Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle

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Battle of Sulpher Creek Trestle
Part of the American Civil War
Date September 23, 1864 (1864-09-23)-September 25, 1864 (1864-09-25)
Location Limestone County, Alabama
Morgan County, Alabama
Giles County, Tennessee

34°54′34″N 86°59′17″W / 34.90936°N 86.98814°W / 34.90936; -86.98814Coordinates: 34°54′34″N 86°59′17″W / 34.90936°N 86.98814°W / 34.90936; -86.98814
Result Confederate victory
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
Wallace Campbell
Jonas Elliott
W. H. Lathrop
George Spalding
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Units involved
110th USCT
102nd Ohio Infantry
18th Michigan Infantry
111th USCT
4th Cavalry Division
Cavalry Corps, Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana
2,350[1] 4,500[2]
Casualties and losses
2,350[1] 139[3]
Map of Athens Battlefield core and study areas by the American Battlefield Protection Program.

The Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle, also known as the Battle of Athens, was fought near Athens, Alabama (Limestone County, Alabama), from September 23 to 25, 1864 as part of the American Civil War.[4]

In September 1864, General Nathan Bedford Forrest led his force into northern Alabama and middle Tennessee to disrupt the supply of William Tecumseh Sherman's army in Georgia.

The battle's site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.[5]

Athens (September 23–24)[edit]

On the afternoon of the 23rd, Union forces engaged Confederate forces five miles north of Athens, which were destroying a railroad trestle. Forrest's Confederate forces moved towards Athens. That evening the Confederate forces gained control of the town, and the Union forces had retreated within Fort Henderson.

The Confederate forces began an artillery barrage on the morning of the 24th. In a personal meeting, Forrest convinced the Union commander, Colonel Wallace Campbell, that the Confederate forces numbered 8,000-10,000. Campbell surrendered the fort and its garrison around noon.

Shortly after the garrison had surrendered, reinforcements consisting of about 350 men from the 18th Michigan and 102nd Ohio, commanded by Jonas Elliott arrived by train from Decatur. After suffering casualties of one-third their total personnel, these forces surrendered.

Sulphur Creek Trestle (September 25)[edit]

After defeating the Union forces in Athens, Forrest moved north along the railroad with the intent to destroy a strategic trestle at Sulphur Creek, six miles north of Athens. A fortification, two blockhouses, and a force of 1,000 Union soldiers defended the trestle.

On the morning of the 25th, the Confederate forces began an artillery bombardment of the fort. The fortification had been built below the summits of adjacent hills, and thus provided little defense against the bombardment. 200 Union soldiers were killed, including the commander, Colonel William Hopkins Lathrop. By noon, George Spalding had surrendered the remaining 800 soldiers.[6] There were no reported Confederate losses.[3]


The Union prisoners were transferred to Confederate prisons. Many of these prisoners died on April 27, 1865, when the steamboat Sultana sank while transporting them home.


  1. ^ a b [1][2]
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-01-09. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  3. ^ a b eHistory at OSU | Online Books | The Official Records of the Civil War
  4. ^ The National Park service considers the engagements at Battle of Athens, September 23–24, and the Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle, September 25 to be one battle Update to the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields - State of Alabama.
  5. ^ National Park Service (July 9, 2010). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  6. ^ Sulphur Battle