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:
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:
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:
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.