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Andy Thomas, left, with his Union cannon and Mack Carter with his Confederate cannon along Old Corn Road, now Cullman County 1101, where Union and Confederate forces clashed in 1863 in Battleground in Cullman County.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Andy Thomas, left, with his Union cannon and Mack Carter with his Confederate cannon along Old Corn Road, now Cullman County 1101, where Union and Confederate forces clashed in 1863 in Battleground in Cullman County.

No Civil War feud among neighbors
A civil Battleground rivalry
Choosing sides all about fun for battlefield's residents

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

BATTLEGROUND — Rifles cracked, cannons roared and men died here during the spring of 1863. Two years later, the Civil War ended.

But motorists straying off Alabama 157 and onto Cullman County 1101 might wonder if the fuss is over among neighbors.

They live on knolls across the road 300 yards apart with cannons aimed at each other. A Confederate flag waves smartly next to one cannon; an American flag flutters near the other. Barbara and Andy Thomas recently replaced it. They knew the ghosts of Rebel cavalrymen didn't sneak up the hill in the night and steal it. The buffeting winds shredded it.

After all, tour buses roll by both residences, tracking roads Union Col. Abel D. Streight took during his raid, with Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest giving chase.

Maintaining tradition

Thomas and her husband, Andy, have a tradition to maintain, even if passers-by get the wrong impression. She chuckles at the idea some might think that they and their neighbors, Mack and Madge Carter, hold grudges.

"I always laugh about that," Barbara Thomas said. "The Carters are fine people, and we get along splendidly. They'd do anything for you."

The Carters say the feelings are mutual. But that doesn't mean they won't swap friendly barbs.

"I told Andy that I wish my cannon was real, and I'd blow him clear off that mountain," Mack Carter said.

"I'm on the Yankees' side," Barbara Thomas said. "And I'd say, 'We whipped your butts.' "

She grew up in Piqua, Ohio.

Carter retorted, "She better not brag about it, or we might go at it again. But no, we're not feuding. They help me, I help them."

Thomas said another reason she pays tribute to the Yanks is because the Third Ohio, part of Streight's army, camped near her home.

Historian Herman Stringer of Vinemont said the federal troop line ran through the Thomas' yard, to the right and to the left of the house. He published a map detailing Streight's raid.

"The Yanks slipped in, killed horses and mules, and took two cannons from the Rebels at Carter's place, at the spot where he located his cannon," Stringer said. "The families wanted to erect memorials marking the area as an actual battle site, and I commend them for that. Both places are hallowed ground."

Stringer helped Carter with his cannon, making the barrel from PVC pipe.

"For the rest, I used regular wagon wheels, railroad crossties and plywood," said Carter, 82. "I'm just a cobbler, I guess."

He said the Rebs caught up with Union troops in a swag, about 500 feet from his house.

"But the Yanks led them into an ambush," he said. "They captured Forrest's brother near my property after he was wounded in the hip by a mini-ball."

The Thomas' cannon isn't authentic either. It's a cement replica of a Union Mountain Howitzer that Andy Thomas bought at Lacon Trade Day. To see the genuine article, a traveler has to get back on Alabama 157, head south and follow the signs about seven miles to Crooked Creek Civil War Museum & Park, at 516 Cullman County 1127.

Fred Wise opened the museum and gift shop April 30, 2006, the anniversary date of the 1863 series of skirmishes at Day's Gap, Crooked Creek and Hog Mountain.

Wise rode a visitor in a golf cart over a narrow rocky road leading from behind the museum to the creek. He said he learned that it is part of the original road Davy Crockett traveled in early 1814 while serving as a scout for Andrew Jackson, before the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Tallapoosa County.

"I didn't know that history until four years after I bought the property in 1982," Wise said.

He burned brush along the road, uncovering Union gun pits, where, he said, soldiers of the 73rd Indiana Infantry fired back at Forrest's men while Streight's army forded the creek to Hog Mountain.

"There were black cherry logs for the wagons that probably went back to the early 1800s. Again, we didn't realize what we had," Wise said. "We pulled them out, let them dry over a period of months, and burned them in bonfires."

But he's making sure the museum will preserve Civil War relics he collected over 30 years.

Among them sits a cannon that the Carters and Thomas' would envy — an original Confederate Mountain Howitzer stamped 1864 and cast in Tampa, Fla.

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