athens is located just west of I-65 in north central alabama. athens is the county seat of limestone county alabama. the town of athens was founded by john coffee, robert beaty, john carroll, and john read in 1818. athens is one of the oldest incorporated towns in the state of alabama. athens was home to william w. bibb who was the first governor of alabama. athens is most famous as the site of the battle of athens during the civil war. of interest to tourists is it's downtown historic district which has a number of historic homes and buildings. for those interested in history and southern culture athens is worth the one mile side trip when traveling on I-65.
athens is best known as the site of the sack of athens on may 2 nd 1862. in april 1862 athens was occupied by union troops. on may 1 st 1862 the first louisiana cavalry mounted a surprise attack on the union garrison in athens and drove them out of town. the citizens of athens were delighted with the confederate victory and cheered the victorious troops. the next day the union 8 th brigade under the command of colonel john b. turchin counter attacked and retook the town. turchin wanted to punish the citizens of athens and told his troops that i will "shut my eyes for two hours". the union solders commenced to loot athen's stores and private homes. during the looting union troops insulted the town's people and one woman was raped. union general ormsby mitchel heard about the sack of athens and the behavior of turchin's troops. general mitchel ordered a court-martial to examine charges against turchin and his officers. future u.s. president james garfield presided over the trial. turchin was found guilty by the court-martial and was dismissed from the union army. later president abraham lincoln set aside the verdict and promoted turchin to brigadier general.