Baldwin County, Alabama Genealogy

Baldwin was originally carved out of Washington by an act of the Mississippi Territorial legislature, dated December 21,1809. As then organized, it lay west of the Tombikbee (except a portion of the lower part of the fork); south of the 5th township line, north of the parallel 31°, and east of the boundary line of Mississippi; and the courthouse was at McIntosh’s Bluff. By an act of the first legislature of the State all the country south of Little river, as far east as the line between ranges seven and eight, and north of the parallel 31° was added. By an act of December 14, 1820, the portion of the country lying west of the Tombikbee, Mobile, and .Alabama rivers was divided between the counties of Washington, Mobile, and Monroe; while all that part, of Mobile county east of the bay was added to Baldwin. And this has since been its area, except the portion set apart to Escambia in 1869. It was named to honor Abraham Baldwin, the Georgia statesman. [1]Abraham Baldwin was born in Connecticut in 1754. He came to Georgia at the age of 28 years, and represented the State in the convention that framed the federal constitution. From 1789 to 1807, when … Continue reading

Its area is over 1600 square miles, which makes it larger than the State of Rhode Island, and the largest county in the State. In 1870 Baldwin had 4919 acres of improved, and 78,232 acres of unimproved farm lands; having a cash value of $140,550; and an estimated value of the farm productions in 1869 of $81,210. The live stock of the county was valued at $124,137 in 1870, and consisted of 374 horses and mules, 8091 neat cattle, 3724 sheep, and 2745 hogs. The productions in 1869 were 31,025 bushels of Indian corn, 19,428 bushels of potatoes, 2500 pounds of rice, 2906 gallons of molasses, 4870 pounds of butter, 87 bales of cotton, 9864 pounds of wool. The population is thus exhibited 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 Whites 667 651 965 1161 2100 3585 3159 Blacks 760 1062 1359 1790 2308 3854 2845 The commercial facilities of the county are excellent. The Mobile, Perdido, Alabama, and Tensa Rivers and Mobile Bay afford an extensive water front; and the Mobile & Montgomery Railroad traverses it obliquely from east to west.

BLAKELEY, the seat of justice, is a small village, laid out in 1814, incorporated in 1820, when the courthouse was erected here, and named for its- founder, Josiah Blakeley. It was made a port of entry in 1820, and for several years threatened to eclipse Mobile in trade and growth. During the war between the States it was fortified by the Confederates, and sustained a memorable siege in April 1865, an account of which is given below. Stockton and Montgomery Hill are small villages. The shore of the bay is dotted with cottages and hotels, used by many as a summer resort. The county is a vast pine forest, with numerous lumber mills. It exports more lumber than any other county in the State. The surface is undulating or hot, and the soil light; susceptible, however, of being fertilized. There is much overflowed and swamp land, which could be utilized at no great cost.

Baldwin has an eventful history. The armies of Bienville, Galves, Packenham, Jackson, Weatherford, and Canby have bivouacked on her soil. In the northern part of the county, a mile east of the Alabama river, two miles below the cut off, as Nannahubbee River is generally called, and near the present village of Montgomery Hill, occurred the most shocking massacre ever committed by the Indians within the limits of the United States. The indians, highly incensed at the attack made on them at Burnt Corn, July 27, 1813, resolved to avenge themselves on the Tensa and Tombikbee settlers. About 1000 warriors assembled from the different towns on the Coosa and Tallapoosa, and took a southwestward path, led by Peter McQueen, Josiah Francis, and William Weatherford. The settlers east of the Alabama, many of whom were half-breeds, had built a stockade around the dwelling of David Mims, and, in view of the war which had begun, had crowded, into it with their families, slaves, and personal effects. When Gen. Claiborne reached Mount Vernon, he sent 190 Mississippi volunteers to the place, with orders to their commander, Major Daniel Beasley, to strengthen it. This was done, and the stockade was made to enclose about an acre of ground; but the garrison was greatly weakened by detachments sent off to man two or three neighboring defenses. The settlers within Fort Mims, however, organized themselves into a company of about 70 men, under Captain Dixon Bailey, a half-breed native of Autossee, who had been educated in Philadelphia. The distance to the Indian towns, and the repetition of false alarms, lulled the inmates of the stockade into a dream of security. A black who had been captured by the advancing foe on the plantation of Mr. Zachariah McGirth, just below the present town of Claiborne, escaped, and brought the news of their approach; but within a day or two the story was discredited, for the scouts brought no such information. August 29, two young black men, who were herding cattle near the fort, rushed into it; and told a breathless tale of twenty-four painted warriors whom they had counted. A detachment of mounted men were at once sent to the spot, with the blacks as guides; but no signs of the stealthy enemy were visible. One of the blacks was flogged for spreading a false alarm; but the owner of the other, a Mr. Fletcher, refused to permit his slave to be so served, because he believed his report; whereupon Major Beasley ordered him to leave the stockade with his family and effects by the next morning at ten o’clock. The other black that had been flogged was sent, out again the next morning to attend the stock, and again saw a body of Indians; but, being afraid to carry the report to the fort, fled to Fort Pierce, two miles distant. In the meantime, Fletcher’s slave, by the reluctant consent of his master, was tied up, and the lash about to be applied to his back; the officers were preparing to dine; the soldiers, were reposing on the ground; some of the settlers were playing cards; the girls and young men were dancing; while a hundred thoughtless and happy children sported from door to door and from tent to tent. At that awful moment, 1000 Creek warriors, extended flat upon the ground, in a thick ravine, 400 yards from the eastern gate, thirsted for American blood. No eyes saw them but those of the chirping and innocent birds above them. The mid-day sun sometimes flashed through the thick foliage, and gleamed upon their yellow skins, but quickly withdrew, as if afraid to longer contemplate the murderous horde. There lay the prophets, covered with feathers, with black faces, resembling those monsters which partake of both beast and bird. Beside them lay curious medicine bags and rods of magic. The whole ravine was covered with painted and naked savages, completely armed. The hour of 12 o’clock arrived, and the drum beat the officers and soldiers of the garrison to dinner. Then, by one simultaneous bound, the ravine was relieved of its savage burden, and soon the field resounded with the rapid tread of the bloody warriors. Not a soldier was at his post, and the sudden approach of the dreaded enemy created the completest disorder. Major Beasley rushed to the half-open eastern gate, sword in hand, to close it; but the savages met him there, struck him clown, and poured into that portion of the fort which was divided from the main portion by an interior line of stockade. Other bodies of them took possession of the portholes on other sides of the fort before the soldiers got to them, and began a destructive fire upon the inmates. But Captains Bailey, Middleton, and Jack, Lieutenant Randon, and James and Daniel Bailey, soon got their men behind the pickets or in the bastions and buildings, and opened a spirited fire. The conflict now raged with great intensity, and the fiercest passions of the combatants were at their deadly work. The women and boys within the fort exerted themselves, the former in bringing water and ammunition, and the latter in fighting courageously. But the clearing was covered with the savages,. whose ear-piercing yells and exultant shouts added terror to the scene. Such a dim was there, As if men fought on earth below And fiends in upper air. Capt. Bailey cheered the defenders with his voice, and by his heroic conduct. He tried to induce some one to rush through the lines to get succor from Fort Pierce, but none would go; and, when he was about to start, the people prevented him. The prophets cheered their people by frantic gesticulations, and wild songs and dances. Several of them were killed, which discouraged the warriors, who were taught that the balls of the whites would strike harmlessly upon them. The outer work on the eastern side was now in undisputed possession of the savages, and about 3 o’clock they began to plunder it, and carry off the movables to a house in the clearing. This movement, and consequent decrease in the fury of the assault, was perceived quickly by Weatherford, who, mounted on a splendid black steed, overtook the Indians, and urged them to renewed exertions. The whites continued to fight desperately, and many feats of valor were achieved. Some ascended to the garret of Mims’ dwelling, in the centre of the enclosure, knocked off the shingles, and opened a deadly fire from it. The assailants had now killed or driven the whites out of the guard-house, and from. the eastern, northern and western sides of the stockade. They then penetrated the enclosure, and set fire to Minis’ house, and other buildings, amid the shrieks of the surviving women and children, some of whom were caught and tomahawked while they were flying for shelter to the only remaining defense. This was the bastion on the south side, which Bailey and his brave band had defended with such superhuman valor. This spot became crowded with the wounded and dying, with men, women, and children, and offered an unerring mark for the bullets of the foeman. This extract is from Col. Pickett’s account of the massacre, obtained from eye witnesses, and from which we glean the principal part of this information. The wild confusion and the crimson glow Of flames on high, and death-moans from below; The shriek of terror, and the mingling yell, Flung o’er that spot of Earth the air of Hell. The flames at length reached the bastion, and the brave Dixon Bailey called out that all was lost, and besought those who could to save themselves by flight. But few could do this, for the savages now burst in upon the survivors, and butchered them regardless of age or sex. Women, children, the wounded, and sick, either perished in the flames, or under the tomahawk; and their warm and dripping scalps were thrust into the belts of the merciless Creek. Women great with child were ripped open while yet living, and children were taken by the feet and their brains dashed out against the pickets. None but a few half-breeds were spared. Of 553 souls who slept the night before in conscious security, not fifty were alive when the sun went down, and veiled in darkness the smoking ruins. Five hundred ghastly human bodies, besides 200 of the murderous assailants, lay around the smoldering fires, as the result of the bloody day. Wyoming, so famed in song and story, presented not a scene half so bloody. [2]About 250 men were killed at Wyoming, and no women and children; for the savages there killed but one man beside those captured in the fight. But the rough sands of Baldwin drank the blood of the slain, there by the little lake of Tensa, and neither homeric strain nor sculptured marble tells of the most thrilling and atrocious episode in American pioneer history.

Of the survivors, who broke through and escaped, Dr. Thomas G. Holmes and Mr. Jesse Steadham of Baldwin, Peter Randon, who removed to Louisiana, W. R. Chambliss and Joseph Perry of Mississippi; Martin Rigdon, Josiah Fletcher, – Jones, Sergeant Mathews, John Hoven, Samuel Smith, – Mourrice, Edward Steadham, a negro woman name Hester, an Indian name Socca, are said to be all. The half-breed family of Zachariah McGirth was saved by a friend among the assailants.

September 15, 1814, a force of 730 British and Indians, and four men-of-war, under Col. Nichols, from Pensacola, invested Fort Bowyer, on the extreme southern point of the county. It was defended by 130 men under Major Lawrence. A fierce cannonade from the ships and a land battery was replied to with spirit by the garrison, and within two hours the enemy were driven off with the destruction of his flag-ship, the Hermes, which, being disabled by the fire of the fort, was burned by her crew. The loss of the British was 232 men killed and wounded; that of the garrison was four killed and four wounded. Early in February, following, the British army and fleet of the ill-fated Packenham, returning from the bloody repulse – on the plain of New Orleans, invested Fort Bowyer. Thirty-eight war vessels were drawn up in line of battle, and 5000 men were landed on the shore. Seeing these preparations for the reduction of the fort, Major Lawrence surrendered it, with 300 men, February 12. Peace had been already declared, and the enemy held the place only a few weeks. The same locality became still more historic during the war between the States. Fort Morgan, occupying the site of Fort Bowyer, was taken possession of by the troops of the State a few days before the ordinance of secession was passed, and was garrisoned by about 550 men, and 60 guns, Brigadier General Page commanding (This brave officer was a Virginian, who had been educated in the naval academy at Annapolis). On the point of Dauphin Island, four miles distant, stands Fort Gaines, also with a Confederate garrison at that time: August 5, 1864, a force of fourteen ships of war stood in to pass the forts and get into the bay. Both forts opened upon them, and they replied with vigor. The Tecumseh, being in the lead, was sunk by a torpedo, and her crew of 120 souls were entombed with her. The other vessels passed in safety. Fort Gaines surrendered on the 8th. The day after, 3000 federal troops, under General Granger, disembarked on the shore in rear of Fort Morgan. Regular approaches were made by this force, and a siege-train of forty-one pieces placed in position. At daylight on the 22d, a gun from a monitor gave the signal for a general bombardment. At 9 A. M., the whole fleet was in line of battle, and the firing continued with unabated fury. From 7 to 9 P. M., it was slow and irregular; but at half-past 9, P. M., a fire was discovered breaking out in the fort, and the firing was then intensely renewed to prevent extinguishment. Six or eight shells could be counted in the air at once; and every shot appeared to take effect. Nor in the midst of this destructive shower was the garrison moved by any weak fears. When the fire broke out they exposed themselves to extinguish it, and threw 90,000 pounds of powder into the cisterns. Between forty and fifty had been killed or wounded. One man had been blown eighty feet into the air by the explosion of a shell. The interior of the fort had become a mass of smoldering ruins; there was not a space five feet square which had not been defaced by shells. Many of the guns had been shattered into pieces by solid shot and shells. The garrison did not reply to the leet during the bombardment. They attempted, however, to use some of their guns on the land batteries, but were prevented by sharpshooters. Their own sharpshooters were somewhat troublesome to the besiegers; but the latter during the operations had only five men wounded. The firing continued at intervals all night, and at six, A. M., a white flag appeared on the parapet of the fort, and the garrison was formally surrendered at half-past two, P. M.

There was no attempt to gain a further foothold on the coast till the March (1865) following. Then, Maj. Gen. Canby landed at Fort Morgan with 32,200 effective troops. March 17, this formidable force moved up the eastern shore of the bay to attack the confederate defenses opposite Mobile. On the 27th, after skirmishing with the confederate cavalry on the route, they formally invested Spanish Fort. This was the name given to the work on Conway river, an arm of the Tensa, in this county, seven miles clue east of Mobile city. Around the two forts, Old Spanish and McDermott, was a semi-circular line of earthworks, nearly two miles in length, resting on the water, or rather on the morass, at either end. The garrison at the beginning of the siege, and for five days thereafter, consisted of about 3,400 men, comprising Gibson’s brigade of Louisianians, Ector’s brigade (two regiments) of North Carolinians and Texans, and Thomas’ brigade of Alabama reserves. The latter were relieved, April 1, by Holtzclaw’s brigade of Alabamians, who came by water from Blakeley; and the garrison, thus constituted, numbered 2,321 infantry and 506 artillery (This was the strength the 7th of April: Gibson’s brigade 674; Ector’s 659; Holtzclaw’s 988; artillery 506. Total 2,827. Number of small arms, 2,047.); the whole under Brig. Gen. Randall L. Gibson.

Spanish Fort had been constructed to protect batteries Huger and Tracy, respectively, one and a half and two miles in the rear, on the low islands. They had been placed there to obstruct the ascent of the river. The day after the investment by land, a number of iron-clad steamers moved up the river in rear of the defenses, ‘but their operations were chiefly confined to shelling Huger and Tracy. During the siege three of them were sunk by torpedoes-the Milwaukee, the Osage, and the Rodolph. Till the evening of the last clay, the operations on shore were confined to artillery firing and sharp-shooting, enlivened by several petty dashes in the nature of a sortie. The two former were almost incessant, and taxed the courage and endurance of the garrison to the full limit. April 4, a terrific bombardment, from seventy pieces of artillery, lasted for two hours, and the earth seemed to reel under the sound; but the garrison did not reply. By the last day of the siege the assailants had ninety guns trained on the devoted fort-fifty-three of which were siege guns and thirty-seven were field pieces. Throughout the night the huge missiles of death traversed the air with fiery wings, poised a moment over the silent defenses, then swooped upon their human quarry with angry and stunning roar. Day by day, too, the besiegers crept closer to their prey, as parallel after parallel was opened, and the sharp crack of the small arms grew nearer and deadlier. At sunset, on the evening of the 8th, an assault was made on the left of the confederate line, and, after a fierce grapple with Ector’s veterans, overpowered them, and effected a lodgment within the works. They were too strong to be driven out, though the attempt was made. The confederates evacuated the works the same night, by passing over a plank foot-bridge, two feet in width, and about two miles in length, which had been laid over the marshes from the fort to the river opposite battery Tracy. Here they found transportation deficient, and at midnight about 1000 took up the line of march over the morass to Blakeley. The distance was five miles, and the men were often waist-deep in mud and water; but they arrived safely at their point of destination, and the whole garrison that left the fort reached Mobile in safety. A number were captured in the assault, and others were left by accident. Such, in brief, is the story of Spanish Fort, and its heroic defense for thirteen days.

While the main body was thus engaged, a column of 13,200 men, under Major General F. Steele, moved out of Pensacola, March 20, and took the road to Pollard. After some skirmishing, and especially a spirited affair with two regiments of Alabama cavalry at Bluff Springs, the advance guard reached Pollard on the 26th. After burning the public property and tearing up the railway track for 1000 yards, Steele turned the head of his column towards Blakeley. The fortifications of this place were an irregular line of works, stretching along the river for three miles, and with the ends resting on the morass near the river. Nine well-built lunettes added much strength, and two or three lines of abatis were some distance in front. The garrison consisted of two skeleton brigades of Missourians and Mississippians under Gates and Barry, both commanded by Gen. Cockrell, and a brigade of Alabama reserves under Gen. Thomas; making a total of about 3500 men; the whole under Brig. Gen. St. John R. Lidell. The column of Gen. Steele arrived before the place April 1, and the investment was complete the following day. Reinforced by two divisions of Canby’s immediate force before Spanish Fort, the assailants now numbered about 25,000 effective men-one division of whom were negroes. But their supply of artillery was limited till towards the close of the operations. An active and unremitting musketry fire, however, replied to the fierce cannonading of the garrison, and of the three gunboats-the Nashville, Huntsville, and Morgan-lying in the river. The besiegers exhibited striking activity in advancing their trenches and the labors of every night invariably brought them within shorter range for the duties of the succeeding day. The garrison were equally spirited, and two or three gallant sorties were made.; while their incessant volleys were unusually effectual. The operations progressed more rapidly than those at Spanish Fort, and, on the evening of -the. 9th, the whole federal force swept forward in one dense but extended mass to the assault of the works. Fully 16,000 men, in line of battle, three miles in length, moved like a blue billow over the level ground, and dashed resistlessly over the frail defenses. They were met by a leaden hail from men whose hearts quailed not even in an hour so fearful. But further resistance was futile, and the heroic garrison was captured, as their comrades at Appomattox had been a few hours before, by overwhelming numbers. Batteries Huger and Tracy were evacuated April 11., and the purple tide of war ebbed from the shores of Baldwin. The loss of the federal forces in the reduction of these defenses was fifteen hundred men killed and wounded. The loss of the confederates was about four hundred killed and wounded, and about four thousand prisoners.

Source: Alabama, her history, resources, war record, and public men: from 1540 to 1872, Brewer, Willis, Montgomery, Ala.: Barrett & Brown, 1872.


1Abraham Baldwin was born in Connecticut in 1754. He came to Georgia at the age of 28 years, and represented the State in the convention that framed the federal constitution. From 1789 to 1807, when he died, he served in the federal congress, and is buried in Washington, He was the founder of the University of Georgia.
2About 250 men were killed at Wyoming, and no women and children; for the savages there killed but one man beside those captured in the fight.

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