Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 2

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 2: Place of Encampment

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service
William W. Knight wrote home from Camp Spalding, Sapelo Island, GA.

William W. Knight wrote home from Camp Spalding, Sapelo Island, GA.

The  Berrien Minute Men were two companies of infantry that went forth from Berrien County, GA during the Civil War. From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.

The regimental encampment on Sapelo was Camp Spalding, on the 4000 acre Sapelo Island plantation which had been established by Thomas Spalding. According to New Georgia Encyclopedia,

“Thomas Spalding (1774-1851), noted antebellum planter of Sapelo Island, was one of the most influential agriculturists and political figures of his day in Georgia…He cultivated Sea Island cotton, introduced the manufacture of sugar to Georgia, and promoted Darien and the coastal area as the economic center of the state…Spalding was an influential Democrat and a pro-Union advocate.  As the sectional crisis worsened in the late 1840s he was instrumental in ensuring the support of Georgia for the Compromise of 1850…Despite his ownership of more than 350 slaves, Spalding had considerable misgivings about the institution of slavery, exemplified by his reputation as a liberal and humane master. He utilized the task system of labor, which allowed his workers to have free time for personal pursuits. Slaves were supervised not by the typical white overseers but by black managers, the most prominent of whom was Bu Allah (or Bilali), a Muslim and Spalding’s second-in-command on Sapelo.” 

The Muslim community at Sapelo Island was among the earliest in America, and some scholars believe the ruins on Sapelo include the foundations of one of the first mosques in the country.  Descendants of the 400 enslaved men, women and children who lived on Thomas Spalding’s antebellum plantation still reside on Sapelo Island in the Hog Hammock community. In the description of Sherpa Guides,

“The Gullah village, with its unique cultural, artistic, and linguistic traditions, is without a doubt the most unusual community in Georgia. Old timers speak geechee, a colorful creole that blends English with a number of African languages, primarily from the western coast. Hog Hammock was created in the early 1940s when R.J. Reynolds, who owned most of the island, consolidated the scattered black land holdings around the island. Blacks exchanged their holdings in Raccoon Bluff, Shell Hammock, and other communities for property and small houses with indoor plumbing in Hog Hammock.”

Thomas Spalding’s South End Mansion on Sapelo Island had been inherited by his son, Randolph Spalding.  Randolp Spalding and his five siblings had received the  slaves from their father’s estate, as well. In Sapelo’s People: A Long Walk to Freedom, William S. McFeely writes,  “Randolph Spalding, unlike his scientific father, better fit the popular image of the Southern plantation grandee; in his thirties as the war approached he liked fast horses and big house parties.” Among the tidewater plantation owners, “fears were great of a ‘plundering expedition’ aimed at the huge population of slaves along the coast. Charles Spalding, Randolph’s brother, wrote to an official of the Georgia militia on February 11, 1861 ‘that there are on the Island of Sapelo…about five hundred negroes which might be swept off any day unless protected by a small detachment of infantry on the island.” Spalding feared not only slave raiders, but the slaves themselves: there are on.. [the nearby Altamaha rice plantations] some four thousand negroes, whose owners will continue to feel very insecure until some naval defenders are placed upon these waters.'”

That responsibility fell for a while on the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment. On Sapelo Island, the 29th  had duty manning Sapelo Battery  near Sapelo Lighthouse as well as additional gun batteries near Dean Creek.  A gun battery on Blackbeard Island at the Atlantic Inlet to Blackbeard Creek was the site of Captain Knight’s encampment. These positions were important in defending the northern delta of the Altamaha River and the port at Darien, GA from intrusion by Union forces.

A number of Civil War letters of John W. Hagan document the experiences of the Berrien Minute Men. Writing from Sapelo Island on October 11, 1861, Hagan gave his wife, Amanda Roberts Hagan, an update on her brothers Ezekiel W. Roberts and James S. Roberts, cousin Stephen N. Roberts, and the other soldiers of the Berrien Minute Men.

Sapelo Island, Ga.
Oct. 11, 61

My Dear Amanda,
I have imbraced the present opportunity of writing you a short letter which leaves my self and all the company in good health with a few exceptions. We landed in Savannah on Monday night at 8 Oclk and taken the Steamer on Tuesday eavening for our place of encampment which is on Sapelo Island. We landed on Sapelo on Wednesday morning & the same eavening Capt. L. J. Knight’s compny was removed to Sapelo all so and I found Ezeakle & James in good health & in good spearet. There is four companies stasioned hear now the Thomasvill guards & the Oclocknee light infantry & Capt Knights company and the company I came with. The health of the men on this Island is verry good and as to the reports which was going the roundes in Lowndes in regard to yellow feavor that is all faulce. Some of the men of Blackbeard did not take care of themselves, & by exposure and exerting too much they became bilious & I was realy surprised when I found all the boys in so fine health. As to James, Ezeakle & Stephen you would hardly know them. Ther is but four or five on sick report at this time and nothing is the matter with but colds & risings &c. Ezeakle will I think go home on the first boat & he will give moor satisfaction in regard to our fair than I can by writing. We have drew rashings but havent elected any of our offiscers for the company yet. We feel assured that John C. Lamb of Milltown will be our Capt but we know not who will be our Leutenants. All the boys was glad to see us and I think we will get along as well as any solders could expect. Capt Knights company has not drew any money yet but is to draw as soon as the Capt gets abble to go to Savannah. He has the Bloody Piles and is not able at present to travel. We have on this Island five canon mounted. The largest carries 16 lbs balls. The others are smaler & we calculate to mount moor as soon as posable. I do not apprehend any danger heare at present. There was a blockade came in sight here yesterday & we thought we should have a fight. The 3 companies was marched to the Battery or a detachment of the three companies. The cannon was uncovered & loaded & nessery arrangements was made for a fight when all at once the ship taken a tack in a different directsion. We do not now realy whether it was a blockade or an Inglish ship expected & last night at 11 Oclk a small steamer started out so that in case it should be an Inglish vessel they could convey her in.

Amanda, we are not regulated yet & I can not give you a full deatail but in my next letter I hope I shall be able to write something interresting. Some of the boyes are writing, some singing, some fiddleing, some dancing, some cooking, some play cardes & some are at work cleaning off our perade ground & places to pitch our tents. Cience I have bin hear I have seen several of the Thomas county boys. 2 of the old Allen Hagans boys from Thomas is heare. I feel satisfide that we will be healthey & fair as well as we could wish &c.

Amanda, Old man Crofford seemed to be in the nosion to buy my land when I saw him at Nailor. He said he would give me $1500 for my place if he traded with your father providing I would give him two payments from next January. Tel your father to make any trade with Crofford that he thinks proper, but if he wants time he must pay interrest on the payments. I must close for this time & I hope you wil write soon  & I think we had better change our Post office to Nailor because you can send evry Satterday or every other Satterday & get your mail shure & where we send too at present it is unsirtin when you get it. When you write you must derect it as I derect you nothing moor. yours affectsionate husband Til Death. John W. Hagan

N.B. address your letters to
John W. Hagan
Sapalo Island Ga
in care Capt Knight

N.B. Kiss Reubin for me
J. W. H.

By mid-October, 1861 the sick of the regiment on Sapelo Island were more or less recovering from their initial illness.  William Washington Knight wrote on October 12, “There is fourteen on the sick list but none of them very bad all able to be up some little.” Ten days later, William Washington Knight was himself sick with a “bowel complaint.” Of the Berrien Minute Men, he added, “father [Captain Levi. J. Knight] has been very sick but he is getting better so as to be about and attend to his businefs.    There are several of the recruits sick,   five that tolerable bad off although I do not think any are dangerous.    Some of the old company (Company C) are sick yet,    three pretty low.”  But by the end of October, a number of men had given up the regiment. Of the Thomas County Guards, James M. Blackshear provided a substitute and left.  Sixteen-year-old Elias Beall and W. R Pringle apparently went back home.    William A Jones left the Berrien Minute Men and went home on leave to Berrien County, never to return. Jones died of measles in Berrien County on January 18, 1862, leaving behind a pregnant wife  and a young son.

Measles would spread among the regiment on Sapelo in the coming months.

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 1

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 1: Arrival on Sapelo

Sketch of Civil War Earthwork on Sapelo Island

1863 Sketch of Civil War Earthwork on Sapelo Island. near Sapelo Lighthouse,Doboy Sound, Georgia. Fron a reconnaissance made, under direction of C. O. Boutelle, Assistant U.S.C.S., by Eugene Willenbucher, Draughtman C. S. January 1863

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men. The first company, organized by Captain Levi J. Knight served temporarily with the 13th Georgia Regiment at Brunswick, GA, before going on to join in a new regiment being formed at Savannah,  GA.  The second company of Berrien Minute Men rendezvoused with Captain Knight’s company at Savannah and was also enjoined  in the formation of the new  regiment. The two companies were mustered in as Companies C and D of the as yet unnamed Regiment.  After brief training in the Camp of Instruction at Savannah and in coastal batteries defending the city, the companies were detailed for duty.

From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River. Darien was about 55 miles south of Savannah and 20 miles north of Brunswick, GA.  The environment of Darien, the sea islands and the Altamaha River basin were ideal for the cultivation of rice and long staple Sea Island cotton, and the agricultural economy of the southern tidewater was strategically important to the fledgling Confederate States.

According to historian Buddy Sullivan, “The soils of the Altamaha delta were extremely fertile, both for the production of cotton and sugar cane, but most especially for that of rice.” In the peak decade of the 1850s, the Altamaha delta produced over 12 million pounds of cleaned, hulled rice; “Darien was the center of some of the most extensive rice cultivation on the southeastern tidewater.”  The tidewater agriculture was particularly labor intensive and “paralleled by the prevalence of malaria, yellow fever and other tropical diseases  and their connectivity with  tidal marshes, mud and water attendant to  the breeding of mosquitoes…Slaves toiled in the wet, marshy rice fields under harsh, demanding conditions.”

“Captain Basil Hall, an English travel writer who visited the Altamaha district in 1828, observed that the growing of rice was ‘the most unhealthy work in which the slaves were employed, and that in spite of every care, they sank in great numbers.  The causes of this dreadful mortality are the constant moisture and heat of the atmosphere, together with the alternating flooding and drying of fields on which the Negroes are perpetually at work, often ankle deep in mud, with their bare heads exposed to the fierce rays of the sun.'”

Slaves working in the rice fields.

Slaves working in the rice fields.

When mosquito swarms peaked in the summer and early fall, the white plantation families of the Altamaha district left the care of the crops to their slaves and migrated to the drier Georgia uplands; they returned to their low country plantations with the first frosts.  Although the proliferation of mosquitoes in the summer months coincided with the incidence of malaria and yellow fever, no connection was made between the events. Instead the common belief was that the tropical diseases were “caused by the “miasma,” a noxious effluvium that supposedly emanated from the putrescent matter in the swamps and tidal marshes, and thought to float in the night air, especially in the night mists as a fog.”

It is perhaps no accident that the deployment of the Berrien Minute Men to Sapelo Island coincided with the waning of the fever season. It appears Captain Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men (Company C, later reorganized as Company G) embarked from Savannah in September  and had arrived on Sapelo and taken up station on Blackbeard Island by the first of October, 1861.  Sapelo and Blackbeard islands are adjacent, being separated only by Blackbeard creek and a narrow band of marsh.

The Confederate soldiers on the islands had access, albeit limited and inconvenient, to the post office at Darien, GA on the mainland about  10 miles up the Altamaha River. A handful of surviving letters written by the men on Sapelo paint a picture of Confederate camp life on Georgia’s sea islands, including correspondence from William Washington Knight and John W. Hagan of the Berrien Minute Men, Robert Hamilton Harris and Peter Dekle of the Thomasville Guards, and Robert Goodwin Mitchell of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry.

After a number of the men on Blackbeard Island were reported sick, rumors circulated back at home that the regiment was stricken with Yellow Fever. The families of the Berrien Minute Men had reason to fear.  In 1854, a yellow fever outbreak had killed thousands of people on the southeastern coast, including as many as 400 victims at Darien, GA.  But in his letters home, Private John W. Hagan of Berrien county wrote, “as to the reports which was going the roundes in Lowndes in regard to yellow feavor that is all faulce. Some of the men of Blackbeard did not take care of themselves & by exposure and exerting too mutch they became bilious.” The Berrien County men may have just been unacclimatized to the muggy heat of the coast, or the men may have contracted malaria  in the coastal marshes.  Levi J. Knight, Jr. later wrote that one of the Berrien Minute Men, Private Enos J. Connell, became “unfit for duty, rendered so by a protracted illness contracted on Blackbeard Island… the disease when first contracted was said by his physician to have been Billious fever.” Enos J. Connell never entirely recovered and was eventually discharged in June 1862. Private Thomas N. Connell, died at Blackbeard Island on October 2, 1861, the cause of death being given in his service record as “bilious fever.” Bilious fever,  a now obsolete medical diagnosis, was often used for any fever that exhibited the symptom of nausea or vomiting in addition to an increase in internal body temperature and strong diarrhea. Bilious fever (Latin bilis, “bile”) refers to fever associated with excessive bile or bilirubin in the blood stream and tissues, causing jaundice (a yellow color in the skin or sclera of the eye). The most common cause was malaria.  What treatment the sick men may have received on Sapelo Island is not described, but one known remedy for intermittent fever was quinine derived from the Georgia Fever Bark tree, which grew in the Altamaha River Valley.

Company D of the Berrien Minute Men  (later reorganized as Company K) arrived on Sapelo Island in early October. Company D steamed from Savannah late Tuesday evening, October 8, 1861. Among the men of Company D were privates John W. Hagan, William A. Jones, and William Washington Knight, a son of Captain Levi J. Knight.  There was a wharf on the north end of Sapelo at the Chocolate Plantation, then owned by the Spalding family. But the steamboat landed Company D on the south end of Sapelo perhaps at the Spalding’s South End mansion. Company D disembarked at daybreak on Wednesday, October 9, 1861 and then proceeded to encamp at Camp Spalding.

Visiting the camp hospital, Private William W. Knight found of the Berrien men, “only three that were sick much. Several had been sick but were able to wait on themselves.”   William A. Jones was crippled with a severe infection on his knee.   Captain Levi J. Knight had been among the sickest, but was somewhat recovered. Assistant Surgeon William H. Way, of Thomas County, GA, was the only medical officer with the Regiment at the time.  William P. Clower would later serve as Surgeon of the Regiment.

Within an hour of landing at South End on Sapelo , Private Knight started the eight to ten mile trek to the camp of his father’s company on Blackbeard Island. He was accompanied by Sergeant John Isom, who was returning to Company C.

At the bivouac on Blackbeard island, Private Knight found his father still convalescing.  “Father looks very bad, but he is gaining strength very quickly,” he wrote.  No sooner had Pvt. Knight and Sgt. Isom arrived at the camp on Blackbeard, than Captain Knight’s company packed up and  marched back to Camp Spalding on the south end of Sapelo.  Pvt. Knight described the round trip as “seventeen miles, part of it the roughest country on this globe.”

The soldiers would spend the coming weeks establishing their camp and the routine of regimental life on their sea island outpost.

Related Posts:

 

Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men

Berrien Minute Men

Berrien County, Georgia sent forth in the Civil War two companies of men known as the Berrien Minute Men.

The first company, organized  in the summer of 1861 by Captain Levi J. Knight , was designated at various times as Captain Knight’s Company, Captain Wylly’s Company, Company A Berrien Minute Men,  (old) Company C 29th GA Regiment, (new) Company G 29th GA Regiment.

The second company, organized in the fall of 1861 was successively known as Company B Berrien Minute Men, Captain Lamb’s Company, Company D, and Company K 29th GA Regiment.

For the most part, both companies of Berrien Minute Men traveled with the 29th Georgia Regiment and kept the same campfires, although occasionally they had different stations.

Date…………………….. Event
1860 November 28 Muster Roll of Levi J. Knight’s Company, the Berrien Minute Men
1860 December 10 Organization of the Berrien Minute Men, Nashville, GA
1861 January 19 Georgia Ordinance of Secession passed ~ John C. Lamb, a signer
1861 May Grand Rally at Milltown for the Berrien Minute Men
1861 May 23 Berrien Minute Men in camp and drilling at Nashville, GA
1861 July Berrien Minute Men encamped with other companies at Brunswick, GA
1861 Summer Berrien Minute Men muster in at Savannah, GA
1861 July 19 at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA
1861 July 30 Berrien Minute Men and other companies of the 13th Regiment arrive at Savannah, GA via the Albany & Gulf Railroad; Company C issued equipment
1861 August 1 Levi J. Knight elected Captain of Company C
1861 August 20 Berrien Minute Men transported via Brunswick & Florida Railroad (South Georgia & Florida R.R.)  from station No. 9 at Tebeauville (now Waycross), GA some 60 miles to Brunswick, GA
1861 August 28, or abt Berrien Minute Men & 13th Regiment encamped “in the neighborhood of Brunswick”
1861 August Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regt at Savannah, GA
1861 Fall A second company of Berrien Minute Men was organized as Company D, 29th GA Regiment. This company was later known as Company K.
1861 October 2 Levi J. Knight elected Major of the 29th GA Regiment
1861 October 5 Berrien Minute Men Company D arrived Savannah, GA
1861 October 6 Berrien Minute Men Companies C & D (G & K) embarked late evening aboard steamer at Savannah
1861 October 7 Both companies landed at Sapelo Island, GA
1861 October 11 Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regt at Sapelo Battery, GA
1861 October 12 At Camp Spaulding, Sapelo Island, GA
1861 October 14 John C. Lamb elected captain of Berrien Minute Men “Company B” (Company D, later Company K)
1861 October 16 At post of Sapelo Island Battery, GA
1861 October 22 At Camp Spaulding, Sapelo Island, GA
1861 Winter Captain Knight’s Berrien Minute Men company at battery on southern end of Blackbeard Island, GA
1861 December 1 Near Darien, GA
1861 December 18 At Camp Security, GA
1862 January Darien, GA; Company G officer’s purchase of “subsistence stores…for their own use and the use of their families”
1862 January 22 At Masonboro Sound, six miles east of Wilmington, NC
1862 February 20 Camp Wilson, GA; Company C & Company D, receipt of firewood
1862 March 7 Berrien Minute Men at Camp Tatnall, near Savannah, GA while “the old Berrien Company” is on Smith’s Island
1862 March Berrien Minute Men at Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 March 13 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of firewood
1862 March 15 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of coffin
1862 March 18 Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 March 20 Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 March 24 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of lumber and shoes
1862 March 26 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of coffin
1862 April 1 At Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of coffin; firewood; forage
1862 April 17 At Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 April 18 At Causton’s Bluff, GA
1862 April 23 At Causton’s Bluff, GA; receipt of supplies
1862 May Berrien Minute Men at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA
1862 May 1 At Causton’s Bluff, GA; receipt of coffin; firewood; forage
1862 May 10 At Camp Debtford Major Levi J. Knight resigns; John C. Lamb elected major of the Regiment;
1862 May At Camp Debtford Thomas S. Wylly elected captain of the Berrien Minute Men
1862 May Levi J. Knight, Jr elected Captain of Company D?
1862 May 22 at Causton’s Bluff; Wiley E. Baxter elected 2nd Lieut. Co. K
1862 June Captain Levi J. Knight in command of Lawton Battery
1862 June 2 Company D (later K) at Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA (at this time Causton’s Bluff is an open battery)
1862 June Berrien Minute Men at Camp Mackey, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 12 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 19 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 26 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 27 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 July 5 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 July Major Lamb on temporary detached duty,
1862 July 27 Picket duty on White Marsh and at Capers Battery
1862 July 30 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 August 27 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 September 2 At a camp two miles from Savannah, GA on Thunderbolt shell road.
1862 September 11 At a camp near Savannah, GA
1862 September 13 At Camp Troupe
1862 October 4 In route by train from Savannah to Grooverville, Brooks County; marched to Monticello, FL
1862 October 5 In route by train from Monticello to Lake City, FL
1862 October 6 In route by train from Lake City to Camp near Baldwin, FL
1862 October 7 Picket duty near Baldwin, FL
1862 October 21 Return from Jacksonville, FL
1862 October 25 Berrien Minute Men at “a camp near Savannah, GA”
1862 November Stationed Camp Young three miles from Savannah
1862 November 9 At a camp near Savannah, GA
1862 November 14 Camp Young, Near Savannah, GA
1862 November 21 Camp Young, Near Savannah, GA; receipt of tents
1862 November 25 Near Savannah, GA
1862 November 28 Savannah River Batteries
1862 December 14 Embarked by train to Wilmington, NC
1862 December 16 Company D in Battle of Nashville
1862 December 20 At Kingsville, NC
1862 December ? At Camp Clingman
1862 December 31 Returned by train to Savannah, GA
1862 December 31 Elbert J. Chapman, “Old Yaller” AWOL
1863 January 1 Camp Young, GA; receipt of forage, Company D
1863 January 3 Berrien Minute Men returned to Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 January 7 In route to Wilmington, NC
1863 January 21 On station at Wilmington, NC
1863 February On station at Wilmington, NC
1863 Feb 11 Camp Young, near Savannah, GA; receipt of forage
1863 February 20 At General Review of Infantry and Cavalry at Savannah, GA
1863 Feb 24 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA; receipt of stationary supplies
1863 Feb 25 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 3 At Genesis Point, Near Savannah, GA
1863 March 6 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 12 Reward offered for deserters from Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 13 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 14 Inspection of 29th GA Regiment at Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 17 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 19 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 27 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 April 1 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 April 2 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 April 9 Berrien Minute Men & brigade dispatched to Charleston
1863 April 19 Returned to Savannah, GA
1863 April 27 Dispatched to Pocotaligo, SC
1863 May 4 Returned to Savannah, GA
1863 May Berrien Minute Men and the 29th GA Regt departed Savannah for Jackson, MS
1863 May 1 At Vaughan Station, MS; receipt of forage, Company D
1863 May 12 At McDowell’s Landing, MS
1863 May 13 Arrived at Meridian, MS
1863 May 14 In route by train toward Jackson, MS
1863 May 15 At Forest City, MS
1863 May 17 “fought all day…the battle was awful
1863 May 28 At Deaconsville, MS about 20 miles east of Yazoo City, “six miles west of Vanus Station”; Deserter Elbert J. Chapman captured
1863 May 29 Departed Camp near Deaconsville, MS;
1863 May 30 On the march
1863 June 3 Camp near Yazoo City, MS
1863 June 4 moved to Camp three miles south of Yazoo City, MS
1863 June 5 Camp near Yazoo City, MS (three miles south)
1863 June 18 At Vernon City, MS
1863 July 2 At a camp in the field, 25 miles from Vicksburg, MS
1863 July 5 At Big Black River, MS
1863 July 6 Withdrawn from Big Black River, MS
1863 July 7 Marching in retreat toward Jackson, MS
1863 July 8 Arrived at Jackson, MS
1863 July 9 A day of rest
1863 July 10 Ordered to the line of battle near Jackson, MS
1863 July 11 Supporting artillery batteries
1863 July 12 Supporting artillery batteries on the left of Walker’s Division
1863 July 13 Supporting artillery batteries on the left of Walker’s Division
1863 July 13 Major Lamb killed in retreat from Vicksburg, MS;
1863 July 13 Retreated to a position “across railroad bank”; supporting artillery
1863 July 14 Supporting artillery at railroad bank near Jackson, MS
1863 July 15 Supporting artillery at railroad bank near Jackson, MS
1863 July 16 Supporting artillery at railroad bank near Jackson, MS
1863 July 17 Retreating from Jackson, MS
1863 July 19 At a camp in the field; receipt of clothes
1863 July 20 At a camp in the field near Forest City, MS
1863 July 21 Deserter Elbert J. Chapman executed
1863 July 22 At Scott County, MS
1863 July 23 Camp near Forrest City, Scott County MS;
1863 August 10 Camp near Morton, MS
1863 August 23 Embarked train in MS bound for Atlanta
1863 September 5 at camp in the field; receipt of shoes, Company K
1863 September 7 Duty at Battery Cheves
1863 September 15 James Island, SC; Magazine explosion kills Seaborn J. Lastinger
1863 September 19 In battle at Chickamauga
1863 October 18 Camp Near Chattanooga, TN
1863 October 22 Camp Near Chattanooga, TN
1863 October 31 In the field; receipt of clothing “the men being in a destitute condition”
1863 November 24 Near Missionary Ridge
1863 November 25 Near Missionary Ridge
1863 December 6 Dalton, GA; receipt of clothing, on account of “the destitution of the men”
1863 December 31 Dalton, GA
1864 January In winter quarters at camp near Dalton, GA
1864 January 12 Dalton, GA
1864 February 29 near Dalton, GA
1864 March 12 Dalton, GA
1864 March 30 near Dalton, GA
1864 April 30 provost duty inDalton, GA
1864 May Retreating from Dalton, GA
1864, May 11 In battle at Resaca, GA
1864 May 16 Camp near Calhoon, GA
1864, May 17 In battle at Adairsville, GA
1864 May 18 Camp in the field near Cassville, GA
1864 May 21 Camp in the field near Etowah Iron Works.
1864 May 29 Forsyth, GA
1864 June 1 Camp near Dallas, GA
1864 June 5 Camp in the field near Acworth, GA
1864 June 15 In line of battle; near Pine Mountain, GA
1864 June 16 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 17 Camp near Marietta, GA
1864 June 19 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 20 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 21 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 21 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864, June 23 Battlefield near Marietta, GA
1864 June 24 Battlefield near Marietta, GA
1864 June 26 Supporting General Hindman’s Division
1864 June 27 At Kennesaw Mountain, GA
1864 June 28 Camp near Marietta, GA
1864 July 2 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 July 3 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 July 4 In line of battle, four miles below Marietta
1864 July 5 Withdrawn to works near Chattahoochee River, GA
1864 July 7 Battlefield near Chattahoochee River, GA
1864 July 9 Fell back to pickets south of Chattahoochee River
1864 July 11 Camp in the field, near Atlanta, GA
1864 July 19 In Line of battle near Chattahoochee River
1864 July 20 In line of battle at Battle of Peachtree Creek
1864 July 21 In line of battle near Atlanta
1864 July 22 At the Battle of Atlanta; near Decatur, GA
1864 July 29 Camp near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 7 Near Atlanta, GA; “fought the Yankees”
1864 August 8 Camp in the field near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 12 Camp in the field near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 26 Camp in the field near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 31 Battle of Jonesboro, GA
1864 September 2 Lovejoy Station, GA
1864 October 19 Skirmish at Little River, AL
1864 November 29 Springhill, TN
1864 November 30 Franklin, TN
1864 December 4 Overall’s Creek, TN
1864 December 7 In battle at Murphreesboro
1864 December 16 In battle at Nashville, TN; 29th regiment surrounded and captured

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Reward Offered for Confederate Deserters

The first commercial activity at Ray City arose during the Civil War when Levi J. Knight and his son-in-law Thomas M. Ray constructed  a millpond and grist mill on Beaverdam Creek in Berrien County, GA. Captain Levi J. Knight, an old Indian fighter, raised the first company of Confederate soldiers to go forth from Berrien County, the Berrien Minute Men.

After enlisting at Nashville, GA in 1861 the Berrien Minute Men mustered in near Savannah, GA as a company of the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment.  Following this organization, Captain Knight resigned and the company came under the command of John C. Lamb.   In the first months after mustering in, the regiment trained and served picket duty on the Georgia coast.  They were stationed at a number of camps  on the coastal islands and marshes, first at Sapelo Battery, off the coast of Darien, GA, then in Chatham County, GA at Camp Tatnall, Camp Causton’s Bluff, Camp Debtford, Camp Mackey, and Camp Young.

At times the conditions in the Confederate camps of Chatham county were nearly intolerable. The weather was cold in the winter and hot and muggy in the summer.  Men were apt to become irritable. One soldier of the 29th Georgia Regiment killed another over a game of marbles. Some men were bored with picket duty. Some were frustrated and longed for action. Others just longed to go home to their farms and families. At Camp Young the harsh realities of Army life in the field would test the commitment of volunteer soldiers in the 29th Georgia Regiment.

The likely location of Camp Young was on Wylly Island about eight miles southeast of Savannah , on a tract of 110 acres which had been acquired  by Judge  Levi Sheftall D’Lyon at some time prior to 1860.  Judge D’Lyon was a prominent citizen and city court judge of Savannah. He was also the father of Isaac Mordecai DeLyon and Leonorean DeLyon, who edited and published the South Georgia Watchman newspaper at Troupville, GA and later at Valdosta, GA.  Lenorean DeLyon is credited with giving Valdosta its name.    Judge D’Lyon himself was an enigma. He took great interest in supporting the Chatham Dispensary, “a free medical clinic and pharmacy for the poor.” He devoted much of his professional legal career to assisting free African-Americans in acquiring their own property, but he also profited from the business of buying and selling slaves.  In 1859 he called for a “vigilance committee for the better preservation of Southern Rights.” In 1861 he was acting as guardian for 48 “free persons of color” in Savannah, while at the same time working to establish a district court system in the new Confederate States of America.  In his will D’Lyon directed that five of his slaves be freed, but another 21 were sold in 1863 to liquidate his estate.

Wylly Island is a river island formed by a bifurcation of the Herb River.  According to a Civil War map of the defenses of Savannah,  Wylly Island was between Thunderbolt Battery, a Confederate artillery emplacement on St. Augustine Creek, and  Battery Daniels at Parkersburg on the Skidaway River.  Battery Daniels had several supporting batteries on the Herb River and Grimball’s Creek.

There is no remaining trace of these Confederate locations or of Camp Young. Some descriptions of Camp Young are found in the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight, son of Levi J. Knight.

At first, the Berrien Minute Men found fresh food was in short supply at Camp Young. Soldiers supplemented their camp diet either with food purchased in Savannah with their own money, or had food sent from home. William W. Knight’s  letter of January 4, 1863 written from Camp Young and addressed to his wife, Mary,  mentioned that fellow soldier J. P. Ponder had delivered a box of potatoes sent by her father. Knight wrote of being deployed without rations and of spoiled provisions – “blue beef that will stick to your hands equal to adhesive plaster.”  He asked her to send more potatoes, and pork if the weather was cold enough. Knight remarked on the high prices being gotten in Savannah for peanuts, corn, and bacon, and the shortage of bread. He also requested Mary send his mattress bed cover, iron shoe heels, “vial oil”, and carpet bag.

Deadly infectious diseases of all kinds were rampant in the crowded Confederate camps. The river delta land was low lying and prone to malaria. On February 28, 1862 Knight wrote, “We have a good many sick now with cold or pneumonia. Nineteen of our company on the sick list  this morning…” In early March, Knight himself was incapacitated by fever.

By mid-March soldiers’ letters home indicated that the supply of food at Camp Young was much improved.  But by the end of March Knight wrote of worsening weather conditions; “It is the worst time we have had this winter. The wind and rain from the North East. There is very little timber in that direct. It has all been cut down in front of the Batteries for over a mile.”

At Camp Young, the 29th Georgia Regiment  became part of a Brigade which also included the 25th and 30th Georgia Regiments, First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, and 4th Louisiana Battalion. In a Brief History of the Thirtieth Georgia Regiment, August Pitt Adamson, 1st Sergeant, Company E wrote about Camp Young:

Camp life at Savannah was far from being dull and was not at all monotonous.  Many little incident of a humorous nature occurred.  Sports of various kinds were engaged in, which were shared by both officers and men. Occasionally some of the boys would “run the blockade,” as it was called, and go to Savannah without leave, thus running the risk of being put upon double duty, or digging stumps, which were the usual punishments inflicted. One man of Company E [30th Regiment] could so well imitate the signature of the commanding officer, that he frequently gave himself and others leave to go to the city.  In such cases they always returned in time for drill, and but few knew of it. On one occasion at night, soon after we went to Savannah, a false alarm was given, the men were hastily aroused and called into line with their old flintlock guns; much confusion followed; some could not find their companies, some ran over stumps and against each other, and two or three of Company B fell into and old well, which was, however, very shallow, but they yelled loudly for help.  It was soon found to be a false alarm, gotten up by some of the officers to try the men and have some fun. We were provided good tents and, for the most part comfortably cared for, with plenty to eat, but some of the boys wanted a change of diet, and, discovering a flock of goats belonging to Judge De Lyon, a wealthy old gentleman who had a farm near the camps, the result was nearly all the goats disappeared, leaving the owner quite angry.  The boys would say the goats tried to run over them, and they had to act in self-defense.

While at Camp Young, William Knight reported the Berrien Minute Men  spent a great deal of the time in drill. They drilled in Company formation and as a Battalion and Brigade. When they weren’t drilling or on dress parade, they attended “Regimental School.” When they could get leave they went into Savannah to get personal provisions or to be entertained. When they couldn’t get leave some went absent without leave;  John W. Hagan wrote from Camp Young on March 19,  “I cannot get a pass to visit Savannah, and when I go I have to run the blockade and risk getting caught, but I will manage to slip the block.”

This is not to say the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th GA Regiment were idle.  Like the 30th Georgia Regiment and other units in their Brigade, they probably were engaged in the construction of fortifications, mounting artillery, and placing obstructions in the river channels.  They were certainly conducting picket duty, patrolling the islands below Savannah on the lookout for Federal scouts who might be probing the line of Confederate defenses around the city.  They made brief excursions by train into Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina to strengthen coastal defenses where Union forces threatened to attack.

The 29th Regiment remained at Camp Young through April; by May 12, 1863 they had rolled out to Jackson, MS in preparation for the Battle of Vicksburg. But before that departure, while stationed at Camp Young, twenty men of the 29th Georgia deserted the regiment. From the weeks and months the Special Order 15 was advertised, one can judge these were not men who just sneaked off to Savannah,  but were long gone.  Four of the deserters were from Company K, the Berrien Minute Men, including Elbert J. Chapman, Albert Douglas, Benjamin S. Garrett, and J. P. Ponder.

A reward of $30 was offered for each man  apprehended, $600 for the bunch.

Reward offered for capture of deserters from the 29th Georgia Regiment, Confederate States Army, including four deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, Company K. Advertised in the Savannah Republican newspaper.

Reward offered for capture of deserters from the 29th Georgia Regiment, Confederate States Army, including four deserters from the Berrien Minute Men, Company K. Advertised in the Savannah Republican newspaper.

$600 REWARD.
Headq’rs 29th Reg’t GA. Vols.,
Camp Young, near Savannah, March 12, 1863.
SPECIAL ORDERS,
No. 15.
Deserted from this Regiment at Camp near Savannah, the following named enlisted men:

      Private FREEMAN BRIDGES, Co. B, is 22 years of age, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches high, has dark complexion, black eyes and dark hair.   Enlisted in Franklin county, Ga.
      Private DAVID CLAY, Co. C, 28 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, has dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
Private JOSEPH W. SINGLETARY, Co. C., 38 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, sallow complexion, blue eyes, dark  hair. Enlisted at Thomas county, Ga.
Private PATRICK FITZGERALD, Co. E, 46 years of age, 5 feet 11 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair.  Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private EDWARD ROTCHFORD, Co. E, 45 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes and light hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private JOHN MULLER, Co. E, 26 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, dark hair, dark complexion and dark eyes. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
Private DAVID WILLIAMS, Co, E, 40 years of age, 5 feet high, brown eyes, light brown hair, and reddish complexion. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.

     Private S. A. HALL, Co. F. 20 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  Enlisted at Thomasville, Ga.
     Private WM. HARVEY, Co. F, 45 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, gray hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     SYRE CHRISTIAN, Co. F, 40 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, light hair.  Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     JAMES M. TOHEL, Co. F, 85 years of age 5 feet 9 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, dark hair. Enlisted at Savannah, Ga.
     Private C. R. OLIVER, Co. H, 29 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, blue eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted at Stockton, Ga.
      Private J. R. JACOBS, Co. H. 22 years of age, 5 feet 6 inches high, dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair.  Enlisted at Stockton, Ga.
      Private F. F. F. GRIFFIN, Co. I, 40 years of age, 5 feet 10 1/2 inches high, dark complexion, black eyes, and dark hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
     Private N. P. GANDY, Co. I, 30 years of age, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair.  Enlisted in Thomas County, Ga.
     Private WM. BARWICK, Co. I, 38 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, light complexion, grey eyes.  Enlisted in Thomas County.
     Private ELBERT J. CHAPMAN, Co. K, 31 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, dark complexion, blue eyes, sandy hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private ALBERT DOUGLAS, Co. K, 32 years of age, 6 feet high, fair complexion, grey eyes, auburn hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private BENJAMIN S. GARRETT, Co. K, 25 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches high, fair complexion, blue eyes, black hair.  Enlisted in Berrien county.
     Private J. P. PONDER, Co. K, 31 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, sallow complexion, blue eyes, and sandy hair.  Enlisted at Savannah.

A reward of thirty dollars is offered for the apprehension of either of the above named men, delivered at these headquarters or confined in a safe jail.
By order of W. J. Young,
Col.Comd’g 29th Reg’t Ga. Vols.
Geo. P. McRee, AdjL

After deserting from the 29th Georgia Regiment:

  • Elbert J. Chapman fled to the west where he joined another unit and fought with determination. He was later charged with desertion from the 29th Georgia Regiment, court-martialed and executed by firing squad.  After the war, a pension for his indigent wife was denied.
  • Benjamin S. Garrett was later shot for being a spy.
  • Albert Douglas left the Berrien Minute Men “absent without leave” in December 1862 and was marked “deserted.”  There is no record that he ever returned to his unit.  In fact, there is no further record of him at all. He was not enumerated in the household of his wife and child in 1870, and in subsequent census records she is identified as a widow. There is no record she ever applied for a Confederate Widow’s Pension.  Although there is no record of his death or burial, it is presumed that Albert Douglas died while absent without leave.
  • J. P. Ponder left little historical record, other than the military muster rolls which document his enlistment and desertion. Even his name is confused, alternately given as Ponder or Powder  Both variations are listed in his Confederate military service records. The letters of William W. Knight indicate Ponder traveled back to Berrien county and returned to Camp Young in February 1863, and that Ponder was back in Berrien in March. In any case, it does not appear the man ever returned to the 29th Georgia Regiment.

Other Berrien County soldiers, such as N. M. McNabb who served with Company D, 12th Georgia Regiment, would be pressed into service to hunt fugitive deserters. According to a sworn statement by Mr. McNabb, “late in the year, perhaps September 1864, the Georgia Militia were  at Griffin, Ga Ordered by the Governor to stack arms and return home until further orders, which we did. After getting home, the Enrolling Officers here at home pressed us in to aid them in hunting Deserters.”

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