December 14, 1864

Stiles/Akin

Sergeant Major
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Atlanta, Georgia
#1
SOUTHERN STORM

December 14, 1864

General Sherman was awoken and asked to meet with a Major General Foster who had made two failed attempts to close off the Savannah-Charleston railroad link. Sherman met with the man, who delivered a fairly detailed intelligence report on the city’s northern defenses and of the area north to Charleston. Sherman’s obsession was now “the Hostess City” of Savannah. Sherman’s problems were now logistical. The Ogeechee River needed to be swept clean of mines and obstructions for supply ships to land at the Kings Bridge distribution hub.

Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, commanding all Navy forces in the area, being informed of the link up with Sherman’s forces sailed aboard his flagship the “Harvest Moon” from the Ossabaw Sound to meet with the ground Commander. Dahlgren and Sherman hit it off splendidly. Dahlgren agreed to handle the clearing of the waterways to the bridge and discussed with Sherman combined land/sea operations. Major Hitchcock who joined them reflected that “Navy Officers are luxurious rascals compared to us dwellers in tents.”

On board the Harvest Moon, Sherman received a note from Grant written before the McAllister battle. It read of his situation in Virginia, of Sherman’s handpicked choice to hold Tennessee, General Thomas lackluster performance there and of his confidence in Sherman to achieve his goal. News spread throughout the lines in the morning of last night’s victory and cheers went up through the Union lines. At McAllister, prisoners began to clear the minefields that they had placed. When General Beauregard found out, he wrote General Winder, in charge of all Confederate prisons wanting a “like number to be employed in retaliation.”

General Winder answered that the Confederate War Department instructions prohibited him such acts. For the average soldier thought were now of rations. One stated that “we now have too little to live on…We only have a small amount of rice and a once of meat per day.”

This morning General Kilpatrick awoke at his headquarters in the Historic Midway Church in Liberty County, 15 miles south of Ft McAllister. He and his riders (to include the 2nd Kentucky) arrived the previous day. They had little trouble dispersing the local militia units, the 29th Georgia Cavalry Lt. Colonel Arthur Hood commanding, and members of the Remount Detachment of the Liberty Independent Troop.

One frustrated infantry soldier muttered, “If Hood’s Battalion ever fired a shot at a Yankee in Liberty County, I have never been able to find out where it was at.” On December 1, 1864, the Georgia Militia Fourth Brigade under Brig. Gen. H.K. McKay arrived in Wayne County to prepare a defense of the Savannah and Gulf Railroad bridge over the Altamaha River. The Confederates built earthworks on the north bank of Morgan's Lake, which was bisected by the railroad and located just north of the river. On the southern side of the river, two 32-pound rifled guns were mounted at Doctortown also spelled Doctor Town, to sweep the bridge if attacked. A light gun mounted on an engine supported two companies of Confederate militia at Morgan's Lake.

A detachment from the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry bolted south 30 miles along the Savannah and Gulf railroad tracks to destroy the bridge at the Altamaha River (Modern day Jessup near the Rayonier Plant entrance). Kilpatrick’s Troopers in Liberty County found themselves in a Foragers paradise. The Cavalry Commander looked and saw many wealthy plantations. Being so far from the infantry, the Cavalry troopers had this all to themselves.

The failure of the local militia and the absence of Wheeler's cavalry to defend them, found this to be a catastrophe for the affluent Liberty county people. One was Mrs. Mary Jones-Jones (she had married her cousin hence Jones-Jones) who owned three plantations, Arcadia in Northwest Liberty County, Montevideo near Riceboro and Maybank near the coast. A fierce Secessionist, like her late Husband, she now had hard choices to make.

The family chose to stay at Montevideo, which was in the projected Federal assault path. They would store their valuables at Arcadia. Maybank would be left to its own fate. She stayed at Arcadia preparing her property until sunset and then in a carriage headed back to Montevideo.

She was stopped on the road by an unarmed Federal Officer advising her on a less friendly Yankee roadblock up the road. She and her servant Joe took a trail where they were stopped by Confederate pickets. Her hope was to have a “Southern Gentleman” escort her to her property. She would be disappointed. A black servant of a family friend offered to help the two as a scout to avoid Yankee contact.

The party made it four miles west of Riceboro, when told by a Confederate picket that the bridge up ahead was out. She was urged to stay the night at a local home. The party found out that the bridge had been repaired well enough to hold a small carriage, so they proceeded toward Montevideo.

They arrived at their homestead at 9 PM. Mrs.Jones’s son in law Reverend Robert Quarterman Mallard left to join a militia unit., Left alone, the women were left to face their “Northern guests”. Liberty County would endure six grueling weeks of constant exposure, the longest of any area, in Georgia was just beginning.

In Savannah, General Hardee, overseeing the escape bridge construction feared an all-out Federal assault was imminent. The bridge was complete from the foot of snow Martin Luther King Blvd to Hutchinson Island. Hardee had the start of a temporary wharf built to evacuate by boat if needed.

That project and effort were scrapped on 15 December. A turf war began over the bridge project. CSA engineer Colonel Frobel tried to convince General Smith that he could do a better job than Beauregard’s man Colonel Clarke. General Smith gave Frobel some busy work project to occupy his time and allow Clarke the “heavy lifting” of building the bridge.

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