“Into a Marshy No-man’s Land” – Fort Sumter Civil War Roundtable

Save the date! As mentioned earlier, I will be speaking at the Fort Sumter Civil War Roundtable on June 10. Here are the particulars:

  • Program: Into a Marshy No-Man’s Land: Intelligence and Special Operations on the South Carolina and Georgia Coasts, 1862-65.
  • Date: June 10, 2019
  • Time: Gather at 6:00 for a bit of socializing; program begins at 6:30.
  • Place: The Citadel, Jenkins Hall

So if you live around Charleston, you have my “special” invite to this discussion of “special” operations in the Civil War.

A little more about the topic:

Through much of the Civil War neither side firmly controlled the marshlands of South Carolina and Georgia. While the Federals established bases on the coast (starting with Port Royal in November 1861), the topography of the low country favored the Confederate defender.  Yet, the Confederates were unable and unwilling to establish permanent garrisons out to the coastline.  Major operations, such as against Fort Pulaski or on Morris Island, were rare with neither side able to gain a firm upper hand. As result, the marshes and coastal estuaries were in effect a no-man’s land in which scouts, spies, raiders, and irregulars operated.  The Confederates, with local knowledge of the terrain, scouted Federal activities; ambushed Yankee patrols; monitored communications; and maintained supply routes skirting the blockade.  The Federals, employing escaped slaves, trained “marsh scouts,” and naval landing parties, sent out raids to disrupt rice and salt production; spied on Confederate operations; interdicted blockade runners; and “hacked” communications lines.  These intelligence gathering activities and special operations continued right up to the end of the Civil War.

Readers are well aware from my blogging missives of my definition of the “Charleston Theater” which includes the South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida coastlines. In that theater, most – if not all – operations were focused toward control of Charleston. And within that broad scope, we tend to focus on operations directly at Charleston – Morris Island, bombardment of Fort Sumter, and blockade operations there. Yet there were many operations conducted along that coast which supported and sustained the campaign which escape attention as we summarize the high points. And those operations often took the color of what we’d characterize today as “special operations.” Not so much Rangers, SEAL teams, Delta Force, and guys with green berets… as such “special” units did not exist at the time. Rather operations that fit the definition of “special” often being conducted by regular forces – infantry detachments or naval landing parties for instance. And at the same time, we also find true “irregular” or at least “unconventional” players operating in those marshes.

With that teaser out there, please mark this on your calendars and plan on attending. The Fort Sumter Roundtable is a new group, with my friend Jim “A Little Short of Boats at Balls Bluff” Morgan a co-founder. They have a lot of interesting programs scheduled for upcoming months.

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