ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Fairview, Alabama
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Fairview, Alabama
Memorializing the Battle of Fairview
Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy
(UDC) unveil the Battle Branch marker that
commemorates the Battle of Fairview, Alabama.
Battle of Fairview, Alabama
Ward's Raiders were pursued
to Battle Branch at Fairview,
where a sharp skirmish broke
Confederate Volunteers
A quickly formed party of local
volunteers chased the raiders
as they retreated from Elba,
cornering them at Fairview.
The Battle of Fairview - Coffee County, Alabama
Ward's Raiders at Battle Branch
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Page Created: July 28, 2012
Last Update: July 28, 2012
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Battlefields in Alabama
Battle Branch
Then, as now, the branch ran
through a tangled area. Ward
and his men entered the thick
growth hoping to escape their
Elba, Alabama
Ward's Raiders were caught
in the act of setting fires
around the town square in
Elba, Alabama.
The Battle of Fairview was a small but fierce
encounter that took place on September 2,
1864, in Coffee County, Alabama.

Along with the
Battle of Newton in nearby
Dale County, it was one of the sharpest fights
between outlaw raiders and local citizens in
Alabama during the War Between the States
or Civil War. Men were killed on both sides
and a wounded prisoner was hanged after
the skirmish.

The incident at Fairview demonstrated clearly
that the home front was not always quiet for
those left behind when the soldiers marched
off to war. Coffee County, in fact, had been
severely targeted by what the local citizens
called "Raider Gangs." Headed by men with
names like Jim Ward, Joseph Sanders and
others, these groups hid out in the swamps
of South Alabama, South Georgia and North

From these all but inaccessible places of
refuge, the gangs came out to make night
raids on farms, homes, communities and
even sizable towns. These attacks targeted
civilians, not the undermanned Confederate
military in the region, and often left death and
misery in their wake.

The records of the Alabama counties that lay
along the Florida border show that the
people of each lived in fear of one or more of
these raider gangs. Coffee County and its
principal town of Elba dealt primarily with the
group headed by Jim Ward and usually
referred to as "Ward's Raiders."

A pre-war resident of the region, Ward had
deserted the Confederate army and taken
refuge in the Choctawhatchee River swamp.
From a base on Boynton Island (near Ebro,
Florida), he led raids that primarily targeted
areas near the Choctawhatchee and its large
tributary, the Pea River. Elba seems to have
been a particular target for Ward and his men:

...They pillage, plunder, and steal horses and
everything else that is of any use to them. In
fact, they are a terror tot he people. Last
spring [1864] they burned the courthouse at
Elba, in Coffee, and murdered four of the
best citizens in that county. They have also
murdered several of the best citizens of Dale
County. In some parts of that country it is
exceedingly dangerous for a loyal man to
- James N. Arrington (January 30, 1865)

Tradition and the years have blended the
burning of the courthouse in Elba with the
subsequent Battle of Fairview, but they were
actually two separate incidents. The firing of
the Coffee County Courthouse actually took
place in April 1864:

...The fire had been placed in the upper story
and also kindled with lightwood under one
part of the step that leads into the lower story,
when some gentlemen returning from the
Masonic Lodge discovered it. A bundle of
kindling lightwood was also found near by,
which seemed to indicate a purpose to fire
some other place.
- Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (April 21,

Although the citizens of Elba were able to
save most of the courthouse records, the
building itself burned to the ground.

Local tradition holds that Ward and his men
were trying to burn the conscription or draft
records. Unhappy with the survival of these
documents, they came back four months

Deserters in Coffee County. - We learn that
on Thursday night last some deserters from
the lower part of Coffee county fired the
bridge across Pea river at Elba, and set fire
to the town of Elba in several places.
Ledger-Enquirer (September 10, 1864)

Ward's Raiders had come back for another
try at destroying the records. Because the
courthouse papers had been moved to
various private buildings around the square,
this time they set fire to several structures.
Caught in the act, the fled on horseback
across the Pea River bridge which they tried
to burn behind them.
Local men poured into the streets, however,
and extinguished the fires before substantial
damage could be done. They also managed
to save the bridge.

Irate over this attempt to burn their town and
with no soldiers in the vicinity to help, the
men and boys of Elba grabbed their guns
and set out on horseback to deal with the
matter themselves:

...The same morning [September 2, 1864]
they were pursued by citizens, who overtook
them some ten or fifteen miles below at
which point a fight occurred, resulting in the
instant killing of W.F. Heard, C.S. Tax
Assessor, R.P. Brooks, C.S. Tax Collector, M.
Carmichael, Deputy Sheriff and jailer.
- Columbus
Ledger-Enquirer (Septemebr 10, 1864)

The hastily formed company included public
officials, a doctor, young boys and elderly
men. Riding out under the command of
Captain John C. Brown, they caught up with
Jim Ward at the Fairview community about 14
miles south of Elba.

Ward and his men retreated into a thick and
swampy area just east of today's Fairview
Cemetery. The angry citizens went in after
them and a fierce firefight erupted along the
head of a small stream known today as
Battle Branch.

The raiders were used to attacking helpless
citizens in the night and were not prepared to
deal with the armed and determined men of
Elba. The battle quickly turned against them
and, with Ward at their head, they attempted
to flee.

Most of them managed to cut their way out
and escape southwest into Covington County
and back to Florida, but three were not so
fortunate. One was killed in the fighting, but
two others were wounded and captured. One
of these was hanged by the Pea River bridge
he had tried to burn and the other was shot
and killed when he tried to escape.

The citizens had boldly charged into the
swamp after Ward and paid the price with
their blood. Three were killed and two were
wounded. Elba, however, was never again
targeted by Jim Ward and his raiders.

The site of the Battle of Fairview is now on
private property, but the general vicinity can
be viewed from Fairview Cemetery on AL 87
in Coffee County. A marker was placed there
by the Gen. Edmond WInchester Rucker
Chapter 2534 of the United Daughters of the
Confederacy (UDC) on September 4, 2010.

To reach the site from Elba, travel east from
the square across the Pea River bridge and
turn south on AL 87. The marker will be 13
miles ahead on the left at Fairview Cemetery.
Memorial Fountain in Elba
Plaques bearing the names
of those killed in the Battle of
Fairview adorn a fountain on
the grounds of the Coffee
County Courthouse in Elba.