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From: AlArchives <>
Subject: Al-Chambers Co. News (Rousseau's Raid)
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2004 21:31:54 -0400

Chambers County AlArchives News.....Rousseau's Raid May 17 2004
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Ron Williams July 18, 2004, 9:31 pm

Valley Times News: Past Times
Rousseau's Raid

In 1864, General Grant met with General Sherman to discuss the plan that
would "pierce the South's heart", which ended with Atlanta in ashes and
Sherman's infamous "March to the Sea". A smaller part of that plan included a
swift raid led by General Lovell H. Rousseau into Central Alabama to destroy
the railroad from Montgomery to Atlanta to cut off all supplies and food.

"Rousseau's Raid", which occurred nine months before the Battle of West Point
and the end of the Civil War, was fought in the heat of July, 1864. Rousseau
was ordered to avoid battle if at all possible and to destroy as much of the
railroad as he could.

"The rails and timbers from one side of the road were placed upon those on the
other," reported General Rousseau, "and fence rails and other combustible
materials piled on them, and fire applied. The dry pine burned so readily and
produced such an intense heat that the iron was warped and rendered worthless,
and the ties burned off where the track rested on them, making the destruction

This Roussea did as he headed seemingly toward Auburn, Opelika, through
Chambers County, and into West Point, GA. In preparation, the Chambers County
Militia was summoned, and among those brave men was Wilton Burton, who recorded
for us a humorous account of the preparations to meet the enemy.

"At the first news of the raid," wrote Burton, "all persons subject to military
duty within the county of Chambers were ordered to report forth with at
Bluffton (today's Lanett). This included all able bodied men between the ages
of sixteen and seventeen and fifty and sixty years, who constituted the county

"I received my orders one morning at two o'clock, and by sunrise was on my way
to Bluffton, with several friends and neighbors. We traveled in a two-horse
wagon and were provided with cooked rations for a week and an amount of baggage
that would have provoked the ridicule of any experienced soldier. We even had

"At noon we reached Bluffton, where in a shady grove, we found a motley
assemblage of old men and boys and mules and horses. This was the camp of the
Chambers County Militia, and as we entered in the noisy salutations of
acquaintances and the neighing of horses and braying of mules nearly deafened

"'What's the news from the Yankees?' was on every man's lips. But the latest
intelligence we could impart was that Rousseau had crossed the Tallapoosa River
and was advancing in the direction of West Point. This much we had learned from
a man who, the day before, had returned from a voluntary reconnaissance

At once the commanding officer of the militia issued orders that a scouting
party should be sent out to determine the size of the enemy, location, and
possible route. Burton and a man named, Dalton, were given charge of the two
best horses in the outfit and two double-barreled shotguns. They were stationed
on a road about two miles from town on a hill which would would afford a good
view of the enemy if they headed that way.

Their mission was to spot the Yankees. If this happened, Dalton was to fire his
weapon and flee with breakneck speed back to camp, while Burton was to retreat
more slowly keeping an ever-watchful eye on the enemy so that he could provide
a more detailed report of the enemy if and when he made it back to camp.

Several hours into the watch, just as the men expected, blue uniforms rounded
the top of a distant hill, and Dalton prepared to fire. He hesitated to make
sure that these men were enemy and that pause was worthwhile. At a second look,
it was discovered that most of the uniforms were gray. This was a group of
Confederates bringing in some Yankee Prisoners from North Alabama.

"(Upon returning) We found our camp in a state of utter confusion," continued
Burton. "Raw troops were taking their first lesson in guard mounting. They were
assisted, or impeded, rather, by an officious Englishman, who pretended to have
seen service in the Crimea, but who was really as ignorant of military
exercises as those whom he affected to instruct."

"'Heyes right! Horder arms! 'Old your 'eads up and don't look so sheepish.
Forward, march! 'Alt! You don't hanythink right.'"

"In the midst of the disorder, one of the shotguns, with which the guards were
armed, was accidentally discharged. No more serious effect resulted than to
nearly frighten the Englishman out of his wits."

Later, other scouts returned to report that Rousseau was destroying the
railroad at Auburn, just 28 miles away. This seemed to indicate that he was
indeed bound for West Point, and a rumor began to spread throughout the camp
that the militia should be sent to Opelike to meet the enemy. This excited the
youth among the group, but the old men swore not to step one foot across the
Chambers County Line. They were after all the "Chambers County" Militia.

The next day it was learned that the raiders had left the railroad and were
moving North, supposedly toward West Point.

"...The town was ransacked to find arms for us, and from an old armory, or,
more correctly, a hospital of disabled muskets, 25 stands were obtained and
issued. I got none," related Burton.

"'If you want a gun,' said one of my friends, 'just apply to any of these old
men.' I approached a group and quietly remarked that I should like very much to
have a gun. In an instant all the guns were thrust at me. I selected the best
one of the lot and returned to my companions. Others following my example, the
boys were soon in possession of all the muskets. We received five rounds of
cartridges apiece--the whole stock and store."

The 25 boys, under the command of Captain Phillips, took their positions behind
a half mile of breastworks ready to defend their country. Looking death in the
face, the gallant captain encouraged them, "Feller soldiers: The news has come
that three thousand Yankees air matchin' onto us by this road. They can't be
more'n three miles off, and they'll be right here in less'n a hour. The Georgia
Militia air on the other side of the river, but they refuse to come across the
state line to help us. I want you to realize how much depends on your courage.
I'm sorry your good captain can't stay with you; they want me back thar in the
r'ar. But you do your duty like men. Never let it be said that the Chambers
County Militia flinched from danger. Stand to the rack, fodder or no fodder."

Little did this brave band, with the Chattahoochee behind them, realize that
Rousseau had turned north about a mile south of Opelika with intentions of
reaching Marietta, Georgia. As the boys stood guard behind the breastworks that
long night, Rousseau's men camped in Lafayette and continued their way north
the next day, leaving a 30 mile path of the railroad in ruins. They never
reached Blufton.

In the night Ferguson's Calvary and the Georgia Militia joined the tiny band
behind the breastworks. Burton felt that "Rousseau, sniffing danger from afar,
bivouacked that night at Lafayette."

Burton and his comrades fell asleep at their post late in the night. "The tramp
of horses awoke us next morning, and we sprang to arms. But it was Ferguson's
cavalry. One jeeringly cried, 'Lie down, melish, I'm going to pop a cap.'" And
so ended the account of the Chambers County Militia and Rousseau's Raiders.

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