| Events Leading Up to the Battle
The plight of the war had left
the south depleted of resources and men. The Federals were sweeping
down upon town after town winning small victories along the way. Many
towns surrendered without the first shot being fired. The surrender of all the regular Confederate forces, east of the
Chattahoochee River, soon followed the renewal of hostilities; and on the 7th
of May, General Taylor surrendered to General Canby, all those between that
river and the Mississippi.
The questions proposed to Mr.
Stanton by General Thomas, show how careful he was to avoid all mistakes:
the arrangement between Generals Sherman and Johnston the same as that
between Generals Grant and Lee? I have by authority offered General Grant's
terms to D. Taylor, and to the commanding general in Northern Georgia.
Guerrilla bands also desire to surrender. Am I authorized to grant them any
General Thomas had anticipated General Grant by a month in prescribing this
service for his cavalry, believing that under the circumstances, Wilson's
corps could do all that was necessary in the way of aggression in Alabama.
In this he was right, as was illustrated by Wilson's uninterrupted success
from Eastport to Montgomery. The resultant loss to the enemy, in
war-material and cotton, was immense. You can read a detailed
description of Wilson's Raids by clicking on the link below.
The Eagle's Nest lithograph
Beyond Selma, General Wilson acted as an independent commander, under the
wide discretion given him by both Grant and Thomas. After Sherman marched on
Atlanta in 1864, the south's arsenal was moved to Columbus, Georgia.²
Columbus was a place of great
value to the enemy on account of its military stores, railroad
transportation, gun boats, armories, arsenals and work shops. The town was situated on the left bank
of the Chattahoochee River, was strongly fortified and held by three
thousand men, but it was successfully stormed, under the cover of night, by
four hundred men from Upton's division, Colonel Noble of the Third Iowa
cavalry leading. This small force dashed over bridges strongly defended, and
drove the enemy from his fortifications beyond. These troops, however, were
well supported by other forces, in provision against a probable repulse.
This action occurred on the 17th of April, and resulted in the
capture of twelve hundred prisoners, fifty-two guns in position, the rebel
ram Jackson, a large number of locomotives, and immense quantities of arms,
stores, and cotton.
During this time, most soldiers were fighting battles far away. The
only ones left in West Point were those convalescing. Too old, too
young, wounded, or handicapped, the men of the area were hardly a force for
a large military campaign. Despite this, General Tyler, himself
convalescing, took charge of the defense effort and rallied a band of men to
take on the Union attack.
¹ Eleanor Davis Scott & Carl Summers, Jr., The
Battle of West Point, Chattahoochee Valley Historical Society, 1997, pp.
² Richard J. Lenz, "The Civil War in
Georgia, An Illustrated Travelers Guide," Sherpa Guides, http://www.sherpaguides.com/georgia/civil_war/midwest/columbus_area.html