Between 1859 and 1863, slaves cut sandstone rocks, transported them by skids and stacked them to form three tall furnaces. Tannehill No. 1 was built by the noted Southern ironmaster Moses Stroup, who later built the Oxmoor Furnance, the first in Jefferson County. William L. Sanders purchased the operation in 1862 and set about expanding the ironworks.
Although shots were fired during the actual federal cavalry raid on the Tannehill Ironworks in 1865, the battle re-enactment, sponsored by the Alabama State Artillery re-enactors, is largely ceremonial.Always held on Memorial Day weekend, the two-day event attracts 300 to 400 Federal and Confederate soldiers in full fighting attire of the day, cannons and horses and sometimes even battle music. Visitors may also walk through the military camps and and visit sutler stores.
On March 31, 1865, it ended in fire and destruction. Three companies of the Eighth Iowa Cavalry swept through the area as a part of Union General James H. Wilson's raid on Alabama war industry sites. Smoke rose from the charred remains of the ironworks and cabins that housed several workers. At day's end the furnaces were no longer operational, and the foundry, tannery, gristmill, and tax-in-kind warehouse were in ruins.