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History of Tallasssee carbine told as reenanctment returns


In 1844, the Tallassee Falls on the Tallapoosa River were dammed, and the first textile mill was built in Tallassee. This building still stands and is the second oldest stone structure in Alabama.  In 1852, a four-story mill was also built and later it manufactured cloth for tents, uniforms and buttons for the Confederate government during the War Between the States.

By 1864, Richmond had become vulnerable to attack and Colonel Josiah Gorgas, Chief of the Confederate Ordinance Bureau looked for a place in the deep south to move the rifle factory. The new .58 caliber, muzzle-loading carbine would be manufactured in the small hamlet of Tallassee, Alabama. This weapon was recommended by General Robert E. Lee and tested and modified by General J.E.B. Stuart. The factory was set up in the 1844 mill which was rented from the mill owner, Benjamin Micou. Captain C.P. Boles was assigned to oversee the operation and four-officer’s quarters, or houses were built on King Street in Tallassee. Three of the four still stand today.

In early summer of 1864 machinery, gunsmiths, blacksmiths and their apprentices all began to arrive in Tallassee. It wasn’t long before word got back to the Union that rifles were being manufactured in Tallassee. In mid-July, Union Major General Lovell H. Rousseau swept across Alabama with 2,500 cavalry, destroying any supplies intended for the Confederate war effort. They destroyed the depot at Dadeville, plus burned a locomotive and several box cars loaded with supplies likely headed for Tallassee. A warehouse of supplies was also burned along the railroad at Loachapoka.

Under the field command of Union Major Baird, the 5th Iowa and 4th Tennessee “Union” Cavalry headed south to destroy the Montgomery and Western Railroad of Alabama between Opelika and Chehaw station.  Rousseau’s Raiders roamed East Alabama with orders to destroy any mills or bridges along the way, but as they neared the railroad trestle over Uphapee Creek, they encountered a group of old men of the Tuskegee Home Guard.  A skirmish ensued which is now called the “Battle of Chehaw Station.” About the same time, a train arrived from the west, carrying a battalion of cadets from the University of Alabama who had been training for a short time in Selma. The cadets had old flintlock muzzle-loading muskets and one small cannon.  Baird’s troops had Spencer Repeating Rifles. The cadets joined into the fray when suddenly a mounted militia from Tuskegee, clad in the finest brown linen and riding fine horses appeared to assist the Home Guard and the cadets. The arrival of Confederate reinforcements caused Major Baird to withdraw.

General Rousseau’s report to General Sherman claims the Confederate dead were six, and wounded were approximately twenty.  Three Union soldiers were killed and ten were wounded. Even though the Confederate’s lost the battle, their brave stand at Chehaw Station kept Union forces from advancing further to discover the Confederate Armory at Tallassee.

By February 1865, Captain Boles was replaced by Major W.V. Taylor as overseer of the armory at Tallassee.  By March of 1865, Union Major General James H. Wilson with 13,000 troops advanced into Western Alabama, cutting a path of devastation through Central Alabama, similar to Sherman’s advance on Georgia.  At Selma, he destroyed as much as he could, but encountered General Nathan Bedford Forrest and decided to move on toward Montgomery. On April 14th, Wilson left Montgomery enroute to Columbus, Georgia with orders to destroy some mills and bridges on the Tallapoosa River at Tallassee.

When he got to Cowles Station down river, the officer in charge asked a local negro to guide him to Tallassee. Legend says that the black man told Wilson that he was looking on the wrong side of the river and he would have to cross over to the west side to reach Tallassee. The Union Commander’s outdated map had shown Tallassee, (the old Creek Indian Village) on the east side of the river. Thinking the black man was trying to mislead him, Wilson ordered him to be shot!

So, Wilson’s forces continued up the wrong side of the Tallapoosa River, (the east side) when he encountered what he called in his report, “A Superior Force” of Tallassee and Tuskegee Militia. Actually, it is thought that General Forrest had already reached the area in hot pursuit, so Wilson chose to continue toward Columbus and never had the chance to fire on the Confederate Armory at Tallassee.

Fearing sure destruction of the Tallassee Armory, Major Taylor was instructed to ship all machinery and the 500-completed rifles to Macon, Georgia.  No one knows the fate of the 500-Tallassee Carbines. Only about 12-are known to exist today. Four of those are at museums at Chickamauga, Columbus, Georgia, The Smithsonian and Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury/Mountain Creek. Macon had been captured by the time the rifles arrived and the Union troops had orders to destroy all ordinance that could be used by the Confederacy to make war. The rifles were likely burned or thrown into the Oakmulgee River. The ones that survived were likely taken as souvenirs by Yankee officers.

For the past 25-years, in November, on Veteran’s Day weekend, the Tallassee Armory Guards, SCV Camp 1921 has commemorated the Battles of Chehaw Station and Franklin, Alabama with a reenactment. The “Battles for the Armory” provide a lasting memory of how the Confederate Armory and the town of Tallassee were saved from destruction by Union raiders by the Home Guard, local Militia and those brave young cadets.

The 2022 dates are Nov. 11, 12 and 13. Friday is “School Day,” and the “Battle of Chehaw is fought on Saturday at 2 p.m. with the “Battle of Franklin” being fought on Sunday at 2 p.m.. The three-day event includes various demonstrations, sutlers, period and modern food vendors, period music, a period ball on Saturday night, carriage rides, a period church service and much more. It all takes place on the 200-acre Gibson’s View Plantation at 19359 Rifle Range Road in Tallassee. General admission and reenactor fee is $5.  Sutler fee is $35. With the passing of landowner Willian G. Anthony, the event is now called “The 25th Annual Bill Anthony Memorial Battles for the Armory.”