Visitor Guide

The Story of John Wisdom

John Wisdom was a former Roman who operated a ferry across the Coosa River at Gadsden, Alabama and transported Confederate mail on contract to and from Rome.

On the morning of May 2,1,1863 Wisdom had crossed the river via his ferry to take a sack of corn in his buggy to a grist mill six miles from Gadsden. He returned to find his ferry sunk and a wooden bridge over Black Creek burning in the distance. Three men shouted to him from across the river that the town had been raided by Union troops on their way to Rome.

Neither they nor Wisdom apparently knew that General Nathan Bedford Forrest was close behind the enemy force. Wisdom immediately set off to warn Rome, driving the buggy 22 miles to Gnatville, Alabama where the horse gave out. There, the widow Nancy Hanks gave him the only transport she had, a lame pony only under the provision that Wisdom would not ride him more than five miles. True to his promise, Wisdom hobbled on to Goshen, Alabama five miles away.

From there Wisdom changed mounts four more times before reaching his mother’s home and the town of Rome.

Upon, reaching Rome, Wisdom alerted George S. Black, the militia commander, then went through town at Black’s request “rousing people of his acquaintance.” About 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 3, he went to the home of his mother, who lived in Rome, and went to bed, probably exhausted and not wanting to hear the uproar he caused. Romans scurried out of bed, lit their lamps, and worked feverishly to expect the Yankee forces by daybreak.

Listen to the story of John Wisdom:  The Ride of John Wisdom from Rome Georgia on Vimeo.

Written Stories of the Civil War in Rome

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