Major Hiram Hanchett - Old Cahawba Park, Alabama
Posted by: xptwo
N 32° 19.016 W 087° 05.745
16S E 490987 N 3575570
Quick Description: Major Hiram Solon Hanchett was a prisoner in the Confederate prison for Union soldiers in Cahawba, the first Capital of Alabama. His attempted escape and death are the subject of this historical sign.
Location: Alabama, United States
Date Posted: 4/21/2012 6:49:15 AM
Waymark Code: WME94C
Cahawba (also spelled Cahaba) was the first capital of Alabama from 1820 to 1825, when the government moved to Tuscaloosa after severe flooding. The town survived as the Dallas County seat and as a place for commerce such as the shipping of cotton on the Alabama River. As the town grew, more houses and businesses were established. The economy was based on river traffic until the railroad built a line to the city in 1859. Unfortunately, the Confederate government tore up the tracks to use them on a higher priority railroad.
In 1865, another flood led to the move of the county seat to Selma, and the area began its decline. By the late 1800s to early 1900s, many of the brick houses were dismantled to get the brick so for shipment to other places. At that time, used brick was much cheaper than new. By the 1930s, few structures remained. The area is now maintained by the Alabama Historical Commission, which continues to purchase land to preserve the site.
Located at Cahaba was a Confederate prisoner-of-war facility, which had been converted from a warehouse. Starting with some 660 men, the population grew to almost 3,000. The conditions were deplorable, but they still had a death rate of about 2%, low for prisons on both sides. It is popularly known as Castle Morgan. Sadly, many of the men who were released from the prison wound up on the Sultana river boat and lost their lives in that tragic event.
To reach the park from I-65 in Montgomery, take Highway 80 west to Selma for 48 miles. From Selma take Highway 22 west for 9 miles, turn left onto County Road 9 and follow the signs to park. The stone is located in a circle at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Vine Street. The address below if for the Welcome Center a few blocks away at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Cahaba Road.
The story of Major Hanchett is told in the text of the sign:
"Major Hiram Solon Hanchett
16th Illinois Cavalry - U.S. Volunteers
On January 20, 1865, Major Hanchett lead a daring, but unsuccessful escape from the military priso that was located on this spot.
He was then moved to the dungeon of the county jail, located on First North Street. In March the other Union soldiers were sent to a parole camp in Vicksburg. Hanchett was detained because the post commandant, Lt. Col. Sam Jones believed he was a spy.
In April when Federal soldiers attacked nearby Selma, the post commandant fled Cahaba, and the citizens of Cahaba freed Major Hanchett. Reputedly, Confederate soldiers under orders from Lt. Col. Jones returned to Cahaba, seized Hanchett while he was eating breakfast, took him from the town, and murdered him.
Major Hanchett's body was never found and lies today in an unmarked grave."
Group that erected the marker: Alabama Historical Commission
URL of a web site with more information about the history mentioned on the sign: [Web Link]
Address of where the marker is located. Approximate if necessary:
9518 Cahaba Road
Orrville, AL USA
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