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Alabama has the distinction of being one of the least-fought-over Con-federate states east of the Mississippi River. But it was the site of the first capital of the CSA, and loans from the Alabama state government financed early war efforts. From as early as the spring of 1862, Federal campaigns were launched against it; but none succeeded in penetrating deep into the state for long. Though it was blockaded with success, Alabama's largest antebellum city, Mobile, was not taken until war's end. Except for a brief cavalry raid in July l864 part of William T. Sherman's campaign to destroy the railroads leading to Atlanta -- the capital, Montgomery, and the central part of the state escaped Federal attention until Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson's cavalry raid in March and April of 1865. Instead, Alabama became a thoroughfare for troops of both sides heading to battles in Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee, as well as a source of manpower and mineral, agricultural, and industrial war supplies.
Important as a rail depot, Bridgeport was where the Memphis & Charleston Railroad from the west crossed the Tennessee River before winding around Lookout Mountain and entering Chattanooga. Bridgeport and nearby Stevenson, Alabama -- at the junction of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and the Memphis & Charleston Railroad -- were early targets of Federal operations. On April 11, 1862, a division of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio that did not make the march to Savannah, Tennessee, entered northern Alabama under Brig. Gen. Ormsby Mitchel. His troops seized the Memphis & Charleston Railroad at Huntsville, and action in the state began. It wasMitchel's force that was then to march east and take Chattanooga after the Andrews Raiders had disrupted railroad communications from Atlanta (see Big Shanty, Georgia). But with the failure of the Andrews raid, the campaign fizzled. Four and a half months later, the area was again contested during the advance of General Buell's army on Chattanooga, though Gen. Brax-ton Bragg's Confederate Army of the Mississippi arrived first in the "Gateway City" (as it was called then), frustrating the Union plans (see Chattanooga, Tennessee). The Federals had first occupied Stevenson and Bridgeport, the latter after a savage skirmish on April 29 1862. Stevenson was reoccupied by the Rebels on August 30, 1862, by troops led by Brig Gen. Samuel Bell Maxey in cooperation with Bragg's march north from Chattanooga that led to his invasion of Kentucky. Bridgeport was also retaken, and the Confederates then rebuilt the rail line between the two towns, which had been destroyed by evacuating Union troops.
Points of interest
Bridgeport is located on US72, 3 miles south of the Tennessee state line. Stevenson is just north of US72 on AL117,9 miles southwest of Bridgeport. Little is left to indicate the busy thoroughfare for troop movements through the area in 1862-64 except modern rail lines that generally follow the Civil War tracks. One point of interest is the depot in Stevenson, which is the Civil War-era station.
Copyright ) 1999 by Edwin C. Bearss