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:

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. 

Related Posts:

 

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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