Alpheus Baker was born on 28 May, 1828 in Clover Hill, South Carolina. He became a school teacher at age sixteen and taught in South Carolina, Georgia, and eventually settled in Eufaula, Alabama. At the age of twenty, he began reading law and soon became an attorney.
When the war began, Baker enlisted as a private and was quickly elected captain. Ordered to Fort Pillow, Tennessee on the Mississippi River, Baker was elected colonel of the 1st Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi Infantry. He was in the process of moving artillery from New Madrid, Missouri to Island No. 10 when the fort was surrendered. He was held prisoner from April, 1862 until September.
Upon his exchange, Baker’s regiment was reorganized as an all Alabama regiment and became the 54th Alabama Infantry. He saw action at Fort Pemberton during the Vicksburg Campaign and was severely wounded in the foot at Champions’ Hill. General Loring, his superior there, praised him for his bravery.
A post war photograph of Alpheus Baker
After his recovery, Baker was promoted to brigadier general on March 7, 1864. His brigade of four regiments, the 37th, 40th, 42nd, and 54th Alabama infantry were ordered to the Army of Tennessee in Georgia. He saw heavy action at Resaca and New Hope Church. At the Battle of Ezra Church, he was again praised by his immediate commander Major General Henry D. Clayton. His brigade had charged and lost almost half their men.
Although praised by his division commanders, it appears his corps commander Lieutenant General S.D. Lee was somewhat disappointed in Baker. He called the general “indecisive” and “lacking in energy.” Baker’s brigade was soon transferred to Mobile, Alabama saving them from the blood bath at Franklin. His last battle was at Bentonville, North Carolina where his brigade numbered only 350 men, yet they captured 204 Federal troops.
Following the war, Baker returned to his law practice. He was well known for his use of humor in the courtroom. Thirteen years after the war, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky and practiced law there. He died there in 1891 at the age of 63 and rests today in Cave Hill Cemetery. A space was left vacant at his request amid the Confederate POW’s buried there and he rests with those men today.
Alpheus Baker late in life