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.)

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