This photo of the Huntsville [Alabama] Depot, entitled,”Captured by Union Forces,” was published about 1962 in a local newspaper. The caption under the photo says, “Huntsville’s railway depot, site of the capture of locomotives and railway cars by Federal troops 100 years ago, still stands. Forces under Union Gen. Ormsby M. Miller cut the strategic Memphis and Charleston Railroad at Huntsville Friday, April 11, 1862.”
My mother intended to mail this clipping to my grandmother in Minnesota because she sometimes visited Alabama by train, and our family picked her up at this depot on those much-awaited visits. Built in the 1850s by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the Huntsville Depot not only served the public with passenger train service, but also served as the company’s corporate offices for its eastern division. It boasted a large and lavish lobby that was used as a waiting area for passenger train travel.
The depot opened in 1860 shortly before the Civil War began. During the 1862 capture, the Union soldiers not only took control of a very strategic point on the rail line, but they also detained Confederates as prisoners and kept them on the third floor. One of the most fascinating scenes inside the depot today is the wall of graffiti left by those Confederate prisoners!
The U.S. government returned the depot to the Memphis & Charleston Railroad in disrepair after the Civil War, but the company was able to eventually resume its passenger service after a period of rebuilding. Many greetings and goodbyes took place here over the years. Passenger service at the Huntsville Depot ended in 1968. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2002. The depot now serves as a transportation museum and a symbol of Huntsville’s historic growth from a small cotton town to a center of space technology.