“During the last ten days my boats have made several excursions”: More raids on the Georgia coast, 150 years ago

During the last days of August and into the first week of September, 1864, the Federal Navy continued raids into the “Marshes of Glynn” … I could not resist that Sidney Lanier reference… in Glynn County, Georgia.  From August 26 to September 6, crew of the USS Braziliera, stationed off Brunswick in the Turtle River, took their launches out into the backwaters in search of salt kettles and other targets.  Acting Master William T. Gillespie summarized the actions:

During the last ten days my boats have made several excursions inland destroying salt works, consisting of 10 kettles of 700 gallons each, 12 kettles of 500 gallons each, 20 pans 4 feet by 6 feet, and 300 bushels of salt; liberating 30 negroes and 2 white families.

Took J.A. Lang and J.D. Denson, prisoners; they belong to the Third Georgia Militia.

The salt works were situated some 18 miles up Turtle River, on the creeks leading into Buffalo swamp. My officers and men have penetrated some 40 miles inland between the Altamaha and Satilla rivers, meeting no opposition excepting the militia. Credit is due my people for the energy with which these boat expeditions have been prosecuted. The enemy’s force now in this county amounts to 100 Confederate solders and 75 militia.

The range of Gillespie’s raids included Wilson’s Creek, nearly on the south branch of the Altamaha, down to White Oak River off the Satilla:

1864BrazilieraRaids1

The log extract from September 1 demonstrates the range and nature of the excursions:

September 1. – St. Andrew’s Sound – At 3 a.m. Mr. Bennett left the ship with three armed boats and crews to go on an expedition. Mr. Longstreet, Mr. Severns, and the pilot accompanied the expedition. At 6:40 saw three boats up Wilson’s Creek, supposed to be the expedition that left at 3 this morning. At 10:41 Messrs. Bennett, Longstreet, and the pilot returned on board with the first cutter. At 10:52 the whaleboat returned. At 11:52 Mr. Severns returned with the gig. At 7:30 p.m. sent the second cutter on an expedition up White Oak River in charge of Boatswain’s Mate woods.

Wood’s boat did not return until September 4, bringing a refugee with him.

These extracts, along with the reports of other raids along the coast that summer, the case could be made that southern Georgia was ripe for a major Federal incursion.  Certainly Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren alluded to such in his reports to Washington.  Major-General John Foster, in command of the Department of the South, looked for such openings earlier in the summer.  But by September, Foster was under orders not to open any offensive operations.

Was Brunswick a worthy objective?  Consider – today the Sidney Lanier Bridge at Brunswick passes over the entrance to one of the busiest ports on the US east coast.  I’d submit that answer was “maybe,” if someone was in need of a port on the Georgia coast.  And as we know, there was need of such later in the year.

(Citations from ORN, Series I, Volume 15, pages 648-9.)

 

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