Blakeley, Alabama
The Battle for a Ghost Town
One of Many Ancient Oaks in Blakeley State Park, Alabama (Photography by Terry Jay)
Please mention the story title when making
 
Road to Blakeley
Entering Blakeley State Park
Blakeley Oak Tree
A Blakeley Road
Blakeley's Hanging Tree
A Redoubt
Earthenworks
 
 
 
 

 

Shortly after the United States acquired the area around Mobile from the Spanish, Josiah Blakeley purchased 2280 acres of land in July of 1813 from Dr. Joseph Chastang. Here he chartered the town of Blakeley, Alabama in January, 1814. Unfortunatley, Josiah Blakely died in February of 1815. His burial site is unknown.

Josiah Blakeley did not live long enough to see his town grow into a port that would rival Mobile, located several miles to the west, across the river. By 1825, the town had 4,000 residents. He would not live to experience the yellow fever epidemic in the 1820s that would greatly diminish its population. Many fled the town to avoid the epidemic, leaving Blakeley a ghost town.

By 1865, there were few people remaining in Blakeley, itself. Some families lived in the surrounding countryside. Both, Spanish Fort and Blakeley had been chosen by the Confederacy as sites for military installations that were intended to impede the advancement of Union Forces on Mobile. Mobile was a big target of the Union, it was a shipbuilding center for the Confederacy. It was here that the CSS Hunley, the world's first submarine to engage in combat, was built.

Confederate General Dabney H. Maury commanded approximately 9,000 troops who were stationed at Spanish Fort, Alabama and Blakeley.

On March 27, 1865, Union forces under the command of General Edward R. S. Canby began the seige of Spanish Fort. The Confederate troops held out for two weeks against Canby's 32,000 troops. On April 8, 1865, the guns of Spanish Fort fell silent as the Union forces took control.

Almost immediately, General Canby turned his forces toward Blakeley, a few miles away, where the Confederates had approximately 4,000 men. With the arrival of Canby's 32,000 Union troops, plus the arrival of 13,000 Union troops from Pensacola, Florida, the seige of Blakeley began.

The Union troops consisted of 24 regiments from Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts and Ohio, a total of 45,000 troops. The 15th Massachusetts regiment was already involved at Blakely as early as April 6.

Harper's Weekly Depiction of the Battle of Blakely

The recognized battle of Blakeley began on April 9, 1865. The Confederate troops consisted mainly of units from Missouri and reserve units from Alabama. The Confederate artillerymen were from Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.

On that date, the advance of the Union troops began in front of Redoubt #9 at approximately 5:25 pm. and worked its way toward Redoubt #4, the most heavily defended of the Confederate positions. The fighting was fierce. The Ohio 83rd experienced many casualties as it approached Redoubt #4. It faltered and regrouped. With several acts of extreme bravery, the 83rd finally broke into Redoubt #4. The Confederates then saw the large number of enemy troops attacking them, causing many to surrender. Some broke and ran for the nearby woods and some hid out in the old town of Blakeley. Others remained, fighting to their deaths.

Many of the Confederates hiding in the woods made a feeble attempt to organize a resistance. General Canby ordered his troops to go through the old ghost town toward the Tensaw River, capturing and fighting Confederate troops.

Neither command, Confederate nor Union, knew of the historic event that occurred approximately 6 hours before the battle of Blakeley began. On that day, April 9, 1865, hundreds of mile away at Appomattox Courthouse, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The Civil War was over. The Battle of Blakeley became the last major battle of the Civil War and one that was fought after the war had officially ended.

With the end of the battle, old Blakeley sat quietly in the woods, nobody visited the old town except for the occassional hunter or outdoorsman. It sat almost forgotten for over a century! Finally, in 1974 it was placed on the Register of Historic Places. For the next twenty-two years, Mary Y. Grice led efforts to preserve old Blakely and the battlesite. What we see today at Blakeley is the result of her efforts and the efforts of individuals and organizations who worked with her.

MR. TILLINGHAST AND THE FLAG OF THE ALABAMA 36TH INFANTRY:

Following the capture of the Alabama 36th Infantry at Spanish Fort, the color bearer, Joseph W. Tillinghast slipped away at night and returned to the battlesite. He located the battle flag of the Alabama 36th, removed it from its staff and wore it beneath his uniform until he returned home. His family had the flag for the next 92 years. On May 28th, 1957, Tillinghast's aging daughter in law presented it to the Alabama Archives. Needless to say, the battle flag of the Alabama 36th was never captured or surrendered!

NOTE: When you visit Blakeley State Park, you will probably notice the absence of marble or granite monuments and statues. At Blakeley you will walk among the forest and old townsite, much as it was following the battle. The site has withstood many hurricanes over the years and yet much of the battleground and its earthenworks remained intact. I sincerely hope that those in charge of Blakeley never start installing monuments and statues in any great number. As it is now, it is as much a nature trip as a history trip and it stands as close to historic reality as any battleground I've ever seen. - Wilson Jay
©Copyright 2008 Wilson Jay