Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park - Brierfield, Alabama

On March 31, 1865, Union troops destroyed one of the most important industrial facilities in the South. General James H. Wilson's raid was then sweeping south through Alabama and the Bibb Naval Furnaces at Brierfield were one of his primary targets.

A major source of iron for the production of Confederate cannon and ironclad warships, the Bibb Furnaces were defended by a regiment of Confederate cavalry from the command of Brigadier General Phillip D. Roddey. In addition to two furnaces, the complex also included a rolling mill and other facilities necessary for the mass production of iron. The complex supplied the major Southern manufacturing facilities at Selma and Brierfield iron was considered excellent for the casting of heavy Brooke cannon.

As Wilson pushed south through the Alabama iron country, he targeted much of the region's industrial capacity. After taking Montevallo, an important community south of today's Birmingham, he ordered Colonel Frederick Benteen and the 10th Missouri Cavalry to destroy the Bibb complex at Brierfield.

Benteen attacked the Confederate troops defending the furnaces on March 31, 1865, driving them back in a brief but sharp encounter that is remembered today as the Skirmish or Battle of Brierfield Ironworks. Then, as the Southern troops watched from a distance, the Union soldiers destroyed the massive complex.

The ruins of the Bibb Naval Furnaces are now preserved at Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park, an absolutely beautiful facility that also offers cabins, a lodge, camping, picnicking, walking trails, a variety of preserved historic structures and a wide range of other recreational opportunities. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/brierfieldironworks.

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