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 3: War on Whitemarsh

Causton’s Bluff Part 3: War on Whitemarsh

During February and March 1862, Confederate Troops at Causton’s Bluff had been in frequent skirmishes on Whitemarsh Island with Federal troops scouting from Tybee Island.

  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
  5. Causton’s Bluff Part 5: Tidewater Time

The Berrien Minute Men watched from Lawton Battery and Camp Tattnall when Fort Pulaski fell on April 11, 1862. Even from the distance of seven miles, the furious onslaught of artillery was a terrible scene to behold.

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

About a week later  U.S. troops from Tybee and Cockspur Islands made a reconnaissance of Wilmington Island. Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore’s purpose for ordering the mission was to determine “if any preparations by the enemy for boat expeditions against the hulk [USS Montezuma] on Lazaretto Creek or on the left of my position [were] being made.” Pickets from Causton’s Bluff had made contact with the Montezuma about March 27, 1862.

On April 16, 1862, A Federal mission under the command of  Lt. James Harrison Wilson and escorted by seven companies of the 8th Michigan Infantry Regiment led by Col. William M. Fenton,  were transported aboard the steamer Honduras (later commissioned the USS Honduras) from Goat Point at the mouth of Lazaretto Creek to Wilmington and Whitemarsh islands.

Steamer Honduras (later commissioned USS Honduras). Image courtesy of Florida Keys Public Libraries.

Steamer Honduras (later commissioned USS Honduras). Image courtesy of Florida Keys Public Libraries.

Landing rear companies on Wilmington Island at Screven’s Plantation, the Federal mission proceeded to land a force at Gibson’s Plantation on Whitemarsh Island. A work party of Confederate soldiers from Causton’s Bluff detected the landing party and reinforcements were quickly called up. A skirmish ensued in which both sides took losses.

Col. Marcellus Douglass filed an official after-action report with the Confederate States Army. Lieutenant Wilson and Col. William M. Fenton filed official U.S. Army reports.  On both sides of the conflict the size of the commands were understated, while the size of opposing forces were exaggerated.

The report of Col. Douglass was filed from Causton’s Bluff:

Headquarters Carston’s Bluff,

April 21, 1862.

Captain: I take this the first opportunity to make my report of the engagement between a portion of my command and a regiment of the enemy on Whitemarsh Island on the evening of the 16th instant:

The island lies east of this place, and between is the island called Oatland. I have for some time kept pickets and small scouting parties on Whitemarsh, knowing that the enemy occasionally visited it. On that day I had sent, under command of Lieut. Thomas G. Medders, of Company H, a party of about 45 men for scouting and picket duty. In the evening I took with me Capt. J. T. Crawford, of Company G; Lieut. B. T. Bowie, of same company, and 37 of their men, with axes, across to Oatland to have the trees on the island cut down. I required the men to carry with them their guns and cartridge boxes.

Soon after getting there and about 3 p. m. one of my pickets came in from Whitemarsh and told me that the enemy were landing at Mr. Gibson’s place, on the point of Whitemarsh next to Wilmington River, and that a steamer with about a regiment of men on board was lying in the river some 400 or 500 yards from the landing, and that Lieutenant Medders, with his men, had fallen back across the island to a cross-road some 2 miles from where the enemy were seen. I immediately started Captain Crawford, with his company of 37 men, to the place where Lieutenant Medders had halted. I gave to Captain Crawford instructions to remain at that point until I could return to camp and get an additional force, and also directed him to send out pickets from the cross-roads in two directions, one leading to Gibson’s place and the other to Turner’s place, which is on the point of Whitemarsh next to Augustine Creek, and in view from which is Skidaway Island. I then hurried back to camp, being delayed in crossing Augustine Creek. Taking with me three companies (A, B, and C), commanded respectively by Lieut. E. L. Connally and Capts. James McCallay and John L. Moore, I started for the island, hurrying the steamer Leesburg, at my command for this purpose. In order to take two chances of getting assistance to Captain Crawford I had Captain McCallay to land from the boat on Oatland, just across from the battery at this place, and directed him to hurry over to the cross-road on Whitemarsh, with orders that he and Captain Crawford should remain with their companies at that place until I could reach them with the two others, and not to attack the enemy until I joined them, unless they should ascertain that there was only a small party of the enemy, instead of a regiment, as reported to me by the pickets. My reason for not taking the three companies directly over Oatland to Whitemarsh was that the only means of crossing the stream between the two islands was a small boat that would carry about 10 or 15 men at once, and too much time would be consumed in this manner. I therefore went on the steamer with Companies A and C around to a landing on Whitemarsh. Being delayed at the mouth of Whitemarsh Creek about one hour the boat ran aground, and by the time I could get my men all on land it was near 5.30 o’clock.

In the mean time the pickets posted by Captain Crawford discovered a party of the enemy, about 50 strong, who had advanced 1 1/2 miles across the island. The pickets fired on them and fell back to the crossroad, and reported the number of men seen to be about 50 or 75, whereupon Captains Crawford and McCallay, after distributing between their two companies the scouting party under Lieutenant Medders, determined to endeavor to surround the enemy and capture or kill them. Captain Crawford with his force went the road toward Gibson’s, and Captain McCallay with his force up the road toward Turner’s, to where another road turned off to the left and led to Gibson’s place. Both parties met small parties of the enemy and the firing commenced, the force on each side being nearly equal. The enemy were driven back for 1 1/2 miles across little fields and skirts of woods to the Gibson house, where they sheltered themselves behind a hedge of cedar, and brisk firing began.”

This was the first firing I heard, the other being scattering and the noise of the steamer preventing those of us on board from hearing anything else. As soon, however, as we had landed and the reports of the guns were heard I started my men at a double-quick, having then 2 or 2 1/2 miles to go. This distance we made as quickly as possible. On the way I met several of the wounded men and those who were without cartridges coming back. At the distance of about half a mile or less from the Gibson house I met Captain Crawford with his men retreating across a small field, and learned from him that he and Captain McCallay, who with their forces had divided near the cedar hedge, had been overpowered after having sustained heavy loss and exhausted their ammunition, and were compelled to retreat, and that the enemy—a full regiment—were in hot pursuit. Seeing that Captain Crawford and all his men were completely worn out I ordered them to the rear, and formed my men in single rank along and just in the edge of a skirt of woods, ordering them to lie down and wait for the command to fire. Soon the enemy came, shouting as they came, apparently confident of overtaking and capturing the small party who had so long held them in check. The imprudence and impatience of one man prevented me from getting the enemy completely by surprise, and I believe in our power. He, contrary to orders, fired too soon, and knowing that a scattering fire would begin, I gave the command to fire, and one volley checked their progress and turned them back. They discharged their guns at us, but without effect. I kept my men in their position, expecting another advance, but no Yankee showed himself again. Soon Captain McCallay, about whom I felt great uneasiness, came in from a direction to the right of us, some of his men wounded and the rest without cartridges and all completely exhausted.

Night had then come on us, and having only about 60 men with cartridges and physically able to fight, I deemed it imprudent to pursue the enemy to their boats, knowing their overwhelming force of 800 men and also fearing an ambuscade, as a skirt of woods through which they retreated was between us, and we could not then ascertain whether they were fleeing or awaiting our advance.

On the next day I found that they had remained on the island only long enough to gather up their dead and wounded, as they had left knapsacks, cartridge boxes, canteens, haversacks, overcoats, blankets, &c., and a number of guns, all of which we gathered up. I also saw the doors that they had taken from the houses there and on which they had borne off their killed and wounded. The doors were very bloody.

During the first part of the engagement, and while Captains Crawford and McCallay were driving the enemy before them, a Federal lieutenant was mortally wounded, and from him the fact was ascertained that their force numbered 800 or 860; it was the Eighth Michigan. Another prisoner, who was taken with the lieutenant, also stated that the men we were fighting were not foreigners. Several caps were found with the letters of the companies to which the wearers belonged on them, showing that there were different companies. I also learn from the officers and men that while the fighting was going on in the field in front of and from here, just beyond the Gibson house, the enemy formed in line of battle and their entire force took part in the fight. Some time during the engagement the enemy landed some artillery (the tracks of the wheels were found by us the next day), but it was not brought into action at all, and I judge was carried back on the boat as quickly as it had been landed.

The officers of my command engaged were: Capt. J. T. Crawford and Lieut. B. T. Bowie, of Company G; Capt. James McCallay and Lieuts. A. W. Pearce and J. T. Horsley, of Company B; Capt. John L. Moore and Lieuts. T. M. Breed aud J. B. Breed, of Company C, and Lieuts. E. L. Connally and J. C. Steger, of Company A. Lieut. Thomas G. Medders, of Company H, was lieutenant of the scouting party sent out in the morning.

The whole force engaged at any one time was not over 90, some having been detailed as pickets to prevent surprise from the rear and to guard the steamer.

Below is a list of the casualties: *

Officers …………………………………………………… 3 wounded
Non-commissioned Officers ………………..1 wounded
Enlisted Men……………………………4 killed, 12 wounded
Total………………………………………….4 killed,  15 wounded

The loss of the enemy could not be ascertained, except approximately, by going over the ground and finding the bloody places which marked where they fell. There were quite a number of these, some of them indicating that those shot had bled very freely. Bloody garments were found, some caps that had been shot through, and the bloody doors upon which they had borne off their men; guns and various other things with blood on them indicate that the enemy suffered severely.

I had forgotten also to mention that the lantern they had used in searching for their dead and wounded was found the next day. In their haversacks were found plates, knives, and forks, butter-crackers, meat, &c., as if they had come prepared to remain on the island a day or two. They had also some ground coffee that they drooped in their hurry. The guns used by them were muskets, some of them large-bore Springfield muskets rifled.

The loss on our side, particularly in the ranks of Captain Crawford’s company (G), and the length of time they were fighting, show with what bravery they maintained their ground against overwhelming numbers—eight or ten to one.

I cannot omit to state my high appreciation of the skill and courage of Captains Crawford and McCallay and the valor of officers and men under them. Captain Crawford had command of the party until I arrived, and in his judgment and valor I have entire confidence. Captain McCallay nobly seconded him in every movement, and a braver, truer man cannot be found.

Individual instances of heroism and narrow escapes were reported to me, among them that of Garland Upshaw, of Company B, who in assisting in bearing off a wounded comrade had four bullet-holes made through his coat. Upshaw is quite a youth, and yet is considered one of the best scouts in the regiment. Private Pilkinton, of Company A, was shot just as he had loaded his gun, and after falling handed it to Captain McCallay, requesting him to discharge it at the foe. Captain Crawford and his men were nearly surrounded, and though exposed to fire from three directions bravely fought until they had no cartridges to use. Captain McCallay had a ball shot through his coat.

I have made this report too long, and yet not long enough to do full justice to the men who, less than 100, in a fair fight kept back 800 well armed Yankees for nearly an hour, and retreated only because they had no more ammunition with which to fight.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

M. DOUGLASS, Colonel, Commanding Post.
Gapt. Malloby P. King, A. A. G., Second Brigade.

 

The report of Lt Wilson was published by the New York Times, which incorrectly identified the source as Lieut. W.L.M. Burger.  Burger was indeed on the mission, but Official Records of the Union Army confirm that the following is the report of Lt. Wilson.

As a Lieutenant, James Harrison Wilson led the April, 1862 federal excursion on Wilmington Island.

As a Lieutenant, James Harrison Wilson led the April, 1862 federal excursion on Wilmington Island.

DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH.; A Severe Skirmish on Wilmington Island. A Reconnoitering Party Attacked by the Rebels. THE ENEMY REPULSED WITH LOSS, Ten of Our Men Killed and Thirty-five Wounded. OFFICIAL REPORT OF THE AFFAIR.

A skirmish occurred on Wilmington Island, above Fort Pulaski, on the 16th inst., the official report of which I send, and also a list of the killed and wounded. There is a discrepancy in the numbers of killed and wounded reported, and the list given me. I cannot explain it.

ON BOARD STEAMER HONDURAS,
OFF WILMINGTON ISLAND, Ga.,
April 17, 1862.

Lieut. W.L.M. Burger, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General Headquarters United States forces, Tybee Island, Ga.:

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following for the information of the General Commanding:

Escorted by seven companies of the Eighth Michigan Volunteers, commanded by Col. Fenton, and a small detachment of the Rhode Island Artillery, I embarked on the steamer Honduras at Goat’s Point about 8 o’clock yesterday morning, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance of Wilmington Island.

Proceeding through Lazaretto Creek, Tybee River and Wilmington Narrows, to Scriven’s [Screven’s] plantation, two companies, (G and B,) about 115 men, under the command of Capt. Pratt, were landed, with orders to march at once to the southwest end of the island, skirting Turner’s Creek on the right, so as to cover the boat party which was to follow that stream to Wilmington River. Ascending to the junction of Oatland and Turner’s Creeks, the balance of the command, in all about 300 men, was landed at Gibson’s plantation [on Whitemarsh Island].

The first company ashore was directed to move at once to the southwest end of Whitemarsh Island, skirting Turner’s Creek, and with instructions to leave a small picket at the intersection of the roads leading from Gibson’s and Oatlands to Turner’s, till another company should arrive at that point. A third company was to be thrown out on the road to the ferry at Canton’s Bluffs [Causton’s Bluff], to protect the boat party up Oatland Creek. The two remaining companies were to be held in reserve at Gibson’s plantation.

Lieut. Caldwell and sixteen men of the Rhode Island Volunteers, with one light 6-pounder, were left in charge of the steamer. The gun could not be landed on account of the inability of the boat to lie alongside of the landing.

Having proceeded through Turner’s Creek to Wilmington River, I returned by the same route, and landed at Gibson’s. Directly after arriving there, I was informed that our patrols had discovered the enemy in force at or near Fleetwood’s, and had seen traces of them all the way to Turner’s. Col. Fenton had already given order for the advance companies to fall back to Gibson’s, and and his dispositions for repelling an attack and covering our embarkation.

After an examination of the ground, at my suggestion, one company was thrown further forward to take shelter behind the hedge and fence surrounding one of the houses. The Colonel had already designated this position, and stationed another in the woods lining the marsh on the left, and the balance behind the houses and trees nearer the landing. After these dispositions were completed, and between 4 and 6 P.M. the rebels, subsequently ascertained to be the Thirteenth Georgia Volunteers, about 800 strong, armed with Enfield rifles, preceded by a heavy line of skirmishers, made an attack upon our position. After our advance line had delivered its fire from the hedge, the bugles sounded “the charge” for the main body; this was confounded with “the retreat,” the advanced line abandoned its cover, and fell back through an open space towards the reserve. While in this somewhat confused condition, the enemy advanced rapidly, pouring in upon us a steady and destructive fire. Our men replied with spirit, from such cover as could be obtained. Order was soon reestablished, and the rebels held in check for an hour or more. After the ineffectual efforts of Col Fenton and myself to form enough men to charge their line and drive them from the hedge, a portion of one company was carried to the right and under cover of the timber skirting that side, the left flank of the enemy was met and frustrated in an attempt to move in that direction; an advance on the left and along the whole line, dislodged the enemy and put him in full flight. He fell back rapidly, leaving several dead and wounded on the field, and was closely pressed for half or three-quarters of a mile. As it was now almost night, it was not deemed advisable to continue the pursuit further. Our skirmishers were gradually drawn in, strong advanced guards were posted well out on both roads, and two companies again posted on the line of the hedge, and the fence to the right. After having made, these admirable dispositions of his force to secure our position, Col. Fenton then directed the removal of our killed and wounded to the steamer; and after holding the ground for three hours, the entire form was quietly embarked without further accident — though it must be confessed had the enemy renewed his attack while we were embarking, we should have suffered great loss.

Our five small boats could not remove more than fifty men every thirty minutes, and the steamer lay in such a position that the six-pounder could not be brought to bear without jeopardizing the lives of our own people.

Our loss is ten killed and thirty-five wounded. Among the former is Lieut. and Adjt. Pratt, who fell while gallantly cheering on the men. Lieut. Badger, in command of the advanced guard, was dangerously, if not mortally wounded, and fell into the hands of the enemy; but in the hurry of their retreat he succeeded in effecting his escape.

The loss of the enemy cannot be ascertained; two of their dead were left in our hands. One, mortally wounded, died before we disembarked; the balance were carried off.

I am, Sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

C.H. WILSON,

First Lieutenant T.E. and Chief T.E., Department of the South.

KILLED AT WILMINGTON POINT.

Co. A. — Minor Pratt, Adjutant; Levi Conden, left temple; Asa Atherton, through head.
Co. B. — George Sparbuck, right lung; Charles A. Balley, throat; A. Vandenstack, right lung and right arm; Dessa Kapple, back and heart.
Co. H. — James E. Barton, right cheek and head.
Co. I. — Edwin Ayers, left thigh.
Co. K. — Eli Myers, lungs and back; —– Pestye, left side.
Co. A . — Carlos Delong, left arm and hip; Henry W. Caldwell, right breast and back; Warren Cole, through both hips; Aylmer Jennings, left thigh; Fred. Shillinger, left thigh; Barney Collins, right hand.
Co. C — Lieut. Badger, wounded in body, (mortally;) Franklin Moore, left foot; Silas Lurner, through the body; Ezekiel Cramer, right hand; Constantine Schloppi, left leg; Amos C. Walker, right leg; Lyman A. Andrews, right hip; Lewis Piper, left thigh.
Co. D — P.H. Hankinson, left wrist: Walter D. Smith, Engineer corps, left arm and back: Nicholas Carlin, right thigh; Andrew J. Coborne, inferior maxillary; James Cooper, right thigh.
Co. I — Wm. B. Golf, right shoulder and bach 5 Walter S. Ryans, hypogastric region; John R. Bunting, left ankle; Thos. Plinstock, left hand.
Co. K — Second Lieut. George Jennings, left leg.

There being a want of suitable hospital accommodations at Tybee, the wounded, by direction of Brigade-Surgeon J.J. Craven, were brought down here this morning on the Honduras to the general hospital.

The fact that the enemy fled, leaving us the field, notwithstanding their superior force, is regarded as having given us the best of the affray.

The Atlantic is just in, with New-York dates of the 14th inst.

The Oriental goes North to-day, carrying the mails and rebel officers, and 150 rebel prisoners,

J.M.W.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Colonel William M. Fenton, 8th Michigan Infantry also filed a report from the Honduras.

Colonel William M. Fenton, 8th Michigan Infantry, led skirmishes against Confederate troops from Causton's Bluff.

Colonel William M. Fenton, 8th Michigan Infantry, led skirmishes against Confederate troops from Causton’s Bluff.

Report of Col. William M. Fenton, Eighth Michigan Infantry. Headquarters Michigan Volunteers,

On Board Steamer Honduras,

Off Wilmington Island, Ga., April 16,1862—11 p. m. 

Sir: I have the honor to report, for the information of the general commanding, that, in compliance with Special Orders, No. 41, I embarked with seven companies of the Eighth Michigan Regiment as an escort to Lieut. J. H. Wilson,Topographical Engineers, on a reconnaissance of Wilmington Island. Two companies, under command of Captain Pratt, were landed at Screven’s plantation, with orders from Lieutenant Wilson to skirt Turner’s Creek; the other live companies were landed at Gibson’s plantation. Two of these companies were ordered to skirt Turner’s Creek; a third was to take the road to the right toward ferry at Carston’s Bluff to protect boat party up Oatland Creek, and the remainder to secure the landing. After one company of the five was landed Lieutenant Wilson proceeded in a boat up Turner’s Creek. Owing to the small number of boats and the distance from the steamer (which was grounded) some delay occurred in the disembarkation. I directed Lieutenant Colonel Graves to follow with the second company to skirt Turner’s Creek, but being misdirected he took the road to the right toward Carston’s Bluff, and on landing with the remaining companies I received information from him that the enemy were in force at Fleetwood’s plantation and to the left of the wood. This rendered the reconnaissance of Oatland Creek with boat unsafe, and I ordered the companies all in, and stationing the remaining companies to guard against an attack at our landing sent out strong pickets on both roads. I believe the advance of company to the right instead of along Turner’s Creek saved my command, as it sooner enabled me to post the men to advantage and take a position from which the enemy’s approach could be observed. The enemy proved to be the Thirteenth Georgia, about 800 strong, armed with Enfield rifles. As they approached (about 4 o’clock p. m.) with a strong body of skirmishers in the skirt of woods below the road the companies I had stationed to the right and left of the road, in accordance with my instructions, opened fire. I immediately sounded the charge for advance of companies in the rear of first line. The first line, mistaking the signal, fell back to the next cover. A constant and effective fire was kept up on both sides from cover of trees and bushes for an hour or more. Lieutenant Wilson, who had returned with boat party, here proved of great service to me. He took a party at my request to the left, and I ordered a company to the right to flank the enemy. Both operations were successful, and in a few moments the enemy retreated in confusion, leaving several dead on the field, followed by our men with loud cheers.

It being now about sunset I recalled our troops, and giving to Lieutenant Wilson the command of pickets stationed to guard against surprise, formed the companies in line as originally posted, sent the dead and wounded in boats to the ships, and gradually and very quietly under cover of night withdrawing the men sent them on board as fast as our limited transportation would allow. At the last trip of the boats I embarked, accompanied by Lieutenant Wilson, Lieutenant Colonel Graves, and the remainder of my command, at about 10 o’clock p. m., and immediately brought on board the two companies left at Screven’s plantation. After the enemy retreated we were unmolested. It is due to the officers and men of the command to say that generally they behaved with cool and intrepid courage. Adjutant Pratt fell dead near my side, gallantly fighting musket in hand and cheering on the men. Our loss, I regret to say, was comparatively heavy—10 killed and 35 wounded out of a command of 300 men. Among the wounded is Acting Lieutenant Badger, of Company C, who was in charge of the advanced picket, and exhibited undaunted courage. He with one of his men was made prisoner. Both escaped, and were brought in when the enemy retreated.

The captain of the Honduras is deserving of great credit for his kind attention to the wounded. Indeed he afforded us every facility for the comfort of officers and men in his power. I respectfully refer to Lieutenant Wilson’s report, which I have road, and contains some facts not embraced in this report, among others in relation to the men detailed in charge of the field piece on board ship, who were vigilant and attentive.

Herewith is transmitted a list of casualties.*

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. M. FENTON,
Colonel, Commanding.

Lieut. W. L. M. Burger,

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Tybee Island.

Again, the engagement on Whitemash alerted all regiments manning the batteries around Savannah.  Private Isaiah Smith at Beaulieu Battery  was called out in the middle of the night.

Thursday April the 17th 1862
I got up at 4 Oclock in the morning. We was ordered to cook one days rashing to go to Whitmarsh Island as the enemy had made an attact on our men but we did [not] get to go. I went on Co Drill at 9 Oclock – Isaiah Smith

At Camp Tattnall, the 29th Georgia Regiment was dispatched to reinforce Causton’s Bluff.  Berrien Minute Men Company D, and the 29th Georgia Regiment would take up station at Causton’s Bluff  and do picket duty on Whitemarsh Island and at Caper’s Battery. At the same time, and unbeknownst to the Confederate command, the 8th Michigan Infantry embarked on the USS Ben Deford for transportation back to Beaufort, SC.

A soldier of the 29th Georgia Regiment, Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry, wrote  to the Rome Courier newspaper from Causton’s Bluff:

Our Savannah Correspondence.

Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah,
April 19, 1862.

Dear Courier: Our Regiment was sent down here Wednesday night [April 16], to reinforce the 13th Georgia Regiment who had a fight with the Federals the evening before, on Whitmarsh Island [Whitemarsh Island], an account of which you have doubtless seen in the city papers.

But as the Yankees left the Island we were put to work on the fortifications here, and our tents sent down, so we will have to remain. This is a beautiful place, but it is very, objectionable, on account of the sand flies and gnats, which are exceedingly troublesome. The bluff is on what is called St. Augustine Creek. It is about as wide as Coosa River at low tide, and is navigable for vessels drawing twelve feet water.

Thunderbolt Battery is just below us on the same creek, Oakland Island [Oatland] is just opposite us and Whitmarsh just back of it, a small creek dividing them; Wilmington Island is still lower down. The Federals are trying to get possession of Whitemarsh and Oakland Islands, to erect a battery in order to shell out the battery here, and then take our guns and shell out Fort Jackson, and the city would then of course fall into their hands.— This is believed to be their programme.

Our company came down here thro’ a mistake of Col. [William J.] Young’s. We were detailed to guard the Depot to prevent the six months troops from returning but as we are here we will probably remain. Some of the Boys are returning from Augusta, and report the others improving- W. H. Mitchell, J. C. Andrews and W. E. Payne have returned this morning. Sixty-six have re-enlisted for the war. It takes no Conscription bill to make them do their duty.

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

Causton’s Bluff Part 1: The Key to Savannah

Causton’s Bluff Part 1: The Key to Savannah

In the spring and summer of  1862, the Berrien Minute Men, Company D (later Company K), 29th Georgia Regiment were stationed at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA. Company D was  the second of two companies known as the Berrien Minute Men, recruited from Berrien County, GA during the Civil War.  In the early months of the war, the Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were 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 Camp Wilson, and Camp Tattnall.  From there, the first company of Berrien Minute Men, Company C (later Company G) would go on to stations at Fort Jackson, then Lawton Battery on Smith’s Island in the Savannah River, while Company D went to Causton’s Bluff.

Preceeding the war,  Causton’s Bluff Plantation and allied Debtford Plantation comprised 700 acres of rice fields, owned by Robert Habersham and cultivated by his slaves.  Remnants of the rice fields on the marshes adjacent to the bluff can still be seen in satellite images.

Remnants of rice fields adjacent to Causton's Bluff are still visible in satellite images.

Remnants of rice fields adjacent to Causton’s Bluff are still visible in satellite images.

Causton’s Bluff had been a considered a point of vulnerability in Savannah’s defenses since before the Revolutionary War, “on account of the landing being good, and approachable by water two ways.” “This twenty to thirty foot bluff strategically commanded the rear approach to Fort Jackson, on the Savannah River, and the approach to the part of the eastern lines of the city.”   Union commanders regarded an assault on Causton’s Bluff as  “the key to Savannah.” The bluff, about three miles east of Savannah, overlooked St. Augustine Creek and Whitemarsh Island (pronounced Whitmarsh Island).

Map of Causton's Bluff Plantation showing location of rice mill, mansion, negro settlement, ferry landing, and Fort Barton (name given to Causton's Bluff Battery in 1863)

Map of Causton’s Bluff Plantation showing location of rice mill, mansion, “negro settlement”, ferry landing, and Fort Bartow (name given to Causton’s Bluff Battery in 1863) 

Causton’s Bluff had been garrisoned since December 1861 by   the 13th Georgia Infantry, also known as the Bartow Light Infantry, under the command of Colonel Marcellus Douglass . On Christmas Eve, 1861 Cyrus Jenkins, a soldier of the Montgomery Guards, 13th Georgia Regiment wrote, “We are encamped on a beautiful plain surrounded by a nice grove of live oak cedar & pine, with the moss hanging from every limb & branch. The weather is very warm, pleasant without a coat…water very strongly tinctured with lime.”  The water was supplied by a cold flowing Artesian well, which still attracted visitors to Causton’s Bluff for decades after the war.  B. H. Richardson, writing in 1886, claimed “few prettier or more romantic spots can be found any where. The grove at this bluff is undoubtedly the grandest and loveliest to be found any where in this immediate section. It is composed of magnificent live oaks of mammoth proportions, whose stalwart limbs are clothed in the Spanish moss, which is so generally admired by all strangers. One could almost imagine that it had been designed and laid out by a skillful landscape gardener, the arrangement is so artistic. The grove however is of natural growth, and the beautiful arrangement is of nature’s cunning hand…”

Eleven miles to the east of Causton’s Bluff on Tybee Island, GA, Union soldiers agreed that the weather was fine.

Horace-Porter

Captain Horace Porter, the engineer-officer of the regular army on Tybee Island, later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions at the Battle of Chickamauga.

In a letter of December 26, 1861, Captain Horace Porter, 46th NY Regiment wrote to his mother, “It is still so warm that you don’t even need a coat.” In another letter, Captain Porter added, “One disadvantage is that this place is full of mice. During the night they constantly jump over our heads.”  The 46th NY Regiment had “in a total strength of 35 officers and 673 men, 16 washerwomen, and campfollowers with 15 horses” had arrived on November 9, 1861 on the steamship Cahaba.

Another U.S. soldier on  Tybee,  a private of the 7th Connecticut Volunteers,  added, “fleas bite continually.

 

Fredrick Dennison, Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery wrote,

Prior to the war, Tybee Island, though beautiful in itself with its oaks, pines, palmettoes, jungles, wild plums, yams and vines, was but a semi-civilized region. The wild hogs we found there, made still more wild by the thunder of our guns in the siege of Pulaski, were not wholly exterminated during the war-strokes. With great difficulty our boys found them within good rifle-range. Perhaps Captain Churchhill will not soon forget how, at a later date, as he was crossing the island on horseback, these savage swine deployed on his flank from the thicket, so frightening the horse that he dashed like a comet through the sand-hills and trees, giving the Captain a ride a la John Gilpin. Tybee yams and wild fruit failed to make sweet or tender pork.

The Federals  had occupied Tybee Island on November 24, 1861 after it was abruptly abandoned by the Confederates.

Francis McCarten who came to Tybee Roads aboard the USS Augusta, was among the first US Navy personnel to land on Tybee Island. In a post-war letter to the Georgia Historical Society he wrote ” [I] was one of the boat crews that landed on Tybee Island from the U.S.S. Augusta Sunday, November 25th, 1861. When I got to the light-house I found there was a flag-staff but no hailards. I thought it would be fine to have a flag, and returned to the beach and got my boat flag and raised it on Tybee Light-house,” thus being perhaps the first U.S. flag raised on the State of Georgia in the Civil War.  McCarten described the event in more detail in his memoir In Peace and War:

In Peace and War: Francis McCarten

USS Augusta

In the month of November, we made a reconnaissance in the direction of Tybee Island, at the mouth of the Savannah river, as a preliminary to the reduction of Fort Pulaski, which commands the approaches to Savannah Georgia.  Savannah is one of the most beautiful of the Southern Cities, containing a population of about 6,000 whites and 6,000 slaves. Tybee Island, is a low, barren expanse of sand ridge, about eight miles long and six wide. At the northern extremity of the island there is a light-house and what is called Martello Tower, supposed to one of those massive circular structures of masonry, such as the English scattered so profusely along their coasts to guard against the threatened invasion by Napoleon, but in reality was built of mud and sea shell. On the 25th of November, the Augusta, Flag, and Pocahantas, got under weigh and steamed in the direction of Tybee Island, and commenced throwing shell in the direction of the battery without receiving any response. Immediately Captain Parrott, of the Augusta, hoist the signal ”arm & equip boats.” The boats were lowered and manned and immediately pulled for the beach, where we were drawn up in line of battle on the shore, and the order given to “charge,” up the beach we went in the direction of the fort, on arriving there we found it entirley deserted. It has often been remarked that as soon as a company of sailors land on the beach, it is pretty hard to keep them together, after the order ” charge ” is given. In less time than it takes to tell it, they were scattered in all directions all over the island, the woods, dwellings, light-house and every place where a rebel might be lurking were searched in vain. While one of my companions and myself were exploring the light-house, and on reaching the top, found the flag-staff still remained, but the halyards was unrove. I went immediately and procured a flag from one of our boats and bent it on to a long pole and succeeded in placing it out of the upper window, when cheer after cheer went up from our men all over the island, in sight of Pulaski, who opened fire on us.

Fort Pulaski is situated at the mouth of the river, on a small island called Cockspur, and perfectly commands the approaches in every direction. The rebels felt that they had at least one fort, Pulaski, which was impregnable. Our men immediately commenced throwing up intrenchments, and mounted one of our guns on the tower. A guard was kept on shore night and day until the army under Gen. Gillmore, arrived from Port Royal, and took possession of the island, which afterwards reduced Fort Pulaski. – In Peace and War, Francis McCarten
.

Through the winter of 1861-62 Tybee Island was garrisoned by the 46th New York Regiment. The 46th NY Regiment had been recruited in New York City and was mustered into the U. S. service in the summer of 1861 under the command of Col. Rudolph Rosa.  The regiment was composed entirely of German immigrants.

There was the savor of German cooking in the mess and the sound of German songs in their camp. All the commands were given in German at drill. The various bugle calls such as reveille and taps, were the same as those used in the German army,” recalled Captain Horace Porter, the engineer-officer of the regular army. Not only that, just as in Germany, the soldiers addressed their superiors as “Herr Major” and “Herr General.” The companies were numbered after the German fashion from one to ten. The “Regimental Order Book” was written in German.  – Ernst Mettendorf,  Zwischen Triumph und Desaster : Ein deutshes Regiment im amerikanischen Burgerkrieg.

On Causton’s Bluff the 13th GA Regiment was the bivouacked overlooking Whitemarsh Island.  To Private Jenkins Causton’s Bluff must have seemed all the more charming  considering the regiment’s experiences of the previous year. The 13th GA Regiment had headed into war in Virginia armed with flintlock muskets, marching through mountains, camp fever, short rations, wet, muddy, weary,  “gun and cartridge box for a pillow,” sometimes “crawling from one grub, shrub, cragg and cliff to another,” sometimes cold and frozen.  Despite the relatively pleasant winter weather on the bluff, in the following week Jenkins came down quite ill. Christmas morning broke cold and damp.  Jenkins was sick “with evident symptoms of cold, feverish sensations and general debility” followed by “high inflamation of stomach and bowels.” On New Year’s Eve, Jenkins wrote, “Still no better. Evening with high fever. After taking three opium pills I find that I am getting still worse.” Jenkins was furloughed to Macon, GA for recuperation.

By  mid-February, 1862 Private Jenkins was well enough to rejoin his unit on Causton’s Bluff:

” I again return to camp where I met my comerades  which was like the meeting of my kin at home. I found them busily engaged at work upon a sand battery near the camp. One company relieved another so that each company works half each day & occasionly some companies work at night. The battery is to consist of five guns. 4 magazines & one skuttle [scuttle] for the reliefs safety.” – Pvt Cyrus Jenkins

The 46th NY Regiment and other U.S. regiments on Tybee Island would soon challenge the defenses of Savannah.

Related Posts:

 

Lowndes Immigration Society, 1867

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Lowndes Immigration Society, 1867

Richard A. Peeples, a former Clerk of the Berrien County Courts, was among the prominent supporters of the Lowndes County Immigration Society, which formed to seek labor alternatives to employing recently emancipated African-American laborers. Others in the Society included:

  • Charles Henry Millhouse Howell, a planter with 2,200 acres in the 663 Militia District, the Valdosta District, on lots 36, 37, 57, 58, and 264 in the 11th Land District of Lowndes County, former owner of 17 slaves, in 1870 was employing and 13 freedmen and 5 other hands;
  • Henry Burroughs “H.B.” Holliday, father of Doc Holliday, originally settled in 1864 in the vicinity of present day Bemiss, GA  and later moved to Valdosta,  served as a civilian representative for Freedmen’s Bureau of Lowndes County, in 1870 owned 980 acres in the 663 Militia District on lots 146 and 176 in the 11th Land District of Lowndes County,  employed one hand and no freedmen, elected Mayor of Valdosta in 1872 and again in 1876.
  • Daniel J. Jones aka Daniel Inman Jones, during the war received discharge from the Confederate states army by sending a substitute to fight in his place, in 1870 a planter with 3,600 acres of land in the 662 GMD on lots 126, 127, 128, 155, 157, 168, and 180 in the 16th Land District of Lowndes County, GA, employed 31 freedmen and 15 additional hands
  • James Thompson Beville, former captain of the Valdosta Guards, 50th Georgia Regiment, in 1870 owned 2,045 acres in the 662 GMD on lots 62, 63, 64, 75, and 76 of the 16th Land District of Lowndes County, employed 9 freedmen and 11 other hands, later moved to California and lived to the age of 92;
  • David Peter Gibson, appeared on the 1864 Georgia Census of men who had not enlisted in Confederate service, in 1870 owned 1000 acres in the 662 GMD on lots 17 and 18 in the 16th land district and lot 161 in the 11th land district of Lowndes County, GA, employed one freedman and 4 other hands, moved about 1880 to San Sebastian, FL where he organized the first attempt to dig a cut to form Sebastian Inlet;
  • James A. Dasher, Valdosta businessman who sold the Trustees of the School for Colored Children a 1/2 acre lot south of the railroad tracks as the site for a new school, farmed 500 acres in the 663 Militia District on lots 77 and 78 in the 11th Land District of Lowndes County, in 1870 was employing 2 hands;
  • John Richard Stapler, owner of the 1,960 acre Alcyone Plantation, Hamilton County, FL, in 1860 owned 69 slaves and 14 slave houses, one of the commissioners who chose the site of Valdosta, later acclaimed as the breeder of pineywoods cattle known as the Stapler Guinea Cow;
  • Archibald Averett, farmed 880 acres in the 662 Georgia Militia District on lots 119 and 159 in the 16th land district of Lowndes County, formerly owned 25 slaves, in 1870 was employing 7 freedmen and 9 other hands .
  • Philip Coleman Pendleton, editor of the South Georgia Watchman, owned 400 acres in the 663 GMD on Lot 106 in the 11th Land District of Lowndes County, employed no hands
  • Colonel Sumner W. Baker, a lawyer whose office was on Patterson Street, Valdosta, GA
  • Colonel William R. Manning, was a large land-owner and slave-holder in Coffee County prior to the Civil War,  commanded the 50th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Confederate States Army, in 1870 owned 1,540 acres in the 663 Georgia Militia District on lots 153, 154, 169, and 170 in the 11th Land District of Lowndes County, employed 3 freedmen and 3 other hands.
  • Archibald McLeod
  • William Zeigler, former owner of 46 slaves

Following the end of the Civil War and abolition of slavery, Southern planters looked for ways of maintaining the economy of their slave-based cotton plantations. In lieu of slavery, cotton growers wanted a system to bind Freedmen to plantations and farms and to compel them to work under conditions deemed intolerable to white men. With contract terms to ensure profitability for the land owners, the risk was left to the Freedmen that their back-breaking labor would even pay enough to feed their families.

A long article in the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, April 10, 1866 edition laid out the philosophy of the southern white planters, asserting that it had only been through their ingenuity that the labor of African-Americans had ever been made profitable.  The position of white planters was that slavery had been unprofitable in the early years of the United States; “From 1790 to 1800 the people of the southern states were seriously discussing the abolition of slavery on account of the unprofitableness of that description of labor.”

In this southern post-war narrative,  white men had devised the extensive cultivation of cotton, and thus enabled enslaved blacks to work profitably, a condition they could not achieve on their own account since “negroes lacked sufficient judgement or intelligence to cultivate cotton successfully, without continual supervision.” In the white southern view, slave-based cotton production had propelled the economic growth of the country, yet the North had caused Secession and the Civil War by unfairly imposing tariffs on the cotton production of the southern states. “Convinced that the high tarriffites of the North would never be satisfied till they had reduced the Southern States to the condition of tributary provinces, paying into their coffers the whole profits of their labor, they seceded, a war ensued, which has ended in their conquest and the abolition of slavery.”

Southern planters held that slaves and former slaves were unfit for anything but agricultural work, but readily admitted profitable cotton production required highly skilled labor: “Picking requires educated labor as much as spinning and weaving the fabric, and the training must commence in childhood. So well established was this fact, that a South Carolina or Georgia [slave] negro would always command a higher price than one from Tennessee.” 

The Milledgeville Southern Recorder article calculated a highly skilled freedman could pick two to three times as much cotton as any white laborer. Furthermore, the article asserted white men were unsuited for cotton cultivation, which was year-round, back-breaking work in intolerable conditions.

“It requires the constant labor of all the hands from daylight till dark, when the picking season commences to secure the crop. In a half hour after the hands enter the field they are as thoroughly wet from head to foot by the dew as if they had been plunged in a river. In two or three hours the scorching rays of an August sun are poured upon their bent backs with an intensity of heat of which no Northerner has any conception yet the vast fields are white white before them and they must toil on if they would secure the fruits of their previous labors. The malarious exhalations of the early morning, the saturation of the clothes with dew, and the subsequent exposure to the direct rays of the noon tide sun would prostrate any white man on a bed of sickness, of serious, probably fatal sickness in a week.”

“On the best cotton lands from which the millions of bales were draw [by slave labor]…the malaria is so dead that no [white] man can live there constantly.”

“After a killing frost, (say from the middle of November till Christmas,)…The pods become hard, presenting curved spines at the open end, which scratch the hands; besides it is cold work in the early morning.”

It was said that in some of the largest cotton producing counties in Mississippi and Louisiana, the only white residents were the overseers who suffered as high as 60 percent to 75 percent mortality rate, even though “they perform no labor and avoid exposure to the morning dews and the heat of the noon-tide sun.”

Can the labor of the freedmen be secured thus continuously and certainly, as the conduct of a cotton plantation profitably absolutely requires; Every man who understands negro character, especially every practical planter, will unhesitatingly answer no. Until some method can be devised to compel freedmen to enter into contracts of labor for terms of years, and to fulfil their contracts faithfully, till they become in some form or other fixtures to the soil, more or less permanent, their profitable employment on cotton plantations is impossible.

With the circumstances imposed by Reconstruction and failed attempts of white planters to regulate black laborers with the threat of “involuntary servitude,” Lowndes County planters set upon a plan to recruit immigrant laborers from Europe.  Among the prominent residents of this section who supported the Lowndes County Immigration Society was Richard A. Peeples, former Clerk of the Berrien County Courts.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
September 16, 1867

Labor Supply and Immigration

        The subjoined proceedings of a meeting of a large number of the most intelligent and respectable citizens of Lowndes county, in this State, will be read with interest. [Note: Freedmen were not citizens until the passage of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in Georgia July 21, 1868] We have long been persuaded that some plan ought to be adopted to secure the amount of efficient and reliable laborers which our necessities demand, in order that we may successfully cultivate our lands, increase their yield and fertility, and regain the means and the wealth necessary to repair the losses our State has sustained, and reach, it is to be hoped, a higher state of prosperity than we have ever yet realized. The change in our labor system was sudden and violent, and it is not to be supposed that the freed laborer will settle down at once and become a systematic and reliable farm worker. Thus far a very large number, if not a majority of the negroes seems to be rather depredating and nomadic – uncertain and unsettled – indeed, has not made up his mind yet as to the necessity and utility of a permanent home and continuous application to labor. This should, and will, probably, change in course of time, when his interest come to be more clearly understood.
        Now, in spite of all malicious slanders to the contrary, the Southern people are disposed to deal kindly with the freedmen, and give them a fair chance to earn their living if they can be depended upon for constant and regular labor, so that the planters’ calculation in pitching his crop shall be in no danger of failing, as been frequently the case in all parts of the South for the want of the requisite work and proper attention. And here is the real difficulty of the present position of the labor supply question.
       We have urged this matter repeatedly upon the attention of the people of Georgia. There is a unquestionably great need for an increased supply of laborers and industrious cultivators and tenants of our lands. Some plan of encouraging immigration from Europe or the Northern States of steady laborers and agriculturalists ought to be put in operation, and it is important that it should be entered upon at once. If we had agricultural societies formed in the different counties of the State, perhaps those bodies might be the appropriate channels through which information might be diffused throughout the different countries of the Old World. Productive lands, situated in all parts of the State, can be purchased at very reasonable rates; but the difficulty is, there is no systematic method for making this fact known to foreigners who are anxious to buy, or for assisting emigrants in making selections. The desired object may be accomplished by one of three methods: 1st by appointing a commission to go abroad and induce immigrants to come to the State; 2d, by incorporating a company to promote the objects on the plan of land subscriptions or donations; 3d, by establishing a bureau, under the direction of the Governor, to take control over the matter.
           Our friends in the county named have adopted the first.
           Major Pendleton, a gentleman remarkable for his intelligence and tenacity of purpose in obedience to the requirement of the Valdosta Immigration Society, expect to leave for Europe about the 25th inst. Letters addressed to him at Valdosta up to the 20th, to Savannah up to the 25th, to New York up to the 30th, (in care of Wm. Bryce & Co.) will receive prompt attention.
          The true condition of the labor question in the South-the value of negro labor-the reliance to be placed upon them as laborers-may be fairly inferred from the action of the planters of Lowndes, among whom are many of the most sensible, practical and far-seeing in south Georgia.
         We invite attention to the movement. It is a significant one, in which the laborer now employed is perhaps most interested.
         Whether he will see the necessity laid upon him, or heed the admonition of passing events, remains to be seen.

Meeting of the Valdosta Immigration Society.
{From the Valdosta Times}

Valdosta, Sept. 12, 1867
          At a meeting of the citizens of Lowndes and Echols counties, held at this place today, the meeting was organized by calling Col W. H. Manning to the Chair and H. B. Holliday as Secretary. A committee of eleven was appointed to suggest business for the meeting, consisting of the following persons: Capt. J. R. Stapler, A. Averett, Wm. Roberts, J. W. Harrell, A. McLeod, D. P. Gibson, C. H. M. Howell, H.M. Coachman, J. C. Wisenbaker, W. Zeigler, Col. R. A. Peeples, and Maj. P. C. Pendleton. While the committee was out the meeting was addressed by Col. S. W. Baker.
         Our space does not admit of more than an abstract of the proceedings. The committee charged with the duty of suggesting formally, subject matter for the action of the meeting, reported in substance, that, additional labor upon our farms and other industrial pursuits was an absolute and pressing necessity, that could no longer be ignored without great detriment to the country. They report farther: That, from information in their possession, it is entirely practicable to procure emigrant labor of the kind wanted, and that they can be best obtained by sending an agent direct to Europe from among themselves to obtain them.
         That this labor can be had at a cost advance of probably less than $25 per head to be returned in the labor of the immigrant. And further that it is entirely practicable to obtain the labor required for the next crop.
          These were the views of the committee in brief, and when presented in form, received the endorsement of the meeting.
         A committee consisting of Capt. J. R. Stapler, Capt. J. T. Bevil and J. A. Dasher, Sr., was appointed to select an Agent to go to Europe for laborers. They selected Major P. O. Pendleton. The selection met the endorsement of the meeting, arranging for compensation, &c.
         He was instructed to contract with laborers for two or three years if in his opinion practicable and to allow a minster of the Gospel of the faith of the emigrant and also a brewer to accompany them if desired by them. Each subscriber was required to give a descriptive list of the number and kind of laborers wanted, and the Agent authorized to pay as high as $15 per month for labor, the laborer supporting himself.
        It was the expressed and emphatic opinion of the meeting that no planter ought to employ a freedman who has been discharged by his employer for misconduct, but that the freedman should have a recommendation from his former employer.
        On motion, a committee of ten was appointed to act as a Finance and Executive Committee. The following is the committee appointed by the Chair:

J. R. Stapler
J. W. Harrell
Jas. A Dasher, Sr.,
D. P. Gibson
J. T. Bevil
D. J. Jones
A. Averett
C. H. M. Howell
J. H. Tillman,
Executive Committee

         After which the meeting adjourned to meet on next Thursday, the 19th, at which time a further report may be expected from the Agent who has been instructed to visit Savannah to obtain information and in furtherance of the views of the meeting.
         All interested in this and adjoining counties are requested to unite with the meeting on that day.


Philip Coleman Pendleton, agent for the Lowndes County Immigration Society

Philip Coleman Pendleton, agent for the Lowndes County Immigration Society

The long journey of Major Philip Coleman Pendleton to Scotland in late 1867 to recruit Scottish immigrants to settle at Valdosta, GA, and work the cotton has been chronicled by his second great granddaughter, Catherine Pendleton in the Pendleton Genealogy Post.

Major Pendleton probably departed Valdosta  via the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad traveling approximately 170 miles to the port at Savannah, GA.  At about 62 miles from Valdosta the train passed through the Tebeauville station, now Waycross, GA. Pendleton himself had founded the community of Tebeauville, settling his family and others of the Pendleton family connection there in 1857. Originally, “The station was to be named Pendleton but Mr. Pendleton requested the station be named Tebeauville after his father-in-law, Frederic Edmund Tebeau of Savannah…Tebeauville had been the ninth station to be constructed on the Atlantic & Gulf RR… To this day many old timers refer to the section of [Waycross] where the Tebeauville station was located as “Old Nine”. 

Pendleton arrived in Savannah, GA on October 18th, 1867.

Milledgeville Federal Union
October 22, 1867

Lowndes County Immigration Society.
Major P. C. Pendleton, Agent of the Lowndes Immigration Society, passed through Savannah on the 18th inst., on his way to Europe for the purpose of procuring Immigrants to this State under the auspices of that Association. The Association with which he is connected have authorized him to offer the most liberal inducements to emigrants from the old world to settle in Southern Georgia, where a rich productive soil and healthful climate invite the husbandman, and where the thrifty industrious laborer will find a generous welcome.

In Savannah, Major Pendleton stayed at the Marshall House, 123 East Broughton Street. The hotel had served as a Union hospital during the final months of the Civil War.

Marshall House, Savannah, GA, circa 1867. Philip Coleman Pendleton stayed here October 18, 1867 enroute to Scotland seeking immigrants to work Lowndes County, GA cotton plantations.

Marshall House, Savannah, GA, circa 1867. Philip Coleman Pendleton stayed here October 18-31, 1867 enroute to Scotland seeking immigrants to work Lowndes County, GA cotton plantations.

The Savannah Daily News and Herald
October 21, 1867

Major Pendleton will, we understand, visit Scotland and Ireland, and will go prepared to give all the information needed and to furnish to those desiring to come to Georgia, such aid and guarantees as will be satisfactory. We trust that he may be eminently successful, and that his mission will result in opening the way for thousands of industrious and thrifty families, who may desire to change the hard terms of the tenant system of the old country, for one more liberal and lucrative in the New World, which promises far better prospects to themselves and their posterity.

After a two week stopover in Savannah, Major Pendleton traveled to New York aboard the SS Herman Livingston

Advertisement for the steamship Herman Livingston, departing from Savannah, GA

Advertisement for the steamship Herman Livingston, departing from Savannah, GA

SS Herman Livingston made the regular run between Savannah, GA and New York

SS Herman Livingston made the regular run between Savannah, GA and New York

The first class sidewheel steamship Herman Livingston sailed for Baker, NY at 10:30am on November 1, 1867 with “P C Peadleton” and 19 other cabin passengers, four passengers in steerage. 1,416 bales cotton, 75 barrels of flour, 60 barrels of fruit, 2 bales deer skins, and 27 packages merchandise. On November 3, 1867 the SS Herman Livingston arrived  in New York, where through passage to Liverpool was available.

It appears Major Pendleton reached Scotland by December 4, 1867, or perhaps he was able to arrange his recruiting campaign in advance of his arrival. Pendleton placed advertisements for workers interested in immigration to south Georgia in the Glasgow Herald.

December 4, 1867 advertisement in the Glasgow Herald placed by Major Philip Coleman Pendleton, agent for the Lowndes Immigration Society.

December 4, 1867 advertisement in the Glasgow Herald placed by Major Philip Coleman Pendleton, agent for the Lowndes Immigration Society.

Glasgow Herald
December 4, 1867

Important To Mechanics, Farm Labourers, Domestic Servants, &c.
Emigration to Georgia, Southern States of America

        Wanted, a number of Agricultural Labourers, also a few Blacksmiths and Cartwrights of experience, to settle in Georgia. The country, although in a transition state, is under good government, life and property being as secure as in this country. The climate is pleasant and healthy; provisions moderate in price, and certain soon to be lower. There are a number of Scotch settlers already in the district.
        The following are some of the further advantages which Emigrants may rely on:

  1. Wages nearly double those given in this country.
  2. Shorter working hours, with additional payment for extra time.
  3. A commodious dwelling house, with a piece of ground and sufficient time to cultivate it.
  4. Expenses of passage out defrayed, or assisted in same, and to be returned by instalments from their earnings until paid.

      To working men of industrious habits, and especially to those with large families, this will be found an excellent opportunity of bettering their position in life, as land is cheap, and every facility and encouragement will be give for their acquiring land out of their earnings.
      For general information, applicants will please apply immediately to James McLeish & Co., 48 St. Enoch Square, who will supply all particulars.
P. C. PENDLETON, of Georgia,
Representative of the Association in Scotland.
BANKERS.
The Union Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Messrs, Baring Brothers, London.
Glasgow, Dec. 2, 1867

On December 8, 1867 Major Pendleton wrote home from Edinburgh, Scotland. His letter home from that location included the following:

Edinburgh, Scot., Dec. 8, 1867
…Not a word from home yet. I wrote from Savannah and New York how letters should be addressed to me…Whether the fault may be John Bull’s P. master or Brother Jonathan’s, or that of misdirection, I cannot say…The work given me to do seemed to me so important that I fain would try it, in the hope of future good to those who sent me and to myself and mine. I trust I may be able to get through with it and see home once more.

Arriving in London, Major Pendleton wrote home on December 21, 1867

London, Dec. 21, 1867
I have been to Scotland, made all the arrangements for emigrants, but no money yet has followed me. I am much distressed about it, but I hope I may soon be relieved, be able to do what I came to do, and be speeded back to you…I left a heavy burden in the paper, but I thought I was doing the right thing to come on this mission…The public sense of Great Britain has been very much shocked by the acts of the Fenians. Irish-Americans are looked upon with marked suspicion…I have had one of my fits of dyspepsia, though I have been constantly going, ever at work. The best medicine for me now would be for me to be placed in funds to take out the emigrants so ready to go…I have not gone about much. Take a short walk up and down the Strand for a little air and exercise.  When I first came here I visited two or three points of historical interest. But my mind has been too much occupied with what I came to do, to feel interest in such things…When I have a moment from business to think of home, I think of the trials and labor you have to undergo. How I long to be home again with you, but I must go through the work I came to do if means be sent men and I am spared. May a kind Providence shield you all and bring me safely back to you! My mind has been on such a strain, since our unhappy war began – since our defeat – since this present enterprise- that I feel quite anxious for an opportunity for rest. Don’t know if you ought to expect me before the 15th of February if the money comes – if not, sooner it may be…

He checked into the Charing Cross Hotel. On December 22, 1867 his letters from there included the following:

London, Charing Cross Hotel, Dec. 22, 1867
…In perplexity of mind about many things connected with my mission…I have not been able to write much for paper, It is a hard task, with so much to do, to think of in other matters…No money yet. Have telegraphed and am waiting reply.

London Charing Cross Railway Station and Hotel. The hotel, built in 1865 is at the geographic center of London. Major Philip C. Pendleton, of Valdosta, GA stayed here in December 1867 while on a mission for the Lowndes County Immigration Society to recruit Scottish immigrants to south Georgia, USA

London Charing Cross Railway Station and Hotel. The hotel, built in 1865 is at the geographic center of London. Major Philip C. Pendleton, of Valdosta, GA stayed here in December 1867 while on a mission for the Lowndes County Immigration Society to recruit Scottish immigrants to south Georgia, USA


Major Pendleton’s efforts at recruiting were effective. Hundreds of Scots were eager to make the Atlantic crossing for the opportunity to work in south Georgia. But the new  year came and the Lowndes County Immigration Society couldn’t raise the promised money to pay for the voyage; Pendleton was forced to abandon the effort and return home alone. Pendleton sailed from Glasgow, Scotland, on the iron steamship United Kingdom.

Steamship United Kingdom

 

Major Pendleton arrived in New York on January 27, 1868. The following afternoon at the foot of Wall Street on the East river at Pier 16, he boarded the steamship Cleopatra bound for Savannah, along with Col. William Tappan Thompson, Associate Editor of the Savannah News and Herald, James Roddy Sneed, Editor of the Macon Georgia Weekly Telegraph, 21 other cabin passengers and 14 passengers in steerage.

The SS Cleopatra arrived in Savannah, GA on January 31, 1868.

The Macon Georgia Weekly Telegraph
February 7, 1868

The Foreign Labor Question – Among our fellow passengers by steamer from New York, a few days ago was our friend and contemporary, Major P.C. Pendleton, who has just returned from Scotland, where he had spent several months in securing field laborers for planters in Brooks and adjoining counties in Southern Georgia. He informed us that he found no difficulty in engaging the full number required as an experiment, viz. five hundred; but, unfortunately, his mission was brought to a sudden and unhappy conclusion. When everything was ready and he was about to collect together his laborers in daily expectation of a remittance to defray their expenses across the Atlantic, he received a dispatch from his principals, announcing their utter inability, from the unproductiveness of the year’s labor, to furnish any portion of the money required, and requesting his immediate return. So much for the fall in prices and the oppressive taxation of the Government.
        Major Pendleton informed us that any number of sober, energetic and skillful farmers could be procured in Scotland at reasonable rates, and that they are even anxious to come to the South and aid us in building up our exhausted country. As the Southern people are powerless, and the Government is in the humor of bounties, where could it better direct its appropriations than in filling up the country with just such a population. Our idle naval marine might be well and profitably employed to this end.

In early February Pendleton reached home again. A final account of the mission to secure European laborers was published in the Cuthbert Appeal.

The Cuthbert Appeal
February 13, 1868

Home Again
        After about three months’ absence in Great Britain, in obedience to the wishes of the Lowndes County Immigration Society, for the purpose of obtaining emigrants for this section of Georgia, we are, by the good Providence of God, “home again.” It is painful to have to say that the enterprise has been a failure. This failure was not because emigrants could not be obtained and brought cheaply, but because of the depressed condition of affairs that arose soon after our departure, owing to the low price of cotton and the increasing political troubles in reality and in prospect. The uncertainties arising therefrom, the want of means to carry to successful conclusion the well intended objects of the Association, was the alone cause of the failure.
        The number of emigrants desired could have been had in Scotland, with out difficulty, on the plan we were instructed to propose. Numerous applications wore made to be allowed to come under this plan of the society. Indeed, more than the means expected to be used, to aid their transshipment. – The failure is much to be regretted every way. First, because of the value of these labors to our planters and to the country, and second, because promises were held out to those who had consented to come in the way of assistance, (“holding the word of promise to the ear, but breaking it to the sense,”), thereby possibly placing in discredit any future effort that may be made by the South in the same quarter.
       It is beyond all doubt that the Scotch [sic] laborer is, If not the superior, the equal of the laboring population of any part of the globe. They are industrious, thrifty and painstaking in farm duties, to an extent surpassing anything we know here among the laboring classes. They are very poor, and almost always must remain so, under the system there. A little help given them, and the assurance of homes and work to do, would induce a very large emigration. There were well nigh a thousand applications to the two agencies established in Edinburgh and Glasgow, either by letter or personally, all eager to come; some of them promising to help themselves in part, if they should be accepted; some to pay their way; being allowed to come on the cheaper terms on which a number could be brought, with the assurances of work upon arrival here.
        We went there well endorsed, and credit and credit and confidence at once were given to our statements. It may well be adjudged that the failure to respond here was a painful disappointment to them as it was to us.
        Thus much briefly, until the society shall have had a meeting and speak for themselves after which information more in detail may be given.

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The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

The Clift Affair occurred at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.   Much of what has been written about the incident at Valdosta has minimized what would today undoubtedly be categorized as a terrorist attack.

The Clift Affair occurred just days after the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, probably under the leadership of former Confederate General John B. Gordon, began its reign of political terrorism in this state with the murder of Radical organizer George Ashburn at Columbus, GA. (Georgia would later name its largest military training base of WWI and WWII Camp Gordon in honor of General Gordon).     In Valdosta,  group of young white men attempted to detonate an 18 lb keg of gunpowder to disrupt a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally. The speaker, Joseph Wales Clift (derisively referred to as Booby in the southern press), was a Radical candidate for the U.S. Senate seeking the vote of former slaves.  Local public outcry over the Clift Affair in Valdosta, condemning equally the actions of the candidate and the bombers, was led by Richard A. Peeples, a prominent Confederate veteran and lawyer of Valdosta, and former Clerk of the Court of Berrien County, GA.

 

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift was born in North Marshfield, Plymouth County, MA. on September 30, 1837. He attended the common schools and Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH. He graduated from the medical school of Harvard University in 1862. He entered the Union Army and was acting surgeon from July 13, 1862, to August 7, 1865, then served in the Army of the Potomac until November 18, 1866. Afterwards he moved to Savannah, GA with his brother, Walter Lovell Clift.  J. W. Clift established a medical practice and Walter L. Clift practiced law.  J. W. Clift joined the Georgia Medical Society and was elected Librarian of the organization in January, 1867. The brothers became activists encouraging freedmen to exercise their right to vote which had been granted in the Sherman Military Bill.  J.W. Clift spoke at a Savannah gathering of several thousand freedmen on March 18, 1867.  On May 25, 1867 the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer announced J. W. Clift  had been appointed to the board of voter registration for the city of Savannah by order of Major General Pope under the Reconstruction Acts. Of the 5,330 voters registered in Savannah that year, 3,061 were African-American. At a meeting for the organization of the Republican Party in Chatham County, J. W. Clift was elected as a delegate to the Republican State Convention to be held July 4, 1867 in Atlanta, GA. Both brothers spoke at the Savannah Republican rally October 21, 1867, attended by about 4000 freedmen according to the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer. W. L. Clift was a delegate to the state constitutional convention.  In early 1868, Dr. J. W. Clift was considered as a Radical candidate for mayor of Savannah, but at a mass meeting of freedmen on March 16. 1868 he was nominated as the Radical candidate for the U. S. Congress.

Hitting the campaign trail, J. W. Clift came to Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA. In Pines and Pioneers, J. Shelton described Cliff’s event here:

A candidate for Congress, J. W. Clift arrived in Valdosta to make a campaign speech. Clift sought the Negro vote, and he scheduled an address for Saturday night, April 4, 1868. Without bothering to secure from the authorities the required permission to speak publicly, Clift began his talk to an audience at the courthouse. There was an explosion, for a group of young Confederate veterans had placed a keg containing a “small modicum of powder” beneath the building. No one was hurt, but the young men succeeded in breaking up the meeting.

Primary sources on the Valdosta bombing attack,  the Valdosta Times and Savannah Daily News and Herald, ensconced the event in a shared language that derides the victims and excuses the perpetrators. language that many references have maintained up to the most recent years.

The political candidate, Dr. J. W. Clift was constantly referred to as a “prowling, sniveling booby,” “vagrant scalawag, ” or “carpet bagger.” The terms scalawag and carpetbagger have sometimes been redefined in the modern narrative as neutral;  scalawags were “southerners who supported Reconstruction” and Carpetbaggers were “northerners who came south after the war to seek their fortune through politics.”  But in 1868, these terms were unquestionably pejorative; carpetbaggers were unscrupulous Yankee profiteers and scalawags were the white southern traitors who collaborated with them and the freedmen.  In a clipping from the South Georgia Times reprinted August 20, 1868 in the Atlanta Constitution, Berrien County bragged that it had no scalawags:   “NO SCALLAWAGS IN BERRIEN! No scalawags in Irwin and Telfair, and that’s the reason no election is ordered for those counties. Y.M.D.C. is organized here, but there is not enough radicalism to keep it lively.” (The Young Men’s Democratic Club was the public political wing of the KKK,) Dr. Clift’s brother, Walter L. Clift, a lawyer and delegate to the state constitutional convention, was referred to as a “little cheese-eyed man” and both the Clift brothers were alternately tagged with the description as “a sour little fellow, with weak, wicked eyes…[and] industrious imbecility.” In an extended tirade, the Thomasville Enterprise referred to Dr. Clift as “a silly, overweening school boy, about to be elevated above his capacity…we were never more astonished at the extreme feebleness and want of prestige and capacity in a candidate for so high an office…Such is the contemptible creature who has the effrontery to ask the colored citizens of this district for their votes to send him to Congress of the United States… an unknown adventurer, destitute of talents, character, courage and every manly attribute – an ignorant, insolent upstart, who in the face of an outraged and indignant community, meanly seeks by falsehood and misrepresentation, by appeals to the prejudices and passions of their newly enfranchised race – by hypocrisy and deceit and every base and contemptible artifice, to obtain a position for which he is neither intellectually, morally, legally or socially qualified. 

White Valdostans asserted that by holding the meeting, Dr. Clift himself precipitated the incident  – that he was acting”illegally” since he did not have the approval of civil authorities, although the entire state was then under military rule and Clift was exercising free speech to address a peaceable assembly.  The Valdosta Times even suggested that J. W. Clift planted the bomb himself, in a diabolical plot to implicate “the poor rebs,”  widen the divide between the “good men” of Lowndes county and the “Negroes,” and create a sensation among his black supporters.

Valdosta Times referred to Clift’s audience as “ a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism,” and the “ignorant and credulous classes.” The Valdosta Times wrote that the gullibility of the freedmen was illustrated in their naive belief of Clift’s statements that “white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children.

The conspirators were just “some of the boys [who] concluded to have a little fun.”  They only “intended to create a ‘big scare’.

The bomb was just a “prank“…“a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.” Further, it couldn’t have been a real bomb because it was preposterous that any white man would have risked accidentally blowing himself up in the company of “negroes.

Subsequent reports suggest that the conspirators and their allies, having failed in the full destructive effects of the explosion, further broke up and dispersed the crowd of freedmen by force of arms, surrounding the Courthouse building and holding it throughout the night. At the time of the bombing on Saturday April 4, 1868, Valdosta and all of Georgia was still under the  federal military occupation of Reconstruction, and Federal officers viewed the civil unrest as a collapse of local authority. Albert B. Clark,  Freeman’s Bureau agent at Quitman,  “quickly reported to military headquarters at Thomasville that a riot had occurred and that local authorities were ‘powerless’ to do anything about it.

By Monday, April 6, newspapers all over the country were mentioning the Clift Affair in Valdosta, many attributing the violence to the KKK.

The Philadelphia Age
April 6, 1868
At a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday night, a disturbance was caused by the discovery of a keg of powder under the speaker’s desk. The meeting dispersed amid general excitement.

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Janesville, Wisconsin Gazette
April 6, 1868

The Tribune’s special Savannah of the 5th says the Republican meeting at Valdosta yesterday was broken up by a band of regulators of Ku klux Klan. Powder was placed under the building in which Dr. J. W. Cliff, the Republican candidate for Congress was to speak.

A New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Reconstruction violence in Georgia notes   “It is impossible to untangle local vigilante violence from political terrorism by the organized Klan, but it is clear that attacks on blacks became common during 1868. Freedmen’s Bureau agents reported 336 cases of murder or assault with intent to kill on freedmen across the state from January 1 through November 15 of 1868.”

At Valdosta, a number of concerned white residents of  met to discuss the bombing and attorney Richard A. Peeples, was called to the Chair.  Peeples was a former Clerk of the Berrien County Courts.  R. T. Myddleton was appointed Secretary. Following a motion by Col. A. J. Little, Peeples appointed a committee to draft a resolution expressing condemnation of the actions.  The committee, consisting of Henry Burroughs Holliday, Col. A. J. Little, B. F. Moseley, G. T. Hammond,  and M. C. Morgan quickly composed the following:

Whereas one J. W. Clift a candidate for Congress came to this place on Saturday last, and without giving to the civil authorities the notice required by military orders – so as to enable said authorities to have a police in readiness to preserve order – did at night hold a meeting composed of a large number of negroes, many of whom were armed and standing as guard around the house.

And whereas, certain irresponsible parties did, in a most irregular and disgraceful manner disperse and break up said meeting – thereby endangering the lives of many persons – much to the regret of all good citizens,

We the citizens in meeting assembled, do hereby, express our condemnation and dissapproval of said riotous conduct.

˜ ° ˜

On the evening of Monday, April 6, the civil authorities at Valdosta moved to preempt military intervention in the case. The Mayor M. J. Griffin, of Valdosta, ordered the arrest of  five  suspected conspirators in the bombing: A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo.

A slightly more detailed version of the events in Valdosta, highly sympathetic to “the boys,” was published in the Savannah newspapers.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

        Our readers have had rumors of a muss of some sort got up by the vagrant scalawag who aspires to represent the negro constituency of this District in Congress. We have heard various statements in regard to the affair, but nothing authentic until we met the following in the Valdosta Times of the 8th inst. The editor says:
        On Saturday night last there was quite a stir in our town. One Clift, surnamed booby, was here to make a speech, to induce the colored people to vote for him. He went illegally to work, having no fear of the military before his eyes, called his meeting, went to speaking, sans ceremonie, without so much as saying “by your leave, Mr. Mayor.” Having placed himself in the wrong by his lawless course, it is not to be wondered that there was as little sympathy for him as for his cause. Some of the boys concluded to have a little fun, and placed under the building a keg in which it was said there was a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.
        Another version of it is, that it was placed there with the cognizance of the said Clift, surnamed as above, for the purpose of making a finishing stroke to the poor rebs, as thereby and therein they were to be demolished indirectly by the gunpowder, but directly by his masterly strategy. It is idle to suppose that there was any intention on the part of the boys, if they did it, to blow up their friends and relations, some of whom were in the building. They intended a “big scare” and carried out their purpose quite effectively.
        We condemn in the strongest terms we can use, all such proceedings. They are both unlawful and unjustifiable. They tend to harm the cause they would subserve. The negroes will, of course, be inclined to listen to those who will endeavor to persuade them that it was really the intention to blow them up, and thus the breach be widened that good men are endeavoring to close up as far as may be practicable and right. And so far as this goes Clift has been partially successful, if his is the strategy that laid the explosive train.
        Our citizens have had a meeting and condemned this procedure in unqualified terms of disapproval.
        The strong presumption is that this diabolical gunpowder plot was “a weak invention of the enemy” – a resort of the prowling, sniveling Booby to create a sensation and to increase his electioneering capital with his ignorant and credulous classes.
         The idea that the young men of Valdosta would attempt with a handful of powder to blow up such a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism as must have composed Booby’s auditory, is perfectly absurd – especially when it is considered that the Guy Fawkes of the enterprise in exploding the powder, to which no train or fuse was set, must necessarily have blown himself up with the rest. However fearless and self sacrificing the projector of such a plot might be, it is utterly preposterous to suppose that any white man would be willing to be blown to Ballahack or anywhere else, in such company.

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Valdosta Times
April 8, 1868

We are sorry that the Radicals have not sent a man of sense to run as a candidate for Congressional honors in the First Congressional District. The negroes yesterday “damned” Clift “with faint praise.” His speech was a feeble, sickly tirade against somebody or something, or nobody or nothing. Not one of his hearers could tell to-day what he said or what he meant. Some of them seemed to arouse when he said that white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children. The response of one was “Bress God, brodder, let us pray.’’ The more sensible among them know how to estimate such a pretender. They are not quite so senseless as he took them to be.
Valdosta Times April 8th.

About the accused, this much is known:

  • IVERSON L. GRIFFIN
    Eighteen-year-old Iverson L. Griffin was the son of a wealthy planter and merchant of Valdosta. His father, Thomas B. Griffin, had served as a Confederate state senator of Georgia from 1861-1863 and was therefore disallowed from taking the Oath of Allegiance to restore his U.S. citizenship. His father had been the owner of 12 slaves, including 4 mulatto children under the age of 4. It is also noteworthy that the Mayor of Valdosta at the time was M. J. Griffin; the only M. J. Griffin that appears in the Lowndes County census records of that period is Iverson Griffin’s brother, Marcus J. Griffin.
  • JOHN DANIEL CALHOUN
    At the time of the Clift Affair, 24-year-old John Daniel Calhoun was a deputy sheriff of Lowndes County, GA. Census records suggest he may have been orphaned at an early age. His early childhood was in the household of Harmon Sapp. In the 1860 census, he was enumerated as a teenager in the household of William Bradford, working as a laborer. Also in the Bradford household was Richard Ault, who would later serve as blacksmith for the Berrien Minute Men. By the 1880s Calhoun would move to Berrien County, GA where he farmed in the 1145 Georgia Militia District. In 1905 he was serving as Postmaster in Crossland, GA.
  • ALEXANDER H. DARNELL
    Darnell was a young merchant of Valdosta. He was native of Kentucky and the first record of his presence in Lowndes County is his signature on the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, signed October 18, 1867. He was 25 years old at the time of the Clift incident. He died in Lowndes County in October 1869 from an “abscess of the liver”.
  • JOHN JAMES RAMBO
    Rambo, age 17 at the time of the Clift Affair, was an orphan of Confederate veteran Dr. John Rambo and Mary Ark Ryals. According to The Rambo Family Tree, his parents were both born in England and immigrated to Georgia. His father received his medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia in Atlanta, graduating in 1847. John J. Rambo was born January 18, 1851 in Perrys Mill, Tatnall County, Georgia. After his mother died of brain fever in 1859, his father married a second time to Maria Clifton.    His father was enumerated in 1860 as the owner of 7 enslaved people. During the Civil War, his father served as a surgeon in the 47th Georgia Infantry Regiment, rising to the rank of Major.  His step-mother died on March 14, 1862 His father left the army on September 17, 1862 because of a physical disability. Some time during or prior to 1863, John J. Rambo came with his father to live in Valdosta, leaving his half-brother William in the custody of his Clifton grandparents.  John’s father died in Valdosta about August 28 1864 at the age of 34.  After the Clift Affair in Valdosta,  John and some of his Ryals relatives kidnapped his younger step-brother, William Rambo, and traveled by boat to New York.  There, John J. Rambo studied to become a doctor and took up medical practice in Brooklyn, NY for the remainder of his life.

Mayor Griffin’s quick action was temporarily effective in preventing military intervention. By the time Lt. Bard and Corporal John Murray arrived in Valdosta with a detail of federal soldiers the five suspects were already in civil custody. For the time being the U. S. soldiers took no action. But a week later, after the alleged bombers were released on bond, the soldiers moved over night to arrest them and transported them to Savannah for confinement in the federal barracks. Valdosta Mayor M. J. Griffin protested the military arrests and Thomas B. Griffin, father of Iverson L. Griffin, traveled to Savannah to visit the accused in jail.  The South Georgia Times report of the arrest was reprinted in the Savannah Daily News and Herald, along with an exchange of telegrams between Mayor Griffin and military authorities.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Military Arrests in Valdosta.
{From the South Georgia Times}
         We are sorry to have to state that Monday night last some of our young men were taken from their beds and immediately hurried off to Savannah by United States troops, we presume to undergo military trial. It is alleged that they were engaged in the gunpowder sport referred to in — last. They have already given bond – the four are under arrest – to appear and answer before the civil tribunals. Our Mayor and Sheriff promptly discharged their duty in the premises. The hardship of the case is, that civil law has but a name. The iron is —ering in into the soil, and liberty and law is fast passing away. These young men are to be tried where perhaps their case is already prejudged, far away from their homes and sympathy and kindness of friends. Time was when such an act would have fired the great heart of the country from one end of is bounds to the other. They should have been tried by their peers of the vicin– — age, and if guilty of the violation of law, punished as that law would punish them, and not at the behest of prejudiced strangers.
        Our Mayor sent the following telegram to Gen. Meade relative to what had been done here. General Meade’s reply is appended. Alas! for the rights for which our fathers fought, and of which we have so much boasted.
         A telegram was received by Mr. M. J. Griffin, at 6 o’clock yesterday, from Mr. T. B. Griffin that “the boys were all comfortably quartered in the barracks, and well cared for.”

Valdosta, April 14, 1868
Major Gen. Meade, Atlanta, Ga.
Sir: – At a late hour last night, without my knowledge, a party of U. S. soldiers arrived here and carried away the following persons, viz. A. H. Darnell, Iverson Griffin, John Calhoun, Ben Smith, John Rambo – who are alleged to have been concerned in a riot at this place on the 4th inst. These men, as Mayor, I had arrested and bound to appear at the Superior Court of this county to answer for the same. I respectfully request to be informed if they were arrested by your order, and if not, that they be released and take their trial before the civil tribunals of the county.
I have the honor to be,
Your Obedient Serv’t
M. J. Griffin,
Mayor Valdosta

Atlanta, GA., April 14th, 1868
M. J. Griffin, Mayor Valdosta:
The persons named in your telegram were arrested by General Meade’s order, and will be held for trial by Military Commission.
R. C. Drum, A. A. G.

In subsequent days state and national newspapers provided additional details.

The Macon Georgia Weekly Telegraph
April 24,1868

The Clift Electioneering Trick At Valdosta.
Yesterday, Lieutenant Bard, United States Army, arrived in this city on the train from Valdosta, having in charge five young men, whom he had arrested there the day previous, on a charge of having been the originators of the disturbance which occurred at that place on last Saturday night week. –
This is the general supposition, as nothing was said by the arresting officer of the why and the wherefore of their being taken into custody. Their names are Alexander H. Darrell, John Calhoun, John Rambo, Benjamin L. Smith and Iverson L. Griffin. They are all young men of good family, and entirely innocent of all blame in the matter. Mr. Calhoun was Deputy Sheriff of Lowndes County, and a faithful and efficient officer.- Mr. Griffin was not present at the Court House on the night in question, and in no way connected with the affair. Thus are innocent men torn from their families and thrust into prison by the strong arm of military power, and made to suffer by the rascality of a Radical carpet-bag adventurer. [Sav. Rep., 15th.

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Indianapolis Journal
April 30, 1868

ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP A REPUBLICAN MEETING – Information has reached the Congressional Committee rooms that on Tuesday last [Saturday, April 4, 1868] an attempt was made to blow up the Court House at Valdosta, Georgia, where a Republican meeting, composed mostly of colored people, was being addressed by Dr. J. W. Clift (white). A keg containing eighteen pounds of powder had been purchased at a store in the place, and a portion take out to make a train, and the remainder of the powder was placed under the Court House. Fortunately the cask was discovered and removed in season, but the train [fuse] was fired, and in an attempt of the persons present to escape, they were fired upon by a gang of white men outside, who had surrounded the building. This party held possession of the place that night, but on the next day they were dispossessed by the military, and the meeting was held.

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Bedford Inquirer
April 17, 1868

Terrorism In The South

      Our Democratic brethern would have the people believe that the South would be a perfect paradise if such men as Meade, Pope, Sickles, Sheridan, &c., were kept away. General Hancock has had several months control of the Southwest trying to carry out a different policy from that of the before-mentioned heroes with what results is indicated in the following article from the Pittsburg Chronicle of a few days ago:
      The dispatches which we published in yesterday’s issue, relative to the brutal murder of Hon. George W. Ashburn, of Columbus, Georgia, by a gang of villains in disguise, and the breaking up of a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, by a band of regulators of the Ku-Klux Klan, come at the heels of much similar information through letters and newspapers, and show that in portions of the South, a reign of terrorism is in actual operation. It verily seems that these ill-fated people are moved by some malignant fatality to thwart all efforts which look towards their gradual restoration to order and prosperous enterprise. Not satisfied with opposing every political measure that has been devised to enable them to get out of the dreadful slough in which they were left upon the suppression of the rebellion, they are actually engaged in the suicidal business of convulsing society so utterly by lawlessness, as to put a complete quietus upon the views and schemes of all those adventurous Northern capitalists, who had begun seriously to meditate risking their families and fortunes in the South…It is not pleasant for us to be compelled to state that at present, in many Southern States, it would he unsafe for a Northern man to buy property and attempt to carry on any farming or manufacturing enterprise. We have never gone out of our way to give added circulation to the prejudicial stories that are periodically current about the South. Whenever we could, consistently with the truth, present the bright side of the picture, we have cheerfully done so .But it is, in our judgment, perfectly clear from the accumulated information which pours in upon us, that, notwithstanding the cheerful fancies of such military optimists as General Hancock, there is an immense amount of crime perpetrated in Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, and portions of Arkansas and Missouri. How far it would be possible to curb these excesses by military power we cannot determine. It is probably impossible to keep perfect order over so wide an area and amongst a population so thoroughly demoralized by a long and unsuccessful war. Years will elapse before anything bearing the faintest semblance to the orderly and regulated institutions of the North will prevail. Then will slowly set in a desirable immigration, and the wasted and cursed South will begin to recover, to get strength,to enjoy the blessings of law, and to reap the fruits of sensibly directed industry.

The citizens of Lowndes county presented a bond for the release of the alleged bombers to the military authorities in Savannah, but this offer was rejected.

STILL IN CUSTODY – The young men who were arrested by the military at Valdosta, because Dr. Clift attempted to blow himself up with gunpowder, for political capital, are still held in custody at the United States Barracks in this city, awaiting the orders of General Mead.

The men were kept incarcerated through the election of 1868, and for a couple of weeks afterward.  After about a month of confinement, the suspects were finally released on bail secured by citizens of Savannah.

May 8, 1868

Release or the Valdosta Prisoners on Bail.
—Yesterday Messrs. A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo, who, it will be remembered, were arrested on suspicion of being implicated in the supposed attempt to blowup a Radical meeting at Valdosta, previous to the election, while one Clift was addressing it, were released on bail in the sum of $10,000 each, to appear for trial when summoned by the military authorities. This was done by order of General Meade. Captain J. L. Moseley brought to the city a bond of $60,000 of the citizens of Lowndes county, which Col. Maloney would not accept, and six citizens of Savannah, representing nearly $200,000, offered themselves as security, were accepted and the prisoners released. The late prisoners requested us to publish the following:

Savannah, Ga., May 8, 1868.
Editors News and Herald: We, the Valdosta prisoners, who have been confined in the United States Barracks at this place, wish, through your paper, to render our thanks to Col. Maurice Maloney and his command, for their kind treatment, both to us and to our friends who visited us.
Yours Respectfully,
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo, Savannah, GA, May 8,1868.

To the Citizens of Savannah: We wish to return our thanks for their kind attention and hospitality while we were in confinement at this place in the United States Barracks, and to the noble-minded merchants who have so generously stood our most unreasonable bail required by the military authorities. We trust we may at some future time be in such a position as to repay the many obligations under which we have been placed.
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo,

The Georgia Election of April, 1868

The election of 1868 was a four day affair which commenced on April 20. Throughout the voting period, the southern newspapers maintained a cacophony of allegations of voter fraud, corruption, official vote rigging, coercion, voter ignorance, and other irregularities.  By 1867, the conditions of Reconstruction required an Oath of Allegiance to the United States in order to be listed in the register of qualified voters.  White southern men whose national citizenship had been renounced by way of the Ordinance of Secession, oaths of  abjuration of national citizenship, oaths of allegiance to Confederate states,  or acceptance of Confederate citizenship were required to swear a new oath of allegiance to the United States in order to have their national citizenship restored and to qualify for the right to vote. Some whites who had held posts in the Confederate government or the governments of Confederate states were disqualified from having their citizenship restored through the oath of allegiance.

The April 1868 election in Georgia was a vote for state officers and U.S. congressmen and a vote on ratification of of a new state constitution.  When the votes were counted, the new constitution  was approved by a vote of 88,172 to 70,200. In the race for governor Rufus Bullock, defeated Confederate General John B. Gordon 83,527 to 76,356. In the elections for state representatives, Radicals won 84 of the 172 House seats (29 of them black) and came within three seats of taking control of the House. In the state senate, however, the Radicals (3 of them black)  carried a solid majority, with 27 seats to the Democrats’ 17 seats. The Radical believed blacks were entitled to the same political rights and opportunities as whites.

Clift Wins Seat in House of Representatives

Under Reconstruction, the results of the election were subject to certification by the military authorities. In the announcement made by General Meade, Dr. J. W. Clift was declared the winner in the First Congressional District of Georgia.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 7, 1868

Headq’rs Third Military District, Department of Ga., Fla. and Ala.,
Atlanta, Ga., June 30, 1868.

General Orders No. 93,

From the returns made to these Headquarters by the Boards of Registration, of the election held in the State of Georgia for civil officers of said State and for members of Congress, under the provisions of General Orders No. 40, (Paragraph III,) issued from these Headquarters, which election commenced on the 20th day of April, 1868, and continued four days, it appears that in said election the following named persons were elected Representatives to the Congress of the United States from the Congressional

Districts to their names respectively attached, viz :
             First District—J. W. Clift.
             Second District—Nelson Tift, Sr.
             Third District—W. P. Edwards.
             Fourth District–Samuel Gove.
             Fifth District—C. H. Prince.
             Sixth District—John H. Christy.
             Seventh District—P. M. B. Young.

By order of Major General Meade.
R. C. Drum,
Assistant Adjutant General.

Following the ratification of the 14th Amendment by the newly elected General Assembly, the US Congress initially readmitted Georgia to the Union in July 1868.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.

Joseph Wales Clift served in the Fortieth U.S. Congress from July 25, 1868, to March 3, 1869.  

Second Valdosta Attack on Representative Clift

Representative Clift did not enjoy a triumphant return to Valdosta. While passing through the “notorious” town in October 1868, he and his brother, Walter Lovell Clift, were again assaulted and their lives threatened.

Manitowoc Tribune
October 8, 1868

      We are informed that about ten days ago Joseph W. Clift, M. C. [Member of Congress] from Southern Georgia, while riding in the cars on the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, with his brother was treated in a manner which shows conclusively that free speech is not tolerated in that section of the country.
     When the train stopped at Valdosta a town of one thousand inhabitants, distant from Savannah about one hundred and twenty miles, a large crowd surrounded the cars, and some fifteen or twenty ruffians, armed with heavy sticks, entered the car with the avowed purpose of taking them out and lynching them.
They were only prevented from doing this by the urgent entreaties of several prominent men, one of whom was an elector on the democratic ticket. The argument of the gentleman was, that the ‘boys mustn’t do it because it would injure the party and town!’ The crowd outside becoming weary of waiting for the sport to commence, hooted and yelled ‘Bring the d—-d Radical out!’ and again the roughs seemed determined to accomplish their purpose but were again met by the same objections on the part of their friends and after heaping all manner of insults on them offensive gentlemen were quietly passing through their town, reluctantly relinquished their purpose and left the train. This town Valdosta enjoys an unenviable notoriety as the scene of a Ku-Klux monstralation last April when a band of forty or fifty armed men first placed eighteen pounds of powder under the Court house where Dr. Clift was about to address a Republican meeting and when by accident the infernal plot was discovered just in season to prevent their drunken tool from firing the train [fuse] and hurling three hundred people into eternity, the meeting was broken up by violence, and the mob took and held the town all night threatening to assassinate prominent Republicans and rendering it necessary to send for military aid before the meeting could proceed.
       Several person prominent actors in the April affair, and now under bonds of $10,000 each for their participation in the same were leaders in the recent attack.

Returning to Washington, DC, Clift presented credentials as a Member-elect to the Forty-first Congress but during the recess period actions in Georgia,  including the expulsion of black legislators from the state Assembly and the Camilla Massacre, had resulting in the re-imposition of Reconstruction and federal military jurisdiction for the state under the command of General Alfred H. Terry.  With Georgia’s return to un-reconstructed status, Clift and the other representatives and senators of  Georgia were not allowed to take their seats in the U.S. Congress.  

Thomas Nast sketch from a montage on Reconstruction violence entitled "Southern Justice," Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867

“Southern Justice,” Thomas Nast sketch of Reconstruction violence, Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867  depicted a scene in Texas but aptly portrayed the events of the Camilla Massacre which occurred September 19, 1868.

In January 1870, General Terry  removed ex-Confederates from the Georgia General Assembly, replaced them with the Radical runners-up, and then reinstated the expelled black legislators. “Terry’s Purge”established a solid Radical majority in the Georgia legislature, which ratified the Fifteenth Amendment  in February 1870 and chose new senators to send to Washington.

 The 15th Amendment to the Constitution established voting rights for African American men by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote

On July 15, 1870, Georgia became the last former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.

Upon the withdrawal of federal military rule from Georgia, the rise of KKK terrorism quickly suppressed the newly gained civil and political rights of southern blacks.  When the midterm election put white supremacists back in control of the state senate, Governor Bullock resigned and fled the state rather than face impeachment by a hostile legislature.

Speaking from the steps of the Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. on November 29, 1871, Dr. Joseph W. Clift made an impassioned appeal to the Radicals of Georgia, which was printed and circulated in a political leaflet.

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

AN ADDRESS TO THE REPUBLICANS OF GEORGIA.

Governor Bullock having resigned, and the duly elected Representatives of the people having decided by an overwhelming majority that a Governor should be elected for the unexpired term, on the 19th of December, 1871, leaving only twenty days to organize a campaign under peculiar circumstances, and understanding that prominent Republicans, whom I honor and respect, have discussed the advisability of sustaining the veto of Governor Conley, by refusing to nominate or vote for any person for Governor, on that day, thereby letting the election go by default, I am prompted to write this letter and advocate, with such vigor as I may, exactly the opposite course of action.

I admit the arguments of my friends:

First . That there is little time to prepare for such a contest.

Second . That Governor Conley’s action, together with the silence of the Republican Representatives, who apparently acquiesced in it, have some force.

Third . Some minds may also be influenced by the depressing influences which still remain as the result of the election last December; and by the additional reason, that challenging for non-payment of the poll-tax, will prevent many colored Republicans from voting.

It has been said to me, let Governor Conley’s position be legal or illegal, it furnishes the Republican party an excellent excuse for not voting, and being badly beaten, the conditions being so unfavorable to their success in the contest. To many, these reasons, with other reasons, may be conclusive against our party running a candidate, and voting December 19; to my mind, they are not good reasons for such a course of action, and I sincerely hope our friends will immediately reconsider the question , and so far from letting the election “go by default,” make the above reasons alleged as sufficient to deter us from contesting the election with our Democratic friends, reasons for putting forth the most earnest and vigorous efforts to organize the party and meet the old enemies of Equal Rights, and exact justice to the colored man fairly and squarely in the teeth, and do brave battle for some pure-minded, honest Republican, who, if elected, will serve out the term with credit to himself and benefit to the State.

I am thoroughly convinced that this is the very best course for us to pursue. The contrary course seems to my mind neither wise, brave, patriotic, or just. We have as much time to work for the election as our opponents.

Governor Conley’s position is at least of doubtful legality, and even if it were technically correct, the voice of the people, speaking through their Representatives, speaks in thunder tones, and most emphatically—and as I think wisely—construes the language of the Constitution of Georgia to mean that a new Governor must be elected next month.

Neither brief time for preparation, Governor Conley’s position, the result of the last election, or the inability of our friends to pay their taxes, should for one instant shut our ears to this call of the people. It must, will, and ought to be obeyed at any cost.

The wishes of the people are entitled to respect, and the individuals, or party, who fail to heed them when so plainly expressed, and on so important a question as the one pending, will do itself great wrong, and suffer in the end accordingly.

I never did, and do not now believe in shirking a fight with Democracy under any pretext however specious, and circumstances however discouraging.

We ought to be ready and willing to meet them whenever and wherever duty calls, and defend the great principles advocated by our party since ’56, and by many good men long before.

These principles are as good and true to-day as ever they were, and the bitter and relentless warfare waged by our unscrupulous opponents against everything which tends to unshackle the hands of the honest laborer of Georgia—and everywhere else—should only nerve every man of us to “gird up his loins” and fight like heroes for the education and elevation of the masses, and the defeat of the cardinal principles of Democracy.

Instead of giving up the fight, let it be continued, and give them no quarter, till the last stronghold of the greatest foe of Liberty, and Equal Rights in this country, shall be carried, and they shall surrender to the cohorts of Freedom, and to the Civilization of the nineteenth Century.

If we would save our “Common School System,” in Georgia, and preserve the liberties of the people, we must fight it out with them, if we all go to our graves before the cause is finally triumphant. But triumphant it will be, and that at no distant time, as sure as a merciful God exists.

The wrongs of our poor people call loudly for redress, and the cry must be heeded, and responded to by all true hearts.

We must play no cowardly part in this fight, nor bow our neck to the Democratic yoke, otherwise we are not worthy the blessings we seek.

Let them, all the leading Republicans now in Atlanta, take Counsel together immediately, and prevail on Gov. Conley, Hon. J. S. Bigby, Ex-Gov. James Johnson, or one of a half dozen other pure and true Republicans of ability, and prominence, to allow the Party to make an effort to place them in the Gubernatorial chair.

Let Governor Conley reconsider his determination, and contest his right to his position before the PEOPLE, that Mighty Tribunal , higher than all courts.

Let us pay our poll taxes , rapidly organize our party in every county, and poll every vote we can; then , if we are ever so badly beaten, we shall have at least the satisfaction of meeting our old enemy face to face, and doing battle valiantly for the right.

It will put us in harness for the greater battle of ’72, in which the principles of justice will surely triumph over oppression and wrong, and the result be perfect Peace.

JOSEPH W. CLIFT.

Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C., Nov. 29, 1871.

 

Joseph Wales Clift died in Rock City Falls, Saratoga County, NY on May 2, 1908; He was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Clift estate, North Marshfield, MA.

 

Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

continued from Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts.

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples was the seventh son of Henry Peeples. He was born in Hall county, Georgia, September 24th, 1829. He moved with his father, first to Jackson County then to Lowndes County (now Berrien), GA, settling on Flat Creek about 1847 or ’48. His father established a store, the locality hence taking the name of “Peeple’s Store.” and acquired some 1530 acres of land. Henry Peeples was enumerated as the owner of three slaves in the Census of 1850.  In 1850, Richard A. Peeples married Sarah J. K. Camp, born July 30, 1830, the younger sister of his brother’s wife.  They were married November 7, 1850 in Jackson County. After marriage Richard A.  and Sara Jane Peeples located at Milltown in Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in saw-milling for time.  Upon the organization of Berrien county in 1856 Richard A. Peeples was elected to serve as the first Clerk of the courts and  moved his residence to Nashville.  He was instrumental in the construction of the first school house and the first Baptist church

While serving as Clerk of the Berrien courts, R. A. Peeples undertook the study of law. In 1860,  he moved to the new town of Valdosta, purchasing ten acres of land outside the downtown area from James W. Patterson for $300. The census records of 1860 record that Valdosta had a population of approximately 120 whites and 46 blacks at that time.  Richard Peeples was the owner of four slaves. His real estate was valued at $2000.00 and personal estate was worth $5,500.00 On being admitted to the bar, he opened an office as one of the first lawyers resident in Valdosta. His law office, and that of William Dasher, were directly across the street from the Lowndes County courthouse. The early years of Valdosta coincided with the War years and, as most of the men were away in Confederate service, the dozen or so commercial and public buildings which had been constructed by 1863 were of rather unsophisticated wood frame construction. J. T. Shelton described the courthouse as “a rough frame building,  with a door leading into the court room and another into the small office of the clerk. The interior of the building had plenty of light from its several windows, but not a single coat of paint.

The children of Richard A Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp were:

  1. Sally Peeples (1850-1938)
  2. Henry C. Peeples (1852-1905)
  3. Charles B. Peeples (1854-1912)
  4. Mary Emma Peeples (1856-1928)

But Sarah J. K. Camp Peeples would not live to see her children grown. She died at the age of thirty-three on July 3, 1863.

Obituary of Sarah Jane Peeples, from the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, July 21, 1863

Obituary of Sarah Jane Peeples, from the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, July 21, 1863

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 21, 1863

DIED

         Departed this life, at Valdosta, Lowndes county, on the 2d inst., after a short but painful attack, of a few days, Mrs. SARAH JANE PEEPLES, wife of Richard A. Peeples, Esq., in the thirty-third year of her age.
         Beautiful, calm and trusting, passed the years of her earthly pilgrimage; and as quietly and beautifully has passed away, forever, one of the gentle and loved of the earth.
        She embraced religion in her fourteenth year and connected herself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which she continued an ardent and devoted member up to the period of her departure from this world of trouble; and her death-bed scene was one of those a——— —-nces of the truth of Christian religion, which blesses the dying and reflects back upon the living the subdued, but steady light, which makes glad the heart of the Christian traveler. Husband, children, friends, servants, all were bid adieu, and forever with hopeful trust, and she quietly fell asleep in her Saviour’s arms and gladly exchanged this body of death for robes of light and immortality.
        Farewell kindly gentle, and loving daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend. May the strong light of thy truthful, Christian life and womanly virtues long dwell around the vacant hearts and habitation of mourning husband and weeping children. And may the God of all goodness and grace suit this deep and sad bereavement to the increased religious conviction of the stricken ones left behind.

A BROTHER.

Did Sarah J. Peeples die in childbirth? The obituary makes no mention of a pregnancy. But an inscription on her grave marker indicates that she was buried with “little Carrie”  – for whom no date of birth or death is given.

Grave of Sarah Jane Camp Peeples and her daughter Caroline "Carrie" Peeples, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: PhillW

Grave of Sarah Jane Camp Peeples and her daughter Caroline “Carrie” Peeples, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: PhillW

In the fall  and winter of 1863, when the Berrien Minute Men were with Confederate forces facing the Union Army’s encroachment in Georgia, Valdosta became one of the refugee towns of the South.  “As the Union Army advanced in north Georgia and drove toward Atlanta, residents of those areas left their homes,” J. T. Shelton wrote in Pines and Pioneers,

 Refugees clogged the railroads to the southward, for those areas were remote from the fighting. Riding in coaches if they could find seats, loading furniture, provisions and families in freight cars if they were fortunate in securing empties, a wave of new residents came into Lowndes county [via the new Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.]…Acting as a real estate agent, lawyer Richard A. Peeples helped many to locate on newly acquired properties. Some newcomers brought their slaves, and they had to find farms large enough to produce food for their laborers. When rations of corn and peas proved insufficient, the slaves ranged through the woods looking for hogs, cattle, even gophers to supplement their diet. Consequently the local people distrusted the imported black men with the strange “primitive” speech, for the south Georgians were not familiar with the coastal dialect. Ultimately, the rice laborers found no place in Lowndes and drifted back to their former homes.

Among those who “refugeed” to Valdosta was Miss Sarah Virginia Dent, of Savannah, whose deceased father was Captain James Preston Dent, and whose brother was serving in the Confederate States Navy aboard the Confederate raider CSS Alabama.

According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, “During the war between the states he [Richard A. Peeples] commanded company of Georgia Reserves, being stationed at Savannah until the capture of that city, and then in Columbia, South Carolina. The Mayor of Savannah surrendered the city to Sherman’s army on December 21, 1864; Columbia, SC surrendered February 17, 1865. After the fall of the latter city Richard Peeples was sent home sick, and was unable to rejoin his command before the close of the war.” However,  the 1864 census for the re-organization of the Georgia Militia shows Richard A. Peeples claimed an exemption from military service because  he was a county tax collector. He was serving as the Enrolling Officer for the militia company in the 663rd Militia District in Lowndes County, at least as late as June 10, 1864. He supplied his own horse and shotgun.

A letter dated May 20, 1864 addressed to Lieutenant R. A. Peeples indicates he was then serving  in the Georgia Militia at  Savannah, GA and seeking a commission in the Confederate States Army.

Head Qrs Geo Militia
Atlanta May 20, 1864

Lt R A Peeples
Savannah Ga

Lieut,
In reply to your favor 21st inst the Maj Gen Comndg instructs me to reply that you are granted leave of absence from these Head Quarters until the point of elligibility is decided, & if against your right to hold a Commission in CSA, you will at once report to these Head Qrs. By order Maj Gen Wayne Commng
W K deGraffenreid A Ag

Richard Augustus Peeples, Civil War Letter

Richard Augustus Peeples, Civil War Letter

Confederate service records show R. A. Peeples was made Captain, Company G, Symon’s 1st Georgia Reserves. He was with the unit for July and August, 1864, as indicated on Company Muster Rolls , and was elected Captain on July 30, 1864. This unit was surrendered with the 6th Regiment Georgia Reserves and were considered prisoners of war after May 10, 1865.  He was paroled at Thomasville, GA on May 18, 1865.

 

About a year after the death of his first wife he [Richard A. Peeples] married Miss Sarah Virginia Dent, of Savannah, who had refugeed to Valdosta, and whose father [Captain James Preston Dent] was largely interested in the shipping interests of that city.[Her father died of cholera on  July 3, 1850.] A brother of hers, Capt. James Dent, was in the Confederate service on board the cruiser “Alabama,” and when she was sunk by the [USS] “Kearsage” he jumped overboard and escaped capture by swimming to the British vessel, “Greyhound.” [Deerhound] He died afterward from the exposure and its results.

By this second marriage there were born to him [Richard A. Peeples] two daughters and three sons, all of whom [lived] in Valdosta. -Memoirs of Georgia

The five children of the second marriage were:

  1. Walter Dent Peeples (1864-1926)
  2. Etta Lee Peeples (1865-1921)
  3. Richard Alexander Peeples (1867-1927)
  4. Fannie Peeples (1870-1938)
  5. William Cincinnatus Peeples (1872-1947)

After the war, Richard Peeples made his life in Valdosta.

[He] followed the profession of law in Valdosta  with more than usual success, accumulating sufficient to place his large and growing family in easy circumstances. For twelve years he filled the office of city judge, and was one of the influential Democrats and public-spirited citizens of this part of the state. Besides contributing largely, he canvassed the field and raised $2,500.00 to aid in building for the Baptists of Valdosta a house of worship, which was one of the finest in southern Georgia. [He also acted as agent for the church.] Later, he erected, almost unaided, very neat church building at Clyattville, in Lowndes county. – History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia

This church was,  “The Benevolence Baptist Church …organized about 1865 or 1866, by Judge Peeples, and the first building was located on the Henry Brown place. The church building was moved in 1884 to land given by Mr. Charlie Arnold, four miles north on the old Valdosta-Clyattville road. There were twelve charter members. The first pastor was Judge R. A. Peeples. Others were: Messrs. Dave Evans, Mart Knight, High, Pitt Head, Henry Bryant, W. J. Ballen, Davis, Thrasher, Gus Sellars, S.S. Mathis, E. L. Todd, Roy Powell, Harvey Wages, A.C. Pyle, W.C. Taylor, W. J. Harrell, and Pulian Mattox. -History of Lowndes County, Georgia

These four buildings [McPherson Academy, Nashville Baptist Church, Valdosta Baptist Church, Benevolence Baptist Church]  are monuments of his Christian zeal and philanthropy. 

In 1867,  R.A. Peeples was among a group of white Lowndes citizens wrestling with the new realities of Emancipation.  The slave economy of the South was wrecked. J. T. Shelton in Pines and Pioneers observed “In the unsettled conditions of 1865, 1866, and 1867, a grower found it difficult to make cotton; certainly the workers had a hard time finding enough to eat.”  Resisting the conditions imposed upon them by Reconstruction the white planters sought alternatives to employing Freedmen. On September 12, 1867 Peeples along with Col W. H. Manning, Henry Burroughs Holliday, Captain John R. Stapler,  William Roberts, John Washington Harrell, A. McLeod, Hugh McCauley Coachman, John Charles Wisenbaker, W. Zeigler, Major Philip C. Pendleton, Col. S. W. Baker, James A. Dasher, Sr., David Peter Gibson, James T. Bevill, D. J. Jones, Archibald Averett, Charles Henry Millhouse Howell, J. H. Tillman  convened to form the Valdosta Immigration Society. The purpose of this organization was to procure emigrant labor of “the kind wanted”, by sending an agent direct to Europe to obtain them. It was also the  emphatic opinion of the meeting that no planter ought to employ a freedman who has been discharged by his employer for misconduct, but that the freedman should have a recommendation from his former employer.  Major Pendleton was selected as the agent to make the trip.

In 1867, R. A. Peeples was elected as a director of the Georgia Masonic Life Insurance company.

He was a member of the Democratic Party of Lowndes County. In March, 1868 he was a vice president of the Democratic Convention of the First Congressional District of Georgia, which convened to elect delegates to the national convention in New York.

Following the bombing of a political rally of Freedmen held by congressional candidate J. W. Clift at  the Lowndes County courthouse on the evening of Saturday, April 4, 1868, R.A. Peeples chaired a civic meeting condemning the actions of both the bombers and the candidate. This event followed just four days on the Camilla Massacre, where 12 freedmen were murdered in what is generally regarded as the first strike of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.

In July, 1868 Richard A. Peeples was a Lowndes County delegate to the Democratic state convention to nominate party candidates for the President of the United States. In late August, 1868, Peeples, Remerton Y. Lane and Iverson Griffin, one of the men who had been implicated in the Clift Bombing at Valdosta in April, were among the organizers of a political rally at Valdosta to be held August 27. The announcement in the Valdosta South Georgia Times read, “there will be a free barbecue at Valdosta. Speakers from a distance may be expected. Let every man, white and colored, turn out.”

At the Democratic Convention of the First Congressional District, held September 16, 1868 at Blackshear, GA, Richard A. Peeples and P.C. Pendleton were delegates from Lowndes County, along with W.H. Dasher, James Dasher, James M. Clap and G.G. Hammond. Benjamin Jones, J. E. Williams and H. T. Peeples were the delegates from Berrien County. Delegates from Appling, Bryan, Chatham, Camden, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Liberty, Montgomery, Pierce, Telfair, Laurens, Ware, Wayne, Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Thomas, and Screven, as well as “colored delegates appointed by Democratic Clubs” were also seated for the convention [The Young Men’s Democratic Clubs were the public political wing of the KKK]. Richard A. Peeples offer a resolution, unanimously adopted, that the purpose of the convention was the nomination of a candidate for Congress in the election to be held March 4, 1869. On the third ballot the convention nominated Augustin H. Hansell as the candidate. The following day, the state House of Representatives in Georgia passed a bill permitting “none but intelligent persons to sit on juries, and exclud[ing] negroes from the jury box.”

Three or four times he [Richard A. Peeples] was elected alderman of Valdosta, and, once, was elected to the mayoralty.  At the organization of the County Court of Lowndes county in 1874, he was appointed Judge, and …held the position ever since, having been reappointed once; and his decisions were seldom reversed by higher courts.

He was ordained in 1876, at Statenville, in Echols county, the presbytery consisting of Elders N. A. Bailey, James McBride, E. B. Carroll and R, W. Phillips. He became pastor of the Statenville church, and, afterwards, of the neighboring churches of Macedonia and Bethlehem. He was for three years Chairman of the Sunday-school Committee of the Mercer Association, and through his instrumentality, mainly, the cause of Sunday-schools was greatly promoted in the eastern part of the Association. Indeed, all his time, which could be spared from his judicial duties, was given to this work, into which he entered most enthusiastically, organizing, by his own efforts, not less than eighteen Sunday-schools. Attended by the earnest-minded partner of his life, he would journey from neighborhood to neighborhood in Jersey spring-wagon, carrying along an elegant parlor organ, advocating the Sunday-school cause, and furnishing such sweet music and singing such beautiful songs, that all hearts were enchanted. Such zeal and capacity could not but succeed.

Mr. Peeples is man of liberal views, and … broad and comprehensive mind. His reasoning powers are of high order, superinduced by an inquiring disposition, and by habit of analyzing, in detail, every thought and subject presented to him. The creatures of his own brain, as far as such can be the case considering that men are but divine instruments, his sermons are characterized by clearness and independence of thought, rather than by impassioned eloquence. In religion, as well as in the affairs of the world, he thinks and acts for himself, with comparative indifference to the opinions of others, being guided by his own judgment. In his speech and manner he is frank and candid, while deceit is utterly foreign to his nature. Five feet and nine inches high, and weighing one hundred and ninety-six pounds, he is man of robust constitution, and bids fair for much longer life of usefulness.  – History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia

In addition to his legal, civic, and religious work, R. A. Peeples was an accomplished farmer and business man.

Atlanta Constitution
December 19, 1882

Valdosta, December 18.
…Judge R. A. Peeples is one of our largest truck farmers. He is now making quite extensive preparations, and will plant next year 130 acres in melons, 10 acres in cucumbers, and about 12 acres in Irish potatoes, besides two acres in cabbages. The Judge has experience in this industry, and your correspondent will have some interesting facts to submit in a few months in regard to the result of his large operations.

His brother, Henry T. Peeples, farmed in Berrien County, GA where he was the largest producer of rice. His nephew, Henry B. Peeples, was one of the early teachers in Berrien County.

About 1885, Judge R. A. Peeples built a brick commercial building at 200 N. Patterson St. to house R.A. Peeples & Sons, which he had established in 1872 as  Valdosta’s first insurance company.  Today, The main entrance of the Peeples Building faces Patterson Street , but originally the main entrance was on Central Avenue. This building in the 1890s was the home of Dr. W. F. Munroe’s drug store; He had a popular soda fountain and was the first to serve fruit ices. This building now houses Kings Grill.

Judge Richard A. Peeples died on Sunday, July 19, 1891. The Valdosta Times reported his death.

 

Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 25, 1891

Judge Peeples Dead. He Passed Suddenly Away On Sunday Morning Last. Brief Sketch Of A Remarkable Career. Judge R.A. Peeples is dead!

He was called away suddenly at two o’clock Sunday morning last. Heart disease seems to have been the cause. On Sunday morning the 11th inst., he was suddenly attacked with a very severe pain in the region of the chest. He suffered intensely, and Dr. Lang was sent for, but before he came the trouble passed off, and the judge was riding about town apparently in usual health a few hours after. On the Thursday following, he had another but lighter attack which soon disappeared. On Saturday, in response to a petition from a colored Baptist Church in the lower part of the county, he got into his buggy and drove down to the Stegall Plantation to settle a disturbance in the Church. Mrs. Peeples was uneasy about him, and after failing to dissuade him from going, sent Jim Johnson, a colored employee, after him in a road cart. The Judge went to the colored Church, but began to feel so badly he was unable to assist the colored people, and started on the return home. He told Jim several times to drive faster, that he was feeling very badly. He got home about dark, and when the anxious wife met him at the gate he said he was quite sick. He refused all importunities to send for the doctor, or some of his grown children living in town, saying that he was not near so sick as he had been. He retired but did not seem to sleep well – his wife keeping a lonely vigil, while their two younger children slept unsuspecting, in other rooms.

About two o’clock Mrs. Peeples noticed that he was breathing badly, and at the same instant, she heard him slap his hands together, probably to attract attention, and when she got to his bedside he was speechless. His son Cincinnatus was immediately dispatched for a doctor, but the Judge breathed his last, without a struggle, before the young man reached the front gate. When he died, no one was in the house but Mrs. Peeples and their daughter, Miss Fannie. Kind neighbors and friends soon gathered in and performed such services as they could for the afflicted family.

During Sunday scores of friends and acquaintances called to see for the last time a face and form which had been a prominent figure in this community for thirty odd years. Among them were a large number of our colored people, with whom he was always popular. The funeral services were conducted at the house at 9 o’clock on Monday morning. Rev. P.H. Murray, the Pastor of the Baptist Church, was absent from the city, and couldn’t be reached by a telegram on Sunday; and the Judge’s warm friend, Rev. B.F. Breedlove, Pastor of the Methodist Church, officiated in his stead, assisted by Rev. Mr. Reaves. The earnest and eloquent words of the preacher were brief but impressive. The house and yard and street in front of the house of mourning were filled with sympathizing friends. The active pall bearers were Messrs. C.C. Varnedoe, S.B. Godwin, L.F. Zeigler, J.R. Slater, A.A. Parrish and CR. Pendleton. The honorary pall bearers, Messrs. R.Y. Lane, W.H. Briggs, A. Converse, Thos. Crawford, J.O. Varnedoe and Louis Strickland. The funeral procession was perhaps the largest that ever moved through our streets to the cemetery. According to his frequently expressed desire his remains were laid away with the simplest ceremony, and without display.

Although some of his nine children lived many miles away all were present when this last service for his mortal remains were performed. Judge Peeples would have been 62 years old on the 14th of next September. He was one of the very first settlers in Valdosta, and has always been intimately associated with the growth and prosperity of the town. Once its Mayor, several times an Alderman, and always a public-spirited, hard working citizen, he has done perhaps more than any one man to make Valdosta the town she is to-day. For sixteen years he was Judge of our County Court, and during that long period he made a model Judge. His decisions were appealed to a higher court but seven times, and he was reversed but three. This record of able and eminent service stands without a parallel, perhaps.

Grave of Richard A Peeples, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: Cat.

Grave of Richard A Peeples, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: Cat.

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William Devane

William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane (1838-1909), planter of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, GA. His brother, Benjamin Mitchell DeVane (1835-1912), was a notary public and an alderman in the city government of Adel, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane was born in Lowndes, now Berrien County, March 30, 1838, and was a son of Francis DeVane. His grandfather, Captain John DeVane, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. William’s father and uncles Benjamin (1795-1879) and William Devane (1786-1870) had come to Lowndes County from Bulloch County, GA about 1831 along with  others of the DeVane family connection.

The 1850 census places William DeVane in his father’s Lowndes County household, along with his older siblings Benjamin and Patrick who worked as laborers. William, age 12, apparently was not yet assisting with the farm work, although records do not indicate that he was attending school at that time, either.   William’s brother Thomas was working the farm next door.  Some of the neighbors included Samuel Connell, William Parrish, Ansel Parrish, Absolom Parrish, James Parrish, James J. Fountain and Thomas Futch.

At the time of the 1860 census, William and Benjamin DeVane were still living in their father’s household and working at farming. The census records indicate William, age 23, attended school that year. Patrick DeVane and Thomas DeVane had farms nearby. Some of the neighbors were Nathaniel Cooper, William B. Turner, Henry J. Bostick, Fredrick M. Giddens, John A. Money, and Ansel Parrish.

During the Civil War, William and his three brothers all joined the army. William was the first to join, enlisting in Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment  as a private  on March 4, 1862 at Nashville, GA.  Benjamin DeVane enlisted in the same company May 9, 1862 at Nashville, GA. He was later elected 2nd Lieutenant of Company D, 50th GA Regiment and served to the end of the war. Patrick joined Company I on August 14, 1862 at Calhoun, GA. He fell out sick at Culpepper, VA on November 18, 1862 and died in a Confederate hospital on December 13, 1862; his estate was administered by William Giddens. William Devane’s brother Thomas Devane enlisted in Company H, Georgia 1st Infantry Regiment on 21 Dec 1862.

The 50th Georgia Regiment was sent to the defenses around Savannah.  Sergeant Ezekiel Parrish, son of the DeVane’s neighbor James Parrish, wrote home on April 23, 1862 describing their encampment situated near Savannah:

“about one or one and a half miles east of the city where we can have a fair view of the church steeples and the nearest part of the town…Our camps are very disagreeable now in consequence of the dryness of the weather, the ground being sandy and loose and the winds high. it keeps ones eyes full of sand almost all the time which is not a very good remedy…It is about one mile or little over to the river from our camps. We can see the steamboats passing almost constantly…Our camps are situated near extensive earthworks or entrenchments for the protection of our troops should the enemy attempt to attack the city by land. Fort Boggs [is] on the river below town about 1/2 miles below…it commands the river tolerable well. the marsh between the channel and the fort is about 1/4 of a mile wide and the fort is on a high bluff at the edge of the marsh and is covered from the view of the river by a strand of thick bushes on the hillside…Captain Lamb‘s Company [Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Regiment] has moved from Camp Tatnall to a place on the river below fort Jackson and about one mile and a half from Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.

The 50th Georgia Regiment went on station at Fort Brown. Fort Brown was situated at the Catholic Cemetery at what is now the intersection of Skidaway Road and Gwinette Street.

Fort Brown was one of the anchors of an extensive earthworks protecting Savannah.

A line of formidable earthworks, within easy range of each other, in many places connected by curtains, and armed with siege and field guns, was thrown up for the immediate protection of Savannah. Commencing at Fort Boggs on the Savannah River and thence extending south and west in a semi-circular form, enveloping the at distances varying from one to two and a quarter miles, it terminated at the Springfield plantation swamp. The principal fortifications in this line were Fort Boggs, mounting fourteen guns, some of them quite heavy and commanding the Savannah River – Fort Brown, near the Catholic Cemetery, armed with eleven guns – and Fort Mercer, having a battery of nine guns. Between Springfield plantation swamp – where the right of the line rested just beyond Laurel Grove cemetery – and Fort Mercer, were eighteen lunettes, mounting in the aggregate twenty guns. Connecting Fort Mercer with Fort Brown was a cremaillere line with nine salients, mounting in the aggregate eight guns. Between Fort Brown and Fort Boggs were seven lunettes armed with eight guns. These works were well supplied with magazines. It will be noted that the armaments of these city lines consisted of seventy pieces of artillery of various calibers, among which 32,24,18, 12, and 6 pounder guns predominated. A considerable supply of ammunition was kept on hand in the magazines. – Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 17

 

On May 18, 1862 Ezekiel Parrish wrote from “Savannah, Ga Camps near Fort Brown”:

We are living very hard here now for the soldiers rations of bacon have been reduced to so small a portion that we are pretty hard {illegible} for something to grease with. Several of our last ration of bacon has been less than one pound to the man for four May’s rations, but of the other kinds of provisions we draw plenty to do well though the pickel beef is so poor and salt and strong that it is not very good and in fact some will do without before they will eat it. Occasionally we get some fresh beef but it is very poor without any grease to go with it…The water here is very bad and brackish and a continual use of it is enough to make anybody sick.

William DeVane, 24 years of age,  would serve only a short time before providing a substitute. Substitution was a form of Civil War draft evasion available to those who could afford it.

Substitution
With war a reality, the Confederate legislature passed a law in October 1861 declaring that all able-bodied white men were obligated to serve in the military. This statute allowed substitutions for men who had ‘volunteered’ for the militia. It also permitted those not required by law to enlist in the military to serve as substitutes. However, by the Spring of 1862, after a year of fighting and hardship, the flow of new volunteers became a trickle, which forced the 
Confederacy to pass the first American conscription law. In April 1862 the legislature authorized a draft of men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years. This law also allowed substitutes to be used. Later that year, in September 1862, the legislature extended the maximum draft-eligible age to forty-five years. The revision specifically stated that only those who were not eligible for the draft presumably those too old, too young, or foreign citizens – could serve as substitutes.  – Mary L. Wilson, 2005, Profiles in Evasion

The market price of a soldier, it is said, soon mounted to from $1500 to $3000. …To employ a substitute or to accept services as one was regarded by many, and almost universally so in army circles, as highly reprehensible.  – A. B. Moore, 1924, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

After just over three months of service and without engaging in any action, DeVane secured a discharge from the army June 18, 1862, by furnishing a substitute. According to company rolls, John R. Croley  enlisted that same day at Fort Brown, Savannah, GA as a substitute in DeVane’s stead.   The 47-year-old Croley (also Crowley or Crawley) was himself exempt from military service. Croley had brought his family from Sumter County to Berrien County in 1860.

Shortly after assuming DeVane’s place, Croley and the rest of the 50th Georgia Regiment were sent to Camp Lee in Virginia. Croley was to have a rough time of it. Soon sick, he was left behind at the camp when the regiment pulled out on August 21, 1862. In February 1863 he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 2, Richmond, VA with Rheumatism. On March 12, he was admitted to the the C.S.A. General Hospital at Farmville, VA with diarrhea.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Croley returned to duty April 29.  He was with his unit when the 50th GA Regiment entered the Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863. Severely wounded and taken prisoner of war, he was sent to one of the Union hospitals in and about Gettysburg.  His arm was amputated, but he did not recover. He died of wounds July 31, 1863.  The location of his burial is not known, presumably in the vicinity of Gettysburg.  A monument in his memory marks an empty grave at Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Croley left behind a widow and four children in Berrien County. William DeVane sat out the rest of the war.

DeVane was married on May 10 1865 in Dooly County, GA to Miss Sarah Jane “Sallie” Butler of that county. She was born February 12, 1842, a daughter of Ezekiel and Eliza Butler.

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Born to William and Sallie were eleven children:

  1. Emma Lorena DeVane, born February 18, 1866, married George W. Marsh of Sumter County, FL.
  2. Marcus LaFayette DeVane, born April 25, 1867, died September 15, 1889.
  3. Columbus Clark DeVane, born February 11, 1869, never married.
  4. Ada Belle DeVane, born April 10, 1870, married William J. Hodges of Lowndes County, GA
  5. Ezekiel H. DeVane, born December 4, 1872, married Beulah Parrish, daughter of Elbert Parrish.
  6. William E. Pemberton DeVane, born November 8, 1875, married Mary McClelland, daughter of Robert McClelland
  7. John F. DeVane, born August 2, 1877; died October 1878.
  8. Benjamin Robert DeVane, born October 15, 1879; married Bessie Whitehurst, daughter of Nehemiah Whitehurst
  9. Caulie Augustus DeVane, born September 15, 1882; married Alma Albritton, daughter of Matthew Hodge Albritton
  10. Connard Cleveland DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married Nellie Mae Coppage, daughter of Jehu Coppage
  11. Onnie Lee DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married John W. Strickland, son of William J. Strickland of Clinch County.

The homeplace of William DeVane was about four and half miles west of Ray City on the Nashville-Valdosta Road. It was situated on the north half of lot 457, 10th district. Possum Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek, crosses the northeast corner of this land. The place was given to William by his father before the elder DeVane’s death in 1868. William DeVane had received no deed however, and title was vested in him March 1870, by arbitration proceedings agreed to by all the heirs.

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

The 1870 Census enumeration shows that William DeVane’s household then included his wife, Sarah Jane, and children, Emma, Marcus, Columbus, and Ada, as well as an African-American boy, Rufus Prine, who at age 11 was working as farm labor.

Berrien County Tax records also document that after the War, William DeVane worked his farm with the help of freedman Joseph Prine. The relationship between Joseph and Rufus is not known.  Joseph Prine was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1816. The 1872 tax records show DeVane employed seven hands between the ages of 12 and 65. This count matches exactly with the 1870 Census enumeration of the Joseph Prine household, which then included Joe Prine (56), Jane Prine (54), Samuel Prine (22), Chaney Prine (33), Elza Prine (17), Jasper Prine (14), and George Prine (11), as well as the younger Prine children, Jinnie (8), Huldy (7), Eliza (5), and Philip(2).

In 1872, the William DeVane farm consisted of 508 acres on portions of lots 457 and 418 in the 10th Land District. To the north was Mary DeVane with 755 acres on Lots 418 and 412. Benjamin Mitchell DeVane also owned portions of Lot 418 and 419. John Baker had 122 acres on Lot 419. William H. Outlaw had 245 acres on Lot 419. To the south, John W. Hagan owned 356 acres on lots 503 and 504. J.S. Roberts also had some acreage on 503 and 504.  To the east, the Reverend John G. Taylor, Sr. had 400 acres on Lot 456.  By 1877 John Webb had acquired a 1470 acre tract just to the northeast of the William DeVane place.

 

William DeVane developed one of the finest plantations in Berrien County, containing 935 acres. It was situated on a public road and Possum Creek. The main house was six-rooms, and there was also a three-room house and a tenant house on the place. The six-horse farm of over 100 cultivated acres was said to produce a bale of cotton to the acre. Devane kept 120 head of stock on a fine stock range. His equipment included farm implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle, two wagons, and two buggies.

Sallie Butler DeVane died June 15, 1896.  A death announcement appeared in the Tifton Gazette.

Tifton Gazette
July 10, 1896

Mrs. Sallie Devane, of this county, wife of Mr. William Devane, died on Tuesday of last week.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

 

William DeVane died March 8, 1909.

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

 

A series of legal advertisements regarding the estate of William DeVane appeared in the local papers:

Valdosta Times
March 27, 1909

Notice to Debtors and Creditors All parties having claims against the estate of the late Wm. Devane, are requested to present them properly made out, to the undersigned. Those indebted to his estate will please make settlement at once.
The deceased at the time of his death was not indebted to any of the heirs.
C. C. Devane,
Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. 5.

*********************

Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1909

Notice of Sale.

We will sell to the highest bidder for cash, on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county, at the Wm. Devane estate, the following property: 935 acres of land; one farm containing 150, the other 785 acres; 175 in cultivation, 120 head of stock. Farming implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle; two wagons; two buggies; 350 bushels of corn; six tons of cotton seed. Heirs of Wm. DeVane.

Valdosta Times
November 20, 1909

Public Sale

We will sell to the highest bidder, for cash on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county at the Wm. DeVane place, the following property: 2 farms containing 935 acres, 150 in one, 785 acres in the other; 111 acres in cultivation; fair Improvements—timber is fine; 120 head of stock and farming Implements. C. C. Devane, Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. No. 5.

**********************

Valdosta Times
August 14, 1912

FOR SALE—A fine plantation, One of the best in Berrien county, containing 935 acres, within 4 1/2 miles of Georgia and Florida railroad. Nearest station, Ray’s Mill. 6-horse farm in state of cultivation. Soil very productive, will produce bale of cotton to the acre, other crops in proportion. One six-room dwelling, one three-room and a tenant house on the place. Good water. Near schools and churches. Fine stock range. River runs through edge of land. Public road through farm. Will sell on account of division between heirs. If desired stock, mules, hogs, cattle, goats and farm implements can be bought at reasonable prices. C. C. DeVane, Hahira, Ga., R.F.D.

 

Regimental Feud at Camp Wilson Near Savannah, GA

“Sin and wickedness prevails…

In January of 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were made at Camp Wilson near Savannah, GA.  This camp was initially established by  then Colonel Claudius Charles Wilson’s 25th Regiment of Georgia Volunteers, and was used by 25th, 27th (31st) and 29th Regiments.   After the arrival of the 29th Regiment a verbal feud erupted between certain officers of the 29th and officers of the 25th Georgia Regiment then stationed at Camp Wilson. The cause of the contention was an allegation of rampant gambling in the encampment of the 25th Regiment, condoned if not endorsed by officers of the regiment.  It was first alleged the men of the 25th Regiment were gambling at cards, but later clarified that they were playing a game of chance called “chuckaluck.”

Now a story circulated that General Robert E. Lee, while opposed to gambling, was somewhat somewhat naive about games of chance.

A good joke on the General is this: He had been trying to suppress gambling in the army, when news came to him about a strange game. “Major Marshall,” said he, in his strong grave voice, “what is this new game I hear of –‘Chickabuck,’ I think they call it.” Major Marshall could not say. “Captain Latham,” said the General, addressing another member of his staff, “perhaps you can inform us.” — There was a general laugh, as the Captain explained, that he had heard at race courses of a game called “chuck-a-luck,” which was played, he believed with cards and dice, and sometimes called “sweat-cloth;” but, as for “chickabuck,” that was a profound mystery to him.

Chuckaluck was a popular game around both Confederate and Union campfires. The rules were straightforward and simple. The chuckaluck dealer would have a strip of oil cloth with figures 1 to 6 on it, dice and a dice box. You place your money on your favorite figure and the dealer chucks the dice. Maybe you’ll win and maybe you lose.

Chuck-a-luck was gambling game of dice popular around both Confederate and Union campfires.

Chuck-a-luck was gambling game of dice popular around both Confederate and Union campfires.

An old Chuck-a-luck banker’s proposition to “chuck” players went:

All young men disposed to gamble,
Chuckaluck’s a game that’s easy to handle;
The more you put down less you take up,
And that’s the game they call chuckaluck.

By November 1862, Robert E. Lee  would issue a General Order prohibiting gambling.

“The general commanding is pained to learn that the vice of gambling exists, and is becoming common in this army. The regulations expressly prohibit one class of officers from indulging in this evil practice, and it was not supposed that a habit so pernicious and demoralizing would be found among men engaged in a cause, of all others, demanding the highest virtue and purest morality in its supporters. He regards it as wholly inconsistent with the character of a Southern soldier and subversive of good order and discipline in the army. All officers are earnestly enjoined to use every effort to suppress this vice, and the assistance of every soldier having the true interests of the army and of the country at heart is invoked to put an end to a practice which cannot fail to produce those deplorable results which have ever attended its indulgence in any society..”

But historian Bell I. Wiley observed, “If Lee was just then discovering this propensity of his troops he was far behind time, for that evil had flourished in the Army of Northern Virginia, as elsewhere, long before he assumed command.” Dice, cards and lotteries were among the most common games of chance. But soldiers would bet on anything; horse racing, lice racing, any sort of racing, contest, fight, or chance.

Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a private in the 31st Georgia Regiment stationed at Camp Wilson, wrote,

“Young and inexperienced when I enlisted, I was surprised to find so many gamblers among my comrades. It seemed that as soon as they entered the service and found themselves free from civil law, they resorted for pastime between all duty in camp, and a great part of the night was spent in that way until our field officers ordered all lights out after a certain hour. But this did not quite put a stop to it, for during the day, when there was any leisure, there were many games of chance which could be indulged in despite our duties.”

Writing from Camp Wilson to the Rome Courier on January 1, 1862, a soldier of the 29th Georgia Regiment reported:

          Sin and wickedness prevails to a great extent in this camp. It is enough to make any Georgian blush to learn that there is two or three faro banks in Col. Wilson’s Regiment, in full blast, nearly every night, and what makes the picture still darker, the officers not only permit it, but several patronize them. How can we reasonably expect God to bless such Regiments on the battlefield? When officers set such examples, what may we expect of the privates, especially the young men who are just entering the threshold of manhood.
          A great many young men who, when they first came into camp, did not know one card from another, are now playing, and many for gain. I am proud to say there is very little of it, either in our Regiment, or Col. [Pleasant J. ] Phillip’s. The officers of our Regiment are all opposed to any of their men playing cards, and what little there may be, is done slyly.
         There is no Regiment that has a better set of officers than the 29th. They are all high toned, honorable gentlemen, and all attentive to their duties. The Regiment is fast filling up. Those that have been absent on sick furloughs are returning, and bringing new recruits with them. We would like to receive a few more of the right sort from
FLOYD.

Rebutting these allegations was Lieutenant Colonel William Percy Mortimer Ashley of the 25th Georgia Regiment, who was so devoted to the rebellion that at the conclusion of the war he would refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance.  Taking personal offense to Perry’s public allegations, Ashley with a letter to the Daily Morning News in Savannah:

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA
January 21, 1862

Camp Wilson, January 20th, 1862.

        “Sin and wickedness prevails to a great extent in this camp. It is enough to make any Georgian blush to learn that there is two or three Faro banks in Col. Wilson’s Regiment in full blast nearly every night, and what make the picture still darker, the officers not only permit it, but several patronize them.”
         The above is an extract from a communication published in the Rome Courier, which we pronounce a base calumny upon the officers and privates of the 25th Regiment. Our desire to disabuse the public mind and set at ease the hearts of those fathers and mothers who have sons in our Regiment, is the sole cause of our noticing the above vile slander in this public manner. The author is known to me, and proper steps are being taken to bring him to account before the proper tribunal.
Wm. Percy M. Ashley
Lieut. Col. 25th Regiment G.V.

Replying in the Daily Morning News, Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry repeated and clarified his allegation.

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA

January 23, 1862

Camp Wilson, (Near Savannah, Ga.,)
January 21st, 1862.

Lieut. Col. W.P.W. Ashley, 25th Regiment Georgia Volunteers:

       Dear Sir – You say “the above extract is a base calumny upon the officers and privates of the 25th Regiment, and that you know the author, and that proper steps are being taken to bring him to an account before the proper tribunal.” In reply, permit me to say, I am more than willing and fully prepared to meet you and the Regiment in the investigation of the charge, for “the truth is mighty and must prevail.”
         As I stated in my letter to you on Saturday last, I may have been in error to say “Faro banks;” perhaps I should have said “Chuckaluck banks.” You dare not deny their existence in the 25th at the time I wrote the communication and since then, and you know the tendency and evil is the same in their “damning influence” upon those you suffer to participate in them, for there is merely a distinction without a difference; and I would here remark that I am truly sorry to see a gentleman who holds so high a position quibble about such a small thing. You seem to try to make the impression that I include the privates as being responsible for the existence of those “Chuckaluck banks.” I deny it. The officers are alone responsible for their existence, and all the evils that naturally follow, for if you all had done your duty they would not have been there, and this difficulty would have been obviated.
         I am aware there are some officers in the 25th who I know to be opposed to those games, but it is to be regretted that they will stand with their arms akimbo, apparently indifferent to their duty and trust reposed in them, and see the youth in their charge traveling the downward road to ruin and not try to rescue them by either word or act.
       Why did you not publish the correspondence between us? Why did you not have the fairness to acknowledge in your letter that I acknowledged to you, and to three of the officers of the 25th on the first inquiry, that I was the author of the communications? It appears that you wish the impression to go out that you obtained the information from some other source.
      The riotous conduct of a portion of your regiment on last Saturday night in marching out of the 25th and into and across the 29th Regiment with a lantern hoisted on a pole, was the natural fruits of those “chuckaluck banks.” In justice to you I will here state that you came immediately and ordered them back, and apologized to Col. [Thomas W. ] Alexander, and assured him the insult was not intended for him or the regiment, and at the same time stated that it was done without the knowledge or consent of any of the commissioned officers. I hope such was the case; but it looks very unreasonable for so many to get up such a move and march out without the knowledge of some officer. It looks so unreasonable I am forced to the conclusion that there was a “power behind the throne greater than the throne itself.”
      According to my view of things, it little becomes a superior to insult an inferior officer when the former knows the latter’s hands are tied firm and fast by army regulations, wisely made by the guardians of our young Confederacy. Let these restraints be removed, and then I will in earnest Christian feeling hurl back the lie so boldly given in your communication.
      To all those who love peace and good order I will say I regret that this matter has taken the course it has, but you will, no doubt, justify me in replying through the press, as justice to myself and cause of truth demands it.
     What I have done I did with a conscientious belief that it was not only my duty to my country, but the cause of morality and religion; and here express the hope that if anything more is said or done it be before the proper tribunal. I am ready. I shall say nothing more unless duty requires it of me.
Yours, &c.,
Thos. J. Perry
Lieutenant Berry Infantry

A few days later, the 29th Georgia Regiment left their bivouac at Camp Wilson, and moved to a new camp about a mile distant and by April 16, 1862, the 29th Regiment was stationed at Causton’s Bluff.

But Lieutenant W.P.M. Ashley and the 25th Regiment pressed the point. Perry was hauled before a military tribunal and court martial.

Rome Weekly Courier
May 16, 1862

Our Savannah Correspondence.

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

Dear Courier; I have at last heard the result of my Court Martial case. I was relieved of duty one week, and to be reprimanded by the Colonel, for “writing the communication and not notifying Col. Wilson of the gaming.” It was read out at dress parade on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday evening we re-organized our company, which put an end to it. Capt. Turner was re-elected Captain; T. F. Hooper, 1st Lieut.; T. J. Perry, 2nd do.; Jas M. Carney, 3d do. Capt. Turner declined accepting the Captaincy.
     Our Regiment is on picket duty on Oakland and Whitmarsh 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.
     Lieut. Hooper arrived to-day. No one was ever received with a more hearty welcome.  Henry J. Blakeman died yesterday at the Augusta Hospital.  He was a good soldier and very popular in the company.  There are no prospects of a fight here soon.
     Capt Cameron, as you well know, is a good fellow, and attends to his own business, and thinks every body else ought to do the same. He is regarded at Headquarters in the service.  Our commissary, W. H. Stark, is a model officer also. They give perfect satisfaction to all concerned – so you may imagine we fare well.
    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.

As a final note on this episode, the First Baptist Church of Savannah supported the actions of Thomas J. Perry in shedding light of the prevalence of “sin and wickedness” in the Confederate camps about Savannah.  A committee of the church expressed their support with a letter to Perry’s home town newspaper.

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
August 21, 1862

Thomas J. Perry

      A special committee appointed to examine the case of brother Thomas J. Perry, who is under the watch care of this Church, (First Baptist Church, of Savannah) who has been court-martialed and censured by the Twenty-fifth Georgia Regiment, for writing and publishing an article exposing the injurious practice of gambling playing of cards, &c. in their midst – beg leave to report:
      We have read the article and the particular paragraphs upon which the charge or charges were based and in our Judgement no blame attaches to brother Perry. The publication of the article referred to may be an infraction of military rule; but certainly no violation of any known moral and religious duty. And so far from imputing guilt to him, we cordially state that we believe he was in the discharge of a high christian duty, in thus grappling with this fascinating sin in its comparative incipiency in their midst. Brother Perry, with us, enjoys the full confidence of his brethren.
       We suggest that a copy of this report be transmitted to the Church at Rome, of which he is a member.
All of which is respectfully submitted.

Geo. W. Davis
W.W. Wash,
Committee

  • George W. Davis, “an anti-slavery man” was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, and treasurer of the City of Savannah. His son, George Whitefield Davis,  fled Georgia in 1861 after being arrested as northern spy. He joined the U.S. Army and fought with the 11th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry at South Mountain and Antietam. Over a 42 year army career he rose to the rank of Major General, and served in positions as president of the board of publication of the “Rebellion Records,” military governor of Puerto Rico, commander of the Division of the Philipines, and a member of the Panama Canal Commission.
  • William W. Wash was a teacher, planter, and trustee of First Bryan Baptist Church, which today is the oldest continuous African-American Baptist Church in the United States.
  • William H. Stark, Commissary Officer of the 29th Georgia Regiment, was also a member of the First Baptist Church of Savannah]

About the protagonists:

Thomas J. Perry (1824-1878)

Thomas J. Perry was born on August 28, 1824, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He married Mary E Fulton on September 3, 1857, in Floyd, Georgia. They had two children during their marriage. Before the Civil War, Thomas J. Perry was in partnership with G.W.F. Lamkin in the firm of Perry & Lamkin, Grocery Merchants located at No. 4 Choice Hotel, said partnership being dissolved when Perry was in service with the Berry Infantry at Savannah. His residence was in the Etowah Division of the city of Rome, near the Rome Railroad track and the Etowah River. His offices in the 1870s were at 77 Broad Street, Rome, GA, opposite May’s Livery Stable, near the post office.   Merchant, Lawyer, Mason, Baptist, Judge, he was a tireless promoter of his home town, Rome, GA.  He died on September 28, 1878, in Rome, Georgia, at the age of 54. Upon his death, Reverend Gustavus Alonzo Nunnally delivered the following during a Grand Masonic Procession to Perry’s grave on Myrtle Hill:

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
May 24, 1879

Thomas J. Perry

He was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and at an early age removed with his parents to Gwinnett county, Georgia.  At the age of twelve he was left an orphan.  A helpless lad in the midst of difficulties; a child without kin or patrimony; a waif thrown upon the tide to be drifted at the mercy of careless waves, his prospects were not at all flattering.  In accordance with the laws of the land he was bound out to Mr. – Lamkin, to whom he rendered, during his minority, faithful service, and from whom he received those aspirations for a true manhood, and those truths of a noble life which were exemplified in the history of their ward. Having reached his majority he started West.  He reached Kingston, Ga., without funds or friends, kith or kin – with no commendation but his open face, with no resources but his fertile mind and brawny arm, and with no purpose but to do his duty and be an honest man. He manfully took the pick and shovel and worked upon the railroad which was being constructed at that place. After staying on the works a while he proceeded upon his journey. And in company with another gentleman he reached Rome in a few days in about the same condition as when he arrived at Kingston. Here began the development of the noble traits of character which commended the principles he had imbibed in the home of his orphanage and which were prophetic of the station to which he afterward attained.

1. With him all needful labor was honorable. This maxim he illustrated the next day after he reached Rome. In company with his friend he went from house to house seeking employment; he finally was told by a citizen that he had only one job that needed to be done.  It was to clean up his stable and cart the manure into his garden. Perry’s companion, who had more pride, but less sense, stood up proudly and refused with expressions of disdain and contempt such menial service. But the noble-hearted orphan, Tom Perry, said, “Give me the tools and I am ready for the work.” He did the work satisfactorily and cheerfully. It was the beginning of his success.  He won the confidence of the wealthy citizen, proved his usefulness, and was entreated to make Rome his home. He never forgot the maxim “that all needful work was honorable,” and while he observed it himself he encouraged others to do the same. The hard palm of the son of toil always received from him the warm grasp of sympathy and the sunburnt brow of the laborer was always cheered by the smile of recognition which fell from Perry’s face.

2. He always had a due appreciation of a favor.  He never forgot a kindness shown him, and he never cherished a wrong committed against him.  His Sabbath evening pilgrimages to the neat little home of his foster parents, over the Etowah, showed how he regarded the kindness and love they had manifested toward him in his young orphanage. Never was son more devoted to his natural parents than he to them.

3. He was always ready to recognize merit in others. He aimed at equality with others – even the best and noblest – but he determined to reach it – not by dragging them down but by climbing to their high position. He spoke evil of no man, but rather whispered good counsel in his ear and braced himself to support a falling brother.

4. He was fully conscious of all the claims which the public had upon him. Some may say that he had a thirst for office, but it was only that he felt he owed much to the public that always made him willing to take another office. He was indefatigable in his official labors. He was seen quite exhausted and worn down one day by overwork, with a physician feeling of his pulse in one hand and prescribing for his disease while in the other he held his pen and was busily executing some of the papers connected with his court.
While with a broad heart he took in all mankind yet Rome was the place of his labors, the subject of his benefactions, the center of his attachments and the idol of his life.
He understood fully the language of the old English poet:

“There is a land, of every land the pride,
Beloved by Heaven, o’er all the world beside,
Where brighter suns dispense serener light,
And milder moons emparadise the night;
In every clime, the magnet of the soul.
Touched by remembrance, trembles to that pole;
For in this land of Heaven’s peculiar grace,
The heritage of natures noblest race,
There is a spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
Art thou a man? -a patriot? -look around;
O! thou shalt find, howe’er thy footsteps roam;
That land thy country, and that spot thy home!”

To every letter he wrote there was a postscript in favor of Rome – in every conversation with strangers there was a parenthetic expression commending the city of Rome, and every stake he set up in business – every scheme and project – all pointed towards Rome.

5. He had a due regard for the future. He lived not alone for the present. There was no selfishness in his purpose, there was no limits to the bearing of his projects. He planted tree beneath whose shade other generations souls rest and from off whose weighted boughs other children would pluck the ripened fruit when the hand that dropped the seed was paralyzed in death and the foot that covered them was charred in the tomb.

6. He was suggestive without being a visionary. He was full of suggestions. He was always thinking, meditating, cogitating something that promised good. “Has any one any thing to offer for the good of the order?” always brought Tom Perry to his feet and upon his lips there would be spoken softly the name of a widow in distress, or an orphan in want or some brother in misfortune.

7. He was progressive, yet he was conservative.

“He was not the last to lay the old aside
Nor yet the first by whom the new was tried.”

The old plans and cherished expedients were readily thrown aside by him when a better plan had been presented.

8. He was aggressive, but not destructive. He would correct the wrong yet save the wrong-doer. He would crush the crime with the iron heel of the law but he would press the criminal to the warm bosom of sympathy and love. The justice of his court room was not vindictive, but compassionate, his sentences were not punitive but reformatory and his executions were not intended to immolate the evil doer but to rescue and passify the victim of lawlessness.
But he sleeps. He has been summoned to grand assize. He is happy in having the same judgement measured out to him which he dispensed when here among men.
No truer friend molds in the dust of Myrtle Hill, and no nobler heart beats in the bosom of the living. Let the precious memories of his manly virtues hang around his name like the rich fragrance of this boquet over the sod beneath which his remains repose.  And let his faults be buried in the vault and lost in the ruins of the tomb where his remains decay.

“The lodge, the school-room – the church – and State
Sustain in thee an equal loss,
But who would call thee from thy weight
Of glory, back to dear life’s cross!
Thy faith was kept, thy course was run,
Thy good fight finished; hence the word,
Well done, oh! Faithful child , well done,
Taste then the mercies of thy Lord.”

Among Thomas J. Perry’s civic accomplishments:

Vice Grand of Loyal Order of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 40, 1860; High Priest of Royal Arch Chapter, No. 26;  Alderman, Rome City Council, 1865-1870;  Agent for Johnson’s Union Washing Machine, 1865;  Grand Juror, January 1866 term of Floyd County, Superior Court; Deputy Tax Collector, 1866; Stamp Agent, 1866; Rome Board of Trade, 1866;  Secretary and Stockholder of the Oostananaula Steamboat Company, 1866; President, Schley Council, Good Samaritans, 1866; Agent for the Anchor Line Steamship Company, 1868;  Director and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Cherokee Masonic Life Insurance Company (Cherokee Masonic Aid Association), 1869; Justice of the Peace, 1869; Incorporator of the Memphis Branch Railroad, 1869; Deacon of the Rome Baptist Church, 1869;  Attorney, 1869; Right Illustrious Hiram of Tyre, Grand Council of Royal and Selected Masters, 1870;  Scribe Ezra and Grand Master 3rd Vail, of Rome, GA, 1870; Agent for Tilton’s Journal of Horticulture, 1871;  Judge, 1870-1874; Committee of Arrangements and Reception, August 1871 Convention of the Georgia State Agricultural Society at Rome, GA; Agent of the Commission for the Monument to the Confederate Dead of Georgia, 1872; Candidate for Justice of the Peace for 919th Georgia Militia District, 1872; appointed  Grand Master 3rd Vail at the Grand Chapter and Council of Masons of the State of Georgia, 1873; Secretary of the Rome Fair Association, 1873; Clerk of the Floyd County Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenue, 1873; Secretary and stockholder Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association of the Cherokee Country of Georgia and Alabama, 1873; Local Agent for the St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga Railroad Line, 1873; Agent for New Orleans Mutual Insurance Company, 1873; Agent for the Old Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York; Emigrant Agent for Western & Atlantic Railroad, 1873; Agent for The Household magazine, 1873;  Commissioner of Deeds, 1873; Notary Public, 1873; Secretary of the Bee Keepers’ Convention of Alabama and Georgia, 1873; Local Agent for Irwin & Thurmond’s Southern Nursery of Atlanta, 1873; Agent for the Georgia Real Estate and Immigration Company, 1874; Board Member, Mary Carter Steamboat Company, Rome, GA, 1874; instrumental in securing Congressional appropriation for the clearing of the Oostanula River, 1874; juror on the Coroner’s inquest in the death of Rome policeman J.P. Mooney;  honored with the christening of the steamboat the Thomas J. Perry, 1874; Secretary for the North Georgia and East Tennessee Steamboat Company, Rome, GA, 1874;    Appointed by Rome Citizens Committee to promote Rome, GA as location of a federal armory,  1874;    appointed Grand H. T., Royal Arch Masons,  1875; Past Dictator, Knights of Honor, Hill City Lodge, Rome, GA, 1875; Thrice Illustrious Master, Etowah Council Cryptic Masonry Lodge No. 12; organizer of the River Convention at Rome, GA, 1975; appointed by the Governor to represent Georgia at the Chicago Convention of Trade and Transportation, 1875; Grand Master of the 1st Veil; Committee member for a Cotton Factory at Rome, GA;  published Perry’s Church Register, a copyrighted ledger for the use of Baptist churches’ recording of baptisms and memberships, 1876; De bonis non administratis for the estate of N. J. Omberg, 1876; Secretary of the Soldier’s Monument Fair Association, 1876;   elected High Priest of the Rome Royal Arch Masonic Chapter  No. 26, 1876; elected Senior Warden, Cherokee Lodge No. 66; member of Tilden, Hendricks and Dabney Club of Rome, GA, 1876; Local Agent for Atlanta Nurseries, Rome, GA, 1876; elected Illustrious Deputy Grand Master in the grand Council of Georgia;

William Percy Mortimer Ashley (1825-1888)

William P. M. Ashley was born in Camden County, Georgia, May 14, 1825, and died in the same county January 2, 1888. At the opening of the war between the states he was, like many others, in affluent circumstances, and, as he believed the Confederate cause was right, he dedicated himself, his professional knowledge as a civil engineer, and a large part of his fortune, to the cause. Not content with this, he raised a company for the state defense, which was known as the Altamaha Scouts, of which he became captain, and subsequently, as the war continued, he was called to still higher office, becoming colonel of the Third Georgia Volunteers and as such commanded his regiment at the dread Battle of Chickamauga. There he was so severely wounded that continued service in the field was no longer possible, therefore his professional knowledge was utilized in detail duty. At the close of the war he was with General Johnston’s army in the surrender. There were many noble men of that period who in their course had pursued a path which seemed to them right and could never, under any circumstances, change their convictions, hence, at no time could they be brought to take the oath of allegiance. They had proved their faith in their convictions by fighting and suffering for them and could not deny that faith.

The Ashley family in America are direct descendants of William Lordawick Ashley, a native of England and evidently a man of station there in the days of Queen Anne, for it was that sovereign who gave him a grant of land situated in the new world, between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, near Charleston, South Carolina. In that section the Ashleys prospered and increased in numbers and importance and when the Revolutionary struggle came on, one Nathaniel Ashley was found in the ranks as a soldier. Immediately after the close of the Revolutionary war, Lordawick Ashley, son of Nathaniel, removed from South Carolina to Georgia and settled in Telfair County.  William A. Ashley, a son of Lordawick Ashley, was the father of  Col. W. P. M. Ashley . William A. Ashley was born in Telfair County, Georgia, in 1799, and was a planter and slaveholder. In 1821, at Princeton, New Jersey, he was married to Mary Jane Morford, and then located in Camden County, Georgia, where Mrs. Ashley died in 1830. She was born at Princeton, New Jersey, in 1800.

Col. W. P. M. Ashley was united in marriage on February 14, 1846, to Miss Fannie Baisden Dunham. She was born in Liberty County, Georgia, in 1826, and died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Dunwoody Jones, at Atlanta, in 1897. Her parents were Rev. Dr. Jacob and Sarah (Baisden) Dunham, and many members of the Baisden family reside at Live Oak, Florida. Rev. – Dr. Jacob Dunham was a minister in the Baptist Church. He was a son of John and Sarah (Clancy) Dunham, both of whom were born in England and were brought to America in youth, crossing the ocean on the same vessel with General Oglethorpe, in 1733. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Dunham settled at Eagle Neck, in McIntosh County, Georgia, where George Dunham became a rice planter. His will, recorded in Book A, of the colonial records of the state, shows him to have been a man of large estate, his possessions including lands and slaves. To William P. M. Ashley and wife a family of eight children was born, but two of these surviving: Claude L., and Mrs. Dunwoody Jones, of Atlanta. Claude L. Ashley attended the public schools in Liberty County but moved to Atlanta in 1888. He was a man of scholarly tastes and took much pleasure in his library, his tastes in reading being largely along the line of history. He showed much interest in local affairs, particularly in civic government serving in the general city council, representing the Fourth Ward. In many ways and on many occasions he displayed qualities of leadership in this body and his good judgment and good citizenship was universally recognized. On October 27, 1892, Mr. Ashley was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth Miller, a daughter of Capt. Hiram Miller, a veteran of the Federal army, who, during the war between the states, like the late Colonel Ashley of the Confederate army, was severely wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga. 

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29th Georgia Regiment at Camp Wilson near Savannah, GA

Berrien County, GA sent forth in the Civil War two companies of men known as the Berrien Minute Men.  In the early months of the war, the Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  made along the Georgia coast, at BrunswickSapelo Island, and Darien, GA.  By early 1862 The Berrien Minute Men,  having gotten “regulated” into the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment ,  were sent to Camp Wilson, near Savannah. Some companies of the 29th Regiment had arrived earlier;  Bryant Gainey, of the Alapaha Guards, died of pneumonia at Camp Wilson on Christmas Eve, 1861.

Camp Wilson had been established more than a year prior to the arrival of the Berrien Minute Men. Other Regiments encamped there were the 25th Regiment, 27th Regiment, and 31st Regiment.

The camp was located two or three  miles below Savannah, on White Bluff Road some distance beyond the Atlantic & Georgia Railroad [Atlantic & Gulf?]. White Bluff Road was the Shell road which was then an extension of Whitaker Street.  Camp Wilson was two miles from Camp Lawton and one mile from the soon to be established Camp Tatnall.

Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a soldier of the 31st Georgia Regiment, described  Camp Wilson as a large, level field.  It had room enough for four regiments and their equipment, officers horses, a parade ground, and a place for religious meetings and services.

The locale of Camp Wilson was said to be beautiful but, at least in the earlier days, soldiers found life there quite hard. Private Bradwell wrote in a memoir,

We had not been in these camps many days before we were invaded by measles the dread enemy of all new soldiers, and many of our men died or were rendered unfit for further service. Other diseases thinned our ranks, and for a while few recruits came to take their places. We were under very strict discipline all the time, but some men disregarded the military regulations and suffered the consequences…” 

Of camp food, Bradwell wrote,

The rations were ample, and consisted of flour, corn meal, and bacon. To these afterwards were added, rice, pickled beef, peas, sugar, coffee, sometimes vegetables, and always hard-tack. This was a kind of cracker prepared for the army sometime previous to the outbreak of the war, and it was as hard as wood. No salt, shortening, soda, or other leven whatever was used in its preparation, and it could be eaten only by those who had good sound teeth; but we found out later that it could be soaked with hot water and grease in an oven and be made quite palatable. In its original state, I suppose it would keep indefinitely in any climate. Each cracker was about six inches in diameter and about an inch thick. When broken with a hatchet, or other instrument, the edges of the fragments were shiny and showed it solid composition.

Some soldiers thought the camp provisions were less than satisfactory.   Lieutenant Theodorick W. Montfort, of the 25th Georgia Regiment, in a letter from Camp Wilson to his wife  wrote on January 14, 1861 : “We have poor beef & fresh shoat meat cost us 18 cts per lb.” Montfort requested food be sent from home, “some back bones, spare-ribs, sausages, butter & eggs…,”  assuring his wife that the Confederate government would pay the freight on such shipments.

Soldiers could purchase their own food, but prices were high. Soldiers supplemented their Army rations as best they could. Lieutenant Montfort’s letters from Camp Wilson reveal that one food available to the soldiers there was shad, a delectable fish that runs in the Savannah river delta and other rivers of coastal Georgia from late December to late March. The Shad season was just getting underway when the Berrien Minute Men arrived at Camp Wilson in the winter of 1861-62.  (In a court case concerning shad fishing on the Ocmulgee River, the attorney for the defense was Thaddeus G. Holt,  who also served as the first Superior Court judge in Lowndes County, GA). Shad were also the subject of a diary entry written in early 1862 by  John Thomas Whately, an Englishman conscript with the 13th Georgia Regiment who was stationed at the camps around Savannah:

I had the good fortune of coming on two shad which were made mine by paying $1.25. While on my way home through the streets of Savannah, I was teased nearly to death about my fine shad. After we had arrived in camps and partaken of supper, I and my friend H_ went to Capt. Hill’s tent and W_ was not there. I went back to the fire, and was trying to think where my friend W_ could be. While I was thus engaged in thinking, I heard a kind of smacking of lips in the direction of a small tent off to the left: I walked up and what a busy crowd! There were my friends who had teased me, busily engaged in completing the destruction of one of my shad. I walked in just time enough to get a nice piece and the last piece of my devoured shad. We laughed it off and each one of us retired to our respective tents. [Continuing the following day,] I arrose this morning at the tap of the drum, and after I had answered my name and washed my face, I partook heartily of my remaining shad, who was now without a mate as the other had been unceremoniously devoured by the devilish mouths of my friends last night.

(Whatley later deserted, joined the Union Army, served with the 3rd Maryland Cavalry, then deserted again)

On January 1, 1862 in a letter to the Rome Courier, Thomas J. Perry of the Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment, wrote:

The Federal fleet keeps at a respectful distance, though it is thought that Gen. Sherman will be forced to make a forward movement soon. Ten or twelve of his large war steamers can be seen occasionally, near some of the Islands, but they never stay at one place long at a time. Gen. Lee is in the city to-day. Of course his mission is not generally known.

Perhaps Lieutenant Perry was unaware that the Federals had occupied Tybee Island on November 24, 1861 after it was abandoned by the Confederates.  Furthermore, the Federals were busily landing men and materiel’ at the Martello tower on Tybee, and secretly preparing for the siege of Fort Pulaski.

Martello Tower, a relic of the Spanish exploration of America, was the landing place for all Federal supplies brought on to Tybee Island in advance of the siege of Fort Pulaski.

Martello Tower, a relic of the Spanish exploration of America, was the landing place for all Federal supplies brought on to Tybee Island in advance of the siege of Fort Pulaski.

Recalling events which occurred at Camp Wilson just about the time of the arrival of the Berrien Minute Men in January, 1862, Private Bradwell wrote,

“A little incident which happened while we were here served to break the monotony of camp life very effectually for a short while. At midnight,, when all well-behaved soldiers, except those on guard, were sound asleep, the long roll, that never-to-be-forgotten rattle that wakes a soldier to do or die, was sounded. The voice of our orderly sergeant was heard calling out “Fall in! Fall in!” In the darkness and confusion, we grabbed our clothes and got into them as quickly as possible, and seizing our guns, we took our place in ranks. While this was going on, some of our men were so dazed by the suddenness of this rude awakening that they acted like madmen. One fellow snatched up a blanket for his trousers, but could not get into it. Our old French bandmaster rushed up and down the street, shouting all the time, “Where de capitan? Where de capitan? I die by de Capitan!” We were soon trotted off to the parade ground to take our place in the ranks of the regiment there drawn up, to meet the enemy we thought. Casting our eyes in every direction, we could not see the flashing of the enemy’s guns or hear any noise of battle. Here we stood for quite a while in uncertainty, when finally Colonel Phillips appeared. Walking slowly down the line, he asked each orderly sergeant as he passed whether all the men were present, and to send all absentees up to his headquarters the next morning at 8 o’clock. We were then marched back to our quarters and dismissed for the night. The next morning at daybreak the delinquents stepped into ranks to answer their names, ignorant of had happened during the night. There was quiet a delegation from each company to march up to headquarters that morning to receive, as they thought, a very severe penalty for their misconduct. Our good old colonel stood up before his tent and lectured the men, while others stood armed grinning and laughing at their plight; but to the surprise and joy of the guilty, he dismissed them all without punishment after they had promised him never to run away from camp again.”

Union forces had captured Tybee Island on November 24, 1861, and the men at Camp Wilson were taking measures for the defense of the city. A soldier at Camp Wilson in February, 1862, described their work:

…we are…now engaged in throwing up batteries at different points and in cutting down trees on all the roads leading from the coast to Savannah, that is not across them but every tree on each of the road to the swamp – the object of this is to prevent the Yankees from flanking us on either side with their artillery or cavalry, but compell them to keep the road, by this means they can bring but few men into action at any one time and with our Batteries we can sweep the roads – the cause of this unusual excitement is daily increase of the Yankee Fleet on our Coast.

Despite the proximity of the Federal forces, in some ways the familiar routines continued within the line of defenses ringing Savannah. While at Camp Wilson, soldiers of the 29th Georgia Regiment complained that the Savannah post office would not allow the men in service to mail or receive letters until after noon, prioritizing morning mail for the benefit of civilians.

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA
January 8, 1862

       Mr. Editor: I desire a place for the benefit of the soldiers and their friends who are here in defence of this city.
      Why cannot soldiers receive communications through the post office as soon as the citizens here? By order of the postmaster, at 12 M. is as soon as they can receive or transmit any communication through this office, while citizens receive their mail matter by 10 A. M. Besides, we are threatened that upon a requisition to change this order from a colonel of a regiment, 2 P.M. for up-country soldiers will be as soon as the mail will be delivered at office, for no regimental box will be rented, but the mail matter will be thrown into the general delivery.
      Soldiers that have abandoned the pleasures and comforts of their homes – have borne the fatigues and fortunes of the camp – yea, and of the field, certainly are entitled to equal courtesies with citizens. Further, soldiers DEMAND of civilians equal rights, equal privileges. We are here in Savannah for its defence -for the defence of Georgia – for the maintenance of the Constitution of the Southern Confederacy – for the protection of women and children, property, freedom of opinion, and every thing that freemen hold sacred and dear| For this, though soldiers, yea, privates, are we to be ordered to stand aside, while courtesies are shewn to citizen civilians. We own much, and will pay, occasion offering, to the citizens (especially the women) of Savannah for kindness to our sick brethren in arms; but we have left our loved and dear ones at home, from whom a letter is an angel’s voice against temptations and vices of camp – as sweet, soft music to the anguished soul – as savory ointment to the wounded spirit – and yet, when calling for this the only true solace a soldier has for his labors, he is met with “Wait till 12 M., or you shall not receive your mail matter before 2 P. M.,” an hour that were a man’s wife dying, and wishing to receive her last breathing sigh, ‘twould be too late to get to her death bed, by army regulations properly made at headquarters here.
Citizens of Savannah, cannot you remedy this? If this office will not pay for a sufficient number of clerks to arrange business sooner, is there no patriotic man who will take the position and relieve this burden on any citizen (if it be one.)
      Soldiers will complain, and we think properly.

W. B. Fordum
Private Berry Infantry
29th Reg. Ga. Volunteers
Camp Wilson

Men of the 29th Georgia Regiment also organized for religious services. Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry, of the Berry Infantry reported from Camp Wilson on January 1, 1862:

     Last Sabbath a week ago, we organized a Sabbath school in our Regiment and appointed the Rev. Mr. Harroll Superintendent, and Thoms. J. Perry Secretary and Libarian. We have built us a Bush Arbor, in the rear of our camps, about 200 yards distant. We have also agreed to hold prayer meeting every Tuesday and Thursday nights, and have preaching every Sabbath at 11 A.M., 3 P.M., and again at night, and have invited the other two Regiments to join us. Quite a number of Col. Phillip’s Regiment have accepted the invitation, and gone to work with a hearty good will.
      Prof. P. H. Mell preached for us last Sabbath at 11 A. M., and again at 3 P. M., and at night gave us a talk upon the subject of prayer.

But, Lieutenant Perry went on to report, “Sin and wickedness prevails…”

To be continued…Regimental Feud at Camp Wilson Near Savannah, GA

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