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Old 08-31-2008, 06:11 AM   #1
DeBandi OP
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Thumb Exploring Alabama’s Critical Civil War Railroad Junction

In 1863, the sleepy little town of Stevenson, AL, was one of the seven most important cities in the south. This is because the Memphis and Charleston RR (M&C) ran across Mississippi and Alabama, to reach Stevenson, Alabama in 1857, where it connected with the Nashville and Chattanooga RR (N&C).
Stevenson had become a major supply station and staging ground for decisive campaigns and battles of the Civil War including the battles of Chattanooga and Chickamauga.













In the summer of 1862 the Union Army constructed Fort Harker a quarter-mile away to protect the strategic North South and East West Railroad junction.
































Situated atop a hill east of the town of Stevenson, it was constructed by soldiers and freed slaves of the Army of the Cumberland. The location of the fort placed it within firing range of the town, railroads, supply depots and warehouses. In addition to Fort Harker, the Union Army established a hospital and a refugee camp in the town.



The Union position would prevent Confederate troops from using the railroads in the defense of Chattanooga and secure critical supply lines for the Army of the Cumberland. The design of the fort is typical of many built during the American Civil War. The fort was constructed as a square earthen redoubt 45 meters (150 feet) on a side. The walls were constructed of rammed earth 4.3 meters (14 feet) high, surrounded by a 2.5 meter (8 foot) deep dry moat. The fort was armed with seven barbettes for heavy cannon, and a bomb-proof powder magazine. Access to the fort was by draw bridge across the moat. An eight-sided wooden blockhouse was situated at the center of the redoubt.







Fort Harker was abandoned at the end of the American Civil War. Excavation of the site for historical preservation began in 1976. Restoration of the site for public access began in 1985.






The Union Army headquarters was relocated to this location on 1863.






Unfortunately, the location is in ruins.






This small building was the focus of all the activity.






The Stevenson Railroad Depot was built in 1872 on the ruins of Stevenson's first railroad depot, which was built around 1852 for common use by the Nashville & Chattanooga and the Memphis & Charleston Railroads.




The Stevenson Hotel was also built in 1872, next to the depot. For nearly a century it served as a place for railroad passengers to dine when the trains stopped to reload water and coal. In its prime, the hotel depended on the railroad for its business.






Passenger trains on both lines stopped regularly for their travelers and crews to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and rooms were available for those who had a layover when changing from one line to another.






The structure is so close to the tracks that one patron claimed that the train had sucked the sheets off his bed.











This is a train on the Nashville and Chattanooga side of the depot. This line is operated by CSX. Notice how close it is to the depot and hotel.






With the depot in the middle, you can see a coal train on the Memphis and Charleston line, which is now operated by Norfolk Southern.




This is the view from the Memphis and Charleston side of the Depot.







The little depot and hotel sit in the distance.





A lazy Saturday morning on Main street in Stevenson shows little sign of activity.















Not far from this location is an interesting tunnel. More on that in an upcoming ride report.







Thanks for taking the time to Explore Alabama with me.
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Old 08-31-2008, 06:39 AM   #2
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More, more!
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Old 08-31-2008, 07:11 AM   #3
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Nice Pictures. The KTM really looks great in B&W.


(Not that there is anything wrong with orange.)
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Old 08-31-2008, 05:00 PM   #4
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Always enjoy learning something new from your reports and pictures of our great state!
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Old 09-01-2008, 04:36 PM   #5
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I always look forward to reading your reports. Good stuff
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Old 09-01-2008, 04:41 PM   #6
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Cool! Can't wait to read the next one.
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Old 09-01-2008, 05:19 PM   #7
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Nice Report

Another interesting post...I am ashamed to say that living in Alabama I know so little of the Civil War history..... I spent a ton of time researching and learning about my Alabama pioneer ancestors who fought in the Revolution and War of 1812....but know little of their Civil War involvement....

I do know this, and I am curious to find out what you may know of the more general facts.....My 3rd Great Grandfather owned a plantation near Brownsboro Alabama...(NE generally from Huntsville) and intrestingly enough where the Memphis Charleston RR crosses the Flint River at Brownsboro... His plantation was occupied during the war by Col. Crook I believe his name was...

I came to know this through genealogical research, and learned that members of my Lawler family actually sued the US Govt following the war seeking reparations for livestock, cotton, and other supplies taken/used by Union soldiers while their place was occupied.... The litigation went on for years...and was finally settled in the 1910s I recall...by special legislative act of the US Senate....reparations were paid to the tune of almost $20,000.00, but only to descendants of the family who came from those who were minors at the time of occupation; as it was determined that all of the adults supported the South...and the minors were of tender age and incapable of taking a side I suppose....

I read the thousands of pages of deposition testimony from former slaves, neighbors and family members more from a family history interest point of view, but seeing your report on the significance attached to the Stevenson RR I wonder, was the Union occupation of their plantation much more strategic than I might have realized ?

There are really no family traditions relating to that side of the story.....There are some hard feelings still in the family , because my 3rd gr grandfather..Benjamin Lawler died in 1863....it is said because of the occupation of his "place" by Yankee soldiers...

My research about Col Crook didnt turn up much, I seem to recall...I think he was headed to or did head up to Chattanooga at some point after being at our place in 1863...but Im not really sure ...

I wonder if the location near the Memphis-Charleston railroad where it crosses the Flint River at Brownsboro, might not have been the reason that Union soldiers were "placed" at the plantation....Im not an expert on Civil War history by any stretch...but your report on the importance of the Stevenson Depot might shed some light on why the Union soldiers were there ....The plantation was known as Cotton Grove apparently......and our family cemetery is located on a hill up above where the plantation house stood....between Stone and Brock roads between Brownsboro and Maysville....

Thanks again for the ride report and history...very interesting as always !
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Old 09-01-2008, 05:40 PM   #8
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Nice pics, David. Looking forward to riding with you again soon buddy.
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Old 09-01-2008, 06:28 PM   #9
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Amazing Story

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlabamaCowboy
I wonder if the location near the Memphis-Charleston railroad where it crosses the Flint River at Brownsboro, might not have been the reason that Union soldiers were "placed" at the plantation....Im not an expert on Civil War history by any stretch...but your report on the importance of the Stevenson Depot might shed some light on why the Union soldiers were there.


What a great story, AlabamaCowboy.

Some background on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad may be helpful in your quest.

The Memphis & Charleston Railroad was one of the first railroads ever built in America and soon began to play a pivotal role in this nation's destiny.

Union strategists quickly realized how important this railroad would be to the supply lines for Sherman's Atlanta campaign. The Union army was to hold that railroad line at all cost.




I suspect this is why the Union soldiers occupied your family's plantation.

They were guarding the strategic Memphis & Charleston Railroad.

It was also the only railroad in Alabama that was not destroyed during the Civil War. -Imagine that-





Thanks everyone for the kind responses.
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Old 09-01-2008, 06:30 PM   #10
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Very nicely done!
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Old 09-01-2008, 06:33 PM   #11
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Thanks for another Alabama history tour!!
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Old 09-02-2008, 10:34 AM   #12
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Debandi 'Bama

Nice, vvveeeerrrrrryyyyyyyy NICE. Great 'bama history lesson David. What did you do, road block the town off, was it erie being the only person around . Did the mayor give you the town keys and run all the residents, touristas off . Good to hear from you! By the way, did you get a new bike, its black and gray, thought you were and orange and black guy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 09-03-2008, 02:31 PM   #13
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Nice report. That town just happens to be old, and out of the way today. Nice little place, as I remember. Old Indian cave (Russell Cave?) is kinda near too.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:11 PM   #14
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Nice report,David. I'm always interested in all kinds of history. That's one reason I like taking dirt backroads. Thanks.
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:50 PM   #15
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Great report David !

Interesting personal touch AlabamaCowboy


Exploring history is possible for all riders, usually in their local surroundings. Not only do you find historical sites, but amazing roads to get there.


Looking forward to exploring Appalachian History soon !
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