December 13th, 1864

Dec. 13th, Federal forces overwhelm the garrison at Fort McAllister after a spirited fight the fort is captured.  Sherman watched the assault from a rice mill across the river.  With the Ogeechee River open, supplies begin to flow in to the army.  Sherman has a 1000′ long wharf built at King’s Bridge on the Ogeechee River.  This area is now a park with a boat ramp where the Hwy. 17 crosses the Ogeechee River.

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Fort. McAllister protected the Ogeechee River with these heavy guns.  General Sherman needed supplies and in order for the Union Navy to reach Sherman, the Fort had to be captured.
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Earthworks and artillery protecting the side of the fort vulnerable to attack by land.
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The structures in the fort were primarily earthen mounds that housed a variety of things, like this hotshot furnace.
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One of the earthen mounds was the powder magazine and storage area, others served as bunk rooms.
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Looking west and across the Ogeechee River.  General Sherman watched the assault from the tower of a rice mill just across the river.
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Looking downstream, east, from the site of King’s Bridge toward Fort McAllister.
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A modern bridge stands where the original bridge was on U.S. 17 at the Ogeechee River.  It was here that Sherman had his engineers build a 1000′ foot long wharf in order to bring in supplies from the Union Navy.  A community park and boat ramp are now at the site.
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In 2014 I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph the reenactment of the assault on Fort McAllister.  It took place at the original location on the actual anniversary.  Here, a Confederate cannon fires on the approaching Federals.
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More Confederate cannon fire.
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Federal forces outnumbered the Confederates and were quick to overrun the fort.
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A Confederate reenactor takes a break between skirmishes.
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Federal reenactors helping the wounded during the battle.
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Confederate reenactor keeps watch for approaching Federal troops.
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Confederate soldier smokes his pipe between firefights.
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December 12th, 1864

Dec. 12th, Kilpatrick is dispatched with his cavalry to locate an assault route to Fort McAllister.  Fort McAllister protects the mouth of the Ogeechee River and must be taken in order for Sherman to begin supplying his army.  After locating a route and informing Sherman, Kilpatrick rides to Midway and makes his headquarters at the Midway Church and then sends forces to Sunbury in an attempt to contact the Federal Fleet.

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Looking west across the Ogeechee River from Fort McAllister.  Sherman need to capture this fort in order to open the river for the Union Navy to bring in supplies.  Kilpatrick’s Cavalry found a route to the fort by land, which they reported to General Sherman.  Kilpatrick then moved southwest to Midway.
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Midway Church, constructed in 1792 as a replacement for a previous meeting house that was burned in 1779.  Kilpatrick’s Cavalry camped here at the church and Kilpatrick used it as a headquarters while he operated in the area.
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Across the road on the far side of the church is a walled cemetery where many notable people from Georgia’s history are buried.  After raiding and looting the surrounding plantations, the Federal Cavalry soldiers used the cemetery as a coral for the livestock they liberated from near by citizens. 

The Ebenezer Creek Incident, December 8th – 10th, 1864

Dec. 8th – Dec. 10th, the Left Wing marches toward Savannah passing through Springfield and Ebenezer.  All the while meeting more resistance.  The Right Wing begins to push elements to the East through Pooler and also faces increased resistance.

The Ebenezer Creek Incident:  On the 9th of December 1864, the Federal 14th Corps was being hounded by Confederate Cavalry.  When they reached the creek they found the bridge had been burned and the engineers were brought up to build pontoon bridges.  The 14th Corps had been followed along their march through Georgia by a growing number of freed slaves, some historians estimate that there were nearly 5,000 former slaves following the 14th Corps. The Federals had asked the freed slaves not to follow the army as they did not have the resources to support their growing numbers.  In a tactical decision, Brig. Gen. Jefferson Davis(not the Confederate President of the same name), ordered the pontoon bridge to be taken up before the refugees crossed.  He was being pressed by the Confederate Cavalry and in order to save his troops, he stranded the refugees across the rain swollen Ebenezer Creek.  As the Confederates closed in, many of the former slaves were in a panic and attempted to swim across the creek.  Few made it across and hundreds died trying to cross the swift moving water.  Many were recaptured by the Confederates as they reached the creek.  Upon reaching Savannah later in December, there was an official investigation of the incident and General Davis was not reprimanded or punished in anyway.  Some historians speculate that the move was planned as a way to rid the 14th Corps of the refugees as they were slowing their advance.  General Sherman supported Generals Davis’s decision as the right thing to do from a military standpoint.  (I was unable to photograph the location as the land was in the process of changing hands and is now set aside to become a public park sometime in the future.)

Dec. 10th, General Sherman arrives on the outskirts of Savannah’s defenses and begins to plan for siege operations.  Sherman begins to lay siege to the defenses of Savannah and artillery exchanges become a frequent occurrence.  In order to keep up a siege, Sherman know he will need supplies and must make contact with the Federal Navy just off the coast.

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Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church is located in New Ebenezer and was built in 1767.  It is the oldest Lutheran congregation in the country as well as the oldest church still standing in the state of Georgia.  The 14th Corps camped here for several days.  There is a good museum with some period structures and the oldest orphanage in the state located adjacent to the church property.
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The interior of Jerusalem Church.  The Federals ransacked the church and burned down the parsonage as well.  In 1915 the U.S. Government reimbursed the church the $225.00 for damages done by the 14th Corps.
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The cemetery at New Ebenezer was once surrounded by wooden fence that was destroyed by the Federal troops for a variety of uses. 
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Zion Church, located at the intersection of Ga. 17 and Ga. 30, was used as a headquarters on December 8th by General Sherman. 

December 6th and 7th, 1864

Dec. 6th and 7th, the Right Wing marched through Bulloch County and crossed the Ogeechee River at Jenks Bridge, where US 80 crosses the Ogeechee River, and at the canal bridge, the remnants of which are visible today at the Savannah Ogeechee Canal Society park.

 

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The Savannah Ogeechee Canal as it opens to the Ogeechee River.  The bricks in the foreground are part of the final lock of the canal. 
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All that remains of this bridge over the Ogeechee river are the pilings.  It is located just below, down stream, of the canal.  The Confederates burned the bridge prior to the arrival of elements of the Federal 15th Corps.  Two Divisions of the 15th were on the far side of the river and skirmished with Confederates as they crossed river north and south of the canal. 

150 Years Ago Today: Dec. 18th – Dec. 24, 1864

General Hardee has had his forces quietly construct a pontoon bridge across the Savannah River.  They constructed it out any boat or pretty much any floating object they could use.  On top of the boats, boards were placed to make a road.  They then placed straw and hay on top of the bridge to dampen the noise of travelers.   On the night of Dec. 20th, Confederate forces withdrew from Savannah and crossed the pontoon bridge into South Carolina.

Dec. 21st, at 4:00am, Federal forces were met on the outskirts of town by the Mayor and aldermen.  They formally surrendered the city and requested protection from the Federal Army.  Word was immediately sent to General Sherman, who was meeting with Navy Officers.  Sherman was taken back to King’s Bridge.  From there he rode into Savannah.

Dec. 22nd, General Sherman entered Savannah and established his headquarters at the Pulaski House.  While working out the details here, an English merchant, Charles Green, offered the General his home as his Headquarters.  General Sherman accepted and the Headquarters was moved to the Green House.  It was here that Sherman penned his famous telegram to President Lincoln.  It read as follows: 
            “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

Dec. 24, President Lincoln receives Sherman’s telegram.  The telegram is published in newspapers across the country.  Lincoln replied with “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift, the capture of Savannah, but what next?”

The March to the Sea is complete.  Sherman has reached his goal of Savannah and now has control of the city.  Camps are established and order is maintained.  Sherman’s Chief Engineer, Orland Poe, is reconstructing and fortifying the cities defenses.  The mines and obstructions are removed from the Savannah River and the port is reopened.  The citizens are encouraged to go back to life as normal, as as much of normal as can be expected under occupation.  Freed Blacks begin working for the Federal Army in various roles and schools are established for them in places that were once used in the slave trade.  Sherman rests, repairs, and refits his Army for there is more to come.