Another Colvocoresses raid? Yes, on Bethel, Georgia on August 24-25, 1864

I like mentioning Commander George Colvocoresses.  Not only because his name causes my spell-checker fits, but because his activities along the Georgia coast are prime examples of how naval forces should operate along the littorals. I’ve posted about his Ebenezer Church and South Newport Raids in August 1864.  But Colvocoresses was not done for the month.  Concurrent to the raid up the White Oak River, Colvocoresses launched another raid of his own.

The target of this raid was the town of Bethel, Georgia was along the Turtle River just west of Brunswick, and not far in terms of land miles from the Turpentine Raid.  The Confederates maintained a small picket there.  So much like the South Newport Raid, the objective was to bag a Confederate garrison.  The town was 25 miles upriver from St. Simons Sound.  The map below features the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, which ran west of the city.  That line was in disrepair by 1864:

1864TurtleRiverRaid

Colvocoresses left the USS Saratoga on the afternoon of August 23 with 75 men and five officers.  Adding to his force were twenty-six men from the USS T.A. Ward and five from the USS Braziliera.  This force set upriver the next day.  Colvocoresses provided this brief report of the raid:

The expedition left the Braziliera the next day about sunset and proceeded up the river. Everything went on well until about 1 o’clock, when the enemy’s pickets commenced firing at us, which showed that we had been discovered. No one, however, was hurt by the fire, and we gave way in our boats harder than ever that we might reach our destination before news of our arrival could be carried there by the pickets.  We were fired at afterwards by two other pickets, but they, too, missed us, and by 3 o’clock all the boats safely reached their destination.

I was both surprised and disappointed when we landed to find no enemy. It seems he had heard the fire of the pickets and immediately fled.

Before leaving the place I burned the post-office and the store belonging to J.M. Tison, a noted rebel and one of the judges of the inferior court. I also brought away three of his slaves and some arms which were found in his house.

Colvocoresses went on to mention the destruction of cotton and a loom at the store.  But overall the raid was comparatively uneventful compared to earlier “descents.”  On their return, the raiders stopped at the site where Confederate pickets had earlier engaged.  There they found and captured a civilian.  Identified as a person who had aided Confederates in earlier operations against the blockaders, Colvocoresses considered him a combatant.  By 5 a.m., the raiders were back at the Braziliera.  The ship remained off Brunswick for most of the day, “during which the place was searched, but no signs of the enemy were visible.”

Again, looking at the Georgia coast between Savannah and Brunswick, consider the raids through August 25, 1864 (to which I’ve left off the “Turpentine Raid” just south off the map):

1864SummerRaidsAug

These activities are a great example of the dominance of the Federals over the coastline of Georgia (and to some extent South Carolina).  As Rear-Admiral John Dalghren related in a report to Washington describing these raids:

They confirm the impressions I have previously conveyed to the Department that the country in this quarter is just now entirely stripped of its fighting population, small parties of troops being assembled at certain points to check expeditions from ships.

Dahlgren went on to describe the Confederate force as concentrated at Savannah and Charleston with token forces defending the railroads.

It is my impression that if the Federals wanted another coastal base, they could have occupied Brunswick and Darien at any point that summer.  But there was little need for such at the time.  Instead, there would be more raids along the Georgia coast as the summer wore on.

(Citations from ORN, Series I, Volume 15, pages 642-3.)

Turpentine and rosin on the White Oak River: Another Federal raid on the Georgia Coast

In earlier posts I’ve mentioned the Federal naval forces making raids along the Georgia coast through the mid-summer days of 1864 (see – Back River, Ebenezer Church, and South Newport).  But the blockaders off the Georgia coast seemed to step this up in the last days of August.  On August 22, 1864 another party, led by Acting Lieutenant Robert P. Swann, from the USS Potomska, prepared to raid up the Satilla River, from St. Andrew’s Sound.  The location is a bit south, and off my map of the summer raids:

1864SummerRaidsAug

The next inlet below St. Simon’s Sound is St. Andrew’s, which leads to the Satilla River. The location is better seen here on this map snip:

1864WhiteOakRaid2

In the afternoon of August 22, the USS Potomska entered the Satilla River and set anchor. There Swann proceeded to scout the area in search of Confederate pickets.  Two boats sent ashore at Penniman’s Mills chased off the Confederates and returned with some small arms, a chain, and spyglasses.  Late that evening, Swann took the Potomska further upriver to the mouth of White Oak Creek.  There the Federals picked up three refugees.  After midnight, the Federals sent out more landing parties:

August 23 – At 2 a.m. the first and third cutters and armed crews left the ship with a scow in tow, under charge of Mr. Curtis and Mr. Joslin.  At 9:30 third cutter returned, having captured a rebel prisoner named Joseph Quarterman, 4 shotguns and 1 horse pistol, taken from his house.  At 10:30 got underway and stood down the river a quarter of a mile and came to anchor.

The other part of the landing party’s objective was a turpentine still about three miles up White Oak Creek (red dot on the map above, approximately).  Arriving at the distillery, the party found a large quantity of turpentine and rosin, along with Sergeant Quarterman of the 3rd Georgia Cavalry (mentioned above), seventeen refugees and some small arms. Unable to bring most of the materials off, the landing party burned 1,500 barrels of raw turpentine and 1,000 barrels of rosin. At 3:45 p.m., the landing party returned to the Potomska with 61 barrels of rosin and the copper still.

On his way out of the Satilla, Swann grounded the Potomska, which was quite possibly overloaded with the rosin, around 4:15 p.m. Waiting out in a heavy rain, the Potomska came off at 10 p.m. that night.  But when getting underway, over half of the rosin barrels were washed overboard.  So Swann was only able to boast 31 barrels in the end.

The Potomska spent the following day at the mouth of the Satilla, with Swann sending out several patrols.  He even brought on board several local civilians.  Later all the refugees and civilians were put shore and the Potomska made way to St. Simon’s Sound to assist with operations there. … which is the subject of the next “Georgia Coast Raid” post.  Yes, there were more to come!

(Citations from ORN, Series I, Volume 15, pages 639-40.)