Memories by W. O. Perry
Submitted by John D. Apperson, grandson of W. O. Perry
The Selma Times Journal, Wednesday, November 2, 1927
In 1819 several families from near Columbus, Georgia, moved to the
eastern part of Perry County. Coming by way of Montgomery, through Autauga
County, by old Pearidge and Summerfield; they crossed the Ocmulgee Creek at
Greer’s Mill, now known as Melton’s Bridge, and settled in that part of the
county lying between Ocmulgee Creek and the Cahaba River.
Those families that I remember were the Dennis, Crawford and Perry families.
There were, perhaps others. Until their homes were erected, they camped near
where Ocmulgee Church now stands. This church was organized in 1822 at the
home of Jothan Beason. A log building was soon built. Their near neighbors
were Indians. The nearest whites were the Crow, Smith, Hopper, and Suttle
families at a few miles north and west.
The first jail in Perry County was on Perry Ridge two miles west of
Fike’s Ferry on the Cahaba River and was constructed of logs. The nearest
source of supplies was Moore’s Bluff where Selma now stands. On the spot now
occupied by People’s Trust and Savings Bank and Tissiers was the camp ground
where my father and grandfather camped with their neighbors and others when
they came to meet
the boats from Mobile.
My first recollection of Selma was in 1860. I went there with my
father, Col. Oliver Hazard Perry. All that part of Selma from the
Summerfield Road to Bakers Switch was under a rail fence and belonged to the
plantation of Mr. Platenberg. Most of it was planted in cotton. The part
between the Summerfield Road and Valley Creek was the plantation of a Mrs.
Cade. Only two homes were in that part of town then. The one at the
intersection of Lapsley Street and Jeff Davis Avenue, then known as the
Starkey-Jones house, and having the cannon ball hole in one of the columns.
And the house at the corner of Church and Jeff Davis now occupied by Mr.
Cooper. They look very much as they did then.
Some time in 1863, work was begun on the breastwork for Selma’s
fortification. The labor was all done by slaves. The natural embankment from
the river up Valley Creek to the intersection of Pettus and Gary Street was
The construction work began there and went by the oil mill and eastward to
the Range Line Road and from there to Beech Creek.
I spent one night in the camp on Beech Creek, having been sent there
with provisions for the members of my family and my father’s slaves. The
embankment was ten feet wide at the base and about seven feet tall. The dirt
was gotten at the base of the embankment, making a ditch for further
protection. It was topped by a picket fence.
Gen. Wilson said that Selma was the best fortified place in the entire
South; If it had just had the men to defend this fortification. The powder
magazine was a small brick house with one iron door, about where the
Methodist orphanage is now located The arsenal, the best the South had, was
in what is now Arsenal Place and the foundry was where the L. and N. station
is now. The shipyard was on the river bank under those oak trees just below
the railroad bridge. I saw a gun-boat put in the river there in April 1863
and carried to Mobile by a steam-boat called the Reindeer. There it was made
an iron clad boat.
The government stables were just outside the arsenal gate where the
Gulf filling station is now. Everything was transported about town by
The real work of the country was done by the slaves directed by a few
old men and the disabled soldiers. By their labor, the homes were supplied
with food and the soldiers fed. One-tenth of all we made was given to the
soldiers. I went with the wagons and carried provisions to the stations
provided for that purpose. We had to feed corn and other feedstuffs to the
beef cattle used by the army. At one time we fed as many as 1,100 Texas and
Missouri steers. The
Plantenberg field was the location of the stockade, or prison for the army.
It was about half way between the Selma University and the Cosby residence
on Broad Street. The walls were made by setting tall stakes deep in the
ground and having them extend ten feet tall, pointed at the top. On the
inside were tents for protection from the weather and a guard was kept on
the outside at all times. No one ever escaped.
Battle of Ebenezer
Near the close of the war in 1865 the battle of Ebenezer was fought on
Friday, March 31 at Stanton, 25 miles north of here. The two armies spent
Saturday moving southward. Chalmers went across the country to Sprotts and
crossed the Cahaba River. Boddie came down the Range Line road to the
Phillips Place, turned west to Summerfield and crossed the river (Cahaba) at
Fike’s Ferry. Forrest’s men scattered over the hills of Dallas and east
Perry to find food for themselves and their horses. I, with the help of the
negroes, fed 35 horses. My mother, with the help of the negro women, fed the
men on Sunday morning, April the second.
They then gathered at Kenan’s Mill and out the Summerfield road. There
were about 8,000 men. They went into Selma about 12 o’clock and placed their
horses under the bluff from Farrell’s well to the River with the old men and
boys of Selma and Dallas county. Forrest and his men went behind the
Then Wilson with 40,000 men appeared on the hilltop from the Summerfield
the Range Line road. I was near enough to hear the first gun fired by
Wilson said he was not ready, but had to press forward. The firing only
lasted until sundown. Forrest left a few men to fire the cannons until the
main body of his men got their horses and crossed Valley Creek. They burned
the bridge behind them and went that night back to Fike’s ferry where they
crossed the Cahaba.
The next day Wilson sent 5,000 men as far as the river, but found the stream
so high and swift from a rain that they decided not to cross. They camped
there that night and returned to Selma the next day.
My father, who belonged to the State Troops stationed at Mobile, had
been sent home because the doctors thought he had lung trouble. They told
him he was in such bad shape that the Union soldiers would not harm him, but
they compelled him to go with them and show them the way to the river. He
said Forrest’s men were so near on the other side he could hear the horses
The South’s Real Struggle
Then came the real struggle of the South. A Yankee army of 8,000 men
was stationed in Weavers Grove in that part of West Selma now known as
Lauderdale and Church Streets. It reached south as far as what is now
Parkman. This camp was a place of safety for any negro who wished to leave
the farm where he had been a slave or if he had committed a crime and gotten
there before he was captured, then he was in a safe place. However, we had
little trouble with them until the arrival of the Carpetbaggers. The result
of this rule is too well known for me to say more. However, I will mention a
few of the difficulties.
Free Negroes, and only poor or old stock were left; gin-houses burned. Many
white families had only bread gotten from the Yankee camps. It was no longer
safe for a grown man to go to the mill. Only the women went and were known
as corn-women. They usually went in ox carts, for if they had a mule or
horse able to make the trip, it would be taken from them. As a small boy, I
was sent along to drive the oxen. Often the corn was weevilly and hardly fit
For a long time Eaglehaimer had the only Jew store in Selma and sold
most of the goods. Phil Weaver had the largest store of his time. Just
behind Weaver’s was Becton’s near where the Episcopal parish house now is.
After the war, a campground for farmers was on this place. Soon after that,
Royston started a cotton yard with a camp yard in connection. The old hotel
on the river was known as the Gee House and later the Troupe House. The
Hotel Albert was started before the war, but was not finished. It’s doors
and windows were boarded up for a number of years. Some years after the
war, a stock company finished it.
Town Water Supply
The water for the use of the town was furnished by overflowing wells.
Some of these were in the middle of the streets. The streets were very
sandy, in some places four inches deep as at the intersection of Broad and
Water, which was the principal corner. The market house was in the middle of
Washington Street, with just room to pass on each side of it. The Vaughan
Memorial hospital was the public school building until the Dallas Academy
was built, then it was the county courthouse. The principal lawyers of my
boyhood were Jonathan and Hugh Harrelson and a Mr. Satterfield and a Mr.
Young. A blind man named Clash had the first bookstore that I recall. The
bridge was built in the years 1884-85. It was about this time that the first
gravel road was built by public subscriptions, using private teams. Cawthon
and Coleman’s drug store was in operation before that time and served as
headquarters for the road building. It was a wonderful service to the
country for we certainly had some bad roads.
In my youth, Summerfield was as fine a small town as you would find any
where in the state. Most of the families were wealthy farmers whose
families lived there to take advantage of the educational opportunities. No
more cultured or refined people were to be found anywhere. Among the
preachers were old Dr. H. H. Mitchell and Bishop Andrews. Professor Dr.
McVoy, was in charge of the female College. The medical doctors were: Dr. C.
B. Moore and Dr. Watkins Vaughan. The village blacksmith was John Johnson.
During the war, Mark Canning ran a shop for the Confederate government and
afterwards had a shop in Selma. Old Mr. Garrett was the postmaster and Mr.
Manerson was a shoemaker. The merchants of Summerfield were: Gregory and
Hawley and George Pettebone. Among the land and slave owners who lived in
Summerfield were Col. Bob Barker, Ben Harrison, L. C. Harrison, George
Swift, Ned Tate, Bob Moore, Tom Barker, Boykin Goldsby, and Lewis Davis, Of
the many well to do farmers who lived between Summerfield and Selma were:
Henry Martin, Jack Callen, Louis Moore, George Tate, Morgan Cleveland,
William Russell, John and Pink McIllwaine, Virgil and Alonzo Irvin, Bill
Wilson, Melvin Harris, Jim Ford, Dr. Jackson, Bill Roundtree, John Green,
Dan, Tom and Jim Kenan, Robert Morrison, and Prof. Marvin Callen. There was
a farmer named Boggs who lived north of Summerfield and was considered very
homely. One day a Tennessee horse-drover met him in the road. After looking
at him pretty hard, he said, “My friend, you are the very man I have been
looking for. You are the ugliest man I ever saw and I am going to give you a
mule. Just look this drove over and take your pick”. The farmer did so,
taking a dark gray one. He kept it until he was snow white.
The Selma doctors of that day were: Drs. Henry, Hendrey and Furniss.
Dr. Paisley was the dentist. The pastor of The First Baptist of the town
was Dr. A. G. McCraw. I heard him preach not long before his death and have
heard every pastor that the first church has had since him. The earliest
furniture man and undertaker was W. B. Gill, who also sold buggies and
wagons. Mr. Mullen ran the brickyard and Mr. Peacock had the iron works. A
Mr. Welch had a lumber yard. There were two cotton merchants: W. P. Welch &
Co., and Graham and Turner Vaughan. N. Waller and William Wailes had dry
good stores. Hobbs was the first jeweler that I remember, and by the way, I
have a clock bought from him in 1881. It keeps perfect time yet. It is the
regulator of our neighborhood. It will hardly vary five minutes in a year.
I have a copy of the Selma Reporter published September 10, 1852. Among
Selma’s older grocers were: Bowen and Lyman; Boyd and Vanderslice; Morton
and Hanner; Moot and Stell. Beard and Hunt had a livery stable and a Mr.
March and a man known as Uncle John Ramsey were early traders in Tennessee
mules. John Lockridge and Mr. Scott were merchant tailors. Bob Davidson and
Menzo Watson had the first fancy groceries; Gillman had the first cake shop
and Henry Noble the first tin shop. He made the first cook-stove that I ever
saw. Tissier was the gunsmith and Schields the harness-makers. Fred Young
sold the first sewing machine, a Grove and Baker. The first lamp we ever
had was bought from Mullen after the war.
Whatever cotton, that was not burned by the Yankees, sold for 50 cents
per pound. We had only two bales left because it was in a pen in the field.
Two Yankee officers burned our gin and 60 bales of cotton. They carried off
my very own black pony. I can’t love them yet.
I had two brothers in the army, Gates, who was killed at the siege of
Vicksburg, and L. J. Perry. L. J. Perry was in Arkansas when the war started
and was the first man to enlist in Co. A. First Regiment. He served nearly
the entire four years. He was wounded in Virginia in January 1865 and came
home. Drs Moore and Vaughan got him a place in the government stables in
Selma. He was not able to do field service as he was still on crutches. When
the battle line reached Selma, L.J. put the government mules and horses across the river
near Cahaba and saved them. He took a fine saddle horse belonging to Capt.
Burke who had organized a regiment of Summerfield men. On it, L.J. ran the
Northern lines and joined Forrest’s men across the Cahaba river from Fike’s
Ferry. He kept the horse until after the surrender when he returned it to
Family Notes Added:
W. O. (William Oliver) Perry, was the son of Oliver Hazard Perry and Lucy
Allen Glenn, and the grandson of Britton Perry and Mary Dennis. W. O. Perry
was born 1854, and died 1949. He was the father of Lottie Perry (Mrs. Green
Suttles) of Selma.
Jones Letter June 1864
Jones Letter June 1864
Colonel R. M. Cuyler, C.S. Army,
Selma Cannon Foundry, June 30, 1864
Dear Cuyler: We have been very successful with our guns lately, and the test guns indicated
that the endurance has been much increased. A VI-pounder was fire 21 times, commencing
with 2 pounds of powder and 1 projectile, and increasing 1 projectile each fire until the
sixteenth, when the gun was filled; at the seventeenth round 2 Y2 pounds and 13 projectiles,
increasing 1 for each round until twenty-first when the gun burst with 3 pounds and 14
projectiles. Two of the 6-pounders representing different kinds of Bibb iron, stood this test,
which I regard as very severe and consequently satisfactory. Other indications also tend to
increase our confidence in the guns of the Bibb iron. We have somewhat changed the
treatment. We use none of the second fusion, but break each pig and classify it and charge the
furnace with some of each. For example yesterday for a VII-inch gun, there was of No.1 5,500
pounds, of a low order of No.1, 6,000 pounds, and of No.2, 6,000 pounds, total 17,500 pounds.
The average being a low order of No.1, which is what we would prefer, it the furnace could
furnish us with it, but there is still great want of uniformity in the iron. Wood was used as usual
and from the time the fires were started till the furnace was tapped were seven hours and
thirty minutes. I have made some experiments with the Round Mountain iron, using one-
fourth of it with the Bibb, the test gun only stood ten fires, bursting with 2 pounds and 10
projectiles, which I estimate to be about one-fourth of the endurance of the others. I shall
make other experiments. I fired some of our VII-inch guns and projectiles at Fort Morgan about
a month since. These were remarkably accurate, and the projectiles very uniform in their flight.
I shall have a X-inch finished in a fortnight, weight 21,000 pounds, and expect to cast an XI-inch next weight 24,000 pounds. I could cast three guns a week and finish them if we had
blacksmiths to forge bands for them, but they can only make bands for one gun a week. Van Zandt has gone to Charleston after mechanics, you will probably see him on his return. If you can give him anything from your redundant stores, you will oblige and assist us very much. Unlike you we are badly supplied, as we have to depend upon the market. Simms vessel the Baltic is condemned.
Let me hear from you.
Yours very truly, Catesby ap R. Jones
Gen. Winslow’s Report
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-l 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 I 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 qf 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.
E. F. WINSLOW,
Diary of SGT W. S. Sanford, Company G, 4th Ohio Cavalry
Camp At Gravelly Springs.
From my diary—W. S. Sanford, Company G, Orderly Sergeant:
March 21st (1865).
Drew ten days’ rations. Dismounted men ordered to Edgefield, Tenn. (unarmed), Company G train guard.
Bugle at 3 a. m.. Saddled and left for the raid. Crossed the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Camped ten miles beyond first day.
Saddled at daybreak, rear guard of train. Marched only five miles. Camped eight miles from Frankfort; ‘part regiment on Lubion Road.
Passed Frankfort; camped beyond Russellville with the command, Company G being train guard. Fine country.
Crossed Bear Creek. Camped about twenty-five miles this side of Jasper.
Left camp at daybreak. Fourth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in advance. Made about twelve miles. Camped about twelve miles from Jasper. Country poor.
Up at 4 a. m. Our regiment in rear of brigade. Weather good.
Horses getting thin. Camped 8 p. m. Raining hard; boys wet, tired
and hungry; to bed without supper.
Lay in camp till 12 noon. Regiment went out for forage; very little corn gotten; horses looking bad. Passed through Jasper.
Forded Black Warrior. Very dangerous, rocky ford. One of Seventeenth Indiana drowned. Several horses lost. Crossed Locust Fork; camped two miles beyond. No feed for poor horses.
Had good night’s rest. Cold; disagreeable. Range of mountains ahead. Citizens tell hard tale of their suffering. Camped at Elyton. Plenty of forage for horses.
In rear of brigade. Fourth Division reported thirty miles ahead and had fight. Passed through Gap. Forded creek, deep and narrow. Crossed Catawba River on railroad bridge. Some horses killed. Some pack mules fell over. Several foundry furnaces destroyed. Camped about five miles beyond river. Plenty feed; good country. Reported hard fighting ahead.
Up at 5. Got forage at Montivello. Passed pine forest on forced march; saw several dead rebels and horses; fires burning in woods; some of the dead rebels burnt. Made big march—over forty miles. Camped twenty-eight miles from Selma. Lay on battle line all night. Fighting ahead by First Brigade. Unsaddled, curried our horses and saddled.
Left at daybreak. Second Brigade in advance, our regiment next to Third Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. Marched twenty-five miles in four abreast. Country is fine; plenty of everything. Arrived at the rebel works at Selma about 4 p. m. We charged the works, dismounted and carried them. Captain Robie, of Company G, killed at breastworks; Richard Tudor, Sergeant Cookson and one more. Four killed, five wounded of Company G. Only twenty-four men in charge; four men held horses. Colonel Dobbs killed. General Eli Long wounded. Took 2000 prisoners and thirty-one pieces of artillery.
Remained in camp at Selma. Plenty of feed and provisions.
Company G on picket. Funeral of our dead heroes. Unable to attend on account of being on picket. Colonel Minty commanding Division on account Eli Long wounded.
Remained on picket all noon. Command making pontoons to cross river on.
Wagon train came in with some pontoons. Captain Shoemaker commands regiment. Captain Smucker commands Company G. Big fire in town (blowing up arsenals—lasting all night.) (Arsenal fired on April 7th.)
Company G on picket; sent 19 men; Lieutenant Bonsai in command.
1 remained with wounded men. D. Osborn returned to Company (been scout).
Orders to leave camp. Pontoons finished. Lieutenant Bonsai still out on picket. I have charge of Company left until he gets back. Camped eight miles beyond Selma.
Company returned from picket at 10 A. M. Went foraging for horses. General Wilson congratulated on our ganllant deeds.
Captain Smucker with Company left 2 P. M. in rear train. All our wounded brought along who were able to leave. Rest left at Selma. Eli Long, Colonel McCormick, Colonel Miller in carriages. Camped about 3 miles out.
Third Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and our regiment in rear of train. Rebel Jackson harassing our rear. Camped about Benton. Very tired, boys all weary.
Up at 3 A. M. Wagon train goes very slow on account of bad roads. Camped 10 miles from Montgomery, Alabama.
Roads bad, left at daybreak; flag of truce came in, 1 Lieutenant and
2 men; result of same not known. Camped two miles this side of Montgomery.
Left at daybreak; passed through Montgomery, the first capitol of the Confederates; beautiful city, the old stars and stripes waving at the capitol, “Montgomery True Blues” on it. Several forts; did not see any breastworks. Camped in Columbus Road, 21 miles from Montgomery.
James Turpin Account