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Montgomery: First
Capital of the Confederacy

In 1861 Montgomery was a center of wealth and culture, a cotton market town, and an important river port (Alabama River) with a railroad that ran east-northeast to Atlanta (Montgomery & West Point Railroad) and one that ran south toward Pensacola (the Alabama & Florida Railroad). Montgomery became the capital of Alabama in 1846; however, in 1861, it still had many characteristics of a frontier town—unpaved streets, board walks, etc. The city was not elegant enough to suit the tastes of many who came to visit or live there. The hotel and eating accommodations were not adequate for the crowds of people who flooded into the city after it became the capital of the Confederacy.

The people came because they were part of the new Confederate government—or wanted to be. They wanted government jobs, sought commissions in the Confederate army (which everyone knew would be organized soon), or hoped to sell supplies to the new government. Newspaper reporters from the north and from Europe came to cover the establishment of the Confederate government.

Alabama had nine delegates to the Confederate Congress, but each state had only one vote. Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi, was elected president of the Confederacy. Davis was at home on his plantation near the Mississippi River when he was notified of his election. He had to travel to Montgomery, and he took the fastest route to reach the Confederate capital. Here is how he traveled:

Bullet He rowed to the middle of the Mississippi River, flagged a steamboat and rode it to Vicksburg.

Bullet At Vicksburg, he boarded a train on the Southern Mississippi line east to Jackson, Mississippi, where he transferred to a Mississippi Central train going north.

Bullet At Grand Junction, Tennessee, he boarded a eastbound train to Chattanooga via Tuscumbia, Decatur, and Huntsville, Alabama, on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.

Bullet At Chattanooga, he boarded a train to Atlanta.

Bullet At Atlanta, he took a train on the Atlanta & West Point Railroad, traveling south through West Point, Georgia, where he took the Montgomery & West Point Railroad through Opelika and Auburn, Alabama, to Montgomery.

This is significant because it illustrates that in 1861 no tracks connected Montgomery westward to Mississippi. The Alabama and Confederate governments worked on this rail route, but they were never able to bridge the Tombigbee River. This made communications difficult, and influenced the course of the war in the west.