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Wilson's Raid Through Alabama
and the Capture of Selma

Introduction: Selma was a small cotton market town and significant river port in the 1850s, but the need for Confederate arms turned the town into the major weapons manufacturing center in Alabama and the lower South. General Wilson ordered Brig. Gen. Edward F. Winslow of Maine to destroy "everything which could be of benefit to the enemy." One of the best ways to appreciate what the Confederacy created at Selma is to read Winslow's report to Wilson (see below) which appears in the Rebellion Record, (1868), XI, 701-02, and is reprinted in Malcolm C. McMillan, Alabama Confederate Reader (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1965), pp. 416-18. Used by permission of the University of Alabama Press.

Selma, Alabama, April 9, 1865

Major—I have the honor to submit the following statement concerning the destruction of public property captured and found at this place:

In obedience to orders from the Brevet Major-General commanding corps, I assumed the command of the city on Monday the third instant, and commenced destroying everything which could be of benefit to the enemy.

The following is a partial list, which was not made complete, as in many cases the whole property could not be destroyed in the limited time allowed:

1. Selma Arsenal - Consisting of twenty-four buildings, containing an immense amount of war material and machinery for manufacturing the same. Very little of the machinery had been removed, although much of it was packed and ready for shipment to Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Among other articles here destroyed were fifteen siege guns and ten heavy carriages, ten field pieces, with sixty field carriages, ten caissons, sixty thousand rounds artillery ammunition, one million rounds of small arms ammunition, three million feet of lumber, ten thousand bushels coal, three hundred barrels resin, and three large engines and boilers.

2. Government Naval Foundry - Consisting of five large buildings, containing three fine engines, thirteen boilers, twenty-nine siege guns, unfinished, and all the machinery necessary to manufacture on a large scale naval and siege guns.

3. Selma Iron Works - Consisting of five buildings, with five large engines and furnaces, and complete machinery.

4. Pierces Foundry, Nos 1 and 2 - Each of these contained an engine, extensive machinery, and a large lot of tools.

5. Nitre Works - These works consist of eighteen buildings, five furnaces, sixteen leaches, and ninety banks.

6. Powder Mills and Magazine - Consisting of seven buildings, six thousand rounds of artillery ammunition, and seventy thousand rounds of small arms ammunition, together with fourteen thousand pounds powder.

7. Washington Works - Small iron works, with one engine.

8. Tennessee Iron Works - Containing two engines.

9. Phelan and McBride's Machine Shop, with two engines.

10. Horse Shoe Manufactory - Containing one engine; about eight thousand pounds of horse shoes from this establishment were used by our army.

11. Selma Shovel Factory - This factory contained one steam engine, eight forges, and complete machinery for manufacturing shovels, railroad spikes, and iron axle-trees for army wagons.

12. On the Alabama and Mississippi Railroad - One roundhouse, one stationary engine, and much standing machinery, together with twenty box and two passenger cars.

13. On the Tennessee Railroad - One roundhouse, with machinery, five locomotives, one machine, nineteen box and fifty platform cars.

14. In the Fortifications - One thirty-pound Parrot gun, four ten-pound guns, eleven field pieces, ten caissons, two forges, and five hundred rounds of fixed ammunition.

A portion of the guns destroyed in the arsenal were those captured on the fortifications at the time of the assault. The machinery, engines, and trunnions of the guns were broken before being burned.

The arsenal buildings were of wood, but with a few exceptions, the foundry buildings were of brick. Together with all other buildings enumerated these were completely destroyed, without firing other than public buildings. Several buildings were fired on the evening of the second instant, and quite a number of private dwellings were thereby consumed. This burning being done without authority, destroyed supplies which would have been useful to the army, and did no particular damage to the enemy.

I cannot estimate, in dollars, the value of the public property here destroyed; but all can readily see that the value in a mechanical, social, and war point of view is almost inestimable.

Respectfully submitted,


Brevet Brigadier-General Commanding Post,

Major E. B. Beaumont

A. A. General Cavalry Corps, M. D. M.