General James Wilson

After purchasing the Bibb County Ironworks in 1863, the Confederate States of America spent large sums of money expanding and improving the works. The rolling mill was completed and had a daily capacity of ten tons. A new, larger forty foot furnace was added near the site of the original stone stack, and at some time, a small gauge railroad was constructed connecting the rolling mill and main line of the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad to the furnace site two and one-half miles to the west.

The entire area seemed to teem with industrial life as the region became the industrial giant of central Alabama. During this time the Bibb works continued to supply iron for the unquenchable Selma foundries during through the summer and fall of 1864 and the winter of 1865. Eventually over one hundred large naval Brooke cannons would be produced in Selma exclusively with Brierfield iron.

Although producing the finest iron in the Confederacy, the Bibb Naval Furnace days were numbered.  On March 22, 1865 Major General James H. Wilson, a twenty-seven year old from Shawneetown, Illinois, along with over 13,000 troopers left Gravely Springs on the Tennessee River “to destroy the Confederacy’s power to make war.” Torching everything of military significance in its path, the army, on March 30, entered Montevallo, ” a pretty little town” with “a fine college building and some good looking women who contrary to the prevailing fashion dressed well.”

Fredrick Benteen

The next morning the Tenth Missouri Cavalry, commanded by Col. Fredrick Benteen, was given the chore of destroying the Bibb County Ironworks. Captain Charles F. Hendricks, a German born farmer was there and wrote:

“March 31. At Sunrise the 190th Mo. was in the saddle and by itself underway on a mission of destruction. We marched out through the town of Monte Valley, a small affair though wisly situated in a beautiful valley. Shoal Creek runs through it and forms a little island near the bridge over which we crossed. The R. R. touches the place, and we found plenty of corn in the depot. We reached the extensive ironworks, sawmills and rolling mills about five miles from town and applied the torch. Here the enemy showed himself but was driven off without trouble.”

For some reason the 10th Missouri spared the worker’s houses and the stables at the Bibb works and some of the workers remained. By November, Company K of the Thirty Fourth New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Commanded by Charles H. Seaman was on duty at Brierfield and the Bibb County Iron Company was a conquered and occupied ruin.

History of Bibb Furnace – The Post-War Years>>>