Confederate Military History, Vol. 6: Georgia.
This work spanning fifteen extensive volumes is the result of contributions by many Southern men to the literature of the United States that treats of the eventful years in which occurred the momentous struggle called by Mr. A. H. Stephens “the war between the States.” These contributions were made on a well-considered plan, to be wrought out by able writers of unquestionable Confederate record who were thoroughly united in general sentiment and whose generous labors upon separate topics would, when combined, constitute a library of Confederate military history and biography. According to the great principle in the government of the United States that one may result from and be composed of many – the doctrine of E pluribus unum–it was considered that intelligent men from all parts of the South would so write upon the subjects committed to them as to produce a harmonious work which would truly portray the times and issues of the Confederacy and by illustration in various forms describe the soldiery which fought its battles. Upon this plan two volumes – the first and the last-comprise such subjects as the justification of the Southern States in seceding from the Union and the honorable conduct of the war by the Confederate States government; the history of the actions and concessions of the South in the formation of the Union and its policy in securing the existing magnificent territorial dominion of the United States; the civil history of the Confederate States, supplemented with sketches of the President, Vice-President, cabinet officers and other officials of the government; Confederate naval history; the morale of the armies; the South since the war, and a connected outline of events from the beginning of the struggle to its close. The two volumes containing these general subjects are sustained by the other volumes of Confederate military history of the States of the South involved in the war. Each State being treated in separate history permits of details concerning its peculiar story, its own devotion, its heroes and its battlefields. The authors of the State histories, like those of the volumes of general topics, are men of unchallenged devotion to the Confederate cause and of recognized fitness to perform the task assigned them. It is just to say that this work has been done in hours taken from busy professional life, and it should be further commemorated that devotion to the South and its heroic memories has been their chief incentive. This volume six out of fifteen, covering the Civil War in Georgia.
Confederate Military History, Vol. 6: Georgia.
Excerpt from the text:
Quickly following the day of the national election of 1860, the returns made it evident to all that Abraham Lincoln would be the next president of the United States. The Republican party, whose candidate he was, had originated in 1856 as a strictly sectional party, and among other hurtful policies had made war on the slave property of the South. Now that it had become strong enough to elect a President by the vote of Northern States alone, its success aroused the fears, as well as the indignation, of the Southern people. In many of the counties of Georgia public meetings were held and resolutions were adopted urging the legislature, about to meet, to provide for the defense of the State against the aggression to be feared from the sectional party that, after the 4th of March 1861, would hold the reins of government.
The legislature met early in November 1860. Influenced by apprehension of impending peril, Gov. Joseph E. Brown recommended that it should authorize commercial reprisal to meet the nullification by Northern States of the national fugitive slave law; the calling of a convention of the people, and the appropriation of $1,000,000 for defense. A convention of military companies, presided over by John W. Anderson, assembled at Milledgeville, November 10, 1860, and adopted a resolution to the effect that, ‘Georgia can no longer remain in the Union consistently with her safety and best interest.’ This convention of soldiers also favored the appropriation of $1,000,000 for military purposes recommended by the governor and supported their action by the tender of their services. The legislature also promptly responded to the governor’s recommendations by creating the office of adjutant-general of the State, to which position Henry C. Wayne was appointed; authorizing the acceptance of 10,000 troops by the governor, and the purchase of 1,000 Maynard rifles and carbines for coast defense; appropriating the great sum recommended for military purposes, and providing for an election on the first Wednesday of January, 1861, of delegates to a convention which should determine the course of the State in the emergency. The call for this convention was prefaced by the words: ‘Whereas, The present crisis in our national affairs, in the judgment of the general assembly, demands resistance; and Whereas, It is the privilege and right of the sovereign people to determine upon the mode, measure and time of such resistance.’
Notwithstanding these warlike preparations, there was in many sections of the State a strong sentiment against disunion. The vote for presidential candidates in Georgia is a fair criterion of the sentiment in the State prior to the election of Mr. Lincoln. There were three electoral tickets: One for Breckinridge and Lane, one for Bell and Everett, one for Douglas and Johnson, but none for Lincoln and Hamlin. The vote stood as follows: Breckinridge and Lane, 51,893; Bell and Everett, 42,855; Douglas and Johnson, 11,580. As the Breckinridge ticket was favored by the most pronounced Southern rights men, the vote in Georgia showed a small majority against immediate secession by separate State action. But the election of Mr. Lincoln by a purely sectional vote set the current toward secession, causing the tide of disunion sentiment to rise with steadily increasing volume, and strengthening the views and fears of those who could see relief only by withdrawing from a union which had fallen under the control of a party favoring a policy so antagonistic to the rights and interests of the South. Yet even at this stage there was a small minority who resolutely strove to stem the swelling tide. A speech was made by Alexander H. Stephens before the legislature, firmly opposing immediate disunion; while, on the other hand, Howell Cobb, in a letter apparently invincible in logic, demanded immediate secession. Herschel V. Johnson and Benjamin H. Hill stood by Stephens.
The momentous news that the convention of South Carolina had adopted an ordinance of secession from the United States, telegraphed to the important cities and towns of Georgia on the afternoon of December 20, 1860, added impetus to the universal excitement, and to the enthusiasm of those who favored immediate secession. Popular approval of this decisive step was manifested in all the large cities and towns by the firing of cannon, the ringing of bells, and bonfires. The volunteer companies of the State that had been organized under acts of the legislature began to offer their services to the governor, and many new companies were formed even in December 1860.
As the convention was to meet January 16, 1861, all acts savoring of State independence would normally have been postponed until after the result of its deliberations should be announced. But in the latter part of December the fears of the people of Georgia were aroused by the action of the United States garrison of Fort Moultrie in abandoning that exposed position and taking possession of Fort Sumter, where, isolated from land approach and nearer the open sea, reinforcements and provisions might be expected and resistance made to the demand of the State for the relinquishment of its territory. On the Georgia coast there were two United States forts, Jackson and Pulaski, near Savannah. One of these, Fort Pulaski, was situated (similarly to Sumter) at the mouth of the Savannah River, on Tybee Roads. It could be supplied with troops and munitions from the sea with little risk, and once properly manned and equipped would, in the judgment of military experts, be practically impregnable. A few months later the chief engineer of the United States army expressed the opinion that ‘the work could not be reduced in a month’s firing with any-number of manageable calibers.’ The fort was of brick, with five faces, casemated on all sides, and surrounded by a ditch filled with water. The massive walls, seven and a half feet thick, rose twenty-five feet above high water, mounting one tier of guns in casemates and one in barbette. The gorge face was covered by a demi-lune of good relief, arranged for one tier of guns in barbette, and was also provided with a ditch. The marshy formation, Cockspur Island, on which Pulaski stood, was surrounded by broad channels of deep water, and the only near approach to it, on ground of tolerable firmness, was along a narrow strip of shifting sand on Tybee Island.
The people of Savannah, familiar with the situation, thought they were menaced by a danger as great as that of Sumter to Charleston; that even a few days’ delay might permit this isolated fort to be made effective in closing the main seaport of Georgia, and that once strongly manned, it would be impossible to reduce it with ordnance such as could soon be obtained by the State. Capt. William H. C. Whiting, of the United States army engineers, who had an office in Savannah at that time, was absent at Fort Clinch, on the St. Mary’s, and Ordnance-Sergeant Walker with a fort keeper was in charge at the works; only twenty guns were in the fort and the supply of ammunition was meager. Governor Brown, being advised of the situation at Savannah, and of the probability that Pulaski and Jackson would be seized by the people, visited the city, and after consultation with the citizens took the appropriate step of ordering an immediate occupation. The earnest spirit of the citizens of Savannah was manifested on the night of January 1st, by a number of persons dressed in citizens’ clothes but armed with muskets and revolvers, who boarded the revenue cutter J. C. Dobbin and announced that they had come in force, largely outnumbering the crew, to take the vessel in the name of Georgia. The commander surrendered promptly and the Palmetto flag was raised and saluted. The leader in this affair was C. A. Greiner, who went north later, and was arrested at Philadelphia, April 29th, on the charge of having committed treason in this act and in participating in the seizure of Fort Pulaski.
On January 2, 1861, as commander-in-chief of the Georgia militia, Governor Brown issued an order to Col. A. R. Lawton, commanding the First volunteer regiment of Georgia, at Savannah, which opens with these words, deserving quotation as ably stating the reasons and justification for the occupation of Fort Pulaski:
Sir: In view of the fact that the government at Washington has, as we are informed upon high authority, decided on the policy of coercing a seceded State back into the Union, and it is believed now has a movement on foot to reinforce Fort Sumter at Charleston, and to occupy with Federal troops the Southern forts, including Fort Pulaski in this State, which, if done, would give the Federal government in any contest great advantage over the people of this State; to the end, therefore, that this stronghold, which commands also the entrance into Georgia, may not be occupied by any hostile force until the convention of the State of Georgia, which is to meet on the 16th inst., has decided on the policy which Georgia will adopt in this emergency, you are ordered to take possession of Fort Pulaski as by public order herewith, and to hold it against all persons, to be abandoned only under orders from me or under compulsion by an overwhelming hostile force.
There was an enthusiastic rivalry among the militia companies at Savannah for the honor of this service. Colonel Lawton selected details from the Chatham artillery, under Capt. Joseph S. Cleghorn, an officer who was also charged by the governor with all matters relating to ordnance; from the Savannah Guards, Capt. John Screven, and from the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, Capt. Francis S. Bartow, whose brilliant eloquence had been devoted to the cause of separation. This force, numbering 134 men, was carried by boat to Cockspur Island on the morning of the 3rd, and the occupation was effected without resistance from the few men in the works, who were allowed to continue in their quarters without duress. The militia under Colonel Lawton immediately hoisted a State flag—a red lone star on a white ground—which they greeted with a salute, and then set to work putting the fort in order, mounting the guns, and preparing ammunition. The Savannah ladies furnished the cartridge bags, as well as dainty additions to the rations of the soldiers, in which acceptable service they took pride.