The Steamer Magnolia as she appeared in the London Illustrated News of May 4, 1861. Before the Civil War, the Magnolia was in the Upper Tombigbee-Mobile trade. During the war she became a transport steamer as part of the Confederate Tombigbee Squadron at Demopolis. Photo by: Courtesy photo
-Two weeks ago I wrote of the poem the Blue and the Gray and Friendship Cemetery on the banks of the Tombigbee River. I quoted the beginning verses of the poem:
"By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron have fled."
I have heard that verse questioned for little has been written or said about the Civil War and boats on the Tombigbee. However, there was activity on the river and "Surrender of the Rebel Fleet on the Tombigbee River" was a headline in the May 23, 1865, New York Herald.
Commercial steamboat traffic on the Tombigbee River, between Columbus or Aberdeen and Mobile, was all but ended by the Civil War. The winter high water of 1859-60 saw nine different steamboats making 53 trips from Columbus to Mobile. Then in 1861 the Civil War erupted.
During the 1861-62 winter season only two boats, the William S. Barry and the Lily, were left in the Aberdeen commercial trade. Two additional boats, the James Dellet and the Georgia Sykes, were in the Columbus trade. By the 1862-63 season, only six steamboats made 10 commercial trips to Columbus and none to Aberdeen.
Steamboats still traveled the Tombigbee but they had become Confederate military transports. The steamers Warrior, Cherokee, Gen. Robert E. Lee, William S Barry, Reindeer, Alice Vivian, Lily, Marengo, Waverly, Magnolia, Ariel, Black Diamond and Cremona, all of which had been in commercial trade on the upper Tombigbee, had begun transporting military personnel and goods.
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