This past July I was in Montgomery, Alabama for work meetings. Besides being the state capital, Montgomery is also the county seat for Montgomery County. Today, the city has a population slightly more than 200,000 -a significant increase from the 1860 census which listed its population as 8,800 which was a 400% increase over its 1840 population. The current state capitol building is the second building built for this purpose in Montgomery. The first capitol building burned to the ground and the new building was built on the same foundation. It was completed in 1851.(i) Built on Goat Hill, the state capitol would serve as the First Confederate Capitol after the original six Confederate states adopted their constitution on March 11, 1861. On February 18, 1861 Jefferson F. Davis was inaugurated the first Confederate president on the steps of the capitol building. Montgomery would remain safely in Confederate control until US Major General James H. Wilson captured the city on April 12, 1865 – three days after the surrender of CSA General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. The capitol, and its grounds, are beautifully maintained. Walking through the grounds, one can nearly feel they are back in Alabama during the 1860′s. There are many monuments scattered across the manicured lawns including one of Jefferson Davis. The inside of the capitol building provides an amazing step back in time. The senate and house chambers look much like they did in the 1860′s when the state was debating secession. There are plaques today, in both capitol wings, commemorating the secession conference.
After touring the capitol complex, I visited historic Greenwood and Oakwood cemeteries. I was very fortunate to have a personal guide at Oakwood Cemetery. Cemetery maintenance foreman, Phillip Taunton was gracious enough to guide me to all of the grave sites I had on my list – plus several which he recommended I would be interested in. Besides knowing the locations of all of the famous soldiers, officers and politicians, Mr. Taunton is a solid historian on all things Montgomery – especially the soldiers who fought for the independence of the Confederacy. I was able to pay my respects to several well known individuals including: William Lowndes Yancey, James T. Holtzclaw, Birkett D. Fry, William C. Oates and John C.C. Sanders. Other notables were: Colonel Jack Thorington and brigadier generals Tennent Lomax and James H. Clanton. Many thanks to Mr. Taunton for providing me a tour of beautiful Oakwood Cemetery.
If you find yourself in Montgomery, Alabama with some time on your hands, make sure to visit its historic cemeteries, the capitol complex and the First White House of the Confederacy.
To view my photo essay on Montgomery, Alabama, click HERE.
(i) See Captials of Alabama at Alabama Department of Archives and History.