Causton’s Bluff Part 4: Arrival of the 29th GA Regiment

Berrien Minute Men Arrive at Causton’s Bluff

On the night of April 16, 1862 the Berrien Minute Men, Company D, 29th Georgia Regimen moved to Causton’s Bluff, between Savannah and Tybee Island.   They came along with other companies of the 29th Georgia Regiment to reinforce the 13th Georgia Regiment which had fought an engagement with Federal troops of the 8th Michigan Infantry the evening before on Whitemarsh Island.  Causton’s Bluff was also the site of Camp Stonewall Jackson, the encampment of the 47th Georgia Regiment.

The Berrien Minute Men Company D, under command of John Carroll Lamb, was the second of two companies of that name going forth from Berrien County, GA in 1861.  They had made their campfires most of the previous year at coastal defenses of Georgia, first on Sapelo Island and then around Savannah, GA.

The Berrien Minute Men Company D had been encamped at Camp Tattnall, Savannah, GA and from that vantage point had witnessed the Federal bombardment and recapture of Fort Pulaski by U.S. Army forces from Tybee Island on April 11, 1862, exactly one year to the day from the Confederate seizure of Fort Sumter.  Within the week the Federal forces were probing the Confederate pickets on Whitemarsh Island, prompting the move of the 29th GA Regiment up to Causton’s Bluff.

  1. Causton’s Bluff Part 1: The Key to Savannah
  2. Causton’s Bluff Part 2: Challenge from Tybee
  3. Causton’s Bluff Part 3: War on Whitemarsh Island
  4. Causton’s Bluff Part 4: Arrival of the 29th GA Regiment
  5. Causton’s Bluff Part 5: Tidewater Time

 

Harmon Neal Baldree served with the Berrien Minute Men, Company K, 29th Georgia Regiment. In June, 1862 he was on detached duty as a ferryman at Causton's Bluff on St. Augustine Creek near Savannah, GA

Harmon Neal Baldree served with the Berrien Minute Men, Company D (K), 29th Georgia Regiment at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA. In June, 1862 he went on detached duty as a ferryman on St. Augustine Creek at Causton’s Bluff

The Berrien Minute Men had arrived at Causton’s Bluff in the middle of the night on August 16th, having been aroused by an alert and summoned as reinforcements. After a quick march in darkness they took up a position at the bluff, only to find by morning it was to be their new encampment. Their equipment was sent down the next day.  Berrien Minute Men Company D (K) and most of the other companies of the 29th Regiment spent May of 1862 at Causton’s Bluff.  The Ocklocknee Light Infantry, Company E, was at Debtford Plantation adjacent to Causton’s Bluff.  Berrien Minute Men Company C (G) continued to serve at Battery Lawton on the Savannah River.

In some ways, the arrival of the Berrien Minute Men must have been similar to the experience described by Walter Augustus Clark upon his arrival at Thunderbolt battery, overlooking the marsh just south of Causton’s Bluff:

My earliest recollections of Thunderbolt is associated with a fruitless effort to mix turpentine soap and salt water. We had reached the place tired and dusty and dirty. As soon as the ranks were broken, the boys divested themselves of their clothing and soaping their bodies thoroughly plunged into the salt water for a bath. The result may be imagined. The dirt and dust accumulated in streaks, which no amount of scrubbing could dislodge for it stuck closer than a postage stamp.

The 29th Regiment’s move to Causton’s Bluff may have presented a welcome distraction to Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry of the Berry Light Infantry.   At Camp Wilson, a previous encampment of the 29th Regiment, Lt. Perry had gotten into a Regimental Feud with an officer of the 25th Georgia Regiment, publicly condemning gambling and loose discipline among the men of the 25th Regiment. Lieutenant W.P.M. Ashley of 25th Regiment had Perry hauled before a military tribunal and courtmartialed.  Lieutenant Perry was still awaiting the sentencing of the court. In early May, he was relieved to learn that the sentence from his court martial was a mild one: a reprimand from the Colonel and one week’s suspension. Ready to get on with the business of the regiment, Perry wrote:

Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
May 8, 1862

Our Regiment is on picket duty on Oakland [Oatland] and Whitmarsh Island [Whitemarsh Island], in connection with the 13th Regiment and 11th Battalion. We have had no fighting yet, though we are sometimes in shooting distance of the Yankees…There are no prospects of a fight here soon…The weather is remarkably pleasant. Days moderately warm and nights cool. The sea breeze is delightful. There is but a few cases of sickness in our company. It is much more healthy here than our up country friends would suppose. We have good water, but not so good as you have in Floyd [County]. 

Perry’s assessment of the healthfulness of the camp at Causton’s Bluff would turn out to be overly optimistic. The 29th Georgia Regiment had yet to face the oppressive heat and pestilence of summer on the marsh. The men at Causton’s Bluff would suffer with mosquitoes, fleas, sandflies,  fever, malaria, measles, tonsillitis, mumps,  wounds, typhus, dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis, and rheumatism.

At Thunderbolt Battery, Walter Augustus Clark wrote further of summer conditions on the marsh:

We fought and bled, it is true, but not on the firing line. The foes that troubled us most, were the fleas and sand flies and mosquitoes that infested that section. They never failed to open the spring campaign promptly and from their attacks by night and day no vigilance on the picket line could furnish even slight immunity. If the old time practice of venesection as a therapeutic agent was correct in theory our hygienic condition ought to have been comparatively perfect. During the “flea season” it was not an unusual occurrence for the boys after fruitless efforts to reach the land of dreams, to rise from their couches, divest themselves of their hickory shirts and break the silence of the midnight air by vigorously threshing them against a convenient tree in the hope of finding temporary “surcease of sorrow” from this ever-present affliction. It was said that if a handfull of sand were picked up half of it would jump away. I can not vouch for the absolute correctness of this statement, but I do know that I killed, by actual count, one hundred and twenty fleas in a single blanket on which I had slept the preceding night and I can not recall that the morning was specially favorable for that species of game either. I remember further that as we had in camp no “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” I corked up an average specimen of these insects to see how long he would live without his daily rations. At the end of two weeks he had grown a trifle thin, but was still a very lively corpse. But these were not the only “ills, that made calamity of so long a life,” for as Moore might have said, if his environment had been different,

“Oft in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain had bound me,
I felt the awful bite
Of ‘skeeters buzzing ’round me “

Their bills were presented on the first day of the day of the month and, unfortunately, on every other
day. At our picket stations on Wilmington and Whitemarsh Islands and at the “Spindles” on the river where the young alligators amused themselves by crawling up on the bank and stealing our rations, there was a larger variety known as gallinippers, from whose attacks the folds of a blanket thrown over our faces was not full protection.

But there were still others. On dress parade in the afternoons, while the regiment was standing at “parade rest” and no soldier was allowed to move hand or foot until Richter’s band, playing Capt. Sheppards Quick stephad completed its daily tramp to the left of the line and back to its position on the right, the sandflies seemed to be aware of our helplessness and “in prejudice of good order and military discipline” were especially vicious in their attack upon every exposed part of our anatomy Capt. C. W Howard, I remember, was accustomed to fill his ears with cotton as a partial protection. I have seen Charlie Goetchius, while on the officers’ line in front of the regiment, squirm and shiver in such apparent agony that the veins in his neck seemed ready to burst. Neither whistling minies, nor shrieking shells, nor forced marches with no meal in the barrel nor oil in the cruse ever seemed to disturb his equanimity in the slightest degree. Quietly and modestly and bravely he met them all. But the sandfly brigade was a little too much for him. In addition to these discomforts, the salt water marsh, near which we were camped, never failed to produce a full crop of chills and fever… Of the one hundred and fifteen men in our ranks only three escaped an attack of this disease. The writer was fortunately one of the three. One man had fifty-three chills before a furlough was allowed him. Quinine was scarce and boneset tea and flannel bandages saturated with turpentine were used as substitutes. Whiskey was sometimes issued as a preventative. In pursuance of a resolution formed on entering the service I never tasted the whiskey and as soon as my habit on this line became known, I was not subjected to the trouble of looking up applicants for the extra ration.

At Causton’s Bluff in May, 1862 Joel J. Parrish, Berrien Minute Men,  went out on sick furlough; despite his absence he was promoted to Sergeant on May 13th.  Charles R. Oliver, Alapaha Guards, was absent sick, but returned and in August was on special duty as a nurse; he later deserted. Reuben Dollar and Isaac B. Stroud, Berry Infantry, came down sick and went home. Dollar was sent to the convalescent camp at Springfield, GA & never returned to the unit. John G. Stroud and John L. Tanner, Berry Infantry, were at hospital in Augusta, GA.  James Sellars, 17th Patriots, contracted measles and was sent to Guyton Hospital at Whitesville, GA. On May 11, 1862, Isaac Watson, Thomas Volunteers, was certified disabled at Causton’s Bluff because of fever and rheumatism. On May 12, 1862,  Joseph N. Singletary, 17th Patriots, died at Screvens Ferry, and George W. Fletcher, Alapaha Guards, was sent home with an “indolent ulcer” on his right leg that went clear down to the bone.   Richard M. Aycock, Berry Infantry, was discharged on May 14, by reason of a severe cut across his foot with an axe which he received before he came into the service.  W. E. Carter, Thomas Volunteers, died of pneumonia May 15, 1862. Daniel M. Banks, Berry Infantry, got sick and was sent to Savannah where he died of fever May 15, 1862. William Ferris, Berry Infantry, on May 15 was at Augusta and died of fever.

Letter from Headquarters of the 29th Georgia Regiment, Causton's Bluff, Savannah, GA supporting discharge of T. S. Gregory on account of consumption. Written May 17, 1862 by Captain, George P. Burch, Thomas Volunteers.

Letter from Headquarters of the 29th Georgia Regiment, Causton’s Bluff, Savannah, GA supporting discharge of T. S. Gregory on account of consumption. Written May 17, 1862 by Captain, George P. Burch, Thomas Volunteers.

James H. Archer, Thomasville Guards, got sick and went home; he died of typhoid dysentery in his mother’s house on May 18, 1862. On May 20, 1862, Frederick Green Thompson, 17th Patriots, died of pneumonia at Screvens Ferry. T.S. Gregory, Thomas Volunteers, who being too weakened and impaired for duty had been serving as a nurse for the previous two months, was discharged at Causton’s Bluff on May 21, 1862 with consumption. James Jones, Alapaha Guards, was discharged May 22, 1862 on account of chronic nephritis. Wesley A. Pugh, Ocklochnee Light Infantry was discharged May 23, 1862 with tertiary syphilis, chronic rheumatism, and chronic hepatitis. On May 24, Lewis J. Collins, Thomas Volunteers, died of typhoid fever at Causton’s Bluff. Philip Schiff, 4th corporal of the Thomasville Guards, 29th GA Regiment, was found physically unfit for duty and discharged on May 26, 1862. Robert A. McKinnon, Ocklochnee Light Infantry, died of typhoid fever on May 27,1862. John E. Dickey , Ochlocknee Light Infantry, got sick in May, went to the hospital and never returned. On May 28, 1862, Waldo McCranie, Berrien Minute Men, was discharged on account of rheumatism; he reenlisted in 1863. On May 29, 1862 Cpl. R. M. Hancock, Thomas Volunteers, died of typhoid fever at Causton’s Bluff. James N. Winn, Ocklochnee Light Infantry was sick at hospital in Savannah; the following month he furnished John E. Bryan as a substitute and received a discharge. Jasper M. Luke, Berrien Minute Men, was discharged about this time with chronic rheumatism. Matthew Godwin, Thomas Volunteers was discharged on account of tuberculosis on May 31, 1862 – the regimental assistant surgeon was of the opinion Godwin suffered from “a hereditary taint in his blood” since his mother also had tuberculosis.

On May 11, 1862, the Federals made another showing on Whitemarsh Island opposite Causton’s Bluff:

Savannah Republican

More Prisoners. – Our pickets on the marsh opposite Causton’s Bluff captured another respectable batch of Yankee Prisoners yesterday afternoon [May 11, 1862], and without firing a gun.
         It seems two detachments were sent out from the 13th Georgia, and stationed in the marsh near Augustine creek. During the afternoon a boat was heard coming from towards Wilmington, when the nearest party threw themselves down in the marsh and awaited its arrival opposite them. Unconscious of danger, the Federals rowed up to within a few yards of the pickets, when the latter suddenly sprang to their feet and ordered a surrender. Taken by surprise, and unarmed, the entire party, numbering fifteen, gave up and came ashore. They were taken in custody by Colonel [Marcellus] Douglass and brought to town for safe keeping.
         The prisoners are fifteen in number – six officers, good looking, well dressed men, and the remainder seamen, all from the steamer Sumter, stationed off Wilmington. They were doubtless reconnoitering, but say they were bound for Fort Pulaski, on a trip of pleasure. The capturing party consisted of only four.

Federal gunboats periodically challenged the Confederate batteries, trying to navigate through the marshes into St. Augustine Creek. Cannon fire from the batteries overlooking Whitemarsh Island was easily heard by the men of the Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment encamped some three miles west near Fort Brown. On May 18, 1862 Sergeant Ezekiel Parrish of the Berrien Light Infantry wrote of hearing the cannonade of Thunderbolt Battery:

May 18, 1862, Savannah, GA

We heard some heavy firing of cannon last night about 9 o’clock. There was ten or fifteen fired in quick succession and then at intervals of ten or fifteen minutes I heard some four of five of the heaviest guns I ever heard in my life. Some thought the fight had commenced but up to this time all is quiet here as far as regards a general engagement with the common enemy. I heard that the shooting we heard was at Thunderbolt battery firing at one of the enemy’s gunboats that was trying to poke by our batteries and reports say she made the best of her way back to her own quarter.

Confederate Picket Station.  The Berrien Minute Men, and the 29th Georgia Regiment were stationed at the post on Causton's Bluff  and did picket duty on Whitemarsh Island and at Caper's Battery.

Confederate Picket Station.  The Berrien Minute Men, and the 29th Georgia Regiment were stationed at the post on Causton’s Bluff  and did picket duty on Whitemarsh Island and at Caper’s Battery.

Men from Causton’s bluff were constantly rotated on picket duty or patrolling on Oatland and Whitemarsh Island and the surrounding creeks.  A ferry was kept at a dock below the bluff to move the men across St. Augustine Creek. In June, 1862, Pvt Harmon N. Baldree, Berrien Minute Men, and Pvt Mitchell Griffin, Thomas Volunteers, were among the men on detached duty as ferrymen. Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry of the Berry Light Infantry wrote on May 20,

Causton’s Bluff, Near Savannah, Ga.

May 20, 1862

Since my last letter we have lost, by death, two more member of our company – Daniel M. Banks and W. N. Farris, the former died in the city at St. John’s Hospital, the latter in the Augusta Hospital. This makes four we have lost. The entire company deeply sympathise with the friends and relatives of each, although they did not die on the battlefield, in the defense of their homes and firesides, yet they fill a soldier’s grave and are justly entitled to the Honor as tho’ they did, for they have been found in the line of battle more than once, for the purpose of meeting the enemy in a deadly conflict. When sickness did not prevent, they were true and trusty.
There is but few on the sick list at present, none seriously so. Our duties are laborious at present. Our company have to go on the Island every four days, in addition to working on the fortifications.
While on the island today we saw a large balloon go up from Fort Pulaski, several times, and remain up several minutes at a time.
There does not seem to be any prospect of a fight here soon, if ever. If there is any it will doubtless be a river fight, and if we don’t whip the fight, it will not be because we had not time to prepare for it.
Recruits are coming in rapidly to the different companies, swelling their ranks to a respectable size.
Floyd.

 

In June, 1862, sickness at Causton’s Bluff continued to take a toll on the effectiveness of the 29th Georgia Regiment.  Jacob Marks and John T. Barker of the Berrien Minute Men were among many who were absent sick.  Isaac Baldree, Berrien Minute Men, was at the general hospital at Guyton and J.S. Massey, Thomasville Guards, was “absent sick in hospital”; both were discharged by civil authority in August. William W. Spencer, Captain of the Ocklochnee Light Infantry, who had been on station at Camp Mackey went on sick furlough. Abel A. Braswell, Seventeenth Patriots, went on sick furlough and was discharged by civil authority in September. John W. Callahan, Berry Infantry, was furloughed on sick leave and was absent sick for seven months. William Shores, Berry Infantry, was absent sick in June and July. John Johnston, 1st Lt of the Stephens Volunteers was sick at Causton’s Bluff, then under arrest for two months before going back on the sick roll; in December, 1862, he was detailed as an enrolling officer. Isaac H. Carter, 17th Patriots, went on sick leave in June and died of disease October 10, 1862. Council Singletary, 17th Patriots, was on sick furlough. Benjamin P. Singletary, Thomas Volunteers, was absent sick, then detailed to work in the regimental hospital. Asa C. Crowe, Stephens Volunteers, discharged with disability at Causton’s Bluff, June 3, 1862 because of an old accidental gunshot wound to his left hand.  On June 9, 1862, Corporal John A. Money, an over-age soldier of the Berrien Minute Men, was discharged at Causton’s Bluff, being disabled by frequent attacks of intermittent fever. Lt Robert Thomas Johnson, Thomas Volunteers, went home sick from Causton’s Bluff on June 10 and Lt. John Green Lindsey, Seventeenth Patriots, died of disease that same day.  Sgt Sherod S. Little, Ocklochnee Light Infantry, was discharged for disability on June 22, 1862 after suffering an acute attack of rheumatism and pericarditis. William G. Price Ocklochnee Light Infantry, reported as a substitute for Michael H. Young, but was detailed June 26, 1862 as a tailor. William Cowart, Berrien Minute Men, enlisted November 18, 1861 and was discharged for disability on June 26, 1862; Captain J. D. Knight said he has “been unfit for duty two thirds of the time since he has been in the service, has had measles, tonciliatus, mumps, fever, and seems to have indication of dropsey.” Tim G. Whiddon, Thomas Volunteers went to St. John’s Hospital, Savannah and died of typhoid fever on June 26, 1862. Daniel B. Lammons, Ocklochnee Light Infantry, went on sick leave in June and died of typhoid fever in Thomas County on the 4th of July, 1862. On June 30, 1862, Samuel Staten, Alapaha Guards, was reported sick in an Augusta, GA hospital.

On June 11th, 1862 the Chatham Artillery joined the garrison at Causton’s Bluff, having moved from their previous station at Camp Hardee on Cedar Hammock. (A detachment of the Chatham Artillery had been captured at the fall of Fort Pulaski.) The camp of the Chatham Artillery at Causton’s bluff was named Camp Stonewall Jackson.  A Historical Sketch of the Chatham Artillery provides a complete roster of the company on arrival at the bluff and describes the conditions of the encampment:

Situated as was the camp in the vicinity of the rice fields, low grounds, and brackish marshes of the Savannah river, and therefore in the midst of a truly malarial region, the men suffered so generally and so severely from fevers, that at one time there were scarcely cannoneers enough in camp to perform guard duty, or drivers to attend to stable duties. Several deaths occurred…

Junior 1st Lieutenant John E. Wheaton wrote:

June 11th – Vacated the camp at Cedar Hammock and camped at Causton’s Bluff, in company with a brigade of infantry in command of Col. C.C. Wilson. The guard and picket duty there was severe, and the situation one of the most unhealthy in Chatham county. A large number of the men were made sick. Privates Wylly J. Cash and James Rafferty died in hospital at Savannah, August 7th, and Private W. H. Elliot at Cartersville, Ga., August 12th.  – Reminiscences of the Chatham Artillery during the war 1861-1865 

Regimental returns for July 1862 from the Berrien Minute Men Company D are sparse, but it seems the health of the company suffered as much as any at Causton’s Bluff. On July 27, 1862 Sergeant John W. Hagan wrote, “The company is very sickly & dose not seem to improve. The health of the troops at this post is very bad. We have had 3 deaths in 24 hours & others expecting to die evry day.”  That month, Stephen Roberts and Guilford Tomlinson, Alapaha Guards, were at a convalescent camp; Roberts died of pneumonia the following month at the Springfield convalescent camp. Lt. Thomas J. Perry, Berry Infantry, was absent sick, but returned in August. James Rhodes, Berry Infantry, went to hospital and was furloughed home to recover; he was back in November, detailed as a ferryman. James W. Ferris, Berry Infantry, was sent to Springfield convalescent camp, then to hospital and eventually deserted. Thomas Allen and  George W. Kirk, Stephens Volunteers, were at convalescent camp; Allen spent the rest of the year in the hospital or furloughed sick.  Merritt A. Chandler, Stephens Volunteers, was sent to the hospital at Whitesville, GA then was in and out of hospitals until February, 1863, when he was diagnosed with “Tertian Fever,” a type of malaria in which the fever spikes every three days. Calvin H. Kytle, Stephens Volunteers, went to the hospital in Savannah. Nathaniel Bryan, Seventeenth Patriots, went on sick furlough. John D. Hires, Wiliam F. Southwell, Lt William Pendarvis, Moses W. Spence, James H. Hodges John T. Strickland, William Thornton and William F. Southwell, Georgia Foresters, were sick in the hospital. Hodges would be out for four months, Strickland six months, Southwell and Thornton never returned. Spence was detailed as a nurse. Randall Phinnie, Thomas Volunteers, was absent sick. F. M. Rawls and J. S. Rawls went to the convalescent camp. F.M. Rawls headed home without leave and died December 9 in Thomas County. J. S. Rawls was sent to Springfield and never returned. James W. Farris, Berry Infantry, went to a convalescent camp and was out five months. Toliver Trapp, Berry Infantry, was at convalescent camp; he had been working as a nurse in the Savannah hospital. Reuben R. Pyles, 17th Patriots, was at the Convalescent camp. Barry Scoggins, 17th Patriots was under arrest at Oglethorpe Barracks, Savannah; he escaped in November 1862. On July 2, 1862, John Muller reported as a substitute for John G. Fondren and deserted the same day. Hayes Singletary, who had enlisted in the 17th Patriots in May, died of pneumonia on July 3, 1862 at Causton’s Bluff. On the 4th of July, 1862, James Sellars, 17th Patriots, died of pneumonia at Guyton Hospital. On July 10, John Tomlinson, Alapaha Guards, furnished a substitute to serve in his place. J. Peacock, 17th Patriots, died of fever, July 10, 1862. On July ll, 1862, Lewis Ebbinger, who worked in the company commissary of the Ocklochnee Light infantry, died of congestive chill. J. Kilby Carroll was discharged at Causton’s Bluff on July 16, 1862 as “incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of chronic ulceration of the leg“; he later was sent to Ocmulgee Hospital, Macon, GA and worked in the Confederate States Laboratory, the center of Confederate States Ordnance testing and production. Patrick W. McKinnon, Ocklochnee Light Infantry, died of typhoid fever July 18, 1862. William J. McKinnon, Ocklochnee Light Infantry, went to a hospital at Whitesville, GA; he died August 28th, 1862. B.F. Fudge, Thomasville Guards, was at a convalescent camp; he was discharged in August for being over age. Thirty-six-year-old Jarrod Johnson, who joined at Darrien, GA, had been incapacitated by rheumatism every single day of his enlistment and was discharged on certificate of disability on July 19, 1862. On July 22, 1862 Dempsey Griffin, Thomas Volunteers, died of pneumonia at Causton’s Bluff. G. W. Martin, Thomasville Guards, caught Typhoid pneumonia and received a certificate of disability for discharge at Causton’s Bluff, July 23, 1862. That same day, July 23, Cpl. William T. Connally and Wilber W. Williams, Stephens Volunteers, and Duncan R. McIntosh, 17th Patriots, died of fever in Savannah. James C. Smith, corporal of the Ochlockonee Light Infantry got sick and was sent to Guyton Hospital at Whitesville, GA where he died of intermittent fever on July 25, 1862. Greenberry Holt, 17th Patriots, enlisted at Causton’s Bluff on May 16 and died of jaundice and fever on July 28, 1862. William Harper and James H. Lester, Thomasville Guards, got sick in July. Harper spent four months in the hospital but eventually returned to the regiment and served until the end of the war. Lester went home and on July 28, 1862 died of typhoid fever.

In August, 1862  Josiah Goode, Stephens Volunteers, went sick to the Savannah hospital and after several months of illness was furloughed home; he died September 14, 1863 of chronic diarrhea. In Stephens Volunteers, Sgt William J.
Poole left camp in August and died of fever in Franklin County, GA on September 16, the same day Sgt Lowrey G. Patterson died of fever at Causton’s Bluff. S. R. Taylor was assigned to duty as a hospital steward; the following month he was discharged, overage.

The Chatham Artillery vacated Causton’s Bluff on August 13, 1862, moving to White Bluff.  The Berrien Minute Men, Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment would remain at Causton’s Bluff through the first week of October.

Causton’s Bluff Part 2:  Challenge from Tybee

Causton’s Bluff Part 2:  Challenge from Tybee

In the spring and summer of 1862, the Berrien Minute Men, Company D (Company K after reorganization), 29th Georgia Infantry were garrisoned at stations defending Savannah, GA.  Since mustering into service a year earlier, the Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  had been made along the Georgia coast, with the 13th Regiment at Brunswick,  then at Sapelo Island, and Darien, GA.  By early 1862 The Berrien Minute Men,  having gotten “regulated” into the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment  were sent to the Savannah, GA area to garrison Camp Wilson and Camp Tattnall.

On February 21, 1862 Berrien Minute Men, Company C, were detached to serve on the Savannah River Batteries. In early April 1862 Federal incursions on Whitemarsh Island below Causton’s Bluff would precipitate the transfer of Berrien Minute Men, Company D and other companies of the  29th Georgia Regiment from Camp Tattnall to the bluff to reinforce the Confederate position there.  (Company A, Captain Billopp’s Georgia Foresters, were sent to Hutchinson’s Island. The Alapaha Guards (Company E) and 17th Patriots (Company K) were on picket duty at Screven’s Ferry, SC on the Savannah River just opposite Fort Jackson. On May 14th they captured seven federal soldiers who were released to federal authorities a few days later according to communications in the Savannah Daily Morning News, May 19, 1862.)

  1. Causton’s Bluff Part 1: The Key to Savannah
  2. Causton’s Bluff Part 2: Challenge from Tybee
  3. Causton’s Bluff Part 3: War on Whitemarsh Island
  4. Causton’s Bluff Part 4: Arrival of the 29th Georgia Regiment

Prior to the arrival of the Berrien Minute Men at Causton’s Bluff, the position was garrisoned by the 13th Georgia Regiment which experienced frequent night-time alerts.  Some of these were false alarms, but many were in response to Federal incursions on the creeks and islands below the bluff.

Commanding officers of the 46th NY Regiment garrisoned on Tybee Island east of Savannah were well aware that Confederate gun batteries were being placed around the city.

Officers of the 46th New York Infantry Regiment

Officers of the 46th New York Infantry Regiment.  The 46th NY garrisoned Tybee Island, GA in 1862. Image Source: New York State Military Museum

The 46th New York volunteers made the Tybee Light Station their Headquarters and it was “the base of operations for the seige of Fort Pulaski… Temporary barracks were built on the lighthouse grounds and defensive positions were taken up around the Martello Tower, which was refortified with earthwork batteries.” – Tybee Island: The Long Branch of the South.

The Federals on Tybee Island also welcomed escaped enslaved people who managed to find their way to the Island.

Following the capture of Port Royal, SC [and Tybee Island, GA] by Union Naval forces in November of 1861… escaping enslaved people began seeking asylum from naval vessels that were conducting reconnaissance along the coastal islands in March and April of 1862. Not having quarters for those who flocked to the boats, the US Navy established “contraband” camps at Otter Island, South Carolina and at the Naval post for Tybee Island in Georgia. – International African American Museum

1862 enumeration of escaped enslaved peoples living in "contraband" camp on Tybee Island, GA

1862 enumeration of escaped enslaved peoples living in “contraband” camp on Tybee Island, GA

The inventory records of the Union Provost Marshal give the names, age, height, former “occupation,” names, residence and “character” of former masters, date of arrival and present employment of those settled at the contraband camp.  The former slaves were employed as “officers servant,” laborers, boatmen, and oarsmen. These records have been transcribed at the International African American Museum

Tybee Island Light Station circa 1862

Tybee Island Light Station circa 1862

By February, 1862 the 46th NY Regiment was joined on Tybee by seven companies of the 7th Connecticut Regiment, a detachment of New York engineers and two companies of Rhode Island artillery.

Soldiers of the 1st New York Engineers

Soldiers of the 1st New York Engineers

Company F, 1st New York Engineers participated in the bombardment of Fort Pulaski

Company F, 1st New York Engineers participated in the bombardment of Fort Pulaski

Federal soldiers at the Martello Tower, Tybee Island, GA

Federal soldiers at the Martello Tower, Tybee Island, GA. Image source: Boston Athenaeum

The landing of [Federal] troops on Tybee Island greatly excited the Georgians. In a printed address sent out to the people of the State, signed by Howell Cobb, Robert Toombs, Thomass R. R. Cobb and M. J. Crawford, we find the following language:

“The foot of the oppressor is on the soil of Georgia. He comes with lust in his eye, poverty in his purse, and hell in his heart. He comes a robber and a murderer. How shall you meet him? With the sword at the threshold! With death for him and yourself! But more than this – let every woman have a torch, every child a fire-brand – let the loved homes of youth be made ashes, and the fields of our heritage be made desolate. Let blackness and ruin mark your departing steps if depart you must, and let a desert more terrible the Sahara welcome the vandals. Let every city be leveled by the flames and every village be lost in ashes. Let your faithful slaves share your fortune and your crust. Trust wife and children to the sure refuge and protection of God – preferring even for these loved ones the charrnel-house as a home that loathsome vassalage to a nation already sunk below the contempt of the civilized world. This may be your terrible choice, and determine at once and without dissent, as honor and patriotism and duty to God require.

For the Berrien Minute Men, the strengthening Federal positions on Tybee Island would mean re-deployment from their present positions. Captain Thomas S. Wylly’s company of Berrien Minute Men (Company C) on the night of February 21, 1862  were ordered from Camp Wilson to Fort Jackson to relieve the Savannah Republican Blues, and were soon ordered to Lawton Battery on Smith’s Island in the Savannah River.  Berrien Minute Men Company D, under command of Captain Lamb, remained at Camp Tattnall with Major Levi J. Knight, Sr. and the rest of the 29th Georgia Regiment until April of 1862.

On Tybee Island, the Federals prepared gun emplacements to bombard Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, and simultaneously they worked to cut off all supplies to the fort. The last remaining supply route to the fort was by way of Lazaretto Creek, which the Federals blockaded with the USS Montezuma.   The US Navy purchased Montezuma, a former whaling ship, at New London, CT on  November 29, 1861 originally intending to sink her as part of the second “stone fleet” of harbor obstructions on the Confederate coast.  Instead the Navy placed her in Lazaretto Creek, Georgia, in February 1862.

The fleet anchored the old wreck, Montezuma, at a point of three miles south of the fort [Pulaski] in the Lazaretto Creek. The Montezuma had been intended as a barrier to keep out steam ships. But when the traffic continued with small boats, Captain Anton Hinckel received orders to occupy the wreck with three guns and two companies of the 46th New York Infantry. The Montezuma was loaded with stones and had originally been intended to be sunk in the river along with 25 other worn-out ships to block the way to Savannah. Captain Hinckel and his troops spent the next eight weeks on the Montezuma. Regular patrols with row boats guarded the entrances and many of the nightly smugglers were caught. One of them was a slave who showed the Federal soldiers many secret connections to the fort, and thus it was possible to catch three more Rebels on the island of Wilmington. Ernst Mettendorf,  Zwischen Triumph und Desaster : Ein deutshes Regiment im amerikanischen Burgerkrieg.

A Federal map created December 31, 1861 showing the relative positions of the USS Montezuma (labeled "Hulk Scow" on Lazaretto Creek, Wilmington Island, Federal batteries on Tybee Island, and Fort Pulaski. To the west of Wilmington Islands are Whitemarsh Island, Oatland Island and Causton's Bluff [not shown].

An 1862 Federal map showing the relative positions of the USS Montezuma (labeled “Hulk Scow” on Lazaretto Creek, Wilmington Island, Federal batteries on Tybee Island, and Fort Pulaski. To the west of Wilmington Islands are Whitemarsh Island, Oatland Island and Causton’s Bluff [not shown].

The obstruction of Lazaretto Creek by the hulk USS Montezuma on February 22, 1862 cut off the last possible resupply route to the Confederate garrison at  Fort Pulaski.  Perhaps as a signal, the Federals also demonstrated against the fort. At Fort Pulaski, Lt. Theodorick W. Montfort, Oglethorpe Light Infantry, wrote the following day,

“On yesterday Morning, [February 22, 1862] the Yankees opened fire on our Garrison & fired several shots, none of which done any harm. On yesterday evening on Dress Parade while our men were formed in the yard they fired a rifle shell, which passed near us. There was considerable merriment at the expense of those who ran or dodged. I did not do either, yet I assure you to hear a large shell or ball whistling through the air which you can hear for three miles is not a very pleasant sound. Yet I find that men will soon become accustomed to danger as they will to any & evry thing else. Yet to us it is all excitement & amusement. It is good we have something to excite & amuse us.”

Coincidentally,  February 22, 1862 was the date that the Constitution of the Confederate States of America went into effect, assuring to white southern citizens the “right of property in negro slaves.”

For a while, couriers on foot were still able to sneak mail in and out of the fort, although many were captured by Federal patrols.  “Several of our men & mails have been captured either in getting to or returning from Savannah. They have to select some dark night & walk some five miles through a marsh from one to three feet deep in mud before they pass the Yankees that are spread over the Marsh day & night to watch & capture our men.” On the night of February 25, Federal boats patrolled around Cockspur Island and fired on Confederate pickets causing a general alarm. The garrison was again aroused and under arms on the night of the 26th, when anxious Pulaski pickets mistakenly shot a horse.

Fort Pulaski was expected to hold out for quite some time against a Federal siege, but the Confederates were immediately prompted  to further strengthen the remaining Savannah defenses. The battery at Causton’s Bluff was manned as critical link in the inner chain of Savannah defensive works immediately around the city.

Work on construction of fortifications at Causton’s Bluff Battery began in earnest that same month, along with construction of breastworks and batteries near Fort Jackson. At the behest of General Robert E. Lee, the Savannah City Council furnished “from two to three hundred negro laborers ‘for the purpose of throwing up breastworks.'”  The Confederates were already using slave labor to construct and support defenses. At Fort Pulaski, slaves were used to clear out the moat and put the fort in fighting order. There, wrote Charles Olmstead, “[In the summer of 1861] our cooks were all Negroes and it goes without saying that strong measures had to be used to keep them up to the mark. If a kitchen did not meet the requirements of Authority of the Cook was promptly laid over a brass drum and a good paddling administered with a shingle while his associates stood grinning around. The efficaciousness of this plan is shown by the fact that it had to be resorted to only twice that I can remember; it broke no bones but ensured clean kitchens. I recommend the method to housekeepers with inefficient or careless servants.” On December 2, 1861, Edward Clifford Anderson, supervisor of armaments for the river batteries, wrote in his diary, “Four of my negroes from the plantation were drafted by the Engineering Dept and sent to work on Skidaway Island” and on January 3, 1862 Confederate engineer Dr. Cheves was on a small mud island in the Savannah River above Fort Jackson, “with a gang of negroes was at work establishing a foundation, preliminary to throwing up breastworks – This point was known as the “Naval Battery.” Over the summer of 1862, military leaders would call for thousands more slaves to build defensive works around Savannah.

The Confederate States Army ran want ads for slaves to build defensive works around Savannah. Slave owners were assured they would be compensated for the work of their slaves and that the slaves would be well cared for.

The Confederate States Army ran want ads for slaves to build defensive works around Savannah. Slave owners were assured they would be compensated for the work of their slaves and that the slaves would be well cared for.

Savannah Republican
July 3, 1862

Negroes Wanted

C. S. Engineer’s Office
Savannah, June 24, 1862

      One Thousand Negroes are wanted for the completion of important works in the neighborhood of Savannah.
      By order of Brigadier General Mercer, commanding, the undersigned appeals to the Planters of Georgia to furnish this force without delay.
      The value of each negro entrusted to this Department will be appraised immediately and recorded. A receipt will be given for the negro, containing his value, certified by the appraisers. Should he in any way fall into the hands of the enemy, his value so appraised will be refunded to the owner or owners.
      The following terms are offered:
      Field Hand – $11.00 per month, with food, quarters, and medical attendance.
      Carpenters – $17.00 per month, with food, quarters, and medical attendance.
      Plantation Drivers – $20.00 per month, with food, quarters and medical attendance.
      Transportation, by railroad, also furnished.
      N. B – Dr. Thomas A. Parsons, of Burke county, Ga., is appointed Agent of this office, to procure laborers, according to the above advertisement.
By order Brig, Gen. Mercer.
                                      JNO. McCRADY
                                     Capt. C.S.P. Engineers, in charge.
***Macon, Augusta, Milledgeville, Thomasville, and Sandersville papers will publish weekly for one month and send bills to this office.

By order of Brigadier General Hugh Weedon Mercer each county was to contribute 20 percent of its slave labor force to build the defenses of Savannah. Only 10 percent of the slaves could be women. For every lot of 100 slaves, the counties could provide their own overseer, to be paid by the Army. The Army would resort to forcible seizure in any county where planters failed to contribute their quota of slaves.

The War in America: Negroes at Work on the Fortifications at Savannah.--From a Sketch by Our Special Artist.; Illustrated London News. vol.42, no.1199, p. 433. April 18, 1863

The War in America: Negroes at Work on the Fortifications at Savannah.–From a Sketch by Our Special Artist.; Illustrated London News. vol.42, no.1199, p. 433. April 18, 1863

“But some close, narrow-minded planters,” wrote Captain Mercer,  “evinced great opposition to this necessary order, denouncing it as tyrannical &c, they would rather subject our white Georgians to hard work in this terrible weather than spare a few of their slaves.”  Mercer, a native of Savannah, was a son of General Hugh Weedon Mercer and great grandson of Cyrus Griffin, who in 1788 was President of the Continental Congress.  Lt. Mercer was educated at Russell Military Academy, New Haven, CT;  took preparatory study under Dr. William T. Feay, a professor of Chemistry and Pharmacy at Oglethorpe Medical College; received a Master of Arts from Princeton College; and studied law at the University of Virginia.  Mercer’s  diary of Civil War experiences also relates his  disgust with profiteering by Confederate civilians: “A greedy desire to get rich seems to pervade all. One of the most agravated cases I have heard of consist in the charge of $3.50 per day for the use of an old Flat not worth $300; this Flat is used by the picket at Causton’s Bluff as a means of crossing the river, and belongs to Dickerson.”

The construction of Confederate batteries at Causton’s Bluff and placement of obstructions on St. Augustine Creek,  was assigned by General Robert E. Lee to Captain Josiah Tattnall, senior flag officer of the Navy of Georgia.  At the bluff, the gun battery was in a position to protect the back of Fort Lee which was across the marsh on the south bank of the Savannah River. The headquarters at the bluff was in a house that had served as the home of the overseer  of Habersham family’s rice plantation at Causton’s Bluff.  At the time the overseer’s home was built, about 1852, Robert Habersham owned at least 89 slaves who worked the plantation. “The overseer had objected to living all year at the plantation, because the miasma made the summer months unhealthful on rice plantations; so a new house was built for the overseer on the southern extremity of the plantation, some distance from the rice fields under cultivation.”

On February 28, 1862 units of 13th Georgia Regiment from Causton’s Bluff  encountered sentries from the Montezuma  who were patrolling the creeks around Wilmington Island in a small boat.

 A wild shootout followed in which one of the Rebels was killed along with two Union soldiers Johann Müller and Louis Herweg. Corporal Anton Mayer and his entire crew of 18 men were taken prisoner by the Rebels. Some of them had been wounded and Franz Etzold, a soldier, died a week later from his injuries. 

A second Federal patrol boat went undetected by the Confederates.

First Lieutenant Alphons Servière was with the second boat. He and his entire crew had to conceal themselves in the thick underbrush of the island. After two days they managed to return to the Montezuma – Ernst Mettendorf,  Zwischen Triumph und Desaster : Ein deutshes Regiment im amerikanischen Burgerkrieg.

 

Another night alert occurred on Tuesday, March 11, 1862 when the Confederate pickets on Whitemarch Island made contact with Federal Scouts. At Battery Beaulieu (pronounced “Bewly”) twelve miles below Savannah on the sea-island cotton plantation of John Schley,  “...at 1 Oclock in the knight we was ordered out on the perade ground and we loded our guns to go to Whitmarsh Island [where] the Yanks made an attack on our men,” wrote Isaiah Smith, a private of Company K, 31st Georgia Regiment, “but we did not get to go before the fight was over so we went to bed again.

Two weeks later, on Tuesday, March 25, 1862 a Federal detail from the Montezuma made another raid on Wilmington Island, taking one civilian prisoner and returning to their base without making any contact with Confederate forces. The captured Georgian was Jacob Dannenfelser who, like the soldiers of the 46th NY Regiment, was a German immigrant.

Dannenfelser told Captain Hinckel of a force of Germans stationed at Fort Pulaski. He noted later that it was a full company of the 1st Georgia Regiment under the command of Captain John H. Stegin. “At that time we were very interested to learn something about the situation over there at the fort,” recalled Captain Horace Porter. “One of our men suggested that the regimental band should play German music. When the Germans at Fort Pulaski hear this, they may want to come over to us. The proposal was quickly accepted. And indeed, on a particularly dark night, the first one came rowing across on a tree trunk. We received a lot of very important information from him.” Colonel Rosa reported this incident to General Sherman. In his letter to the general he wrote, “The defector from Fort Pulaski was named John Hirth. He immediately became a member of the 46th New York Regiment.” – Ernst Mettendorf,  Zwischen Triumph und Desaster : Ein deutshes Regiment im amerikanischen Burgerkrieg.

Regimental Band of the 48th NY Infantry

Regimental Band of the 48th NY Infantry

At Fort Pulaski Lt. Theodorick W. Montfort, of the Oglthorpe Light Infantry, wrote, “I think & fear that our heretofore limited means of communication is now effectually cut off. Two men (Germans) from this for Fort deserted …and have doubtless posted the enemy with our ways, means & time of getting a mail.”

The Confederate troops at Causton’s Bluff had their regimental bands as well, although their music was by no means an enticement to deserters from the enemy. Colonel Marcellus Douglass was advertising for “musicians for the Brass Band of Thirteenth Regiment Georgia Volunteers C. S. A., now stationed at Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, Georgia. The Instruments vacant are one Bb Bass Tuba, one Bb Trombone, one Bb Tenor, two Bb Altos, and two Eb Altos.”  Later, Lacey E. Lastinger, of the Berrien Minute Men, would serve as a drummer and musician for the 29th Georgia Regiment at Causton’s Bluff.

About March 27, Confederate pickets from Causton’s Bluff while patrolling Whitemarsh Island encountered the Montezuma anchored in Lazaretto Creek  and fired on Captain Hinckel’s men, forcing them to briefly abandon the guns. But the Federals quickly rallied their forces and in the face of superior numbers, the Confederate pickets backed away and withdrew across Whitemarsh Island. The Federals pursued in an armed barge, but were unable to catch up with the Confederate soldiers.

The Confederate German Jacob Dannenfelser, after a week at the USS Montezuma, appealed to the commanding officer to allow him to check on his family back on Wilmington Island. Perhaps seeking Dannenfelser’s collaboration, the Union officer consented; on Sunday morning, March 30, 1862, two union soldiers were detailed to escort Dannenfelser by boat to visit his home.  But a patrol of Confederate scouts from Causton’s Bluff discovered the Federal party upon the return trip and effected a capture.

The affair was recorded in the official report of Colonel Rudolph Rosa:

MARCH 30-31, 1862.—Affairs on Wilmington and Whitemarsh Islands, Ga.

Report of Col. Rudolph Rosa, Forty-sixth New York Infantry.

Tybee Island, Ga., April 3, 1862.
General: In accordance with your orders I arrived at the swimming battery, Montezuma, near Decent Island, on the evening of March 29, 1862, with a detachment of two commissioned officers and thirty men of the Forty-sixth New York. Shortly after my arrival Lieutenant Serviere, having effected the relief of the men in the guard boat near Hunter’s farm, reported that he had been shot at repeatedly by about thirty rebels near Gibson’s farm, without the shot taking effect. On the following day, with four commissioned officers and seventy-five men, I made a reconnaissance on Whitemarsh Island, landing at Gibson’s and marching thence on land to Turner’s farm. From there we were recalled by shots, and found that the small stern wheel steamer [probably CSS Ida] had shown herself near to our boats in Oatland Creek, and had returned after being fired at by the boat’s guard. I then went again across the island to MacDonald’s farm, and returned without meeting the enemy. The topographical results will be embodied in a little sketch.

In returning I heard that by the lieutenant left in command of the Montezuma, leave had been given to Dannenfelser and two men to go with a boat to Wilmington Island, that they had been last seen going into Turner’s Creek, and were now missing. The guard boat was left at the usual place opposite Hunter’s farm over night.

At dawn on the 31st the guard were revised and partly relieved by Captain Hinckel, who then made a patrol to Dannenfelser’s house, and was told that Dannenfelser and the two men had been there for half an hour the previous day, and then had departed. Captain Hinckel also captured a negro in the act of entertaining communication between the fort and Savannah. The guard was instructed to keep a sharp lookout along the shore for our missing men. At noon Lieutenant Serviere was sent to relieve the guard, and with the instruction to search at the same time Gibson’s and Screven’s farms for the missing and for interlopers, but not to proceed farther. At 4 o’clock Captain Hinckel went with the captured negro for verifying his description at the cuts used for smuggling. He came back at 8 o’clock and reported that no trace of the guard and relief boats was to be found….

 

On the Confederate side, Lieutenant George Anderson Mercer, Assistant Adjutant General, 1st Georgia Infantry, was impressed with the action.

George Anderson Mercer, son of Hugh W. Mercer, journaled about the 1861-62 time period when the Berrien Minute Men were stationed at coastal defenses near Savannah.  Image source: <a href="https://archive.org/details/universitiesthei04cham/page/105" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Universities and Their Sons, Vol. 4</a>.

George Anderson Mercer, son of Hugh W. Mercer, journaled about the 1861-62 time period when the Berrien Minute Men were stationed at coastal defenses near Savannah.  Image source: Universities and Their Sons, Vol. 4.

 

Pickets from the 13th Regt captured two German soldiers who were carrying off a German Gardener from his place on Wilmington Island. The Yankees were in a boat 700 yards distant; our men fired seven shots with enfield rifles; three passed through the boat and two struck the unfortunate man the enemy were taking off. This was good shooting. – George A Mercer

Excerpt from the Civil War diary of George Anderson Mercer describing actions of 13th GA Infantry Regiment stationed at Causton's Bluff near Savannah, GA

Excerpt from the Civil War diary of George Anderson Mercer describing actions of 13th GA Infantry Regiment stationed at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA

The return of the victorious scouts to Causton’s Bluff with their prisoners and the liberated Dannenfelser in tow was also noted by Private Jenkins  in his diary,

…17 scouts under Adutant [Adjutant] Hill Sent to Whitemarsh Island, who have returned 3, oclock  with two captured prisners yankees and a dutchman citizan of Wilmington Island, who had previously been taken by the yanks, Companies B. C. & G. ordered to prepare immediately under command of Capt Crawford of Co G. -Pvt Cyrus Jenkins

Word of the capture quickly reached Savannah, and the following day a report of events to this point was published in The Savannah Republican of March 31, 1862:

Capture of Yankees.
         Two Yankees, belonging to the Forty-sixth New York Regiment were captured by our pickets yesterday [Sunday, March 30, 1862] under the following circumstances:
        Tuesday last [March 25, 1862] Jacob Dannenfelser, a German, residing on Wilmington Island was at work in his garden, when some thirty Yankees suddenly leaped the fence. He hailed them and asked who they were and what they were about. They replied that they were friends. They had with them a negro man named Sam, the property of Mr. Pinder, whom they released and then laid violent hands on Dannenfelser. They took him to an old hulk lying near Decent Island and there kept him until yesterday. The hulk is armed with a long rifle gun, which the Yankees call their “Field Snake.”
        Yesterday morning Dannenfelser prevailed on his captors to allow him to visit his family with a guard, for the purpose of seeing them and procuring some clothing. He was despatched to Wilmington in a boat with two men. Having procured his clothing, the boat was returning to to the hulk when our pickets on Whitmarsh opened a heavy fire upon the party. The Yankees were unhurt, though their prisoner did not come off so well. He was shot in three places, through the hand, one through the arm above the elbow, and a third across the bridge of the nose, the last mentioned being a very slight one.
         The Yankees, finding the fire rather warm, gave up and rowed to the island in the direction of our pickets, who took them in charge and forwarded them, together with Dannenfelser, to our camp at Causton Bluff. The latter was immediately brought to town to receive medical attention. The prisoners will be brought to town this morning.
        Dannenfelser said that whilst he was on the hulk, a party of Federals were fired upon by our pickets, when they retired and in a short time brought a force of some one hundred men in a barge with a heavy gun in the bow, to attack the pickets. The party were under command of Colonel Rose [Rudolph Rosa], of the 46th New York Regiment. No engagement occurred. The Pickets had retired from Whitmarsh. Being disappointed and not a little aggravated by the annoyance of our pickets, they threatened to burn the houses on Colonel Gibson’s plantation, but retired without executing the threat.

Being alarmed of the presence of Federal patrols on Whitemarsh Island, on that same Sunday afternoon, March 30, 1862, three companies of men were dispatched from Causton’s Bluff; Private Jenkins was among them.

We left the camp about dark, crossed Augustine creek upon oakland Island [Oatland Island], at Caustin Bluff battery. While passing a cross this Island along a narrow path enclosed by thick underwood, all at once all were silent & still as death.! a moment more & the gunlocks began to rattle like fire in a cainbrake! Two seconds & all was again still! A human form was seen! The Capt demanded his countersign. There were two who proved to be pickets for a squad of the 13th left by Adutant Hill [John Dawson Hill] in the evening.

We passed along to the old bridge 2 1/2 miles from Caustins Bluff & crossed the creek on Whitemarsh Island. While here waiting for the other two companies that we had left crossing Augustine creek, A noise was heard in the marsh, mistaken for the tread of human footsteps. All was again hushed. The Capt ordered us to divide on either side of the path that led through the marsh to the high land, & He with two others advanced to the wood. All were now in suspense. I did not like our position. I went to the wood, but before I got there I was releaved by the hissing, & familiar noise of an Alligator.

We now became tired waiting for the rear party & determined to wait no longer. After leaving a picket at our little boat, we proceeded a mile to an old house, but found nothing here. Then from thence to the Gibson place 1 1/2 miles farther with like success, & from thence to the Turner place 2 miles farther. On nearing this place. (It being now 2, oc [o’clock] at night) we perceived that a brillant light in one of the cabins.

The advance guard (of which I was one) had surrounded the house before the party came up. The men on seeing the light smelt a mice, or a yank and began backing scattering out, & cocking their guns. I could not imagine for a time the cause. I first thought they had seen some one in the diriction they were going then I saw their faces & guns all turn to the cabins. I then knew they expected danger from there, I now felt rather in a critical position, for I was near the house & in their full view. I knew I was no yankee but did they know it. I was afraid to speak or move for fear of being fired upon, for a yankee. I stood for a moment & stept cautiously behind the house.

The occupants of the house were negroes left upon the Island. We found no boats here to pass across to Wilmington, & returned to the Gibson Place.

As we neared the place, low depressed coughing was heard. We expected our rear scout, but crept up noiselessly within full view, when Capt demanded who comes there.  A reply came, Friend with the counter sign (all else was perfect silence).  Capt: Advance and give the countersign. All again still for a moment, then rapid cocking of firelocks was heard in every direction, in two seconds more all again silent. Capt again in his usual firm calm voice demanded the countersign. Then a trembling voice: Capt McCallay [James McCauley]. I know your voice, Lieut [William R] Redding Co E [13] th.

We here lay in ambush around the landing untill day (It being now 3, oc [o’clock] ). An hour by sun we, with exception of a small scout party under Adutant  [John Dawson] Hill. went to the Turner place to take our boats for Wilmington, (they were to meet us there).  Just as the boats came Hill sent a messenger for us to go to his assistance, They are coming. We now quicked it back but found when we got there they had turned back.

17 were left under command of Lieut [Bolling H.] Robinson to guard this & the remainder of us went over up on Wilmington. We then started out into two parties, Capt McCallay with, co B, were to go to the Hunter place & from there to the Scriven place & attack the yanks first, while the other party were to go to the Scriven place & there lay in at ambush untill the commencement & then come up in thier rear. But before we had got to the Scriven place we heard sharp firing in the direction. We went double quick (a mile) untill we came in sight, when we saw co G. quickening towards us. Capt [Joel T.] Crawford with his co G. were ordered by Hill back to our fleet of skiffs to prevent being cut off.

He now told Capt McCallay that Hill had ordered him McCalley back. The firing we heard was upon Whitemarsh, between our pickets there & the yanks. After a warm contest wounding one of our m[en] of Co G. they put to water & oarred toward Wilmington near the Scriven place. Company B now doubled quickening back to the boats. We soon after this heard sharp shooting at Scriven place. A few moments more & another volley & all was over. The enemy surrendered 16 in number. One killed three wounded with but two scattering shots from them.

An eight oared barge boat with a six pound field Piece upon its bow, together with their small arms, the prisners were sent on immediately. But some of us were here delayed untill about ten OC  at night when we started for Thunderbolt and after very heavy oaring against the tide we arrived at 3 oc in the morning of Tuesday. (some of the boats however reached Thunderbolt several hours in advance of us).  Here we remained untill morning where I lay upon the ground & Slept untill sun rise, when we again put out for camps and reached them at 9 oc in the morning

The Union account of the engagement was continued in Col. Rosa’s report of the actions of the 46th NY Regiment:

On the evening of the 1st of April we received promptly a re-enforcement of two officers and thirty men of the Forty-sixth New York, and one 6 pounder at the Montezuma. At 10 o’clock in the same night Lieutenants Serviere and Rettig and fifteen men in the relief boat returned and reported as follows: When the relief boat met the guard boat at Hunter’s farm they both proceeded to Gibson’s house, the relief boat in advance, the guard boat (with the small old iron 6-pounder, private property of the subscriber) bringing up the rear. At Gibson’s they saw two men; then Lieutenant Serviere with fifteen men landed and found himself soon engaged in a skirmishing fight with about thirty rebels, whom he successfully drove out of the houses and the farm, killing at least one of them. When the guard boat neared the landing Lieutenant Rettig also jumped ashore, but the helmsman, a canal boatman promoted to a sergeant’s position since two days, suddenly lost his self-possession entirely, backed the boat off, and dropped back with the tide. Lieutenant Serviere then took to the relief boat, which during the time had filled with water, and had to be bailed out, and set afloat again under cover of a chain of skirmishers. They left without any loss, though fired at repeatedly, and then saw in the distance that the guard boat had drifted on the flats between Screven’s and Hunter’s Place; that a fire was opened against it at about fifty paces distance, by, at the least estimation, about sixty men; that the men laid themselves flat on the bottom of the boat and waved their caps as sign of surrender. The relief boat then took to the small creek and swamps between Oatland Creek and Wilmington Narrows, was fast aground over night, and succeeded in coming back late the next evening by way of the narrows and the stockade. The total loss, therefore, consists of eighteen enlisted men, the man Dannenfelser, and about twelve rounds of ammunition. Two boats and one small iron 6-pounder were also lost, being prizes of the Forty-sixth Regiment New York State Volunteers, and not belonging to the United States. There seems to be a determination to keep up at all events the communication to the fort by way of Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands and the very numerous creeks running through McQueen’s marshes. I most respectfully propose to keep a small armed steam-boat there.
Your most obedient servant,
RUDOLPH ROSA,
Colonel, Comdg. Forty-sixth Regiment New York State Vols.
General Q. A. Gillmore, Commanding.

 

Again, Lt. Mercer was impressed with the work of the Georgian’s at Causton’s Bluff.

These Georgians of the 13th are rough fellows, but full of fight and reckless of life; after the taking of the fifteen Yankees volunteers were called for for Picket duty; the whole regiment volunteered. There is no disposition to avoid a fight among our troops; they covet one only too anxiously — sick and all turn out for it. – George A Mercer

By March 31, 1862 the battery at Causton’s Bluff had been re-fortified.  “There was ferry dock on the river below the fort [Fort Bartow, Causton’s Bluff], since troops crossed the river at this point. This may have been the point where the Confederate ironclads Atlanta and Savannah, and the steamer Ida tied up when they came to Causton’s Bluff.” Also at the bluff was the steamer Leesburg, kept at the disposition of the commanding officer.

On April 9, 1862 the federal troops on Tybee were further reinforced by the 8th Michigan Infantry, arriving from Port Royal, SC aboard the U.S.S. Benjamin Deford.

USS Benjamin Deford brought the 8th Michigan Infantry to Tybee Island, GA on April 9, 1862

USS Benjamin Deford brought the 8th Michigan Infantry to Tybee Island, GA on April 9, 1862

Finally, on April 10, 1862 the anticipated Federal bombardment of Fort Pulaski commenced.  At Lawton Battery and Camp Tattnall, the Berrien Minute Men were about seven or eight miles from Pulaski, more than close enough for a front row view of the artillery barrage.  Witnessing the thunderous, up close barrage, did the Berrien Minute Men hark back to their time the previous fall on Sapelo Island, when atmospheric conditions caused them to hear the cannons bombarding Port Royal from a distance of 60 miles?  From one tenth the distance, how hellish the shelling of Pulaski must have seemed in comparison.

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

Assistant Adjutant General  George A. Mercer observing the bombardment from Skidaway Island about six miles distant, reported the scene.

“The earth shakes with a tremendous cannonade. The bombardment of Fort Pulaski commenced early yesterday morning, and still continues with unabated fury. At half past nine oclock yesterday morning I roade over to Skidaway to witness the grand but terrible scene; I remained until after twelve; again in the afternoon I rode over and returned some time after dark. We were six miles off, but we could distinctly see the heavy columns of white smoke shooting up from the mortars on Tybee, and then see the immense shells bursting over the Fort. The enemy fired four and five times every minute, while the Fort replied slowly and coolly. The flag staff was shot away about noon. At the night the sight was grand. The tongue of flame was seen to leap from the mortars and then the flash of the bursting shell appeared just above the Fort.

During the bombardment all lines of direct communication were cut off with the Confederate garrison stationed  at Pulaski.  But Fort Pulaski was within line of sight of Causton’s Bluff. On the morning of Friday, April 11, the fort tried to get a message out; Commanding officer Colonel Charles H. Olmstead:

attempted to signalize to Causton’s Bluff…but such was the fire that no human being could stand on the ramparts for even a moment. Nearly a thousand shell, of the largest size, were thrown into the fort from the Federal batteries.” -Savannah Republican, April 12, 1862

After 30 hours of bombardment the walls of the fort were breached and Olmstead surrendered Fort Pulaski at 2:30 p.m. on April 11, 1862.

The loss of Fort Pulaski in the spring of that year was so disheartening that Governor Brown issued a proclamation setting apart a certain day for “fasting, humiliation and prayer.”…In Atlanta and in other cities, and towns throughout the state, the citizens assembled in the churches to hear sermons suited to the occasion. All business was suspended and the day was solemnly observed. – The Jackson Argus, December 2, 1898

On April 13, 1862, a portion of the Confederates surrendered at Fort Pulaski were loaded on the USS Ben Deford as prisoners of war for transportation to Fort Columbus, in New York Harbor.  Others of the Confederate garrison, including Colonel Olmstead, the commander of the fort,  were taken away as POWs by the steamship Oriental.

Steamship Oriental transported Colonel Olmstead and other POWs to a federal prison after the capture of Fort Pulaski

Steamship Oriental transported Colonel Olmstead and other POWs to a federal prison after the capture of Fort Pulaski

After the fall of Fort Pulaski, Savannah became more vulnerable to an approach to across Whitemarsh Island and St. Augustine Creek, and an assault on Causton’s Bluff.  In a letter to his father , Lt. Charles C. Jones Jr. [Chatham Artillery at Isle of Hope,] expressed the thoughts on everyone’s mind that April when the news of Fort Pulaski’s fall reached Savannah: “If the heavy masonry walls of Pulaski were of no avail against the concentrated fire of those Parrott guns posted at a distance of more than a mile, what shall we expect from our sand batteries along the river?” – Robert S. Durham

Historian Craig Swain observed“St. Augustine Creek, which connects the Wilmington and Savannah Rivers… also lead back east to the waters behind Tybee Island, in close proximity to Fort Pulaski.” 

Soon the 29th Georgia Regiment would be sent to reinforce the 13th Regiment at Causton’s Bluff.

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Alapaha Alligator Tale Hard To Swallow

This 1896 tale of an alligator in the Alapaha river is a bit farfetched, but there is no doubt about alligators in Berrien county or about early residents’ interest in the beasts.  In 1899, Jay Sirmans  tried to capture a live one at Ray’s Mill.  Today, gator watching is still a part of any visit to  the Ray’s Millpond Café.

Roping  a gator - vintage studio photo postcard.  Image source:  http://postcardiva.blogspot.com/2012_04_01_archive.html

Roping a gator – vintage studio photo postcard. Image source: http://postcardiva.blogspot.com/2012_04_01_archive.html

Tifton Gazette
March 13, 1896

Correspondence

In a Bad Fix.

“The other day,” said my informant, changing his tobacco to the other side of his mouth, “I was lying on the green sward on the bank of the beautiful Alapaha river, just thinking of nothing at all, when my attention was attracted by a noise not far from me.  Turning my eyes in that direction, I saw a large aligator run a short distance, probably thirty yards, then run back the same distance, tail in front.  This was kept up for about fifteen or twenty minutes, when the ‘gator lay down apparently exhausted, and rolled over on its back.  Then I noticed for the first time that four hog’s feet protruded through the covering of the saurian’s bread basket.  Saurians don’t eat bread, but that’s a good name for it anyway.  It dawned upon me in an instant that the ‘gator had swallowed the hog without taking the precaution to kill it, and that the porker in its frantic efforts to regain its liberty, had worked its feet through the tender underpart of its captor.  Having swallowed the hog head-formost, of course the ‘gator’s way was not the hog’s way, and when the ‘gator traveled a short distance and paused to rest, the hog, with that instinct which warns us to flee from danger, would take up the line of march in the opposite direction, and go until the ‘gator got a foot-hold and called a halt.  Did I cut the ‘gator open and give the hog its liberty? No.  The ‘gator turned its head around, sized a leg at a time and bit them off even with its surface.  When a leg came off, I could hear a far-away squeal, and I know that the hog appreciated the situation.  When the last leg disappeared down the ‘gator’s throat, that beast turned over on its stomach, winked one eye at me, as much as to say, “I know how to save my bacon,” then toddled off to the river, plunged in and disappeared.”

Bon Wick.

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