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.
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.
General Hardee is now well aware of the Sherman’s intent to move on Savannah and has placed his command between Sherman and Savannah. The Right and Left Wings are both moving in a south easterly direction using the main roads into Savannah. On the 5th, Sherman, traveling with the 17th Corps reaches the Ogeechee Church in what is now Oliver. He took possession of a private home for his headquarters and remained here for several days to coordinate the movements of his command. They were now within 50 miles of Savannah.
The Left Wing passes through the area of Buckhead Church where on the 28th the Federal Cavalry under Kilpatrick clashed with Wheeler’s Confederate Cavalry. The Left Wing then marches into Millen. Parts of the Right wing have started moving out of Millen and are moving past Scarboro.
Sherman and the Right Wing move into Millen. Sherman stays here for a day so that he can communicate with all parts of his army. Soldiers give reports of the deplorable conditions found at the abandoned Camp Lawton just north of town. Nearly the entire town is burned to the ground over the next day or so.
The Left Wing of Sherman’s army moves from the Ogeechee River at Fenn’s Bridge to Louisville and Bartow. The Right Wing Occupies Riddleville and Wrightsville. Both of the wings are getting closer to each other and will eventually merge as they close on Savannah.