Tour to revisit Old Cahawba’s role in Civil War

Published 5:43 pm Saturday, March 19, 2016

A walking tour the first Saturday of April will revisit Old Cahawba’s role in the Civil War.

In the waning days of the war, flooding pushed the waters of the Cahaba and Alabama rivers over their banks and across the town of Cahawba. The rising water left more than 3,000 Union prisoners of war standing in knee-deep water for days.

When finally released, many made their way to Vicksburg, Mississippi and boarded the ill-fated Sultana. The steamboat sunk after three of the four boilers exploded on April 27, 1865. An estimated 1,800 of the ship’s 2,427 passengers, many Union soldiers headed home, died in the greatest maritime disaster in United States history.

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The walking tour will visit Castle Morgan, the Union prisoner of war camp at Old Cahawba and explore the plight of these soldiers as well as the residents who suffered while their husbands, fathers and sons were off to war, many never to return.

Though only measuring 15,000 square feet, Castle Morgan housed 3,000 Union soldiers by March 1865. It’s estimated as many as 8,000 to 9,000 Union soldiers passed through the prison.

Despite the cramped conditions, the prison had the lowest death rate of any Civil War prison camp. It’s estimated about 125 soldiers died at the prison. Many historians believe the low death rate was mainly due to the humane treatment of prisoners based on commanding officer and Methodist minister H.A.H. Henderson’s beliefs.

Many soldiers buried at Old Cahawba were moved after the war. However, one grave remains for the unknown Union solider.

The Saturday, April 2 tour will cost $8 per person. For more information, contact Linda Derry at or call the park at (334) 872-8058.

To reach Old Cahawba from Selma, take Highway 22 (Dallas Avenue) west for 8.6 miles. Cross over the Cahaba River and turn left onto County Road 9 and follow it 3.3 miles until it dead ends.

Then turn left onto County Road 2 and follow it for 1.5 miles until you see the welcome center on the right. The address is 9518 Cahaba Road, Orrville, AL  36767.