Throughout the mid-summer of 1864, naval parties raided along the Georgia coast. Earlier I looked at raids on salt works near Brunswick and the capture of civilians at Ebenezer Church. On August 17, 1864, Commander George Colvocoresses made another raid into McIntosh County. This raid was aimed at a Confederate outpost on the South Newport River, at the town of South Newport. In context, let me add the location of South Newport on the map showing these summer raids:
After the Ebenezer Church raid, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Hood, of the 29th Georgia Cavalry Battalion and responsible for the section of coastline, sent Second Lieutenant W.F. Mole, Company F, 3rd South Carolina Cavalry and a detachment to picket and protect McIntosh County. Mole’s command post was at South Newport. South Newport was located at the point where the Savannah Road crossed the South Newport River (a little downstream from the old US Highway 17 bridge over the same river):
This isolated detachment offered a choice target for the Federal naval forces. And one they quickly took advantage of.
At 4:30 pm. on August 16, Colvocoresses set out with an expedition of 120 men and 10 officers from his own USS Saratoga and the USS T.A. Ward, in seven small vessels (ranging from ships boats to barges). The expedition went up the South Newport River, landed, and then surrounded a Confederate post on the south side of the river. The operation was bloodless and completely perfect in all regards:
We captured a lieutenant and 28 privates of Company F, Third South Carolina Cavalry, dispersed the remainder of the company, amounting to 50 more, and captured 30 Enfield rifles, 54 sabers, 3 shotguns, 3 rifles, 1 revolver, and 2,000 rounds of cartridges; burned their encampment and stables, destroyed two of the largest salt works on the coast, capturing at the same time the overseers of the works, numbering 6, and 71 slaves employed at the works. Also destroyed the large bridge [South Newport River] on the main Savannah road, which connected the two counties, McIntosh and Liberty; also captured the mail and a Mr. [Lachlan] McIntosh, who has always been looked upon as a violent secessionist. Altogether, we captured 107 persons. There were no casualties on our side, and I am not aware that there were any on the enemy’s, for we surrounded them and seized their arms before they had time to recover from their fright and surprise.
From the Confederate side, Hood struggled to sort out the mess. Reports from those who escaped the Federals mentioned cavalry and infantry. Hood sent forward portions of several companies, mostly dismounted cavalry. But they arrived too late to see the Federals off. Reporting on August 18, Hood placed the blame on Mole:
I am afraid there was culpable neglect upon the part of the commanding officer of the company. I inclose copies of orders I had issued to him, instructing him to guard his camp. I also verbally called his particular attention to this matter. Looking to the importance of this matter I instructed Lieutenant Mole, by orders and verbally, to make a reconnaissance of the coast. I furnished him, so far as I could, with a rough map of the coast, stating to him that he must rely on his own reconnaissance for exact information. I could only give him such as I could gather from conversation with citizens of the vicinity.
Lieutenant D.H. Platts was the officer reported as captured by Colvocoresses. I suspect Mole would rather he’d been the one captured. Shortly after the incident, Hood brought Mole up on charges. On the day of his courts martial, he was “confined to bed by an attack of paralysis.” In November, Mole resigned his commission.
Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren, anxious to laud the effectiveness of his landing parties, reported this raid to Washington a few days later, stating, “It gives me pleasure to inform the Department that Captain Colvocoresses has executed another descent into rebel territory…” adding the details of the catch.
Another small scale raid, and just a pin-prick compared to the larger campaigns. But these actions again demonstrate the Confederates had lost control of their coastline to some degree. And at the same time, the Federals were very capable of operating in the marshes – anywhere from St. Augustine, Florida to Georgetown, South Carolina.
(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, pages 440-1; ORN, Series I, Volume 15, page 631.)