Phillip Dale Roddey was from Lawrence County Alabama and decided to join the Confederates in the American Civil War. He raised a cavalry company that became classified as the 4th Alabama Cavalry and rode in support of Confederate Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and Joseph Wheeler. Roddey's main area of operation during the war was Northwest Alabama.
According to an inscription on his gravestone Roddy “became known as the ‘Defender of North Alabama’ for his service in defending the area against Union invaders.” But there are some from that time who would have classified him in a different way. I don’t think very many of my ancestors would have classified him that way. I know my 2nd great uncle Joseph M. Palmer would not have desrcibed Roddey as a defender. Palmer was a Unionist from Marion County in Northwest Alabama and he didn’t have much sympathy for Confederates.
In the autumn of 1862 Joseph Palmer got into “a little dispute with a Rebel soldier, Robert Whitley,” according to P.D. Hall. Hall was also a Marion County Unionist. He wrote about the “little dispute” in an account that was published in the Washington National Journal in 1899. Hall uses understatement and humor to describe the events in and around Northwest Alabama during the Civil War.
Palmer, Hall writes, “stabbed Whitley with his knife and made his way to the Union lines at Corinth a distance of 70 or 80 miles closely guarded by rebel cavalry under General Roddy.” I feel that the understatement “closely guarded” in this context means that Roddey and his men chased and tracked Palmer through the woods but were unable to catch him before he reached the Union lines 70 miles away at Corinth, MS. The stabbing and Palmer’s escape, Hall writes “so enraged the rebels that Union men had to flee to the mountains for safety.”
After Palmer reached the Union lines he became a scout and spy for Union General Grenville Dodge. Many times Palmer risked his life crossing back into Alabama to recruit other Unionists and defend the area from Rebels. Roddey’s men were never able to catch Palmer when so many other Union men were killed by the Confederates.
So yesterday on Confederate Memorial Day I visited Roddy’s grave and celebrated. I honored General Phillip Dale Roddey for being a good Confederate and giving my uncle a good chase. I’m sure my uncle enjoyed the chase immensely. So, Happy belated Confederate Memorial Day everybody.