a Union raid March 31, 1865. The museum highlights the wartime Alabama iron industry that produced 70 percent of the iron in the Confederacy the last two years of the war. Exhibits include a large collection of Confederate ordnance made in Selma. Tours of the site feature the Civil War-era furnaces and living history demonstrations.
Grounds open daylight hours. Museum open Monday–Friday 9 am–4:30 pm, Saturday 9 am–4:30 pm, Sunday 12:30–4:30 pm. $2/adult.
Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park
240 Furnace Parkway, Brierfield AL 35035
This furnace was established in 1862 and began producing a high-grade iron. The Confederate government purchased the company and expanded the operation in 1863. Tours of the park include the ruins of the Bibb Naval Furnaces, which produced, according to an expert at the time, “the toughest and most suitable iron for making guns above any other iron in the South.”
Open daylight hours. $2/day use fee.
Cornwall Furnace Park
1200 County Road 251, Cedar Bluff AL 35960
This furnace, commissioned in 1863 by a firm in Rome, Ga., produced iron for Confederate armaments made there. Sherman twice ordered the place destroyed in 1864 but it survived the war.
Janney Furnace Memorial Park
145 Janney Road, Ohatchee AL 36271
It is believed that the furnace here, constructed in the last days of the war, never really made it into production. That was one reason it was not destroyed during an 1864 Union raid. The site has been preserved and restored to pristine condition. The 110-foot Calhoun County Confederate Memorial lists the names of county residents serving in the Confederate armed forces. Site open daylight hours. Museum open Monday–Friday 10 am–5 pm, Saturday and Sunday noon–5 pm. Free.
Websites of Alabama Civil War places: Alabama Links