February 8, 1862
Lt. Seth Ledyard Phelps and three Union gunboats – the Tyler, Conestoga and the Lexington – traveled along the Tennessee River to Florence in the first Union invasion into Alabama during the Civil War. Phelps led his timberclads south immediately after the fall of Fort Henry in Tennessee to destroy military installations and supplies. The raid traveled as far as Muscle Shoals (the river’s navigable limit), destroyed an important Memphis & Ohio Railroad bridge, and captured several Confederate ships, including the Eastport, an ironclad under construction. In Florence, however, Phelps agreed to spare the town’s railroad bridge at the request of local citizens, noting that it possessed no military importance.
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.