Historic Site Near Stevenson

Historic Site Near Stevenson

By Marla Ballard


JACKSON COUNTY – The American civil war was fought from 1861 to 1865 and was one of the most intense battles fought on American grounds. As with all wars, it is a story written in blood. Over a dozen historic forts connected to this war are scattered across Alabama, one of these historic locations is near Stevenson.

 Fort Harker was a military fortification built by the Union Army during the American Civil War. (Not to be confused with Fort Harker in Kansas). The fort was built by soldiers and freed slaves who worked day and night to complete the project as quickly as humanly possible. Construction was completed in the summer of 1862 and expanded in 1864.

 Fort Harker was an earthen redoubt, a 150-foot square with walls 14 feet high made from rammed earth, surrounded by an 8-foot-deep dry moat. It contained 7 cannon platforms, and a wooden blockhouse at its center. Access to the fort was by draw bridge across the moat.

A redoubt (historically redout) is a fort or fort system usually consisting of an enclosed defensive emplacement outside a larger fort, usually relying on on earthworks, although some are constructed of stone or brick.

The fort was located a quarter mile east of town, overlooking Crow Creek, it was well within firing range of Stevenson’s railroad lines, supply depots, and warehouses. The Union position would prevent Confederate troops from using the railroads in the defense of Chattanooga and securing critical supply lines for the Army of the Cumberland.

Skirmishes and sniper attacks were common as territory traded hands between Union and Confederate forces. The fort also served as an important supply base for U.S. troops during the Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s.

The fort was named after Major General John Milton Harker, who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. In 1887, the fort was abandoned and all buildings were sold at auction. Today, little remains of the fort except for a few foundations and ruins. The location was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The site has been a city park since 1985, a wildlife observation platform has been built providing scenic views of nearby Crow Creek.

In addition to Fort Harker, the Union Army established a hospital and a refugee camp in the town. One other large fort, two smaller redoubts, and at least seven blockhouses were constructed along the railroad lines at Stevenson during the Civil War.

To attend a reenactment of a skirmish, follow on Facebook at “Skirmish at Fort Harker.” Fort Harker is located at Sawmill Road, Stevenson. For more information about Fort Harker visit the Stevenson Railroad Depot Museum open Monday – Friday 8 AM – 3:30 PM (256-437-3012).