|Graves of Gen. Tyler & Captain Gonzales|
Captain C. Gonzales of Company B, 1st Florida Infantry, spent much of the war in staff roles, having served at the Confederate posts in Brewton and Greenville, Alabama; Jonesboro and Atlanta, Georgia, and finally at West Point where the railroad crossed the Chattahoochee River from Georgia into Alabama. West Point was commanded by Brigadier General Robert Tyler and was the location of a fort named in his honor.
By Good Friday in 1865, the massive raiding force of General James H. Wilson had captured both Selma and Montgomery and then turned east for Georgia. Wilson was "finishing off" the South, destroying anything his soldiers could find that might help keep the Confederate armies in the field. Even the brilliant General Nathan Bedford Forrest was so severely outnumbered by Wilson's force that he could do little more than fight and fall back.
|Cannon at Fort Tyler|
Alerted to their approach, General Tyler moved his tiny command into Fort Tyler. His total force numbered somewhere between 120 and 265 men, many of them wounded invalids like the general himself (he had lost a leg at Missionary Ridge). The approaching Union force had 3,750 men.
Despite the astounding odds, Tyler decided to fight. Joining him in putting the men into position around the ramparts and three cannon of Fort Tyler was Captain Gonzales, a Floridian who had served since the earliest days of the war. The ladies of West Point presented them a flag, which Tyler accepted pledging that he would either win the coming battle or die in the attempt.
The Battle of West Point was fought on April 16, 1865, seven days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee in Virginia. The outnumbered Confederate forces in Fort Tyler held out for hours against the thousands of Union soldiers under Colonel LaGrange. In the end, Tyler recklessly exposed himself in a defiant last stand and fell to the bullets of his enemy. Gonzales fell by his side. Fort Tyler was taken by Federal forces.
Later that same day, General Wilson led a rare night assault on the fortifications at Columbus, breaking through and capturing the city. The Battle of Columbus is often said to have been the last major battle of the War Between the States (although fighting would continue in other places for another six weeks).
Captain Gonzales and General Tyler rest side by side at Fort Tyler Cemetery today. The fort they defended has been reconstructed and West Point does a nice job of preserving its wartime history. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/forttyler. Be sure to follow the links there to learn about the Fort Tyler Cemetery and the Battle of West Point.