top of page

The April 3, 1865 Wedding

Many know that April 3, 1865, was the day that General John T. Croxton and Union troops arrived in Tuscaloosa to burn the University of Alabama campus. Their mission was to destroy Tuscaloosa’s factories and ironworks. They were also to burn the University of Alabama. It was a training center for Confederate cadets (young military students).


However, many may not know that April 3, 1865, was also the day Miss Emily Leach married Captain James Slaughter Carpenter, C.S.A., in Tuscaloosa. The wedding date had been set for April 6, three days later, but he simply could not wait.


Why is this interesting/important???


BECAUSE…….


Croxton’s troops arrived at the bridge over the Black Warrior River at Northport on the evening of April 3.


Croxton sent a small group of volunteers to reconnoiter, but they discovered Confederate forces already beginning to remove the span's flooring. They found 14 men taking up the bridge’s floor planks to prevent anyone from advancing into Tuscaloosa. Croxton ordered his men to capture the bridge, which they accomplished after a brief firefight with Confederate sentries. The Union force then moved into Tuscaloosa around 10-11 PM, entering a very dark town.


The only lights and sounds came from the Jemison Mansion, where a wedding had just ended……..


🗨️SIDE NOTE ABOUT THE JEMISON MANSION:

While building the mansion, Senator Jemison called for a modern furnace to heat the entire house, but the war intervened before it could be installed.

Jemison did succeed in lighting his own house with piped gas. Thus, it was brightly lit in an otherwise dark town, which attracted Croxton's raiders to the wedding party that fateful April 1865 night.

When it was built (1859-1861), the house boasted some of the state's most luxurious features, like running water, flushable toilets, and even a copper bathtub.


—————————— back to why this is interesting/important


It was the brightly lit Jemison Mansion (Cherokee Place), in an otherwise dark town, that attracted Croxton’s raiders to the wedding party that fateful night.


According to local folklore, Union soldiers burst in and went straight for the wedding cake before taking the groom, Capt. James Carpenter, prisoner, and sending him back to Gen. Croxton’s headquarters.



Carpenter was granted leave to properly say goodbye to his new wife; some believe he helped raise the alarm on the UA campus while on this reprieve.


This wedding went down in history, as it was a scene in the 1916 Pageant of Tuscaloosa—Centennial Celebration. Episode 6 reenacted Miss Emily Leach's wedding to Captain James Carpenter in 1865. Croxton's Raiders interrupted the wedding and festivities and took the groom. General Croxton allowed him to return to the bride once he recognized Carpenter as a former school friend since they were both from Lexington, Kentucky.

The next day, on April 4, Croxton’s troops burned all but three university buildings. They were in Tuscaloosa for an odd 40 hours. After the war, the U.S. Congress gave the University of Alabama public lands to pay for the damages.


If you visit the Jemison Mansion today, you can view a piece of their wedding China that Miss Emily Leach and Capt. Carpenter used that day.


📜 To see the details of the interrupted wedding, view the 1916 Pageant of Tuscaloosa Program on our website ⬇️



About the wedding — On April 3rd, 1865


On Greensboro Avenue, he encountered Miss Mary Matthews and her companion, both close friends of his intended bride.


“I cannot stay,” Captain Carpenter explained, “but I am afraid that I cannot come back. Times are so precarious, so our marriage must take place right now.” And then he added, “By the way, where does Em live?”


“Em” was Emily Leach, the daughter of Dr. Sewell J. Leach, a Tuscaloosa physician and businessman. She had met Carpenter while visiting Demopolis, and romance had blossomed. Now, her betrothed was at her doorstep, imploring her to marry him that very evening. She agreed.


The Leach household turned topsy-turvy. Everything had to be ready immediately. Guests and relatives had to be notified, the house had to be decorated, and a wedding supper had to be prepared. Nevertheless, when the guests arrived that night at 8:30, all was ready.


The ceremony was a handsome affair with Miss Matthews as one of the bridesmaids. Afterwards came the wedding supper, and when someone began playing the piano, the bride and groom led the others in a cotillion. The dancing ended when Mrs. Leach, mother of the bride, called out in a cheery voice, “Make way for the bride’s cake. Let us cut for the ring and see whose wedding we shall next attend.”

 

 

The following details of the event were extracted from a document compiled by Mathew W. Clinton, President of the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Historical Society, dated April 1965, entitled “The Federal Invasion of Tuscaloosa, 1865.”


“There was a romantic side to it all, for the romance did not die when war came to the land; in fact it flowered in full bloom all through the dark days. Tuscaloosa was in a romantic state of mind that day for the reason that there was to be a wedding that night in one of the best homes in town.  Miss Emily Leach, daughter of Dr. Sewell J. Leach, was to be married to Captain James S. Carpenter, a gallant young confederate soldier from Kentucky, then on duty at Demopolis.  Invitations had been issued and an elaborate “war time” supper was being prepared. All society was in a state of excitement and anticipation, and for the moment they forgot their many troubles, and there was no fear in the minds of the people, as they prepared their shabby finery for the night’s great event, which was to take place at 8 o’clock.

 

Dr. Leach’s home was on Fourth Street and only two blocks from the top of the river hill.  There were then several other fine homes in the neighborhood and these were naturally the first places to be visited by the hungry and loot-seeking raiders, who were even then silently drawing nearer and nearer.  Soon after dark, the entire street from one end to the other was filled with the carriages and buggies of the assembled guests.

 

The wedding ceremony was performed at 8 o’clock by Reverend Phillip Fitts, a relative of the bride.  Young Tom Leach, only a boy soldier, just home from the battle of Nashville, with two old felt hats tied around his partly-frozen feet, a brother of the bride, was present.  He had carried the colors, and having them shot from the staff, he hid the precious colors in his shirt and brought them home.  This Confederate battle flag became the central motif of the decorations, being draped from the central chandelier under which the bride and groom stood as they were being wed.

 

Captain Carpenter was dressed in his best Confederate uniform, and his attendants, all soldiers on leave or local duty, were uniformed.  The bridesmaids, all dressed in borrowed finery, were: Misses Mary and Laura Matthews, Belle Woodruff, a local beauty, Louella Cochrane, Alice Stafford, Lydia Peck and Mollie Fink of Selma, Alabama. Miss Mary Matthews, who later became Mrs. Force of Selma, and who served that city as postmistress for many years, wrote, in her later years, a most gripping and romantic story of the wedding and it was from this and local stories that the account of this social affair has been documented and can be considered authentic.


Following the ceremony, an elegant dinner, considering the times, was served. The ladies were served first, and as was the custom, the men were left in the dining room for the drinks, such as they were.  The ladies repaired to the parlors where they engaged in singing wartime songs.  As the men drifted in, the couples paired off for dancing, and by nine o’clock happiness reigned supreme with never a thought of trouble.  Suddenly firing was heard in the distance, down towards the bridge, and instantly every face blanched with fear and dread; only too well they knew what it might mean. They knew right then that the war had at last come to Tuscaloosa.  Much excitement was apparent in the street outside, and as much inside.  Valuables were hastily removed and hidden, the men passing their watches to the ladies who placed them in their slippers and beneath their garters, while their capacious bustles were stuffed with other valuables.  A negro slave snatched the confederate flag from the chandelier and stuck it in the kitchen stove, a most thoughtful act.


The street was in an uproar, and the firing was increasing and drawing nearer and soon bullets were heard striking the walls of the house.  The men might have escaped to the deep gulley in the rear, but they chose to remain with the ladies for whatever protection they might afford.  One of them, just out of prison, bemoaned the fact that he would have to return to its horrors.  One fellow hid under the back steps but a vicious dog ran him back indoors.


Dr. and Mrs. Leach remained calm under it all, and comforted their guests as best they could.  The bride and her maids repaired to the upstairs, where they tried to comfort her in her distress.  The men decided to surrender as resistance would have been useless, and would have brought on more serious trouble.  One young lady attempted to leave by the front door and the first soldier to come on the porch fired at her, but Mrs. Leach, who had followed her out, managed to throw the gun up and no one was hurt.  The enemy swarmed in in a short while, first placing all the men under arrest except Dr. Leach, who was an old man and in a low state of health. Following this they demanded food. Mrs. Leach graciously served them what was left, much to the disgust of the negroes.  She apologized that she had no wine to serve them.  Then the looting began, which continued all through the night and they made a clean job of it.  Herding the men together, they prepared to take them across to the camp over the river. Captain Carpenter pleaded for the right to say farewell to his bride, and with a guard he was allowed to go upstairs, where he took a hasty, if tearful, farewell less than an hour after his marriage.  Leaving the room, blinded with tears, he stumbled and fell down the steps, to the amusement of his captors.  He was carried away and across to Newport.  It is said that after reaching camp, Captain Carpenter was recognized by an old school mate, and he persuaded General Croxton to allow him to return to his bride under promise that he would not attempt to escape.  He later returned to the camp and remained a prisoner for several days, being later paroled and allowed his freedom.”






 


66 views

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page