published Friday, March 25th, 2011

Siege at Bridgeport: Weekend re-enactment includes battles, anvil shoots

IF YOU GO

What: Siege at Bridgeport re-enactment.

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, with dance following at 7 p.m. and fireworks at dark; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, with church service preceding at 8:45 a.m.; battle re-enactments at 2 p.m. both days (all times Central).

Where: Williams family farm, County Road 255, off Highway 72, outside Bridgeport, Ala.

Admission: $5 adults, $3 seniors 55 and older, $2 children; free for children under 6 and active military personnel.

Phone: 256-495-3614 or 423-837-4041.

Website: www.siegeatbridgeport.com.

Note: Parking fees will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

For the 17th consecutive year, re-enactors will converge on the Williams family farm in north Alabama to relive and remember the historic Siege at Bridgeport, which took place in 1862.

The Siege has become the state’s largest Civil War re-enactment, drawing 1,500 participants who return to the farm to play a part in the live drama, according to organizers. Re-enactors come from as far away as Kentucky, Virginia, Florida and even England to take part.

The property where the event is being held has been owned by the Williams family for more than 175 years, having been given to the family by a land patent from Andrew Jackson on Sept. 4, 1834, said a news release.

The town of Bridgeport, founded in the late 1840s, saw quite a bit of action during the War Between the States. Its railroad bridge across the Tennessee River connected Alabama to Chattanooga and points both north and south.

The Confederacy controlled Bridgeport and its strategic bridge during the early part of the war. Confederate Brig. Gen. Danville Leadbetter commanded 450 troops to defend the city at a fort situated on Battery Hill 500 yards from the bridge. Federal forces seized Bridgeport in a fierce battle in April 1862.

With the Union controlling the bridge, Bridgeport became the major shipping center for troops and supplies going to Gen. William T. Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea.” The shipping route from Bridgeport to Chattanooga became known as the “Cracker Line.”

Saturday activities will begin with public camp tours at 10 a.m. CDT. Also planned are a ladies tea and the anvil shoot — a 100-pound anvil is shot more than 100 feet into the air — before the battles. The battle begins at 2 p.m. CDT and will last about an hour. A fireworks show will light up the sky just after dark.

An evening meal for re-enactors and a gala period ball, featuring Emmy Award-winning band Unreconstructed performing, conclude the day. The ball is open to the public, though period attire is requested.

Sunday’s festivities start with a church service and a memorial to the soldiers and former slaves buried in the Williams Family Cemetery, one of the older cemeteries in Jackson County. The anvil shoot again precedes the battle, which begins at 2 p.m. CDT.

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