Bridgeport Under Siege

Friday, February 6, 2009

Founded in the late 1840’s and located in the Tennessee Valley, the community of Bridgeport, Al., became a hotbed of activity during the War Between the States. A key railroad bridge spanned the Tennessee River at Bridgeport connecting Alabama to Chattanooga and points north and south.

During the early part of the war, the Confederacy controlled Bridgeport and its strategic bridge. Confederate Brigadier General Ledbetter commanded 450 troops to defend the city at a fort situated on Battery Hill approximately 500 yards from the bridge.

In April of 1862, Federal forces seized Bridgeport in a fierce battle that lasted over an hour. Union General Mitchell led more than 5,000 troops into Bridgeport forcing General Ledbetter to retreat toward Chattanooga. Over the remaining years of the war Confederate troops unsuccessfully attempted on numerous occasions to regain control of Bridgeport.

With the Union controlling the bridge, Bridgeport became the major shipping center for troops and supplies going to General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea”. The shipping route from Bridgeport to Chattanooga became known as the “ Cracker Line.”

Now, nearly 145 years later, the historic Siege at Bridgeport has become the largest Civil War Reenactment in Alabama. Each year, 1,500 reenactors converge on the small, rural community to pay homage to the much disputed region during the Civil War.

This year is the 15th anniversary of the reenactment, which will be held March 27-29. Free commemorative pins will be given to all registered reenactors and can also be purchased by the public.

Friday, March 27, is a special day reserved for educating children from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia about the war. Each year more than 1,000 children take a field trip to Bridgeport to watch demonstrations and learn about the life of soldiers during the Civil War. The reenactment teaches children what life was like during war time – and there wasn’t anything “civil about it”.

“We want today’s generations to realize what conditions were like and what our forefathers endured to secure the freedom we enjoy today” said Glenn Hill, one of the organizers of the event.

Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29 are the days of the actual Siege at Bridgeport reenactment, located just outside the city limits of Bridgeport.

Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Children under six are admitted free of charge. Senior citizen admission is $3 for spectators 55 years of age or older. Active military personnel are admitted free. Handicapped parking is available. Public camp tours begin at 10:00 a.m. CDT.

Day one includes a ladies tea and the anvil shoot before the battles. The anvil shoot is one of the popular events at the reenactment. A 100 pound anvil is shot over 100 feet into the air. The battle begins at 2:00 p.m. CDT and last about an hour. Drawings for five $50 bills will be given away to spectators each day.

Saturday around dark a spectacular fireworks show lights the sky for over an hour. The fireworks show is free to the public. Following the fireworks is the evening meal for reenactors and a gala period ball.

The renowned band “Unreconstructed” will be performing. While the ball is open to the public, period attire is requested.

Sunday’s festivities start with a church service and a memorial to the soldiers and former slaves buried in the William’s Family Cemetery, one of the older cemeteries in Jackson County. The anvil shoot again precedes the battle which begins at 2:00 pm CDT.

Reeanctors will travel from as far away as Kentucky, Virginia, Florida and even England to take part in the Siege at Bridgeport. All participating reenactors adhere to strict authentication guidelines, foregoing modern conveniences to sleep in tents and even on the ground to accurately portray life during the war.

For more information on the Siege at Bridgeport, contact Glenn Hill at 256 495-3614 or JoJohn McCraw at 256 437-8873 or log on to www.siegeatbridgeport.com.


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