The last gasp of an American tragedy

Director of Blakeley pens blow by blow narrative of Civil War’s last battle


It can be argued that the men who died at the Battle of Blakeley in 1865, estimated at more than 200 from both sides of the lines, died in vain.

General Robert E. Lee had surrendered in Virginia hours earlier. As twilight settled on the American Civil War, this meeting of armies at Blakeley – 16,000 Union troops versus 3,500 Confederates – is considered the last major battle of the conflict.

By all accounts, it was a spectacular last stand.

Union troops coordinated a bold assault on three miles of earthworks dug in by Confederate forces. It was a grand spectacle. It was a desperate last fight. All of it is captured blow by blow in Mike Bunn’s new book, “The Assault on Fort Blakeley, The Thunder and Lightning of Battle.” The book is available for purchase at Historic Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort.

Bunn, director of Historic Blakeley State Park, said he had been working on the piece in fits and starts over the last three years, collecting personal and handwritten accounts of the battle from archives in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

It was easy to retell troop movements and battlefield decisions. What Bunn said had been lacking in so many retellings was the human element as the two sides clashed for the last time in a desperate bid to win.

“I wanted to include as many first-hand accounts as I could, I didn’t want this to be a traditional narrative,” he said. “I wanted to allow people to speak for themselves. There are some very powerful and emotional accounts.

“The battle is about people, not points on a map,” he said.

Those voices walk the reader through a moment by moment re-telling of the battle. Bunn arranged their stories by zones on the battlefield so the book can be carried on a walking tour and used as a literal battlefield guide as well. The dual purpose satisfies the need for both a good story and clear on the ground military perspective.

“Those personal experiences and narratives help give a better understanding of what was occurring in the battle,” he said.