150th Civil War Tour at downtown Gadsden


Recently, the Vagabond was part of a 150th Civil War presentations and tour. On May 2, participants met at the Center for Cultural Arts and took a bus to see where the Sansom Crossing took place at Black Creek and where John Henry Wisdom’ began his ride.
On the afternoon of May 2, 1863, 150 years ago to the day, Colonel Abel D. Streight and 1,700 US infantry crossed Black Creek ahead of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA and set fire to the bridge, thus impeding the Confederate pursuit.

Forrest rode to a nearby home to find someone knowledgeable of the terrain and came upon 16-year-old Emma Sansom.
Later that day, John Henry Wisdom rode 67 miles from Gadsden to warn the citizens of Rome, Ga. of Col. Streight’s approach.
This tour led by Norman Dasinger, Jr. detailed these coinciding events which have a firm place in the history of Gadsden. Along the way, first-person, living history accounts were relayed by re-enactors in period attire.

The portrayers were members of the Etowah  #1620 United Daughters of the Confederacy, with Sherry Clayton as president of the chapter. Also, Thelma Watkins who is President of the Ashville Chapter #1488 UDC and her husband Bill Watkins, Commander of Camp 308, Sons of Confederate Veterans, St. Clair, Ashville, Ala. were part of this great tour.

When we were at the grave site of Pvt. Robert Turner, the Watkins laid the wreath, provided by Etowah #1620 UDC  and did a Sword Salute at the grave of Pvt. Robert Turner.

A big thank to Bobby Welch, Kay Moore and Laura Elliott of the Etowah Historical Society for their help with this tour!
(yawn) “Oh, please forgive me, I have been unable to sleep very well ever since this war began.  Who would ever have believed that this war would still be going on?  It’s been over 2 years and I remember that first night like it was last night.

“We were just sitting down to supper when the bell at the Baptist Church down on Broad St. started ringing.  Of course, my husband and sons went into immediate action.  Often when the bell rang at night it meant there was a fire, an accident or a death.

“They were not gone very long when I knew there was something else going on as I began hearing shots being fired and people shouting.  My youngest son came back all excited telling me the news…  Alabama had seceded from the Union following SC and just in the past 2 days MS and FL.

“The men of Gadsden stayed up all night that night. Talking about what this would mean for Gadsden and for Alabama.  They took turns and kept that bell ringing all night without stopping.  Then when the war started the Yankees came through and stole that bell… and the communion silver out of the church too.  Maybe someday they will return them to us.

“I remember hoping that night that the Union would allow us to leave peacefully.  Now my sons are away fighting.  I had a bad feeling that night and I had a bad feeling last night that something else was about to happen in Gadsden.          Word around town is that the Yankees are close.  I’m afraid we will still have some dark days ahead before we know any peace.”

“Good morning, many of you look familiar. Have you stayed with my family at the Keeling Inn?

“My daddy owned this inn and it was a busy place before the war. Our home was on the stagecoach route between Jacksonville and Guntersville. Where are my manners? My name is Laura Keeling Barret and I found love during the dark days of War Between the States.

“During the war our home was used as a hospital. One day when I was 16 years old, Captain John T. Barret from who was with the Army of Tennessee was sent to our home to recuperate. I remember looking up at his big blue eyes and seeing his square chin as he was eating chicken and cornbread.  I gave him a smile and he smiled back. I was in love. It didn’t matter that he was 12 years my senior.

“When he left he asked me to wait for him and I said that I would. In a few months he was given leave by General Johnston to come back to marry me. We were married at the little white framed Baptist Church located on 5th St. 

“We didn’t have but a short time together when he was ordered to Atlanta. I was so worried. He was injured in the Battle of Atlanta and was sent to Jonesboro to recuperate.

“Due to his wounds he was released from the army and he came home to me. My daddy gave us the Keeling Hotel and we changed the name to the Barret House.

“We ran it as an inn for a while but later we filled it with children. Thank you for coming out to hear about my love story.”

“He who feels no pride in his ancestors is unworthy to be remembered by his descendants.”
    — Major David F. Boyd, 9th Louisiana Infantry, CSA

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