Battles And Campaigns - 1865

    Battle Of Selma  "Southern Heartland Falls"  April 2, 1865

By the spring of 1865, the territory of the Confederacy consisted only of isolated areas, and its commercial and industrial capabilities were in shambles. Only 100,000 ragged, poorly equipped men were left in the Southern armies. The North, more powerful than ever, had 1,000,000 men in the field, and were attacking on every front.

Selma, Ala., was one of only a few manufacturing and munition centers remaining in the South, and on March 22, Union Gen. James H. Wilson started from his base in southern Tennessee to conquer it. He set out with two divisions of cavalry, 13,500 veteran troops armed with Spencer carbines, three batteries of horse artillery, and a supply train of 250 wagons. His only obstacle would be the son of a poverty-stricken backwoods blacksmith, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The Confederacy's shortage of men and supplies, however, had taken a frightening toll on Forrest's command. He had fewer than 8,000 men, many of whom were new recruits and impressed citizens- old men and young boys who had previously escaped the Confederate draft. While setting up a defensive position in his front, Forrest sent his veteran troops to attack the rear of Wilson's column. Wilson, however, intercepted a dispatch containing Forrest's plans and used the information to isolate and delay the raiding party. Then, on April 1, Wilson attacked and overran Forrest's inexperienced troops in the Battle of Ebenezer Church. Forrest fell back 18 miles to Selma, where he put all his available men- 3,000 untried militiamen, spread very thinly in the 3.5 miles of earthworks surrounding the city.

At 5:00pm on April 2, Wilson attacked and quickly drove the Confederates out of the works. By the end of the day, Wilson had captured 2,700 COnfederate prisoners and the city of Selma, with only 46 killed and 300 wounded among his own men. Forrest and a few of his companions escaped. Forrest, at last, had been beaten.

Fascinating Fact:  As he slashed his way out of Selma, Forrest killed the 30th, and last, Union soldier attributed to him in personal combat.

Back to index page