Thursday, September 6, 2012
It was the twilight of the Confederacy in the spring of 1865. Federal armies were tramping throughout the southern states, burning, pillaging, and destroying anything of value, with little resistance from the remnants of the Confederate army.
In late March of 1865 Union General John T. Croxton was given orders to take his cavalry force of 1500 troopers to Tuscaloosa and "destroy the bridge, factories, mills, university, and whatever else may be of benefit to the rebel cause." Three hundred young men from the Alabama Corps of Cadets ranging in ages from 15 to 20 years old were all that stood before the invading force.
At the start of the war the University of Alabama converted to a military form of governance, with it's primary duty to produce new officers for the Confederate Army. The university soon became the "West Point of the South," supplying Confederate armies with 7 generals, 25 colonels, 14 lieutenant colonels, 21 majors, 125 captains, 273 staff and other commissioned officers and 294 private soldiers.
Near midnight, as lightning illuminated the stormy skies of April 3rd, the Commandant of the Corps of Cadets James T. Murfee called to battle his remaining 300 cadets with drummers at the guard house pounding out the "long roll". Excited young cadets quickly gathered into their formations next to the guard house and Rotunda. The President of the University Landon Cabell Garland supervised the cadets on his white horse.
Once formed, the Corps of Cadets marched down University Boulevard and met the Federal Sixth Kentucky Cavalry just east of the intersection of University Boulevard and Greensboro Avenue.
The Cadets formed a defensive line of battle in the street where a heavy exchange of fire ensued. But it was immediately clear that the Cadets were outmatched against the large Federal force. Bravely the Cadets held their ground until ordered to withdraw, going back to the University to gather supplies and leave Tuscaloosa heading south on the Huntsville Road. The night of April 3rd had been the Alabama Corps of Cadets last call to battle.