April 28 1862: Skirmish at Paint Rock Bridge

Alabama Civil War Timeline: April 28 1862
Skirmish at Paint Rock Bridge


Union Army general Joshua W. Sill (1831-1862)

The Skirmish at Paint Rock Bridge was an action fought between a Union Army detachment of 27 men guarding a bridge near Woodville, Alabama and a Confederate States Army cavalry detachment intent on destroying the railroad bridge on April 28, 1862 during the American Civil War.

Paint Rock Bridge Fight

Union Army brigade commander Colonel Joshua W. Sill reported that the men from the 10th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Arnold R. Chapin, who were under the immediate command of Sergeant William Nelson and Sergeant Augustus H. Makimson held off the Confederate force of 250 men for over two hours and killed 7 Confederates and captured 1 wounded Confederate soldier who told the Union men of the Confederate numbers and casualties. The action resulted in the Union maintaining control of an intact railroad line through the area.

Source: Wikipedia contributors, “Skirmish at Paint Rock Bridge,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,


Paint Rock Alabama Civil War Battles

There were four Civil War battles in Paint Rock. The first battle took place at the rail bridge on April 28, 1862. A 27-man detachment from the 10th Wisconsin Infantry was attacked by what they claimed were “250 rebels” aided by the citizens. Six union soldiers wounded and one Confederate was found dead and one wounded.

A second battle took place near the bridge on April 8, 1864, when 15 men from Company D, 73rd Indiana Infantry, fought a Confederate detachment they estimated at 40 men. One Union solider was killed and one wounded. While the Union claimed to have killed two Confederates and wounded three.

Confederate Major Albert J. Russell

Confederate Major Albert J. Russell

Russell’s 4th Alabama Calvary and Mead’s

John Bell Hood

John Bell Hood

Partisan Battalion clashed with the Federal rearguard near the bridge on December 7, 1864 in the Union retreat during Hood’s march on Nashville. Thirty-nine Union soldiers were reported missing in action.



The best-known engagement took place on the morning of December 31, 1864. Col. L. G. Mead surprised and captured Company G, 13th Wisconsin Veterans Infantry, by burning the bridge down and rolling cannon into the river.


Excerpt from: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies by US War Department:

APRIL 28, 1862.—Skirmish at Paint Rock Bridge, Ala.

No. 1.-Col. Joshua W. Sill, Thirty-third Ohio Infantry.
No. 2.-Col. Alfred R. Chapin, Tenth Wisconsin Infantry.
No. 3.-Sergt. William Nelson, Tenth Wisconsin Infantry.
No. 4.-Congratulatory order of Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, U. S. Army.

No. 1.

Report of Col. Joshua W. Sill, Thirty-third Ohio Infantry.


Camp Taylor, May 13, 1862. SIR: I beg leave to transmit herewith reports concerning a skirmish at Paint Rock Bridge on the night of tậe 28th ultimo, between 24 med of the Tenth Wisconsin Regiment and about 250 rebels, in which the enemy is reported to have lost 6 killed and several wounded. Our men had 6 wounded. This affair is one of the most brilliant of the campaign as regards personal bravery, and I trust will meet a proper reward. The conduct of Sergeants Makimson and Nelson, especially that of the former, merits the highest approbation. To their firmness and resolution we are indebted for still having the railroad in our possession to Bellefonte. Very respectfully, yours,



Colonel, Commanding Ninth Brigade. Capt. W. P. PRENTICE,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

No. 2.

Report of Col. Alfred R. Chapin, Tenth Wisconsin Infantry.


Paint Rock, Ala., May 13, 1862. SIR: In compliance with your request I forward you Sergt. William Nelson‘s report of the skirmisli at Paint Rock Bridge. By order I detached Sergeant Nelson and 15 men to guard this bridge. Lieutenant Harkness, posted at Woodville, with 20 men, learned through negro information that the bridge was threatened, and sent Sergt. Augustus H. Makimson and 10 men to re-enforce the guard at the bridge. After the fight my men found 1 of the enemy killed and 1 severely wounded. The wounded man reports that the enemy’s forces consisted of 250 cavalry, who dismounted to attack the bridge. He also stated that they had 6 men killed before he was wounded. All of my men agree in giving much credit to Sergeant Makimson for his coolness. When ordered to surrender he replied that he would not do it as long as he had a man alive. Although Sergeant Nelson had the command, from what I can learn I think the most credit is due to Sergeant Makimson. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

‘A. R. CHAPIN, Oolonel Tenth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. Col. J. W. SILL,

Commanding Ninth Brigade.

No. 3.

Report of Sergt. William Nelson, Tenth Wisconsin Infantry.

PAINT ROOK BRIDGE, May 8, 1862. SIR: It seems that you did not get my report of the affair with the enemy at this bridge on the night of April 28, 1862. I therefore send you an outline, knowing that you are cognizant of the general outline of the skirmish through hearsay.

On the night of April 28, 1862, the enemy’s cavalry, 250 strong, assisted by a number of citizens, made an attack on the guard at this bridge, for the purpose of driving them out and burning the structure. Their attack was continued for more than two hours, when they withdrew, having entirely failed in their attempts.



Sergeant Company I, Commanding. Col. A. R. CHAPIN.

No. 4.

Congratulatory order of Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, U. 8. Army.


No. 101.

Camp Taylor, May 20, 1862. The general commanding has received with high gratification the official report of the commanding officer of the Ninth Brigade of the defense of Paint Rock Bridge on the night of April 28, made by Sergts. W. Nelson, Company I, and A. H. Makimson, Company H, Tenth Regi. ment Wisconsin Volunteers, and the men under their command. The coolness, determination, and bravery displayed by the non-commissioned officers and soldiers on this occasion are worthy of the highest commendation. Attacked in the night-time by an overwhelming force, ten times their number, this handful of brave and determined men sternly refused the summons to surrender, sustained the enemy’s attack for more than two hours, and finally drove him from the field with a severe loss of killed and wounded.

Sergeants Nelson and Makimson are recommended to the regimental and brigade commanders and to the Governor of their State for promotion, and the soldiers who fought under them so heroically will not be forgotten. By order of Maj. Gen. O. M. Mitchel :

W. P. PRENTICE, Assistant Adjutant-General.

APRIL 29, 1862.-Action at West Bridge, near Bridgeport, Ala.

REPORTS, ETC. No. 1.-Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, U. S. Army. No. 2.—Brig. Gon. Danville Loadbetter, C. S. Army, with instructions from Maj. Gen.

E. Kirby Smith.

No. 1.

Report of Maj. Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel, U. $. Army.


Stevenson, Ala., April 29, 1862. The expedition ordered against Bridgeport, consisting of two companies of cavalry, two pieces of artillery, and six regiments of infantry, reached Stevenson on Monday (28th]. On that night the wires were cut and one of our bridges on the road attacked by quite a large force, and

a conflict ensued lasting nearly two hours. The guard at the bridge, 26 in number, commanded by a sergeant, repelled the enemy with success.

I deemed it my duty to proceed in person to Stevenson, and on this a. m. advanced, with four regiments of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, by the railway, to the burned bridge, within 4 miles of Bridgeport. There we met the enemy’s outposts. After driving them in making the impression that when we advanced it would be by the railroad—we suddenly threw ourselves across the country about a mile to the Stevenson and Bridgeport road, dragging our artillery by hand, reconstructing two bridges by the way, and advancing rapidly upon the enemy, with the view to his surprise. Scouts, while we were rebuilding the bridges and meeting the cavalry of the enemy on outpost duty, charged them so rigorously as to compel them to abandon the Bridgeport road, taking the route to Jasper. We were thus enabled to advance to within 400 yards of the enemy’s position on the other side of the bridge and take him completely by surprise. Our first fire emptied redoubt and breastworks, the enemy fleeing across the bridge with scarcely any show of resistance. Having been informed by a person who was in Bridgeport during the day that they were waiting for us with a force of 5,000 infantry and a regiment of cavalry, after opening our fire I deemed it proper to move with caution. The enemy attempted to blow up the big bridge; failing in this, he opened fire at the farther extremity. He then passed around and fired the draw-bridge in spite of the shells from Loomis guns. Volunteers, called out by myself, from the Second Ohio, Colonel Harris, rushed across the main bridge and saved it. So completely were the enemy surprised, that twenty minutes after the firing commenced a body of 40 or 50 cavalry came dashing through a wheat field in full sight, just below the bridge, supposing our troops to be there, and advanced within 400 yards. Our cavalry dashed after them while our artillery opened fire. How many escaped I do not know. Placing Colonel Sill in command, I left at 7 p. m. for Stevenson. Holding the main bridge, we can cross to the other shore whenever it be deemed advisable.


Commanding Third Division. General D. O. BUELL.

No. 2.

Report of Brig. Gen. Danville Leadbetter, 0. 8. Army, with instructions

from Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Šmith, O. 8. Army.


Chattanooga, Tenn., May 5, 1862. MAJOR: I have the honor to report that the enemy, 1,100 or 1,200 strong, advanced against Bridgeport on the 29th ultimo. My command guarding the bridges at that place consisted of 450 infantry of the newly-raised regiments (the Thirty-ninth and Forty-third Georgia), with 150 cavalry, employed only as scouts. The infantry was posted on the heights, in advance of the West bridge, about 500 yards distant, leaving a rear guard of 50 men near the bridge end and on either side of it, covered by musketry breastworks. Two iron 6-pounders (old


guns) had been placed in the position last named, but were withdrawn as soon as the enemy’s advance had developed itself as an attack. You are aware that a defense of the place by a small force was very difficult. The two bridges, with the high railroad embankment between thein, were a mile and a quarter long, extending in one straight line toward the heights before mentioned, and these heights were of far too great extent to be properly occupied and held by our forces. The enemy could advance in any direction on our front and flanks and cut off our troops from the bridge or else drive them to a disastrous retreat under a fire destructive to their only avenue of escape. To have placed our men at the bridge end and along the river bank would have been to subject them to a plunging fire from the heights, together with the disadvantages before mentioned. On the island, or at the east shore of the river, they would have occupied low ground, and been unable to protect the West Bridge against surprise and destruction.

Finding, at 5 p. m., that the enemy were near at hand, the two guns were moved on a platform car, and immediately after the troops were defiled across, the rear guard only remaining. At this time I crossed to the east end of the West Bridge, in order to see that everything was prepared for blowing up a span, and while examining the magazine within the bridge the enemy opened fire, apparently with a rifled gun and howitzer. Ascending to the roadway, I found the rear guard crossing the bridge at double-quick, and at the same time observed some 10 or 12 of our scouts at 600 or 800 yards southwest of the bridge end, hesitating to cross. After waiting a reasonable time, and finding that they had apparently decided not to move, I ordered the fuse to be shortened and fired. This was done by Lieutenant Margraves, of the Sappers and Miners, assisted by one man of his company. The charge which was exploded consisted of 200 pounds of powder in one mass; but from the difficulty of confining it the effect was not such as had been loped for, and the span did not fall. I determined, therefore, to carry out the spirit of your instructions and burn the East Bridge. With the assistance of Captain Kain, of the artillery, and Lieutenant Margraves it was soon in flames and impassable to the enemy. During the retreat of the rear guard and the burning of the bridge the enemy kept up a warm fire of shells along the line of the track, but, fortunately, with little effect. Only two of our infantry were hit and slightly wounded by fragments.

Finding that the enemy was advancing his guus upon the island and directing his fire toward our encampment, which had never been removed to the west bank, the tents were ordered to be struck and be prepared to move. This was an immediate necessity, and regarding the position there untenable, I determined to evacuate it. As the receipt of supplies depended on the integrity of the railroad track to Chattanooga and the road at several points touches the river bank, it would have been easy for the enemy to cross above us, destroy the track or bridges, or else plant his guns on the opposite side, so as to command the road, closing it to the passage of trains. We would thus have been compelled to retire perhaps across the mountain eastward, leaving the road to Chattanooga open. I preferred to retire to Chattanooga, disembarrassing ourselves of sick, wounded, and baggage; thence turning to a favorable point on the road and hold the enemy under observation, always hoping for re-enforcements. If he advanced, it was reasonably expected it would be with his whole force of 5,000 men. Being unable to find the telegraph or the operator, removed from

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Bridgeport in the retreat, and esteeming it my duty to communicate to you at the earliest practicable moment this movement of the enemy, I came up on the train of that evening, bringing up the sick, some men uufortunately wounded by a railroad accident, and about half of the command. A train was sent down for the remainder as soon as possible, and it brought up also the baggage.

Before the attack two old iron 6-pounders, of Kain’s battery, had been planted on the east bank, in the only place available, but yery difficult of access, and were abandoned under the enemy’s fire and the heat of the burning bridge.

The dispositions made occupied the 30th, and, as our whole force of 450 men composed the brigade of Col. A. W. Reynolds, then serving on court-martial, but naturally anxious to be in the field, I ordered him forward to Whiteside, a strong position, 14 miles toward Bridgeport, on the 1st instant. He was directed to obserre the enemy and to retard his advance if practicable.

In the mean time I had been advised by Colonel Glenn, under date of the 30th, at Dalton, that he would bring on his unarmed reginnent as soon as transportation could be procured, and he was confidently expected on the 1st instant. It was necessary to collect the arms belonging to the sick of the Thirty-ninth and Forty-third Georgia Regi. ments, and with them to arm Colonel Glenn’s command. This I undertook, with the purpose of moving on promptly to Colonel Reynolds’ support.

Colonel Glenn arrived on the 2d, and was soon arıned and supplied with ammunition, but the tenor of Colonel Reynolds’ dispatches during the day was such as to learl me to think it judicious to hold the regi. ment disposable, lest the enemy should move up on the west side and attempt to cross near Chattanooga.

About 10 o’clock that night I received from him the following dispatch: General LEADBETTER:

Sconts came in from Kelly’s Ferry, and reported, on reliable information, that the enemy, 5,000 strong, had crossed at Shell Mound.


Colonel, Commanding. I answered: If you are satisfied your information is reliable, barn all the bridges on the railroad and couutry roads, and fall back with your command to Lookout Mountain. I will meet you there with Colonel Glenn’s regiment.


Brigadier-General. The point indicated is close to the Tennessee River, where the railroad and all the country roads intersect each other. To this dispatch the colonel replied that he would move accordingly.

About 4 a. m. of the 3d we met there, and having selected the best line of defense, too extensive, however, for our force, I placed the men in position, and a bridge on the country road over Lookout Creek, in front, was burned. I also ordered the railroad bridge over the same creek to be burned as soon as our pickets should have come in. Colonel Reynolds then proceeded to town. This railroad bridge was actually not burned until late in the day, but I was on the mountain, and supposed that it had been destroyed early.

After receiving positive information, therefore, at 1 p. m. that the force of the enemy on this side of the river was small, the order for the destruction of the bridge was not couutermanded. It will be restored by means of trestle work in a few days.


The series of events thus related have excited the utmost indignation of a terrified people, and no abuse, whether of a personal or official bearing, has been spared me. Aware, as I am, that all the troops under your command were required at other points, and that you expected the approach of the enemy to be retarded in this quarter mainly by the destruction of the bridges, I shall endeavor to endure this storm of obloquy with such equanimity as may be vouchsafed to me.

On Saturday morning the enemy set fire to the West Bridge, at Bridgeport, and it was wholly destroyed. Soon after they evacuated the place precipitately, and at the last advices from Stevenson were hastening their departure from that point. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier General. Maj. H. L. CLAY,

Assistant Adjutant-General.



May 12, 1862. Respectfully forwarded. The small railroad bridge (connecting Chat• tanooga with the coal mines) referred to in the within report was immodiately reconstructed, and trains are now passing over it.

E. KIRBY SMITH, Major-General, Commanding.


Knoxville, Tenn., April 29, 1862. Be sure that you blow up or effectively burn the bridge before the enemy get to it. The farther side should be burnt by all means.


Assistant Adjutant-General. Brig. Gen. D. LEADBETTER,

Chattanooga, Tenn.


Knoxville, Tenn., April 30, 1862. GENERAL: The major-general commanding has been called off to Cumberland Gap in consequence of on attack on that point. He directs that you make the best defense in your power along the line of the Ten. nessee River. Troops have been ordered up from Georgia to re-enforce you. He thinks that if all the boats on the river are secured and a force displayed on this side the enemy will not venture to attack. Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Acting Aide-de-Camp. Brig. Gen. D. LEADBETTER,

Commanding Troops, Chattanooga, Tenn.



Knoxville, Tenn., May 12, 1862. GENERAL : Acknowledging the receipt of your report, dated May 5, of your operations at and near Bridgeport on April 29 and the sacceeding days, the major-general commanding directs that you will state whether or not the two pieces of artillery abandoned on the east bank of the river on the 29th ultimo fell into the hands of the enemy. You are also instructed to make a full report of the casualties which occurred at that time.* Respectfully, Four obedient servant,


Aide-de-Camp. Brig. Gen. D. LEADBETTER,

Commanding, Chattanooga, Tenn.