The Vagabond - Remembering The Great War: Alabama and WWI

June 9, 2017 chris
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By Danny Crownover

The Etowah Historical Society currently is hosting a traveling exhibit commemorating the centennial anniversary of Alabama’s involvement in World War I.

“Remembering the Great War: Alabama and World War I” tells the story of the war from the perspectives of Alabamians whose lives were shaped by the conflict.

The free exhibit runs through June 26 and is opened weekdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Elliott Community Center located at 2829 West Meighan Boulevard.

The exhibit tells the rich and complex story of World War I through the voices of nurses, journalists, aviators and American troops who came to be known as “doughboys.” The United States entered World War I in April of 1917 on the side of the Allies. An estimated 95,000 Alabamians served in uniform.

The exhibit was created by the Alabama Department of Archives and History and the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University along with assistance from industrial design students in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction and associate professor Shu-Wen Tzeng.

Dr. Marty Olliff from Troy State University will speak on “The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama in World War I” this Friday, June 9, at 6 p.m. at the center.

For more information on the exhibit and its creators and content, please visit www.rememberingthegreatwar.org or contact Etowah Historical Society President Danny Crown-over at 256-613-6844.

Over the next few weeks, The Vagabond will discuss the history of 167th Infantry of the 4th Alabama Regiment.

Part I

The history of the 167th Infantry Regiment of the Alabama Army National Guard may be divided into three phases covering six wars – the Seminole, the Mexican, the War Between the States, World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

The first part covers the period from Feb. 27 1836, to May 1861, during which time some of the infantry’s companies and personnel served in independent militia units throughout the state, for the regiment as such had not yet come unto being.

The second phase began with the incorporation of these several companies and others into the Fourth Alabama Infantry of the Confederate States Army on May 4, 1861 and ended on July 15, 1911, when the regiment was officially designated as part of the Alabama National Guard. During World War I, the unit became the United States 167th

Infantry Regiment. The old name of Fourth Alabama National Guard was briefly restored following that conflict, but on Dec. 16, 1921, the regiment was redesigned the 167th, the name it still bears.

In Alabama in 1836, local militia was primarily used to protect peoples’ homes and lives, especially against hostile Native American Indians. The Seminoles were at war with the newly arriving settlers at the time. Several brigades of state troops were called out to protect the state, and volunteer companies went to Florida. Among the latter was the gallant company known as the Montgomery True Blues.

True Blue member John Clisby related that the 94-member company left Montgomery under the command of Captain William Chisolm in February of 1836 to join other volunteer companies from Alabama in forming a regiment, which chose Chisolm as its colonel. Thereafter, these volunteers sailed for Tampa Bay, Fla., and camped near a log fort, then known as Fort Foster but subsequently called Fort Alabama.

The Seminoles made several unsuccessful attempts to capture Fort Foster. When ordered to abandon the outpost and report to Fort Brooke, the Alabama troops engaged in a savage battle with the Native American Indians at Simmons Hammock. The units returned home and mustered out in May 1836. Certain parts of the companies such as the True Blues and the Selma Guards continued as independent militia companies.

The Mexican War unit has a history that dates back to 1846, when the First Alabama Volunteers marched 900 men through Texas and Mexico to the village of Jalapa near Mexico City. As a consequence of the Texas War for Independence and border raids by Mexican troops, the United States went to war with Mexico in 1846.

As in the Seminole War, Alabama units volunteered their services. Among them was the First Alabama Volunteers commanded by Colonel John R. Coffee. The unit was mustered into federal service for 12 months beginning in June of 1846.

The regiment took 900 men to Texas and thence to Mexico, where it served under General Shield. The regiment entered Vera Cruz after a naval bombardment and marched towards Mexico City as far as the village of Jalapa.

While in service during the campaign, the regiment lost one man in a skirmish, 150 men to disease and 200 by discharge.

Other Alabama units that participated in the Mexican War were Lieutenant Colonel John J. Seibel’s battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Pell Raiford’s battalion and several independent companies, among which was Captain P. Rush Elmore’s Relief Guards from Montgomery. In addition, Alabamians officered in part the 13th United States Infantry.

Captain Egbert J. Jones, at this time from Athens, Ala., was in command of a company from Limestone County. When the Fourth Alabama was formed in 1861, Captain Jones was elected its first colonel. When these various units were mustered out of service, several of them continued by carrying on as independent militia companies.

The unit returned to Alabama and in 1861 was reorganized as the 4th Alabama.

To be continued next week.