|Sulphur Creek Testle near Athens, Ala.|
Located about 1.3 miles south of Elkmont on the Richard Martin Trail, a rails-to-trails project that was completed in October 2008, you’ll find this famous railroad trestle, which was the site of Alabama’s bloodiest Civil War land battle. When we arrived, we found a marker that provided lots of details about the site. What follows is the complete text from that marker.
“The Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle: Sept. 25, 1964: Look out across the tree-filled valleys and hills. Be aware of the silence, broken only by a woodland birdsong. Imagine it is 1864. Imagine you hear voices inside the fort directly to your front. A sergeant’s booming shout calls the soldiers of the Union infantry to formation. Others call out cannon drill routines. A guard scans the horizon as a piercing train whistle echoes through the forest. A federal military transport is coming down the track from Nashville. It is bringing soldiers and supplies bound for General Sherman near Atlanta. The soldier behind the parapet waves to the engineer, signaling ‘all is clear’ as the train rolls on.”
“From the forest beyond the garrison on a hill higher than the fort itself, two cannon blasts pierce through the crisp air. A staccato of gunfire breaks through the woods. A bugler inside the fort sounds the alert. Voices cry out, ‘Battle positions!’ Now shells slam into the fort interior. Soldiers scream as hot shrapnel flies in all directions. More cannons find their marks inside the walls. Commands are cut short as flashing shell shards kill another officer. Increasing gunfire and curses punctuate the smoke and haze. And then the weird wail of the ‘Rebel Yell’ resounds from the forest gloom. A sergeant shouts, ‘Get ready, men! Here they come!’”
“Now ever shell bursts in the fort. Death mows down any Union movement. The Stars and Strips fall over on a pole now shot to splinters. Command has fallen through the Union ranks as one leader after another is stunned, shot or killed. Waves of gunfire sweep across the embrasures, answered by desperate, well-aimed shots. Then, from amidst the surrounding Confederate soldiers, a treaty flag appears. The shooting stops. General Forrest offers to talk to the beleaguered Union commander. Forrest demands ‘Surrender!’ This was the bloodiest land battle on Alabama soil. Over 200 American soldiers died where you are now standing.”
If you visit the Sulphur Creek Trestle today, you’ll see that the original trestle no longer remains. Instead, years ago, workers filled in the original trestle, leaving only a stone tunnel that allows the creek to flow beneath the old trestle site. I’m guessing that by filling in the trestle, the railroad lowered maintenance costs over time.
Also if you decide to pay a visit to the Sulphur Creek Trestle, be aware that the site is supposedly haunted. In his book “Haunted Alabama Battlefields,” author Dale Langella devotes an entire chapter to the Sack of Athens, the Battle of Athens and Sulphur Creek Trestle. Also, members of the Alabama Paranormal Association reported visiting the site late one night in 2013 and recorded disembodied whispers and what sounded like someone saying “Help.”
In the end, how many of you have ever visited the Sulphur Creek Trestle near Athens, Ala.? What did you think about it? What other interesting Civil War sites would you recommend visiting? Let us know in the comments section below.