Historic Markers Across Alabama

The Battle for Decatur 7 - Two Bridges Across The Tennessee Rive

Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of Wilson Street Northwest (U.S. 72) and Raiload Street, Decatur, Alabama
County: Morgan
Coordinates: N 34° 36.893    W 086° 59.021
  34.61488333    -86.98368333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Two Bridges Across The Tennessee River
“A Hard Nut to Crack”
— The Battle for Decatur —

In 1860, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was the only east-west route through the United States south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Maintaining control of this rail line was essential to Confederate strategy. Union Brigadier General Ormsby Mitchell occupied Decatur on April 13, 1862. Confederate defenders attempted to destroy this bridge, but failed. Union troops would destroy the bridge themselves on April 27, 1862. Union troops would occupy Decatur briefly in the summer of 1862 and the fall of 1863, and returned permanently on March 8, 1864. Construction of a pontoon bridge on the site of the destroyed railroad bridge was immediately commenced.

The pontoon bridge that crossed the Tennessee River into Decatur served as the logistical lifeline to the Federal garrison- all food, ammunition, medical supplies, mail, and reinforcements had to cross this bridge. Capture of this bridge, intact, would offer Hood an easy route into Middle Tennessee and Nashville.

Once Hood appeared at Decatur, Granger ordered forward regiments from throughout North Alabama and Tennessee to reinforce the garrison. Among these regiments was the 14th United States Colored Infantry. Raised in 1863 at Gallatin, Tennessee, the 14th USCI consisted primarily of freed slaves from the Middle Tennessee area. The Adjutant of the 102nd Ohio Infantry, who watched them fight at Decatur, recorded:"They are a splendid regiment of men, and would fight the devil.”

Under cover of the morning fog of October 28 Hood placed artillery on high ground east of the pontoon bridge. He hoped that placing effective artillery fire on the pontoon bridge would force the Union garrison to surrender.

Erected by City of Decatur. (Marker Number 7.)

End of The Battle for Decatur 7 - Two Bridges Across The Tennessee Rive