The Battle of Columbus (or Girard)
This massve gun from the CSS
Jackson was captured during the
Battle of Columbus, Georgia (Girard,
Chaos on 14th Street Bridge
Troops of both sides mixed in the
darkness as they surged across into
Columbus. The modern bridge is
part of the Riverwalk.
The Battle of Columbus, Georgia (Girard, Alabama)
THE BATTLE OF COLUMBUS
Columbus, Georgia & Phenix City, Alabama
|The Battle of Columbus, Georgia
The 1865 Battle of Columbus - also called the
Battle of Girard - was the last major land battle of
the War Between the States (or Civil War).
Civil War's Last Major Battle
The Battle of Columbus - also called the
Battle of Girard - was the last major land
battle of the War Between the States (or Civil
War). It took place in Phenix City, Alabama,
and Columbus, Georgia, on April 16, 1865.
Although there was an encounter later at
Palmitto Ranch, Texas, and fighting even
later in Alabama, the attack on Columbus,
Georgia, was the last large-scale battle of the
war. It is studied by military officers to this day
as a classic example of the confusion
caused by night-time fighting.
By April of 1865, Columbus was the last
surviving industrial city in the South. A major
center for military manufacturing, it was also
the home of significant naval construction
facilities where the new ironclad C.S.S.
Jackson was nearing completion.
The Confederate military had ringed the city
with trenches, breastworks and earthen forts
in anticipation of the inevitable attack they
knew the Union army would launch to take it.
Although Columbus is located in Georgia,
most of these fortifications were constructed
along a semi-circular ridge on the Alabama
side of the Chattahoochee River. The area
was then known as Girard, but is now part of
Phenix City. This placement of defenses
allowed the Confederates to defend the
bridges over the river and prevent an enemy
force from using the high ground to place
guns and bombard the city. Unfortunately for
the Southern forces, however, the Girard line
was much too long to be defended by the
number of men on hand.
More than one week after the surrender of
Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia,
Confederate Major General Howell Cobb
was commanding in Columbus when he
learned that a Union army under Major
General James H. Wilson had taken
Montgomery, Alabama, and was advancing
east on Columbus.
Cobb's total force consisted of around 3,500
men of varying degrees of experience. Some
were seasoned regular soldiers, but many
others were laborers from the naval works
and military factors. Local militia troops were
also present. Realizing that the moment of
crisis was at hand, he ordered them into the
Girard fortifications and prepared for the
The Battle of Columbus took place on Easter
Sunday, April 16, 1865. At around 2 p.m., the
Union brigade of General Andrew Alexander
(Upton's Division) passed through a lightly
manned section of the Confederate
defenses and tried to capture the "Lower" or
Dillingham Street Bridge leading into
downtown Columbus. He was driven back in
a sharp encounter.
While the Federals waited for more troops to
come up at Columbus, a second part of
Wilson's army attacked and captured Fort
Tyler in a bloody battle upstream in West
Point, opening a way across the
With the bridge at West Point taken, this
second column crossed the river and moved
for LaGrange. The main body, meanwhile,
prepared for a daring night assault that
continues to be studied today for the insights
it gives of the confusion of night fighting.
By around 8 p.m., enough troops were on
hand to launch the final attack on Columbus.
The assault came from the northwest, via the
Summerville Road. General Cobb had
ordered his troops into the fortifications there,
but the Union attack came at around 9 p.m.
after darkness had fallen across the
battlefield. Federals from the 3rd Iowa and
10th Missouri Cavalry Regiments stormed an
advanced line of Confederate works.
Thinking they had captured the main line,
Union officers ordered two companies of
Missourians to take the "Upper" or 14th
Street Bridge leading into Columbus. These
men charged through the darkness and
succeeded, only to find that they were
isolated from their own men and behind the
The Confederate main line now opened on
the Federals holding the advanced line with
artillery and musketry, illuminating the night
with the flashes of gunfire and explosions of
shells. The Federals charged again, cutting
through the main line, and pushing on to the
The Confederates had positioned two
cannon on the east bank to fire across the
bridge, but the Federals were so mixed in
with retreating Confederates that the men in
charge of the cannon declined to fire. The
Union troops stormed across and by 10 p.m.,
Columbus had fallen and the last major
battle of the Civil War was over.
The battlefield can be explored today at a
number of sites around Columbus, Georgia,
and Phenix City, Alabama. The ideal place to
start is he National Civil War Naval Museum
which preserves the remains of the CSS
Jackson and the CSS Chattahoochee. The
Motte House and 14th Street Bridge along
the Riverwalk were the scenes of fighting, as
was the courthouse in Phenix City and
nearby Summerville Road.
Some of the dead from the battle are buried
at Linwood Cemetery in Columbus.
Traces of Southern forts still exist on
private land in Phenix City. Some can
be seen from city streets just off
Attack on Summerville Road
Markers interpret different parts of
the battle, including the critical night
attack down Summerville Road. The
assault split the Confederate lines.
Confederate Battery Site
A marker points out a battery site on
the front lawn of the Russell County
Courthouse in Phenix City, Alabama
The town was called Girard in 1865.
|Copyright 2011 & 2015 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: April 10, 2015
Battlefields of Georgia