December 20th, 1864

December 20th, 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.

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Looking across the Savannah River from River Street toward Hutchinson Island where the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center now stand near the area where General Hardee had a pontoon bridge constructed.
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Salt Creek looking north.  The Confederates built a large set of earthworks on the right side of the creek and this is where Battery Jones would have been located.  A total of 8 cannons protected the bridge across Salt Creek from the Federal advance.
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Looking towards Salt Creek on what was the Savannah Ogeechee Road.  Battery Jones crossed the road just in the distance and beyond it was the bridge over Salt Creek.  The Confederates here held the Federals at bay for several days and on the night of December 20th they opened fire with at two hour bombardment of Federal forces to cover the evacuation of Confederate forces in Savannah.  After the bombardment, the artillery crews destroyed what they could not carry with them and evacuated to South Carolina.
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The marsh at Shaw’s Bridge and Shaw’s Dam.  Here, the Confederates also had a set of earthworks that covered the cause way over the Ogeechee Canal.  Heavy fighting ensued in the area as the Federals attempted to assault the position and were repulsed twice.  The Confederates held the position until the night of the 20th, when they evacuated to South Carolina with the rest of the Confederate defenders.
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Isle of Hope United Methodist Church was built in 1859 and during the civil war a Confederate artillery battery was placed here on the church grounds and contained 4 guns.  The church itself was used as a hospital and the pews were used as makeshift beds.  This battery was evacuated like the rest when Hardee moved his forces to the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.

December 17th, 1864

Dec. 17th, General Hardee, commander of the Confederate forces in Savannah, sends a request to Confederate President Jeff Davis for reinforcements from Lee’s Army in Virgina, but receives word that Lee can not spare any troops.  General Sherman, knowing he has the upper hand, sends a request for Hardee’s surrender, but it is rejected by Hardee and the siege continues.

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Savannah was an important Confederate port, and now with it under siege from General Sherman and no reinforcements coming to aid General Hardee’s defense of the city, Hardee plans to evacuate.

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.

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 5th, 1864

Dec. 5th, 1864:

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.

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Here at Ogeechee Church, a small force of Confederate soldiers about 4,000 strong, established a line here in an attempt to hold the Federal advance in check.  After skirmishing with Sherman’s 17th Corps on the 4th, the Confederates were forced to withdraw during the night as they learned Federal forces were crossing the river on their and right in an attempt to surround them.  On the 5th, Sherman moved into the area and established a headquarters at a private residence.  This church was used as a battlefield landmark and was used by Federal forces as well.
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The Railroad to Savannah, looking south along the straight and flat tracks from Oliver towards Savannah.  The Federals continued to destroy as much of the railroad as possible during their march towards Savannah.

The Battle of Waynesboro

Dec. 4th, 1864:     The Battle of Waynesboro

On the morning of the 4th, Kilpatrick’s Cavalry supported by two Brigades of Infantry marched on Waynesboro.  Their objective was to capture the town and burn all the bridges over Brier Creek.  As they approached the town they encountered General Wheeler’s skirmishers and drove them in toward the main line of works.  Being out numbered by the Federals who were advancing rapidly on their position and were about to over run them, the Confederates fell back to another line of prepared work in the streets of Waynesboro.  As Wheeler was again about to be overrun by a larger force, he ordered his Texans and Tennesseans to charge, thus delaying the Federals long enough for Wheeler to move his forces to block the Augusta road should Kilpatrick turn that way.  After quickly taking control of the town, the Federals burned the bridges over Brier Creek and set fire to the town.  The towns people were able to suppress many of the fires saving a great deal of the town.

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The court house in downtown Waynesboro.