This postcard comes from Mobile, Ala., one of my stops on a recent tour of the South with an old Channel 3 colleague, Wadi Sawabini. In our travels we stumbled on Fort Blakeley, a small park across the bay from Mobile.
The Battle of Fort Blakeley was fought between 35,000 Union troops and 3,500 Confederates April 9, 1865. It was fought on the same day that General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, but no one at Fort Blakeley knew that, and this was the last battle of the Civil War.
"This particular map is something I've been working on for about five years," Richard Sheely said.
Sheely is a ranger at Fort Blakeley, and the map and a forthcoming book are evidence of his passion for history.
"The Confederates at the time of the battle had 35,000, excuse me, 3,500 troops scattered across five and a half miles, so they were spread pretty thin," he said.
Reporter Marselis Parsons: What were they defending? They had their backs to the water. What were they defending?
Richard Sheely: Well, this was the final fort to protect Mobile, which is across the delta.
The Union forces had gunboats on Mobile Bay, and there was a huge force of Federal troops-- including the 7th Vermont Regiment-- that had marched up the east side of the bay from Pensacola, Fla., slogging their way through swamps and forests.
"General Canby did not know how many confederates were here," Sheely said.
Richard Sheely: They would retreat to the old town section, load onto gunboats: the Tuscaloosa, Morgan and Nashville were stationed off the bay down there. The Union troops had come up and driven those three up the river, so when the Confederate soldiers evacuated to the riverfront, there was no place for them to go.
Marselis Parsons: Not a slaughter?
Richard Sheely: No.
Marselis Parsons: But 3,200 taken prisoner?
Richard Sheely: Correct.
This park attracts a number of visitors, most of them campers. Only a few, like Steve and Donna Hoffman of Greenville, come just for the history.
"It's important we know our history," Donna Hoffman said. "Most of our students have no idea what happened around us that shaped our world."
After the loss at Blakeley, it was only a matter of three days before Union forces crossed the bay and captured the city of Mobile, the largest city in the South to surrender.
Vermont Civil War Historian Howard Coffin told us that the 7th Vermont, raised in Rutland, was the so-called hard luck regiment. Coffin said the soldiers spent most of the war in the Deep South and suffered many losses to sickness, not bullets, in the battles at Vicksburg, Baton Rouge and finally Fort Blakeley.
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