Category Archives: American Civil War

“Yankee Depredations in Glynn County”: The Civilian side of the summer raids on the Georgia coast

The Federal raids along the Georgia coast in the summer of 1864 have fascinated me for years.  These were somewhat representative of military operations occurring in every theater of the Civil War that summer.  The nature of war progressed from “hard war” over to “destructive war” by prosecution of policy… and let’s face it, just natural escalation of affairs.  We can debate the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this all day.  But we must also admit this was in no way a singular occurrence in the annals of military history.  Warfare is destructive, to varying degrees of magnitude.

Following on the raids earlier in August, the Navy launched a series of raids in Glynn County, Georgia starting on August 26, 1864.  Compared to other theaters of war, the Confederate … or specifically the civilian population’s… reaction seems, from my 150 years since perspective, subdued.  There were a few newspaper articles noticing the raids.  One of those ran in the Columbus (Georgia) Daily Enquirer on September 10, 1864:

ColumbusDailyEnq_Sept10_64_P2_Iss288_VolVI

Transcription:

Yankee Depredations in Glynn County.  – We understand the Yankees are committing many depredations upon the defenseless citizens of Glynn County, since the removal of Capt. Hazzard’s company from that locality, in the way of stealing negroes, cotton and provisions, and destroying such things as are of no use to them.  They raid through the country in squads numbering from five to twenty. There are only thirty men composing the militia of the county, who are doing their utmost in arresting the depredations of the enemy.

Would it not be a good idea to send a force of eighty or a hundred mounted men to that locality, with such a commander as the intrepid Capt. Hazzard, who might keep the coast clear of Yankees from the St. Mary’s to the Altamaha?

A nickle for every time the word “depredations” was used?  And notice the foremost of the mentioned depredations – “stealing negroes.”

Captain Elliot W. Hazzard commanded four companies of the 47th Georgia Infantry. Hazzard hailed from the coast, and had enlisted at Brunswick, Georgia.  He and his men were familiar with the area, and thus served as good pickets along the coast.  A good example of how the operational situation during the first half of the year strained Confederate resources, the regiment was at times earmarked for transfer to either Virginia or northern Georgia, but during the crisis at Charleston in July, Hazzard and his command were part of the Confederate forces thrown against the Federals in front of Charleston.  Now they fell under Brigadier-General William Taliaferro in the Third Sub-District of South Carolina, on James Island.  To put it plain, Hazzard was not available for transfer to Georgia at that time, as Charleston was simply more valuable than Glynn County.

But back to the “depredations.”  Despite the wide accusation, the Federals seemed to focus on resources linked to the Confederate war effort – directly or indirectly.  For example, one name mentioned from Commander George Colvocoresses’ raid on Bethel, Georgia was John M. Tison, “a noted rebel and one of the judges of the inferior court.”  Colvocoresses brought back three of Tison’s slaves and several small arms as he burned the store and post office.  Tison appears on the 1860 census as a merchant living with his wife and seven children:

GlynnCo1860CensusP27

Other than Tison, none of the other males in the household were of service age until late in the war.  And I find only circumstantial evidence that any of the Tison men served in the Confederate army or even Georgia militia.  So what was the measure of “noted rebel?”   Well, there’s plenty of documentation indicating Tison supported the Confederate war effort.  If for nothing else, he was happy to sell goods to the army:

Tison_JM_Page 5

While not a substantial file, records do indicate Tison sold goods to the Confederate quartermaster.  So his business provided resources to the Confederate war effort.  Under the policies set forward by the Federals (which I would add were well within the accepted conventions of war at that time… and now), Tison’s business was indeed a valid military target.

And of course it was the Emancipation Proclamation which authorized the bringing away of three of Tison’s slaves.  That’s where the narrative here ends… and where I dearly wish there were more threads to follow.  Very likely they were some of the many relocated onto the barrier islands at that time of the war.  That, more so than Tison’s burnt post office, was a mark of the results of the Civil War.

 

Witnesses to a disaster: Napoleons (and an Ordnance Rifle) captured at Ream’s Station, August 25, 1864

150 years ago today, the Army of the Potomac suffered one of its worst defeats of the war at Second Ream’s Station.  I see Timothy Orr has a piece up looking at the 14th Connecticut in the battle.  And Civil War Daily Gazette has a nice overview for those unfamiliar with the battle.

Years ago when visiting the battlefield for the first time, I made a note the battle deserved a proper sesquicentennial post.  In particular I wanted to discuss how the Confederates were able to maneuver in front of, and over, the Federal earthworks.  A grand defiance in the face of the “stalemated” battlefield you read of in general histories of the war.  But… alas… I must plead the date slipped away and my writing hours were too few for the task to be accomplished.

One aspect of the battle that I’d highlight is the performance of the Federal artillery.  Or I should say – lack of dominance on the battlefield.  Partly due to poor positioning, but largely just a symptom of a generally poor performance by the force overall, the Army of the Potomac’s artillery had a bad day all around.  At the end of the day the Confederates boasted the capture of nine pieces of artillery.  And we know exactly what guns they captured, thanks to Major J. G. Barnwell, Chief of Ordnance, Army of Northern Virginia:

ReamsStationGunsCaptured

Of that list there are some survivors around today.  Start with Revere Copper 12-pdr Napoleon #253:

Petersburg 201

Today it is the centerpiece of an exhibit at the Petersburg Visitor center.

And #95 from Henry N. Hooper is at Manassas, near the 14th Brooklyn Memorial:

Manassas 11 Aug 12 030

Cyrus Alger 12-pdr Napoleon #45 has a home today at Pea Ridge, Arkansas:

pea ridge 273

Ames 12-pdr Napoleon #55 is today at Chickamauga-Chattanooga, but I don’t have a current photo of the gun.

Of the 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, #533 is at Gettysburg, guarding the wall near the Angle:

Gettysburg 4 Feb 12 187

While #541 is missing today, #542 is at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and #543 is on display somewhere in Boston, Massachusetts.

So that’s seven out of nine that survive today.  Apparently, being captured increases the survival rate of artillery pieces.

In closing, many, many thanks to the effort of Civil War Trust and other preservation organizations for their ongoing efforts to preserve the battlefield at Reams Station.

“I cannot undertake to deliver them sanitary stores.”: No relief for Andersonville

The rescue of several escaped Federal prisoners in early August 1864, authorities in the Department of the South raised their concerns about the treatment of prisoners in Andersonville, Georgia. Reports of the horrible conditions had filtered back to Federal ears starting in the spring.  But the first hand accounts from the escaped prisoners seemed to stir Major-General John Foster.  But several constraints limited the actions Foster could make.  Specifically concerned about the sanitary conditions of the prison, on August 21 Foster proposed to send supplies to the prison camp:

Being credibly informed that the U.S. soldiers prisoners of war at Andersonville, Ga., are dying rapidly for want of the comforts and necessaries of life, I feel anxious to send them such aid as we can. I therefore respectfully ask permission to send at once about ten wagonloads of sanitary stores, and that one or more of the U. S. officers now prisoners of war in your hands may be authorized to act as quartermaster in the reception and distribution of these stores to our prisoners. Owing to the lack of transportation from Port Royal Ferry to the railroad, I propose to send the supplies by the way of Savannah, meeting a steamer sent by you under flag of truce.

Foster addressed this request to Major-General Samuel Jones, his Confederate opposite number.   On August 25 (150 years from this posting), Jones responded, “The U.S. soldiers, prisoners of war at Andersonville, Ga., are in no way whatever under my control, and I therefore cannot undertake to deliver them the sanitary stores you desire to send without the sanction of the officer having charge of prisoners.”  And Jones did start the dialog with Brigadier-General John H. Winder at Andersonville that same day:

As the prisoners at Andersonville are not under my control I of course cannot undertake to send those stores to them without the sanction of the officer having charge of them. I refer the matter to you for such action as you may think proper and will inform General Foster that I have done so. A circular dated in Washington on the 10th instant, and signed by Colonel [William] Hoffman, Commissary-General of Prisoners, permits our prisoners to receive clothing and other articles, not contraband, from their relatives or friends residing beyond our (their) lines when forwarded by flag-of-truce boat or by any other authorized channel, so long as the prisoners of war held at Richmond and other Southern prisons are permitted to receive the same articles in the same manner from their relatives and friends in the loyal States.

The fine point here to consider – there was indeed an agreed upon mechanism for the Confederates to forward supplies to prisoners in the north.  That is not to say it was used to the degree that would provide significant relief.  That is to day the Federals would allow such.  Jones, to his credit, was calling that to the attention of Winder as a means for the Federals to at least ameliorate the suffering at Andersonville.  Winder’s response to Jones was not preserved in the official records.

One of the catches to Foster’s proposal was to have a Federal officer in the prison supervise the distribution of supplies.  Jones, even before consulting with Winder, refused that stipulation.  Jones preferred to have one of his officers, or one of those in Andersonville, manage distribution.  With that contention, and the obvious concerns that Federals would voice, likely any arrangement would have fallen through anyway.

So this brings us to the larger question, which must be considered with respect to Andersonville.  Confederate authorities, and chiefly Winder, insisted that all which could be done to provide for the prisoners was done – and what was not done was outside the limited resources of the Confederacy at that time.  So was that the case?  I doubt ten wagons of sanitary supplies, alone, would have significantly changed conditions at Andersonville.  But if that had turned into an established convention, it might have made a difference. The light then turns to Confederate authorities.

It’s what Brigadier-General Robert H. Chilton said of Andersonville that echoes here.  “The condition of the prison at Andersonville is a reproach to us as a nation.”

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 257-8; Series II, Volume 7, Serial 120, 550, 662-3 and 678-9.)