COLUMBIA, S.C. – Selma, Alabama, is remembered today as a critical battleground of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the city’s name alone evocative enough to serve as the title of a film about that struggle.
But a century earlier, it was a heavy manufacturing center that produced the sinews of war for the Confederacy, making control of the city a pivotal issue in the Civil War.
Bill Lockridge, a researcher and writer who has studied the role of Selma in that war extensively, will speak on the subject on Friday, Aug. 31, at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. The noon lecture, part of the museum’s Lunch and Learn series, is free and open to the public.
“Selma played a role in the war that has gone largely unrecognized,” says Lockridge. “It was probably the most significant center of manufacturing, shipbuilding, transportation and logistics in the trans-Chattahoochee,” a term he uses to describe the Western theater between the Georgia-Alabama border and the Mississippi River. The area, he says, “is where the war was lost” by the South.
As it became less viable for the Confederacy to produce arms in the East, Selma became more and more important to the war effort. Selma became a source of all kinds of weapons, ammunition and other strategically critical materiel. Compared to Richmond, Va., Selma was relatively secure, with ready access to iron and other raw materials, and was well protected by geography.
Under the direction of naval hero Catesby ap Roger Jones, the naval works at Selma produced a wide variety of artillery pieces, including the famous Brooke gun. “The Selma guns were the finest anywhere in the world, period,” says Lockridge.
Selma also built four ironclad ships, including CSS Tennessee, which would play a central role in the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Another product of the Selma works was a “truly submersible submarine” powered by a steam engine as well as a hand crank, a leap forward from the human-powered Hunley.
Lockridge has been studying Selma’s war role since 2004. Initially it was a hobby, but over time it evolved into a full-time research effort, resulting in the publication of a book. Lockridge has become a key resource on the subject for historians.
About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum
Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.