The USS Braziliera’s Georgia raids of late September 1864

As summer wound down in 1864, the U.S. Navy continued its raids along the Georgia coast.  The bark USS Braziliera, operating near Brunswick, Georgia, was once again sending parties up the rivers in search of war-supporting activities.  This round of excursions into the backwaters started on September 14, 1864, as noted in the ship’s log:

September 14, 1864 – At 1:30 a.m. an expedition left the ship for Belle Point.  Three boats, with armed crews, in charge of Mr. [Jeremiah] Bennett, with the following officers: Mr. [Charles] Austin, Mr. [Isaac] Severns, and Mr. [Peter] Collins, accompanied by two refugees, Mr. Farrell and Mr. Spaulding as pilots.  At 6 a.m. the captain left the ship to go on board the schooner Mary. The Mary got underway. At 8 a.m. saw a flag of truce in a small boat with two negroes coming toward the ship from the mainland.  At 8:40 they came alongside and reported coming from Appling County. At 9:45 saw a dense volume of smoke issuing from Belle Point house.  At 9:45 saw flames coming out of the roof.  At 10:10 the boats reported retiring. At 11:07 saw and heard the Mary fire one gun.  At 12:30 p.m. the expedition returned. Mr. Bennett reported having burned 1,300 pounds of sea-island cotton and destroyed a picket station; brought on contraband. At 12:50 the schooner Mary came to anchor near the ship; the captain returned on board. At 8 p.m. the captain and the pilot left the ship, bound for Turtle River on an expedition, with Messrs. Borden and Farrell and 28 men. At 8:15 the Mary got underway and proceeded up the Turtle River with the boats.

A busy day to say the least.  Note the use of locals as guides on the expedition.  The names Spaulding and Farrell appeared during the earlier summer raids, though full names were not mentioned.  It is not clear, however, if these were escaped slaves or whites. Regardless, with their assistance, the Federals deprived the southerners of 1,300 pounds of cotton.  The location of Belle Point was just north of Brunswick:


In regard to the negroes that came in that morning, Appling County is northwest of Brunswick, but further inland along the Altamaha River.  I would presume those were escaped slaves.  But it is an indication of how far inland was the draw of “contrabands” in search of Federal lines.

Two days later, the sailors were back out on another expedition.  This time, with Mr. Farrell as the pilot, the raiders used the Mary as their base to operate some 30 miles up the Turtle River.  They reached Cabbage Bluff and skirmished with Confederate pickets.  The expedition destroyed some boats and returned with a contraband.

On September 18, the Mary’s crew sent out her boats again.  And again Spaulding and Farrell provided their services as guides.  But foul weather forced the expedition back to the ship.  After their return the ships moved down to St. Andrew’s Sound and stood off Jekyl Point.  The last raid of this series left the ships on the afternoon of September 20, heading up the Satilla River.  It would return two days later, but not all together:

September 22 – At 12:25 the captain and pilot returned on board in the race boat. At 1:06 Mr. Austin returned on board in the whaleboat.  At 8:05 p.m. saw a light at the mouth of Jekyl Creek supposed to be our first cutter.  Sent Mr. Spaulding on shore.  Mr. [Nelson] Borden reports having brought down one refugee family, consisting of one woman and five children, which he put on boad the USS Mary Sanford at St. Andrew’s.  While getting the family off, three men got lost in the marshes, and while searching for and getting them he was attacked by a large force of rebel cavalry. He got the three men, and finding the enemy too strong he retreated to the boat and got off safely, exchanging several shots.

A little excitement in the end, but no injuries to either side noted.

Other than the 1,300 pounds of cotton, there was not much material damage done in these raids at the end of the summer.  Perhaps, given several weeks of raiding, the Federals had finally cleared out any facilities or materials worth “pillaging.”  But the logs are clear on one matter.  Even as the war entered its final months, contrabands were risking their lives to make it into Federal lines.

(Citations from ORN, Series I, Volume 15, pages 673-4.)


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