Reconstruction: a Success Or Failure and Alabama's Involvement in the Civil War

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Alabama played a very important role in the Civil War. They were one of the first states to secede from the Union. Alabama was involved in the civil war in many ways from the iron industry, all the battles that were fought there, and the famous people that influenced the outcome of the war.

Alabama was not the first state to secede from the Union. Alabama was the fourth out of eleven states to leave. It all started with the election of Abraham Lincoln. The southern states were not very happy with Lincoln’s choice to end slavery. The South relied heavily on slavery due to the fact that they had lots of lands that needed to be tended to. The North had no need for slaves. They had much less land than the South. Lots of important people in Alabama contributed to the war. Catesby ap R. Jones commanded the Confederate Naval Foundry and the C.S.S. Virginia(Summersell, pg 322). Secretary of War L.P. Walker was assigned his job by Jefferson Davis himself. When he retired that position, he was moved to brigadier general in the Confederate States Army(Summersell, pg 322). “James Monroe and James Madison were two of the many southerners who ardently supported the American Colonization Society” (Summersell, pg 304). The American Colonization Society founded a spot of land on the west coast of Africa to house emancipated Southern slaves and named it Liberia(Summersell, pg 304). The capital of Liberia, Monrovia, was named after President Monroe(Summersell, pg 304-305). Many famous battles were also fought in Alabama. General John T. Croxton for the Union entered Tuscaloosa County and burned down a hat factory, he interrupted a wedding to arrest all of the male guests and confiscated the artillery of the University of Alabama cadets(Summersell, pg 315). The most well-known battle in Alabama is the Battle of Mobile Bay. The battle took place in August of 1864(Murray, pg 1). It was the last Confederate port still not taken by the Union because it was one of the most well defended of the southern ports(Murray, pg 1). “In addition, the channel was protected with a triple line of mines, commonly called torpedoes at the time, that was suspended below the surface and could sink or cripple any ship that hit one of them” (Murray, pg 1). The Union patrolled the port to prevent any ships from entering and leaving the port(Murray, pg 1). Union Admiral David G. Farragut began to charge the port until one of his ships collided with one of the mines and got destroyed. Farragut decided to ignore the mines and proceeded to overtake the port. The battle of Mobile Bay was the last major naval battle of the Civil War(Murray, pg 1). The Union victory at mobile led to the closing of the port and gave the north a huge boost of confidence(Murray, pg 1). The port technically remained in Confederate hands until the end of the war but it was closed off to Confederate blockade runners resulting in a lack of supplies(Murray, pg 1).

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One of the things that Alabama was famous for was their production of iron. Before the war, Alabama had six or seven blast furnaces total. “The total daily capacity of all these furnaces could not have exceeded forty tons and was probably less” (Woodward, pg 19). The Confederate army constantly ran out of iron to make bullets, cannon balls, and other iron made necessities(Woodward, pg 19). Alabama successfully started producing coke iron in 1873(Woodward, pg 26). The first two coke furnaces were built in Alabama in 1880(Woodward, pg 27). “Before the war, no more than ten or eleven thousand tons of coal were mined per year in all of Alabama” (Armes, pg 149). Soon Alabama started running out of material to make iron thus leading to the creation of pig iron. Tuscaloosa, Jefferson, Bibb, and Shelby County all produced pig iron(Armes, pg 157). Alabama’s coal supply mainly came from Tuscaloosa, Jefferson County, Walker County, St Clair County, and Shelby County(Armes, pg 149). Chief of some of the early coal workers of the war period who continued working in the coal business even after the war was William A. Goold and Joseph Squire(Armes, pg 151). The Tannehill furnaces were operated all throughout the war-making cannonballs, gun barrels, and artillery as well as pots, pans, and skillets for the Confederacy(Armes, pg 159). “Tannehill NO. 1, built by Moses Stroup in 1859, was the birthplace of the Birmingham iron industry” (Bennett, pg 12). Before the war, all of the furnaces in Alabama were shaped like a pyramid built out of stone blocks around a hollow chamber with the height ranging from nineteen to forty feet and could be as wide as four to eight feet in diameter(Bennett, pg 13). In later years, steam engines replaced the old blowing equipment to improve production(Bennett, pg 13). Open-topped furnaces started to be made with lids and sandstone hearth was replaced with a brick hearth(Woodward, pg 25).

There are lots of stories that go along with the war. The C.S.S. Dunbar was a battleship that served both sides of the war. Originally, the Dunbar worked for the Confederacy. When the Union began to invade the Tennessee River, the Dunbar ran upstream to warn all of the Confederate forts(Duke, pg 101). It was damaged many times. It was sunk to the bottom of the river, set fire to, and rebuilt(Duke, pg 102). Eventually, it’s engines were shot and was deemed irreparable(Duke, pg 103). The Union, however, was able to repair the engines and use it for their cause. The Union could not control it and ran it aground(Duke, pg 103). The C.S.S. Dunbar was officially wrecked. Another story was of a fearless girl named Emma Sansom. A group of Confederate soldiers needed to cross a bridge. A group of Union soldiers set fire to the bridge making it impossible to cross(Duke, pg 106). General Nathan Bedford Forrest inquired of a nearby family if there was another way to cross. A young girl spoke up and offered to show him the way. She climbed onto his horse and they rode off with the girl showing the way. She led them, through showers of bullets and deafening gunshots, to a ford where the soldiers were safe(Duke, pg 106-107). Emma Sansom was recognized and rewarded for her service and her bravery(Duke, pg 107). From start to stop, there were about 65,000 to 100,000 Alabamian soldiers who fought in the war(Summersell, pg 319). About 3,000 of those men served the Union(Summersell, pg 319). A majority of Alabama’s population was for the Confederacy. There was close to 25,000 to 70,000 Alabamian casualties by the end of the war(Summersell, pg 319).

“Reconstruction is the general term for the process of political and social realignments and readjustments in the south after the Civil War and Emancipation” (Fitzgerald, pg 1). The reconstruction period after the war lasted from 1865 to 1877(Fitzgerald, pg 1). There were two stages of reconstruction. One of those phases was Presidential Reconstruction which began in 1865(Fitzgerald, pg 1). Presidential Reconstruction is a term for the changes in society and politics that occurred after the war(Fitzgerald, pg 1). The second phase of reconstruction was called Congressional Reconstruction which began in 1867(Fitzgerald, pg 1). This phase was more focused on equal suffrage on the ex-confederate states(Fitzgerald, pg 1). It lasted from 1867 to 1874 and consisted of racial attacks and terrorist activity(Fitzgerald, pg 1).

Even though the Confederacy did not win the war, Alabama still had a significant influence on the outcome. The plights that occurred during the war made Alabama the state it is known for. Alabama’s involvement, the iron industry, and the extraordinary people who fearlessly served their country all had a part in a series of events that changed the way our country lives today. 

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