The other in-shore naval expedition along the coast of Georgia in the middle summer weeks of 1864 went into McIntosh County, just north of Darien.
Unlike the salt mill raid on July 30, this one rates its own historical marker:
The marker doesn’t have a lot of room to provide context to the capture, and lends itself to a lot of assumptions. The capture (or expedition, or raid – which I prefer) was triggered by information pulled from a newspaper that fell into Federal hands. Commander George Colvocoresses, of the USS Saratoga provided a detailed report of the raid.
(USS Saratoga in Japan, in her pre-war guise.)
What I like most about his report is the breakdown, with sub-headings, of the operation… almost like a modern day after-action report:
Object of the expedition.
It was to surprise and capture the male inhabitants who had been ordered to meet at the court-house of McIntosh County, Ga., on the 3d day of August, for the purpose of forming themselves into a coast guard, which order I had read in the Savannah Republican of the 27th of July, 1864.
The newspaper referenced Colonel William Gaulding as calling the meeting. And he was a particular target for the raiders.
Personnel of the expedition.
It consisted of myself, Acting Ensign Edward Rogers, Acting Ensign George O. Fabens, Boatswain Philip J. Miller, Acting Master’s Mates William A. Stannard and Thomas Dalton, Acting Captain’s Clerk John W. McReynolds, and 107 sailors and marines, making a total of 115 persons, including Dr. Winthrop Butler, who accompanied the expedition as surgeon.
Departure from the ship and landing on the mainland.
The expedition left the ship on Tuesday, August 2, 4:30 p.m., in seven boats, and reached the mainland shortly after 9 o’clock p.m. The night was very favorable to our design, there being no moon by which the enemy could discover our movements as we approached the landing.
Though he does not describe where the party landed initially, Confederate accounts place it at Baisden’s Bluff, northeast of the meeting site. In the next section of his report, Colvocoresses detailed the movements of his party on shore. The first thing he did was establish the “pick up” point for his return, at a landing known locally as “The Ridge” (Confederate accounts mention “Blue & Hall’s Mill, which I believe is today the locality of Ridgeville, somewhere in the vicinity of the causeway to the “Rod and Gun” club). Colvocoresses then released his boats back to the ship with instructions to return on the evening of August 3.
The party moved inland, with a skirmish detail under Master’s Mate Stannard leading. The “court-house” was the Ebenezer Church (sometimes called “meeting house”), as the county’s seat, Darien, was abandoned. Colvocoresses moved the landing party north of the church and secured a bridge on the road leading to Savannah (this was likely the bridge over the Sapelo River, some three miles north of the church).
… I directed Mr. Miller and 7 men to take charge of that bridge and capture everyone who should attempt to pass over it coming from the direction of the court-house, and also burn the bridge at 11 o’clock in the day, which I calculated would be about the hour the meeting at the court-house would take place, and thereby not only prevent anyone escaping in that direction, on our making the intended assault, but prevent, likewise, an attack on our rear from some 30 cavalry which I had been informed were encamped a few miles beyond the bridge.
Having thus disposed of Mr. Miller and his command, the expedition resumed its march, and on reaching the road which led to the court-house I divided my forces, giving Mr. Rodgers one-half, with which he marched on to the right of the court-house, while with the other half I proceeded to the left of the court-house. When we arrived abreast of the building we all took to the neighboring woods and there remained concealed until the proper time for making the attack should arrive, which was the same as that had been fixed on for firing the bridge left in charge of Mr. Miller.
And so Colvocoresses waited for the attendees to assemble.
When the signal for attacking was made we immediately charged at a double quick and completely surrounded the meeting, and all who composed it were captured except 3, who succeeded in making their escape. By this time Mr. Miller and his command had arrived, bringing with him 11 men whom he had captured near the bridge. He also brought a number of horses and buggies.
Colvocoresses then put his party on the line of march to “The Ridge” and linkup with his boats. He put the prisoners in the center of the line. The party captured three more men on the way. With the bridge to Savannah fired, there was no immediate Confederate threat. To be sure, Colvocoresses also burned a large campsite just north of Darien, which he felt was supposed to be used by the men he’d just captured. At least one prisoner was released by the Federals along the way (and he went on to report the action to Confederate authorities).
By sunset on August 3, the party was at “The Ridge” and awaiting the boats. But bad weather and poor visibility kept the boats away that evening. Not until noon on August 4 (150 years from this posting), did Colvocoresses get his party back to the Saratoga. Summarizing the operation, he wrote:
We took 26 prisoners, 22 horses and buggies, destroyed 2 bridges, and burned a large encampment which the enemy greatly needed for the protection of his forces, and we did this in broad daylight and 15 miles from our boats without losing a single life or meeting with any unpleasant accident.
Colvocoresses did report one sailor as missing in a later report. Confederate accounts corroborate that, with mention of a captured deserter.
Captain F. J. Browning, commanding Company C, 29th Georgia Cavalry Battalion, attempted a late pursuit, but arrived too late to stop Colvocoresses. Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Hood, of the 29th Battalion endorsed Browning’s report with a request:
I would respectfully suggest that the mail facilities for that portion of the country be curtailed, and that no one but known loyal citizens be permitted to receive from the post-office newspapers. I think it important also that all persons known to be disloyal immediately on the coast, and all negroes, be removed. The means of communication are too rapid and certain with the blockading fleet.
Colvocoresses’ report included a by name list with description of the 26 prisoners… detailed to include height, eye color, occupation, and brief summary of the person’s connection with the Confederate government. Of those captured, a few had served in the Confederate army, but most had not. Eighteen were fifty years of age or older. Two of the prisoners were sixteen. The full list was transcribed to US Gen Web Archives, for those wishing to review.
With the capture of these men, the Department of the South had yet another wrinkle in the prisoner affairs matter. Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren had in custody what could be considered Confederate civilians… or Confederate recruits. All depended upon what definition one opted to use. All would become a point of contention over the next weeks of 1864.
(Citations from ORN, Series I, Volume 15, pages 593-596: OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, page 423.)