The Berrien Minute Men and the 1861 Expedition Hurricane

The Expedition Hurricane 1861

Two companies of men sent forth in the Civil War from Berrien County, Georgia were known as the Berrien Minute Men. For the most part, both companies of Berrien Minute Men traveled with the 29th Georgia Regiment and kept the same campfires, although occasionally they had different stations. They made their campfires most of 1861 at coastal defenses of Georgia, at Brunswick, GA, on Sapelo Island and then around Savannah, GA.

The Berrien Minute Men arrived on Sapelo Island around October 1, 1861 just a month before the final storm of the 1861 hurricane season.  Undoubtedly they experienced a gale on the night of October 31, 1861 as the hurricane, later known as the Expedition Hurricane, passed about 120 miles east of the Island. This hurricane had formed in the Gulf of Mexico and traversed south Florida before moving up the eastern seaboard. By the morning of November 1, 1861, the hurricane passed about 255 miles east of Savannah; the outer bands of the storm were already reaching Savannah with “driving clouds and heavy falling rain.”  The USS Savannah and USS Monticello, blockading the port of Savannah, GA were forced to move away from the Savannah Bar and proceed to seas as a measure necessary to their preservation.

USS Savannah. On Nov 1, 1861 the Savannah was stationed off Tybee Island, blockading the port of Savannah.

USS Savannah. On Nov 1, 1861 the Savannah was stationed off Tybee Island, blockading the port of Savannah.

On the Monticello, the storm damage disabled the engine forcing the ship to make for a safe harbor. That night the storm provided cover for the Confederate blockade runner CSS Bermuda escape from Savannah.

On November 2, 1861, following the 1861 Expedition Hurricane, the Confederate blockade runner CSS Bermuda escaped from the Savannah River bound for England. On the return trip it was captured by the US Navy & renamed the USS General Meade.

On November 2, 1861, following the 1861 Expedition Hurricane, the Confederate blockade runner CSS Bermuda escaped from the Savannah River bound for England. On the return trip it was captured by the US Navy & renamed the USS General Meade.

In the direct path of the hurricane was the largest fleet of ships that had ever been assembled by the United States Navy. It had been widely reported in newspapers that the  great fleet had assembled at New York, and that General Sherman’s forces had embarked at Annapolis, MD. Among the “Expedition Corps” was the Forty-Sixth New York Volunteer Regiment, Colonel Rudolph Rosa commanding, aboard the steamship USS Daniel Webster.  Later in the war the 46th NY Regiment would occupy Tybee Island, GA opposite the Berrien Minute Men garrisoning Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA

USS Daniel Webster, 1861, transported the 46th NY Regiment through the Expedition Hurricane to the Battle of Port Royal.

USS Daniel Webster, 1861, transported the 46th NY Regiment through the Expedition Hurricane to the Battle of Port Royal.

This was the largest naval expedition that had ever sailed under the U.S. flag. Its destination was “supposedly a military secret.” Reporters aboard the USS Atlantic in the Expedition fleet provided various cover stories:  a demonstration would be made upon Sewell’s Point or the fleet would practice an amphibious assault on Fort Monroe.  In Savannah, and probably on Sapelo Island, it was expected the expedition would make an assault on the Confederate shores.  After sailing on sealed orders it was speculated that the squadron would attack New Orleans, Charleston, Pensacola, Wilmington, Beaufort, Galveston or James River.

The expedition did practice an amphibious landing on the Virginia Peninsula at Fort Monroe, where it also expected to embark a contingent of Africa-Americans – escaped slaves – to be employed as support for the mission.

It was believed by the War Department that there were at least 1,000 slaves, or ‘”contrabands,”’ at Fortress Monroe, able to perform a certain sort of labor necessary to the accomplishment of the purpose of the expedition — such work as throwing up entrenchments and adding to the comfort of the officers. Six hundred of these negroes were to have accompanied us, but there is scarcely that number at the fortress, and Gen. Wool has plenty of employment for all of them there. We therefore do not take any. – New York Times Correspondent aboard USS Atlantic

After the exercises at Fort Monroe, the fleet continued on to its unstated destination.

The Great Lincoln Naval Expedition.
FULL PARTICULARS OF ITS STRENGTH.
Rumored theft of its Maps, Charts, and Sealed Orders.

Richmond, Nov. 2.—A special order for the Lincoln fleet, dated on board the steamer Atlantic, Oct. 28, says the expedition will be under command of Commodore Dupont, that it is intended to make a descent on the enemy’s coast, and probably under circumstances demanding the utmost vigilance, coolness and intrepidity on the part of every man in the expedition.
The surf boats and other means of debarkation are believed to be capable of landing at once from three to four thousand men. Some of them carry a hundred men.
The expedition consists of three brigades commanded by Generals Wright, Stephens, and Viele, each with artillery. Full orders are given as to the mode of landing. They have to conquer the ground and succeed. They are directed not to go beyond supporting distance from shore.

Fortress Monroe, Oct. 28.—The fleet will sail to-morrow. One hundred thousand rations have been distributed among the fleet, and sealed orders have been given to the Captains of the several transports. The men and horses are on board. Several of the transports have suffered greatly from the gale during the last few days.
The New York Herald of the 29th says the objects to be accomplished by the expedition are as follows :
First, to carry the war into the Cotton states, which are chiefly responsible for the rebellion, and produce a disorganisation of the disposition of the Immense Confederate army in Virginia.
Second, to secure winter quarters for the Federal troops, and harbors for the refuge the Federal naval and commercial marine.
Third, To open our Southern ports to commerce, and thus satisfy all the demands and obviate all difficulties about the supply of cotton and the efficiency of the blockade.
Fourth, to form a nucleus in the Confederate States near which the long suppressed loyalty and good sense of the people may find a safe expression and encouragement, and to stimulate this reactionary feeling, of which we have seen such remarkable and encouraging manifestations in North Carolina. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, in a letter to the expedition, gives them authority to employ negroes in the Federal service, but assures all loyal masters that Congress will provide a just compensation for all losses thus incurred by them.
The New York Tribune says one of its correspondents on board the Federal expedition writes from Hampton Roads that the Private Secretary to Commodore Dupont had absconded, carrying off with him the maps, charts, and even the sealed orders of the Expedition.

The Naval Expedition.—Our telegraphic column contains important information. There is no doubt that the whole composition, plan, and private instructions of the expedition are now in Richmond, else how should the information given and the Tribune’s report of the absconding Secretary tally so squarely? Say no more of Yankee shrewdness! 

 

 

A Naval Expedition Sails for Port Royal, S. C.

October 29, 1861, the great naval expedition, which had been fitting out for several weeks, sailed for the southern coast. It consisted of seventy-five vessels of various sizes and descriptions, and 15,000 troops; the former under command of Commodore Dupont; the latter under command of General William Tecumpseh “Cump” Sherman.

The Great Expedition, in Lat. 34 degrees, 37 minutes N., Long. 75 degrees, 50 minutes W., on the way to Port Royal Inlet. – Sketched at noon on 31st October, 1861, from the deck of the Steamer “Matanzas.” At the time, the fleet was 600 miles north of a tropical storm passing over Florida. Image Source: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/33007.

The Savannah papers noted with glee that the storm would likely strike the US Fleet which had departed NY on October 30 on its mission to attack Confederate force.

“The season is not very propitious for their enterprise…they will be scattered to the four winds, and many of them sunk or stranded…We imagined the “nice time” the Yankees were having in their heavy laden and crowded ships and thought of their chances between treacherous waves and the inhospitable shores to which they were coming and if we indulged a wish that they might all be blown to Davy Jones’ locker, it was only that they might be spared the fate that awaits them whenever they land upon our southern shore.”

That evening, the U.S. Navy expedition encountered the  tropical hurricane—which wreaked havoc on the organization of the fleet.

A Union soldier at sea on board the steamer  USS Atlantic in the Expedition fleet wrote in his journal on November 1, 1861

Wind continued to rise till at 11PM it blew almost a gale. Went on deck at 11 1/2 PM. The scene was fearful, but magnificent. The ship was tossing and pitching in a manner not at all pleasant. The waves were rolling at least 20 feet high and as far as the eye could reach seemed to be capped with silver, while in the track of our wheels millions of stars were dancing and flashing…

Nov 2nd
Last night was the worst I ever saw. I could not sleep, for I had as much as I could do to hold myself in my bunk. Reynolds got thrown out of his and he had a top one too…8AM Our quarters presented a sorry sight. Window in stern got stove in the night. before it could be stopped the water was 3 or 4 inches deep. Shoes, guns, knapsacks, shirts, etc floating round in fine style. Went on deck…10A.M. Wind going down some. Struck green water at 4P.M.

John Call Dalton, M.D., rode out the 1861 Expedition Hurricane aboard the troopship USS Oriental.

On board the USS Oriental, John Call Dalton, Medical officer, rode out the storm with the 7th New York Militia. He vividly recalled the storm in his memoir:

On Friday, November 1st it began to get rough. The sky was overcast, the ship rolled and pitched, and the wind howled in a way that gave warning of worse to come. As the day wore on, there was no improvement, and before nightfall it was a blowing gale…All that evening the wind increased in violence. Every hour it blew harder, and the waves came faster and bigger than before. The see was no longer a highway; it was a tossing chaos of hills and valleys, sweeping toward us from the southeast with the force of the tornado, and reeling and plunging about us on every side. The ship was acting well and showed no signs of distress thus far; but by midnight it seemed as though she had about as much as she could do. The officers and crew did their work in steady, seamanlike fashion, and among the soldiers there was no panic or bustle. Once in a while I would get up out of my berth, to look at the ship from the head of the companion way, or to go forward between decks and listen to the pounding of the sea against her bows. At one o’clock, for the first time, things were no longer growing worse; and in another hour or two it was certain that the gale had reached its height. Then I turned in for sleep, wedged myself into the berth with blankets, and made no more inspection tours that night.

The SS Governor was overwhelmed by the storm and foundering with a battalion of 385 marines on board, Major John George Reynolds commanding, and 15 crew.  In the gale, the  gunboats USS Young Rover and USS Isaac Smith, both damaged by the storm, were unable to take the Governor effectively in tow. Finally the frigate USS Sabine arrived and a daring rescue ensued at the height of the raging hurricane.  Before the SS Governor sank, the entire complement of the ship were saved with the exception of one corporal and six privates who, attempting to jump from the deck of the Governor to the Sabine were drowned or crushed  between the decks of the two vessels. The reports of the captains of the USS Sabine, USS Isaac Smith, USS Young Rover, and the acting master of the SS Governor were published in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies.

Expedition Hurricane. Rescue of Major Reynolds's Battalion of Marines From The Foundering Steamer "Governor."

1861 Expedition Hurricane. Rescue of Major Reynolds’s Battalion of Marines From The Foundering Steamer “Governor.”

The awesome force with which this hurricane struck the fleet is evident in Major John G. Reynolds’ report to Commodore Samuel F. Du Pont.

Flag-Officer Saml. F. Du Pont,
Commanding U. S. Naval Expedition, Southern Coast.

The marine battalion under my command left Hampton Roads on transport steamboat Governor on the morning of Tuesday, the 29th of October, with the other vessels of the fleet, and continued with them near the flagship Wabash until Friday, the 1st of November. On Friday morning about 10 o’clock the wind began to freshen, and by 12 or l blew so violently we were obliged to keep her head directly to the wind, and thereby leave the squadron, which apparently stood its course.
Throughout the afternoon the gale continued to increase, though the Governor stood it well until about 4 o’clock. About this time we were struck by two or three very heavy seas, which broke the port hog brace in two places, the brace tending inward. This was immediately followed by the breaking of the hog brace on the starboard side. By great exertions on the part of the officers and men of the battalion these braces were so well stayed and supported that no immediate danger was apprehended from them.
Up to this time the engine worked well. Soon after the brace chains [guys] which supported the smokestack parted, and it went overboard. Some 3 feet of it above the hurricane deck remained, which enabled us to keep up the fires. Soon after the loss of the smokestack the steam pipe burst. After this occurrence we were unable to make more than 14 pounds of steam, which was reduced as soon as the engine commenced working to from 3 to 5 pounds. The consequence was we had to stop the engine frequently in order to increase the head of steam. At this period the steamer was making water freely, but was easily kept clear by the pumps of the engine whenever it could be worked. About 5 o’clock we discovered a steamer with a ship in tow, which we supposed to be the Ocean Queen. To attract attention we sent up rockets, which signals she answered. When our rockets, six in all, were gone, we kept up a fire of musketry for a long time, but, the sea running high and the wind being violent, she could render us no assistance. She continued on her course, in sight the greater part of the night. About 3 o’clock Saturday morning the packing round the cylinder head blew out, rendering the engine totally useless for some time. The engine was finally put in running order, although it went very slowly. The rudder chain was carried away during the night, the water gaining constantly on us and the boat laboring violently. At every lurch we apprehended the hog braces would be carried away, the effect of which would have been to tear out the entire starboard side of the boat, collapse the boiler, and carry away the wheelhouse. Early in the morning the rudderhead broke, the engine was of very little use, the water still gaining on us rapidly, and we entirely at the mercy of the wind. It was only by the untiring exertions of our men that we were kept afloat. Nearly one hundred of them were kept constantly pumping and bailing, and the rest were holding fast the ropes which supported the hog braces.
Toward morning the weather, which during the night had been dark and rainy, seemed to brighten and the wind to lull. At daybreak two vessels were seen on our starboard bow, one of which proved to be the U.S.S. Isaac Smith, commanded by Lieutenant J. W. A. Nicholson, of the Navy. She descried our signal of distress, which was ensign halfmast, union down, and stood for us. About 10 o’clock we were hailed by the Smith and given to understand that if possible we should all be taken on board. A boat was lowered from her and we were enabled to take a hawser. This, through the carelessness of Captain [C. L.] Litchfield, of the Governor, was soon cast off or unavoidably let go. The water was still gaining on us. The engine could be worked but little, and it appeared that our only hope of safety was gone.
The Smith now stood off, but soon returned, and by 1 o’clock we had another hawser from her and were again in tow. A sail (the propeller bark Young Rover) which had been discovered on our starboard bow during the morning was soon within hailing distance.
The captain proffered all the assistance he could give, though at the time he could do nothing, owing to the severity of the weather. The hawser from the Smith again parted, and we were once more adrift.
The Young Rover now stood for us again, and the captain said he would stand by us till the last, for which encouragement he received a heartfelt cheer from the men. He also informed us [that] a large frigate was ahead standing for us. He then stood for the frigate, made signals of distress and returned. The frigate soon came into view and hope once more cheered the hearts of all on board the transport. Between 2 and 3 o’clock the U.8. frigate Sabine (Captain Ringgold) was within hail, and the assurance given that all hands would be taken on board. After a little delay the Sabine came to anchor. We followed her example, and a hawser was passed to us. It was now late in the day and there were no signs of an abatement of the gale. It was evident that whatever was to be done for our safety must be done without delay. About 8 or 9 o’clock the Sabme had paid out enough chain to bring, her stern close to our bow. Spars were rigged out over the stern of the frigate and every arrangement made for whipping our men on board, and some thirty men were rescued by this means. Three or four hawsers and an iron stream cable were parted by the plunging of the vessels. The Governor at this time had 3 feet water, which was rapidly increasing. It was evidently intended by the commanding officer of the Sabine to get the Governor alongside and let our men jump from the boat to the frigate. In our condition this appeared extremely hazardous. It seemed impossible for us to strike the frigate without instantly going to pieces. We were, however, brought alongside and some forty men succeeded in getting on board the frigate. One was crushed to death between the frigate and the steamer in attempting to gain a foothold on the frigate.
Shortly after being brought alongside the frigate the starboard quarter of the Sabine struck the port bow of the Governor, and carried away about 20 feet of the hurricane deck from the stem to the wheelhouse. The sea was running so high, and we being tossed so violently, it was deemed prudent to slack up the hawser and let the Governor fall astern of the frigate with the faint hope of weathering the gale till morning.
All our provisions and other stores, indeed every movable article, were thrown overboard, and the water casks started to lighten the vessel. From half past 3 until daybreak the Governor floated in comparative safety, notwithstanding the water was rapidly gaining on her. At daybreak preparations were made for sending boats to our relief, although the sea was running high, and it being exceedingly dangerous for a boat to approach the guards of the steamer. In cpnsequence the boats laid off and the men were obliged to jump into the sea, and were then hauled into the boats. All hands were thus providentially rescued from the wreck with the exception, I am pained to say, of 1 corporal and 6 privates, who were drowned or killed by the crush or contact of the vessels. Those drowned were lost through their disobedience of orders in leaving the ranks, or abandoning their posts. After the troops were safely reembarked every exertion was directed to securing the arms, accouterments, ammunition, and other property which might have been saved after lightening the wreck. I am gratified in being able to say nearly all the arms were saved and about half the accouterments. The knapsacks, haversacks, and canteens were nearly all lost. About 10,000 round of cartridges were fortunately saved, and 9,000 lost. Since being on board of this ship every attention has been bestowed by Captain Ringgold and his officers toward recruiting the strength of our men and restoring them to such a condition as will enable us to take the field at the earliest possible moment. Too much praise can not be bestowed upon the officers and men under any command. All did nobly. The firmness with which they performed their duty is beyond all praise. For forty eight hours they stood at ropes and passed water to keep the ship afloat. Refreshments in both eating and drinking were passed to them at their posts by noncommissioned officers. It is impossible for troops to have conducted themselves better under such trying circumstances. The transport continued to float some three hours after she was abandoned, carrying with her when she sunk, I am grieved to say, company books and staff returns. In order to complete the personnel of the battalion, I have requested Captain Ringgold to meet a requisition for several privates, to which he has readily assented. I considered this requisition in order, as I have been informed by Captain Ringgold it is his intention, as orders were given for his ship to repair to a Northern port; in which event he can easily be supplied, and my command by the accommodation rendered complete, in order to meet any demand you make for our services.
Under God, we owe our preservation to Captain Ringgold and the officers of the Sabine, to whom we tender our heartfelt thanks for their untiring labors while we were in danger and their unceasing kindness since we have been on board the frigate.
This report is respectfully submitted.
I am, commodore, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Jno. Geo. Reynolds,
Commanding Battalion Marines, Southern Division.

P. S.—List of noncommissioned officers and privates drowned and
injured by attempting to leave the U. S. transport steamer Governor
without orders:
Corporal Thomas McKeown, Privates Manus Brown, Timothy Lacy, Lawrence Gorman, Thomas Walker, Robert Campbell, drowned; Private Edward H. Miller, cut in two by collision with Sabine; Private Gustave Smith, arm broken by collision with Sabine.
Jno. Geo. Reynolds,
Major, Commanding Battalion.

On Hatteras the storm surge was so high the entire island was inundated.  Fort Hatteras was the only thing that remained above water. Federal troops evacuated the island and withdrew to Fort Monroe. USS Union went ashore about 13 miles south of Fort Macon.  USS Osceola went on the rocks near Georgetown during the storm. The USS Peerless went down after a collision with the Star of the South.  The confederate press reported that USS Winfield Scott had gone down with two Federal regiments, but that was wishful thinking; the Winfield Scott was badly damaged but remained afloat.

After ripping through the fleet, the hurricane made landfall on November 2, 1861 at 10:00 am at Morehead City, NC with sustained winds estimated at 70 mph, and proceeded up the coast.

When the fleet arrived at Port Royal “many showed the marks of their rough treatment at sea. The big sidewheel steam, Winfield Scott, came in dismasted, and with a great patch of canvas over her bows, looking like a man with a broken head. Other had lost smoke-stacks, or stove bulwarks or wheel-houses.”John Call Dalton

 

USS Winfield Scott, dismasted in the Expedition Hurricane of 1861, made port at Port Royal, SC.

USS Winfield Scott, dismasted in the Expedition Hurricane of 1861, made port at Port Royal, SC.

Some of the other ships were forced to return home for repairs, but the majority rode out the storm successfully.

The expedition proceeded onward to Port Royal Sound for the Battle of Port Royal.  Among the ships joining the rendezvous at Port Royal Sound was the USS St Lawrence. The St. Lawrence had come from blockade duty off St. Simons Island, GA.

USS St Lawrence, US Southern Blockade Squadron, was stationed off St. Simons Island, GA

USS St Lawrence, US Southern Blockade Squadron, was stationed off St. Simons Island, GA

 

The expedition arrived at Port Royal, South Carolina, November 4th, when it was greeted by Commodore Tattnall and his mosquito fleet; which soon withdrew in disgust. On the following day, Commodore Tattnall renewed his “attack,” but a few shots from our big guns effectually disposed of him. The 6th, the weather being stormy, nothing was done.

Surrender of Forts Walker and Beauregard.

On the morning of November 7th, Commodore Dupont engaged the Confederate forts, Beauregard, of 32 guns, and Walker, of 15 guns; the Wabash leading the way, and the other war ships and gunboats following. The batteries from the shore replied with spirit. The action commenced at twenty minutes past nine, A. M., and lasted until half-past two, P. M., when the batteries were silenced, the forts evacuated, and the Stars and Stripes planted on South Carolina soil. Soon after, the Seventh Connecticut regiment landed and took possession of Fort Walker; and on the following morning our flag waved over Fort Beauregard. Beaufort was also temporarily occupied, the whole white population, with the exception of one man, having fled. The Confederate troops, estimated at full 5,000, retreated before the Federal troops could land, leaving arms, baggage, and personal valuables behind. The Federal loss was 8 killed and 23 wounded  –Edgar Albert Werner

The cannonade was so intense the sounds of the Battle of Port Royal could be heard by the 29th Georgia Regiment 60 miles away on Sapelo Island.

The hurricane of November 1-2, 1861 which preceded the battle is known as the Expedition Hurricane because of its influence on the fleet.

Related Posts

Ships of the Great Naval Expedition

New York Times
October 26, 1861

THE GUNBOAT FLEET.

We are now enabled to give the names of all the vessels engaged in this great expedition. The gunboats are all well armed and manned. Vessels like the Unadilla, Seneca, Pembina and Ottawa, each carry one 11-inch Dahlgren, one Parrott rifled gun, and two 24-pound howitzers. The names of the gunboats are:

Vessel, Commander.

      1. USS Seminole ………………..J.P. Gillies.
      2. USS Mohican …………………Godon.
      3. USS Florida …………………..Gildsborough.
      4. USS Pocahontas ……………….Drayton.
      5. USS James Adger ……………..Marchand.
      6. USS Augusta ………………….Parrott.
      7. USS Alabama………………….Lanier.
      8. USS Unadilla ………………….N. Collins.
      9. USS Ottawa …………………..Thos. H. Stevens.
      10. USS Seneca ………………….Daniel Aminen.
      11. USS Pawnee ………………….R.H. Wyman.
      12. USS Pembina ………………….Bankhead.
      13. USS Isaac Smith ……………….Nicholson.
      14. USS R.B. Forbes ………………Newcomb.
      15. USS Curlew ……………………Watmough.
      16. USS Penguin ………………….Budd.

      In addition to these vessels, all of which are steamers, there are now on the station, and to join the squadron,
      Vessel, tonnage, Commander, station
      <

      1. USS Sabine ……………………………(50,) Capt. RINGGOLD, at present blockading Charleston;
      2. USS Susquehannah……………. (15,) Capt. LARDNER;
      3. USS Flag………………………….. Commander RODGERS; off Savannah
      4. USS Savannah……………. (24,) Commander MISSRGOM, off Savannah
      5. USS St. Lawrence……………. (50.) Capt. PURVIANCE, off St. Simon’s Island, GA
      6. USS Dale…………….(16,) Commander YARD, off Fernandina, FL
      7. Vandalia……………. (20,) Commander HAGGERTY, recently off Bale’s Bay, S.C., but just returned to Hampton Roads;
      8. Governor……………. (transport,) Capt. C.L. LITCHFIELD, with Major REYNOLDS’ Battalion of Marines.
        The entire armament of the fleet is about 400 guns.

THE TRANSPORT FLEET
STEAMSHIPS.

Vessel. Tonnage. Commander.

 

  1. Baltic………………2,723……………Comstock.
  2. Ocean Queen……….2,802……………Seabury.
  3. Vanderbilt…………..3,360……………La Favre.
  4. Illinois…………….2,123……………Rathburn.
  5. Star of the South…… 960……………Kearnly.
  6. Marion…………….. 860……………Phillips.
  7. Parkersburgh………. 715……………Hoffman.
  8. Matanzas………….. 875……………Leesburg.
  9. Cahawba…………..1,643……………Baker.
  10. Empire City………..1,751……………Baxter.
  11. Ariel……………….1,295……………Terry.
  12. Daniel Webster……..1,035……………Johnston.
  13. Coatzacoalcos………1,953……………Botcock.
  14. Roanoke……………1,071……………Conch.
  15. Ericsson……………1,902……………Cowles.
  16. Oriental……………. — ……………Tuzo.
  17. Potomac…………… 448……………Hilliard.
  18. Locust Point……….. 462……………French.
  19. Philadelphia………..1,236……………Barton.
  20. Spalding…………… — …………… —
  21. Winfield Scott……… — …………… —
  22. Atlantic…………….2,815…………… —
  23. Belvidere………….. — ……………Phillips.
  24. Ben. Deford…………1,080…………… —
  25. Mayflower, (ferryboat.)
  26. Philadelphia, (ferryboat.)
  27. Baltimore, (ferryboat.)
  28. Eagle, (ferryboat.)
  29. Star, (ferryboat.)
  30. Pocahontas, (ferryboat.)
  31. Commodore Perry, (ferryboat.)

SAILING VESSELS.

Vessel. Tonnage.

  1. Great Republic….. 3,356
  2. Zenas Coffin…….. 338
  3. Ocean Express…..1,697
  4. Golden Eagle…… 1,128All these transport vessels are armed. They carry ordnance and Quartermaster’s stores, two houses in frame work, bricks in large quantity, about 1,500 shovels, the same number of picks, sand bags, horses, boats for landing men and guns through the surf, and every other article likely to be required for a campaign.

Ned Holmes and Civil War Epidemics

Edward “Ned” HOLMES, was a soldier of the 25th Georgia Regiment, which shared garrison duties with the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment several camps around Savannah, GA in the spring and summer of 1862. In June, the colonel of the 25th Regiment, Claudius C. Wilson, would assume command of Causton’s Bluff, where the Berrien Minute Men were stationed.

Ned Holmes was born about 1834 in DeKalb County, Georgia, the younger of two sons of James and Martha Thurman Holmes.

Ned’s father, James Holmes, according to family tradition left the family in Atlanta to go west to look for land to homestead. He was never heard from again…  Ned’s brother Mike Holmes, as oldest son, was sole support of his family and supposedly worked as an overseer to support them. Once again family legend says Mike rode a winning horse in a race in Atlanta the purse for which was enough for him to move his mother, five sisters and Ned  to Alabama. About 1845, the family moved to Henry County, AL, settling near Wesley, about 7 miles northeast of Abbeville. – Gordon W. Holmes, Jr

In Henry County, Mike Holmes first worked as a farmer then in 1858 was elected Sheriff of Henry County as a Democrat.  By 1860, Ned Holmes was employed as an overseer and moved out of his brother’s household to a place of his own in Franklin, AL.

When the Civil War broke out Mike Holmes enlisted at Abbeville, AL on May 11, 1861, in Company A (became Company B), 6th Regiment, Alabama Infantry, CSA. 

Edward “Ned” Holmes was enlisted on April 12, 1862, in Henry County, Alabama, by Capt. George W. Holmes (no relation) for 3 years, in Company E, 25th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, CSA. Ned remained at home on furlough through the end of April, 1862. In May, he  joined his unit at Camp Smith near Savannah, Georgia. After joining the 25th Regiment, Ned Holmes would suffer a battery of contagious diseases.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman's life be spared.

Colonel Claudius C. Wilson gathered a petition from the 29th Georgia Regiment requesting that Elbert J. Chapman’s life be spared.

The Twenty-fifth regiment Georgia volunteers had been organized during the summer of 1861.  Claudius C. Wilson, a member of the Georgia Bar and former solicitor-general for the eastern circuit of Georgia, was elected colonel and commissioned the unit’s first commanding officer. The unit was mustered into Confederate service at Savannah, Georgia, early September 1861.  The Twenty-fifth, after being equipped and drilled, was assigned to the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and throughout the latter part of 1861 and during 1862 served on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. By September, 1862 the 25th Georgia Regiment would  serve alongside the 29th Regiment at Causton’s Bluff, east of Savannah, GA.   The initial officers of the regiment were: William Percy Morford Ashley, lieutenant-colonel; William John Winn, major; Rufus Ezekiel Lester, adjutant, and William DeLegal Bacon, quartermaster. The captains were Alexander W. Smith, Company A; Martin L. Bryan, Company B; Jefferson Roberts, Company C; Andrew J. Williams, Company D;  William Sanford Norman, Company E; George T. Dunham, Company F;  William D. Hamilton, Company G;  W. Henry Wylly, Company H; Alexander Hamilton “Hamp” Smith , Company I, [post-war resident of Valdosta, GA];  Mark Jackson McMullen, Company K, Robert James McClary, Company L.

By the time Ned Holmes joined the Regiment in May 1862, the 25th Georgia had already served eight months at posts around Savannah: at Camp Wilson with the 27th, 31st and 29th Georgia Regiments;  at Camp Young; Thunderbolt Battery;  Camp Mercer on Tybee Island; and Camp Smith.

Most of the 25th Regiment had already suffered through a host of communicable diseases. “The fact that a majority of the soldiers were from rural communities made them very susceptible to such “city sicknesses” as measles, chicken pox, and small pox. The death rate from these diseases were very high. In the Federal armies, sickness and disease accounted for 7 of every 10 deaths. One authority has estimated that among the Confederates three men perished from disease for every man killed in battle. Small wonder that a Civil War soldier once wrote his family from camp: “It scares a man to death to get sick down here.” – The Civil War

Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a soldier of the 31st Georgia Regiment at Camp Wilson wrote,”“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.”  When new recruits like Ned Holmes did come, measles might be contracted within days of the men’s arrival.   Measles had hit The 29th Georgia Regiment and the Berrien Minute Men hard at Camp Security, GA in December 1861. Augustus H. Harrell,, of the Thomasville Guards, took the measles home from Camp Security.   William Washington Knight wrote from Camp Security, “Nearly all of our company have the measles. Capt [John C.] Lamb has it,” along with 60 others of the Regiment.  William A. Jones went home to Berrien County, GA with the measles and died there in January, 1862; a son born after his death suffered from apparent Congenital Rubella Syndrome.

Ned Holmes wrote home from Camp Smith on June 7, 1862, telling his family that he had a very bad cold and cough, and that there was a lot of sickness in the the 25th regiment.  By June 11, 1862 he wrote he was sick with measles.

“Measles [Rubeola] infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks. For the first 10 to 14 days after infection, the measles virus incubates. There are  no signs or symptoms of measles during this time. Measles symptoms typically begin with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days. Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background form inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik’s spots. A skin rash develops made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often as high as 104 to 105.8 F (40 to 41 C). The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about eight days, starting four days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.”- Mayo Clinic

 

In June, 1862  the 25th Regiment’s Colonel, Claudius C. Wilson, was assigned special duty as commander of the post at Causton’s Bluff.  The bluff, about three miles east of Savannah, overlooked St. Augustine Creek and Whitemarsh Island (pronounced Whitmarsh Island). “This twenty to thirty foot bluff strategically commanded the rear approach to Fort Jackson, on the Savannah River, and the approach to the part of the eastern lines of the city.”  Causton’s Bluff had been garrisoned since December 1861 by   the 13th Georgia Infantry, also known as the Bartow Light Infantry, under the command of Colonel Marcellus Douglass .  After the U.S. Army captured Fort Pulaski on April 11, 1862, the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were brought up to strengthen the garrison.  Soon the 25th regiment moved up from Camp Smith to join the garrison at Causton’s Bluff.  At Causton’s Bluff, the men would suffer with fever, malaria, measles, tonsillitis, mumps,  wounds, typhus, dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis, and rheumatism as well as mosquitoes, fleas, and sandflies.

In a letter to his brother, Ned Holmes wrote that he had his gear “hauled from the old camp,” and that he was sick with the mumps.

Early in the morning, 20th of June 1862

Mike,
As I did not get off my letter yesterday I write you a few lines this morning. I feel very well this morning. I am swole up powerful with mumps this morning but they give me but little pain. I am taking good care of myself. Perhaps you think I cant do that in camp but my tent is as dry as any — house. Last night we had 2 pretty hard storms & heavy raining and I never felt a drop of water or a breeze of wind. I managed to get my bed stead hauled from the old camp yesterday. It is as good a bed as I would want at home. I think I will improve all the time now. I want you to write me. I have not heard from you since you were on your way to Richmond. I don’t know how I will like the move we made. I have not been out any since I came to this place. All I know is it’s very level where we are camped.
Tell Sim’s folks he is well. Dick [Knight] is in good health. Be sure to write soon. Dick got letters from home saying that Reuben Fleming has been carried home. I want to hear about it.

Ned

According to the CDC, “Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus. Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12–25 days after infection.It typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Then most people will have swelling of their salivary glands. This is what causes the puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw. Some people who get mumps have very mild symptoms (like a cold), or no symptoms at all and may not know they have the disease. Mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults. In men, complications can include: inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) in males who have reached puberty; this may lead to a decrease in testicular size (testicular atrophy); inflammation in the pancreas (pancreatitis); inflammation of the brain (encephalitis); inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis); deafness. Inflammation of the testicles caused by mumps has not been shown to lead to infertility.” – CDC
Mumps generally last about ten days.

About the time Ned Holmes recovered from the mumps, he wrote that he was sick with diarrhea.

June 30, 1862

Dear Mike
I recvd your letter dated 26. I was glad to hear you was all well. I am not as well as I was when I saw you. 2 days ago my bowels was a little out of order tho not bad but just enough to keep week and not able to do anything. I am up all the time but dont have the strength to do anything. You need not be uneasy about me, if I git bad sick I will let you know. I think I will be able for duty in one or 2 days. Tell Mary she need not be uneasy about me that I can come home if I git sick much and I am going to do it. A sick man — tese very depressing and can get a furlough here. I dont want one now, no use of going home. I would not go now if I had a furlough. I will write you all the particleurs that I can gather in a few days. I am writing every other day. I will until I get plum well. Morris and Simm Schick and Zuch is all well. I have no more to write at present.

Write me often.

E. [Ned] Holmes

In July, Ned Holmes wrote that he had suffered a relapse of the measles. In  Civil War times little distinction was made between measles (Rubeola) and Rubella, sometimes called “German measles.”  Both diseases were contagious and both were rampant in the regimental camps. It appears that Ned’s “relapse” may have been Rubella.  Ned’s letters from July 1862 indicate that he had returned to Camp Smith to recuperate.  Soldiers who got sick preferred care in a camp hospital or sick ward over being sent to a hospital in Savannah.

The hospitals in Savannah were feared by the soldiers as death houses. In order to address this fear Lt. Col. Anderson, [commander of the Savannah River Batteries,] set up a separate hospital at Deptford. The less critically ill could be sent there, watched by their comrades and not have all their personal belongings stolen – which would happen when they were sent into Savannah. – Fort Jackson Interpretive Materials

But even while in recovery at Camp Smith,   Ned Holmes found his personal items being pilfered.

Camp Smith, Savannah, Ga., July 1862

(To Mat and the Family)
I thought I was surely well of the measles till yesterdasy, it was a cloudy wet day and the measles made their appearance on me as plain as ever. It’s cleared off this morning & looks like Sept. It’s cool & pleasant, the air stirring brief and is a very pleasant time. I will finish this in the morning and tell you how I am getting along. Dick has got the mumps. He took them yesterday. I hope he will get well soon. Tell Mama somebody has stolen one of my socks and I have an old one and if she sees any chance to send me one, to do it. I shall get out of socks before long anyway.

“Rubella, also called German measles or three-day measles, is a contagious viral infection best known by its distinctive red rash. Rubella is not the same as measles (rubeola), though the two illnesses do share some characteristics, including the red rash. However, rubella is caused by a different virus than measles, and is neither as infectious nor usually as severe as measles. The signs and symptoms of rubella are often so mild they’re difficult to notice, especially in children. If signs and symptoms do occur, they generally appear between two and three weeks after exposure to the virus. They typically last about one to five days and may include: Mild fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or lower; Headache; Stuffy or runny nose; Inflamed, red eyes; Enlarged, tender lymph nodes at the base of the skull, the back of the neck and behind the ears; A fine, pink rash that begins on the face and quickly spreads to the trunk and then the arms and legs, before disappearing in the same sequence.” – Mayo Clinic.

 

July the 6th [Camp Smith]

My health is improving now again finally. If I can keep mending 2 or 3 days more as I have for 2 days I will be well. I have quit discharging blood, have not discharged any in 30 hours & my bowels feel like they are getting well & they are not moving more than 4 times a day. I think today I will be much better than usual. We have most pleasant weather here now I ever saw at this season. It’s clear and cool and the wind stirring like fall of the year. I had almost concluded there was no Yankees about here till I heard them shooting on the 4th. There is plenty of cannon whether there are any Yankees with it or not. I suppose they fired some 2 hundred big guns at 1 o’clock at 2 or 3 different points. I have nothing else to write. Thomas Doswell has just this minute come into camp. I want to see him right soon. get my watch home.

I remain,

Ned

By August Ned’s health was improved. He returned to his unit at Causton’s Bluff and on August 26, 1862 was elected Junior 2nd Lieutenant.   On August 10, 1862, Ned Holmes wrote a letter home to his family.

Camp Costons Bluff,[Near Savannah] Aug. 10, 1862

Dear Mat and Viney,
I write you a few lines that leaves me about well except my mouth. I never was in such a fix with fever blisters before. I received a letter from you, Santanna just a few minutes ago. Alex Gamble is going to start home tonight. I will send this by him. I think my fever is broken entirely up. I have not had any since Friday morning so I feel as well as I did before I was taken. There is a deal good of sickness around —– but they are also not dying as fast as they were ten or fifteen days ago. There is a heap of heavy shooting going on today in the direction of Fort Pulaski. I don’t know what it means.

They are fixing up a volunteer company right now to go to Wilmington Island, a place we have never scouted.
It’s beyond Whitemarsh and from where we are camped and on the way to Fort Pulaski. I don’t know what information they expect to obtain by going to Wilmington. It’s all under the General of the Fort [Pulaski, captured by U.S. Army forces from Tybee Island on April 11, 1862,] and they never expect to hold it unless the fort is retaken which will never be done for there is nothing here to take it with. Morris is well. Miles is getting well. John Nobles is right sick. Washer Nobles came into our company this morning to stay. I may get off home when Sim gets back. I don’t know. Everbody has been here longer than I have. I will be there by the first of September anyway if I keep well. And I am not afraid of being sick anymore this summer.

Love, Ned

P.S. Tell Mike if there are any of Cook’s pills there to send me some. And I can manage my own cases.

In September 1862 Ned Holmes was on detached duty.  He was later reported as “wholly incompetent & probably physically unfit to hold office.

In 1863, Ned Holmes and the 25th Georgia Regiment would be sent to north Mississippi, forming part of the army assembled for the relief of Vicksburg. The The Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were also sent to join that effort.

Related Posts

Causton’s Bluff Part 2:  Challenge from Tybee

Causton’s Bluff Part 2:  Challenge from Tybee

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

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

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

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

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

Officers of the 46th New York Infantry Regiment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tybee Island Light Station circa 1862

Tybee Island Light Station circa 1862

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

Soldiers of the 1st New York Engineers

Soldiers of the 1st New York Engineers

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

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

Federal soldiers at the Martello Tower, Tybee Island, GA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On February 17, 1862 Robert E. Lee wrote to Col. Olmestead at Fort Pulaski with recommendations on repositioning the cannon placements and strengthening defenses against cannonfire from Tybee Island. General Lee also advised, “For the present your communication with the city will have to be by light boats over the marsh and through Wilmington Narrows to Causton’s Bluff…”  The obstruction of Lazaretto Creek by the hulk USS Montezuma on February 22, 1862 cut off the last possible resupply route to the Confederate garrison at  Fort Pulaski.  Perhaps as a signal, the Federals also demonstrated against the fort. At Fort Pulaski, Lt. Theodorick W. Montfort, Oglethorpe Light Infantry, wrote the following day,

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

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

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

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

Supervision of the construction of Confederate batteries at Causton’s Bluff and placement of obstructions on St. Augustine Creek  was assigned by General Robert E. Lee to Captain Josiah Tattnall, senior flag officer of the Navy of Georgia.  At the bluff, the gun battery was in a position to protect the back of Fort Lee which was across the marsh on the south bank of the Savannah River. Captain Miller Bond Grant, of the Engineer Corps, had immediate charge of the construction at Causton’s Bluff and also of a considerable portion of the defensive works around Savannah.

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

Captain Miller Bond Grant received a letter from his cousin Hugh Fraser Grant, rice planter of Elizafield Plantation on the Altamaha River, that Elizafield could provide slaves to work on the Savannah fortifications (Elizafield Plantation Record).

Dear Miller,
Fraser [Grant, Jr] informs me the Govmt is desirous of twenty hands to work on the fortifications about Savh &ct. That they offer $45 per month for each man & to furnish them with food tools & medical attend to & the only expense I am to bear is the clothing. That you are to have them especially under your superintendence & for your care and attention you are to receive $5 per month for each man. All of which I am satisfied with & can furnish 15 or 16 men upon their terms – At present 2 or 3 of the men are hired out by the month & soon as the time is out can be sent on to you.
When Dr. [Daniel H. B.] Troup & my hands were then some time since under the charge of Mr [Landsell?], they were very badly fed . This Mr. [Landsell?] assured me was the case. If my Negroes go on now I wish them to be fed agreeable to the contract. Do you wish a driver for the gang and do you they allow extra for him. Hope I may hear from you this evening whether they require women as I can send a few of them & what price for the women. I should suppose they will require one woman to at least to cook & wash your mess. Does the Govmt furnish transportation both ways?

Carpenter

Grant enslaved some 124 African American people on his Elizafield Plantation. His son-in-law, Daniel H. B. Troup, was a signer of the Georgia Ordinance of Secession, along with John Carroll Lamb, Captain of the Berrien Minute Men.

Over the summer of 1862, military leaders would call for thousands more slaves to build defensive works around Savannah.

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

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

Savannah Republican
July 3, 1862

Negroes Wanted

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

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

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

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

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

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

The headquarters at the bluff was in a house that had served as the home of the overseer  of Habersham family’s rice plantation at Causton’s Bluff.  At the time the overseer’s home was built, about 1852, Robert Habersham owned at least 89 slaves who worked the plantation. “The overseer had objected to living all year at the plantation, because the miasma made the summer months unhealthful on rice plantations; so a new house was built for the overseer on the southern extremity of the plantation, some distance from the rice fields under cultivation.”

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

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

A second Federal patrol boat went undetected by the Confederates.

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

 

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

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

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

Regimental Band of the 48th NY Infantry

Regimental Band of the 48th NY Infantry

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

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

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

Colonel Rudolph Rosa, post commander at Tybee Island, was ordered to take a detachment from Tybee to the Montezuma reconnoiter the situation on Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands. His purpose was to assess the threat of a Confederate approach to the gun batteries being constructed for the reduction of Fort Pulaski.  Rosa had also learned from the Confederate German Jacob Dannenfelser and a captured African-American that a reward of $12,000 was offered to effect the evacuation of the Confederate soldiers from Fort Pulaski. He speculated, “perhaps an organized great patrol of row-boats lays in Turner’s Creek” for that purpose. Turners Creek divided Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands.

Rosa wrote, “On Sunday I made a reconnaissance on Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands, pushing in both cases out to Thunderbolt and Saint Augustine Creeks, opposite to Thunderbolt and Carston Bluff batteries. Nothing remarkable occurred, excepting that the small stern-wheel steamer did show herself near to our boats left at Gibson’s in the Oatland Creek, which is not spiked, and turned back after receiving three of our musket shots from a point of land.

While Col. Rosa was on this reconnaissance, the Confederate German Jacob Dannenfelser appealed to the lieutenant in command of the Montezuma to allow him to check on his family back on Wilmington Island. In what Rosa called an “unaccountable hallucination” but perhaps seeking Dannenfelser’s collaboration, the Union lieutenant consented; on Sunday morning, March 30, 1862, two Union soldiers were detailed to escort Dannenfelser by boat to visit his home.  But a patrol of Confederate scouts from Causton’s Bluff discovered the Federal party upon the return trip and effected a capture.

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

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

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

Tybee Island, Ga., April 3, 1862.
General: In accordance with your orders I arrived at the swimming battery, Montezuma, near Decent Island, on the evening of March 29, 1862, with a detachment of two commissioned officers and thirty men of the Forty-sixth New York. Shortly after my arrival Lieutenant Serviere, having effected the relief of the men in the guard boat near Hunter’s farm, reported that he had been shot at repeatedly by about thirty rebels near Gibson’s farm, without the shot taking effect. On the following day [Sunday, March 30, 1862], with four commissioned officers and seventy-five men, I made a reconnaissance on Whitemarsh Island, landing at Gibson’s and marching thence on land to Turner’s farm. From there we were recalled by shots, and found that the small stern wheel steamer [probably CSS Ida] had shown herself near to our boats in Oatland Creek, and had returned after being fired at by the boat’s guard. I then went again across the island to MacDonald’s farm, and returned without meeting the enemy. The topographical results will be embodied in a little sketch.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Steven Thomas Beasley, Assistant Surgeon, 13th Georgia Regiment, was one of the men scouting Whitemarsh and Wilmington Island.

Shot by his own men.
Steven Thomas Beasley, Assistant Surgeon, 13th Georgia Regiment, was one of the men scouting Whitemarsh and Wilmington Island. Image source: Billie Nichols Bennett

Report of Brigadier General Alexander R. Lawton, Confederate States Army
Headquarters Department, District of Georgia
Savannah, Ga. April 5, 1862

Capt. J. R. Waddy
Assistant Adjutant-General

Captain: I have the honor to report that on two successive nights, March 30 and 31, scouting parties were sent to Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands from the Thirteenth Georgia Regiment, Colonel Douglass, which were entirely successful, killing 1 and capturing 18 of the enemy, 2 of whom have since died. They also captured a barge with a 6-pounder. The scouting party was under the immediate command of Captain Crawford, Thirteenth Georgia Regiment, who conducted it with skill and gallantry, and all the officers and men under his command exhibited the most commendable courage and enterprise.
I regret further to report that on the occasion of a subsequent expedition to Wilmington Island, for the purpose of ascertaining the position of the enemy and attacking him if there, Assistant Surgeon Beasly was shot through the leg by a mistake of our own men and had both bones broken. There is reason to hope, however, that he will recover with as little injury as possible.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. R. Lawton
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

William B. Beasley, Henry Harrison Towns, Steven Thomas Beasley,

William B. Beasley, Henry Harrison Towns, Steven Thomas Beasley,

 

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

The CSS Ida served Fort Pulaski, Fort Jackson, Causton's Bluff and the Savannah River batteries. The Ida made her last trip to Fort Pulaski on February 13, 1862. - <a href="https://www.gutenberg.org/files/47493/47493-h/47493-h.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Fort Pulaski National Monument</a>

The CSS Ida served Fort Pulaski, Fort Jackson, Causton’s Bluff and the Savannah River batteries. The Ida made her last trip to Fort Pulaski on February 13, 1862. – Fort Pulaski National Monument

Also at the bluff was the steamer Leesburg, kept at the disposition of the commanding officer.

On April 5, 1862, Lieutenant William Dixon, of the Republican Blues stationed at Fort Jackson about a mile and a half north of Caustons Bluff, noted in his journal, “Misquitoes and sandflies in abundance…” On the 8th he recorded, “A large rifled gun bursted at Caustins Bluff this afternoon and severely injured 2 men. It is one of three guns made at Richmond all of which have bursted.”

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

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

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

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

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski. Currier & Ives.

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

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

During the bombardment all lines of direct communication were cut off with the Confederate garrison stationed at Pulaski.  But after dark the Federals ceased the shelling, continuing with just one shot every five minutes to disrupt the Confederates.  In the night on April 10, 1862, Corporal Charles T. Law escorted a signal man to the fort. Law was stationed at Thunderbolt Battery with the Phoenix Riflemen, 63rd Georgia Regiment, and had made the dangerous trip in and out of the besieged Fort Pulaski several times.  Colonel Charles H. Olmstead, commanding at Fort Pulaski, said Law “was a perfect duck in the water.”  Fort Pulaski was within line of sight of Causton’s Bluff and on the morning of Friday, April 11, Olmstead’s new signal man, “attempted to signalize to Causton’s Bluff…but such was the fire that no human being could stand on the ramparts for even a moment. Nearly a thousand shell, of the largest size, were thrown into the fort from the Federal batteries.” -Savannah Republican, April 12, 1862

After 30 hours of bombardment the walls of the fort were breached and Olmstead lowered the flag at Fort Pulaski at 2:00 p.m. on April 11, 1862 signalling capitulation.  With the cessation of the bombardment Corporal Law made an exit from the fort and carried the news to Savannah.

 At the close of the fight all the parapet guns were dismounted except three, two 10-inch columbiads, known as ‘Beauregard’ and ‘Jeff Davis’ (but one of which bore on the island), and a rifle cannon. Every casemate gun in the southeast section of the fort, from No. 7 to No. 13, including all that could be brought to bear upon the enemy’s batteries except one, was dismounted, and the casemate walls breached in almost every instance to the top of the arch, say between five and six feet in width. The moat outside was so filled with brick and mortar that one could have passed over dry shod. The officers’ quarters were torn to pieces, the bomb-proof timbers scattered in every [90] direction over the yard, and the gates to the entrance knocked off. The parapet walls on the Tybee side were all gone, in many places down to the level of the earth on the casemates. The protection to the magazine in the northwest angle of the fort had all been shot away; the entire corner of the magazine next to the passageway was shot off, and the powder exposed, while three shots had actually penetrated the chamber. Such was the condition of affairs when Colonel Olmstead called a council of officers in a casemate; and without a dissenting voice they acquiesced in the necessity of a capitulation, in order to save the garrison from utter destruction by an explosion, which was momentarily threatened. Accordingly, at 2 o’clock p. m. the men were called from the guns and the flag was lowered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

Causton’s Bluff Part 1: The Key to Savannah

Causton’s Bluff Part 1: The Key to Savannah

  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

In the spring and summer of  1862, the Berrien Minute Men, Company D (later Company K), 29th Georgia Regiment were stationed at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA. Company D was  the second of two companies known as the Berrien Minute Men, recruited from Berrien County, GA during the Civil War.  In the early months of the war, the Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made along the Georgia coast, with the 13th Regiment at Brunswick,  then at Sapelo Island, and Darien, GA.  By early 1862 The Berrien Minute Men,  having gotten “regulated” into the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment ,  were sent to the Savannah, GA area to Camp Wilson, and Camp Tattnall.  From there, the first company of Berrien Minute Men, Company C (later Company G) would go on to stations at Fort Jackson, then Lawton Battery on Smith’s Island in the Savannah River, while Company D went to Causton’s Bluff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horace-Porter

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

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

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

 

Fredrick Dennison, Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery wrote,

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

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

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

In Peace and War: Francis McCarten

USS Augusta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Up: Causton’s Bluff Part 2: Challenge from Tybee

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29th Georgia Regiment at Camp Wilson near Savannah, GA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of camp food, Bradwell wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA
January 8, 1862

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 6

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 6: In Regular Service

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

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

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.  Regimental officers were elected by the first of November. Through the fall, the men bided their time on the tidewater, fighting boredom and disease…

According to Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States “An officer may draw subsistence stores, paying cash for them at contract or cost prices, without including cost of transportation, on his certificate that they are for his own use and the use of his family.” The officers of the 29th GA Regiment were authorized to purchase provisions at Darien GA. Records of the Subsistence Department show Major Levi J. Knight signed for  59 pounds pork, 195 lbs flour, 112 lbs meal, 299 lbs rice, 46 lbs coffee, 162 lbs sugar, 2 lbs candles, 12 1/4 lbs soap, 16 quarts salt for his officers and their families during the month of January, 1862.

 

Finally, the 29th Regiment was reported ready for service.

On January 14, 1862, Brigadier General Alexander Robert Lawton informed Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper that the regiment had been properly mustered in as the 29th GA Volunteer Infantry.

Head Quarters, Dept of Geo

Savannah Jany 14th 1862

General S. Cooper
Adjt Inspector General
             Richmond
                               General
                                             I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a letter of the 10th inst from the Ajt General’s Office, inquiring if Col R Spalding’s 29th Geo Regiment has been properly mustered in or not.
                                            In reply I beg leave to say that it is a full regiment and has been for some months regularly in service
                                           I have the honor to be, very Respy
                                                                         Your Obdt Servt
                                                                          A R Lawton
                                                                         Brig Genl Comg

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton letter of January 14, 1862 to Adjutant Inspector General Samuel Cooper confirming readiness of the 29th GA Infantry.  (In 1864, General Cooper stayed the execution of Confederate deserter Burrell Douglass. Cooper is credited for the preservation of Confederate service records after the war).

A Regimental Surgeon, William P. Clower, was finally appointed on January 18, 1862. Surgeon Clower’s brother, John T. Clower, would later serve as the doctor in Ray’s Mill (now Ray City, GA). The surgeon was a welcome addition, but the health conditions of the Regiment did not immediately improve.  James Madison Harrell was sent home sick.  Alfred B. Finley, who joined the Berrien Minute Men at Darien, contracted measles and lost an eye to complications; despite that disability he would continue to serve with the 29th Regiment.  Hiram F. Harrell contracted measles and died at Darien, GA.  Edward Morris contracted measles and “camp fever” and never recovered; he died a few weeks later at Savannah, GA.

The 29th Regiment’s tenure on Sapelo would soon be over.  Before the end of January, the 29th GA regiment would be called up to the coastal defenses at Savannah.  When the regiment finally left Darien, John Lindsey, William Hall, and James Newman and John R. Langdale were left behind, sick. William Anderson, who had been on sick leave in October, had a relapse and was also left in Darien.  Thomas J. Lindsey, David D. Mahon and Robert H. Goodman were detailed to Darien as  nurses. John W. McClellan was also detailed to remain at Darien. Malcolm McCranie died of measles at Darien on February 2, 1862 and Ellis H. Hogan  died February 25, 1862. In the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, George Harlan was disabled and discharged at Darien on February 17, 1862 and Francis M. Dixon died of typhoid pneumonia at Darien the following day.

A Civil War letter from Camp Security dated February 12, 1862 describes the prevalence of tonsillitis and measles among the men. This letter, signed Gussie, was probably written by Augustus H. Harrell, of the Thomasville Guards.  Of the 350 or so men at the camp, less than half were fit for duty.  There weren’t enough guns to arm all of the soldiers; some of the men carried a pike as their primary weapon.

The defense of Georgia’s sea islands quickly proved untenable against the strength of the Union Navy. By early December 1861 U.S. forces had occupied Tybee Island off the coast of Savannah, and were landing ordnance and constructing batteries there.  By the end of January, 1862 U.S. Navy vessels  were maneuvering to enter the Savannah River, and threatened to cut off Fort Pulaski from Savannah. On the South Carolina side, U.S. troops occupied Daufuskie Island and constructed batteries on Bird Island and at Venus Point on Jones Island.
General Lee was desperate to shore up Confederate artillery defending Savannah, Georgia’s chief seaport. To strengthen the Savannah defenses, General Lee instructed General Mercer at Brunswick to remove the  batteries on St. Simon’s and Jekyll islands if the defense of those positions became untenable, and to forward the artillery to Savannah.  By this time the sea island planters had moved their property inland, and the residents of Brunswick had abandoned the city. By February 16, 1862 General Mercer reported the guns had been removed from Jekyll and St. Simons and shipped to Savannah and Fernandina. At the retreat of the 4th Georgia Battalion and Colonel Cary W. Styles 26th Georgia Regiment from Brunswick, General Mercer wanted to burn the city as a show of determination not to be occupied by U.S. forces.
With the withdrawal of the 29th Georgia Regiment from Sapelo Island, the Confederates abandoned the defense of Darien altogether. Indeed, the Savannah Republican newspaper of June 27, 1862 reported “two Yankee gunboats had passed Darien some four or five miles up the river, seemingly to destroy the railroad bridges across the Altamaha… A gunboat had been up the river as far as Champion’s Island – Nightingale’s Plantation…she was seen lying at Barrett’s Island, about three miles from the town, having in charge a two mast schooner that had been hid up the river.”  The schooner was believed to have been loaded with rice. The coast around St. Simon’s, Doboy, Sapelo and St. Catherines was said to be infested with Yankee steamers. The coastal inhabitants feared that crops in fields bordering the rivers would be destroyed by the Union forces;  “They have already stolen a goodly number of our slaves, thus curtailing our provisions crops…” 
Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Company G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.

Current navigational chart showing Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Doboy Island, Queens Island, Wolf Island, GA. The Berrien Minute Men, Companies G & K, 29th Georgia Regiment, were stationed at Sapelo Island and Blackbeard Island during 1861, defending the Altamaha River delta from Union forces.

 

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