As I traveled towards my destination in Tallassee, Alabama, I decided to take the back roads. I got off at Gadsden and traveled along route 77. It was a blessing in disguise. The rolling hills of Alabama, along with the lakes crisscrossing under bridges, lured me to a deep sense of gratification for our American way of life. I stopped often beside the road and read historical markers regarding events that took place in the making of America. By the time I arrived in Tallassee, I was in deep appreciation for our country and our heritage.
I was contacted by my friends and they gave me directions to the Benjamin Micou House (Fort Talisi). I was surprised by the reception. The fine people had a dinner in General Lee’s honor. After a wondrous dinner, I was asked to speak about the “common soldier.” I shared stories of Sergeant Driscoll, Richard Kirkland, Carney, and others. The crowd was moved to tears. Afterwards, I was given the history of the armory and the battles that occurred in the area.
Benjamin Micou, the Tallassee Mills owner, built the house for the overseer of the mill. The mill would play an important part during the War Between the States. The mill is located 27 miles from Montgomery along the banks of the Tallapoosa River. It was built in 1844 and made larger in 1852. It was called the Tallassseee Falls Manufacturing Company, which produced cotton, woolen yarn, and twill cloth. These were vital to the Confederate army.
Colonel Josiah Gorgas was Chief of the Confederate Ordinance Bureau realized the manufacturing of guns needed to be moved from Richmond to a more secure site. He recommended the mill and the manufacturing of a new model gun, the 58-caliber muzzle loading rifle. General JEB Stuart modified the weapon and recommended it to General Robert E. Lee, who wisely approved of the move to Tallassee. The move did not go undetected by the Union.
Federal forces, under the command of Major General Rousseau, moved toward the armory. With 2,500 calvary and the soldiers were armed with Spencer repeating rifles. On July 14, 1864, a major engagement occurred at Decatur, Alabama. Rousseau’s Raiders continued toward their destinations but was met with stiff resistance. The Battle of Chehab and the Battle of Franklin were pivotal in slowing down the progress of the Federal forces. A miscalculation by the Union forces put them on the east side of the river, therefore missing the armory and were countered by a superior force. Fearing that General Nathan Bedford Forrest was in the area, the command decided to withdraw. The armory was saved.
After the Micou mansion burnt in the early 20th century, the overseer’s house was moved one city block to its present location overlooking the Tallassee Confederate Armory. The house sits upon a knoll overlooking the dam and the armory.
On Thursday, November 9, 2017, school day was held. Although it rained all day, it did not detour the diehards from attending. Several stations were arranged for those in attendance. They included military drill and protocol, an artillery demonstration by Jim Bay, teaching of ballroom dancing to the children, medical demonstrations, General Lee presentation on Common soldiers: Blue and Gray, and visitations to sutler row.
November 10, 2017, a group dressed in their period attire had the honor of visiting the Confederate capitol, along with touring the monuments, Archive Building, and Alabama state capitol. Bob, one of the curators at the estate, was most gracious as he gave us a personal tour of the Confederate Whitehouse where President Davis once resided. The tour included wonderful presentations by Andy Bodenheimer, as we walked the sacred grounds of our forefathers.
November 11 and 12 witnessed the 20th annual reenactment. Sutler row was alive and thriving, along with vendors, arts and crafts outside the fence housing the period event. Plans were made at officers’ call and the scenario developed. The ladies brunch was well planned, safety inspection was conducted and the prelude to the battle included a live band, Whistlin’ Dixie. The narrator did an excellent job of describing the battles, as General Lee maneuvered back and forth talking to the crowd. The artillery opened up the battle and soon it became evident that this battle would be hot, and action packed. Both sides charged back and forth, as artillery barked from the top of the rolling hills located at the end of the Appalachian mountain chain. Calvary charges were entwined with artillery and the crowd responded with cheers and rebel yells.
At the end of the battle, a pass and review took place. All veterans in the crowd as well as those in the ranks were asked to step out and face the audience. Stars of appreciation was given to each veteran by General Lee and the audience applauded those men and women that had served their country with honor. After the volleys, the crowd was welcomed to talk to the reenactors and living historians.
That evening a wondrous ball was held at the Anthony Barn, and the Camp 1921 Sting band offered a reception concert. Sunday’s church service was held in the barn and once again the reenactment was almost perfectly executed. The commanders on both sides did a superb job. On a one to ten, this fielder is honored to give this event a 9.5.
For information about next year’s event, visit https://alabama.travel/upcoming-events/1battles-for-the-armory or The Battle for the Armory Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-Tallassee-Armory-Guards-122728594411978/.
-By David Chaltas
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