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. 
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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.