It’s almost time again for the annual reenactment of the Siege at Bridgeport Civil War Reenactment, an event which remembers the historical part the City of Bridgeport played in the war between the states and the skirmishes that were considered a Union victory back in April of 1862.
Now, nearly 154 years later, the historic Siege at Bridgeport has become the largest Civil War Reenactment in Alabama. Each year, about 1,000 reenactors converge on the small, rural community to pay homage to the much-disputed region during the Civil War. This year is the 24th anniversary of the reenactment, which will be held March 23rd – 25th, 2018, at one of the sites in Jackson County just outside of the Bridgeport City Limits off Highway 72 on County Road 255.
Bridgeport, Alabama played an important part in the war for many reasons. Bridgeport was founded in the Tennessee Valley in the late 1840’s and the community became a hotbed of activity during the War Between the States. A key railroad bridge spanned the Tennessee River at Bridgeport connecting Alabama to Chattanooga and points north and south.
During the early part of the war, the Confederacy controlled Bridgeport and its strategic bridge. Confederate Brigadier General Leadbetter commanded 450 troops to defend the city at a fort situated on Battery Hill approximately 500 yards from the bridge. In April of 1862, Federal forces seized Bridgeport in a fierce battle that lasted over an hour. Union General Mitchell led more than 5,000 troops into Bridgeport forcing General Ledbetter to retreat toward Chattanooga.
Over the remaining years of the war Confederate troops unsuccessfully attempted on numerous occasions to regain control of Bridgeport, but with the Union controlling the bridge Bridgeport became the major shipping center for troops and supplies going to General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea”. The shipping route from Bridgeport to Chattanooga became known as the “ Cracker Line.”
At this year’s event, Friday morning March 23rd will begin with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce breakfast at 7:30 AM CDT, catered by the Bridgeport organization, C.U.B.B. J.P.
Parsons with the Chamber will present a program of photographs of the Siege taken by the Library of Congress. Friday is also a special day reserved for educating children from Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia about the war. Each year more than 1,000 children take a field trip to Bridgeport to watch demonstrations and learn about the life of soldiers during the Civil War. The reenactment teaches children what life was like during wartime – and there wasn’t anything “civil about it”. “We want today’s generations to realize what conditions were like and what our forefathers endured to secure the freedom we enjoy today,” said Glenn Hill, one of the organizers of the event.
On Saturday and Sunday, March 24th and 25th, the actual Siege at Bridgeport reenactment will take place, located just outside the city limits of Bridgeport on County Road 255 — if you’re using a GPS, put in the following address: 2361 County Rd 255, Bridgeport, AL 35740.
Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Children under 6 are admitted free of charge. Senior citizen admission is $4 for spectators 55 years of age or older. Active military personnel is admitted free. Handicapped parking is available. Public camp tours begin at 10:00 AM CDT.
Day one (Saturday) includes a ladies tea and the anvil shoot before the battles. The anvil shoot is one of the popular events at the reenactment and begins at 12 Noon CDT each day. A 100-pound anvil is shot over 100 feet into the air. The battle begins at 2:00 PM CDT and will last about an hour. Drawings for prizes will be given away to spectators each day.
On Saturday night, the renowned band “5th Regimental” from Tuscaloosa, AL will be performing at the evening ball and social event. While the ball is open to the public period attire is requested for those in attendance.
Sunday’s festivities start with a church service and a memorial to the soldiers and former slaves buried in the William’s Family Cemetery, one of the older cemeteries in Jackson County. The anvil shoot again precedes the battle which begins at 2:00 PM CDT. Reenactors will travel from as far away as Kentucky, Virginia, Florida and even England to take part in the Siege at Bridgeport. All participating reenactors adhere to strict authentication guidelines, foregoing modern conveniences to sleep in tents and even on the ground to accurately portray life during the war.