part of a volume entitled History of the Ninety - Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry: From Organization To Muster Out --Statistics Compiled by Aaron Dunbar Sergeant, Company " B", Revised and Edited by Harvey M. Trimble, Adjutant
Submitted by Jeffrey MacAdam, to whom every reader should be grateful.
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Part 2 of 3 for Chapter 9.
On the 25th, this regiment marched thirteen miles, starting at 10 o'clock a.m., and stopping at 5:15 o'clock p.m., going into camp at Irwinton, the county seat of Wilkinson County. The country here, and twenty or thirty miles back, is poor; and yet, there seems to be plenty of forage. On the 26th, the march was continued eleven miles, between 6:30 and 11:15 a.m., when the command went into camp within four miles of the Oconee River. The Seventeenth Army Corps did not get the pontoon bridge laid across the river until yesterday, one day late, on account of the opposition made by the Confederate cavalry under General Wayne. On the 27th, the regiment marched fifteen miles, between 6 o'clock a.m. and 3 o'clock p.m., and went into camp at Irwin's Cross Road, in Washington County.
Crossed the Oconee River at 8 o'clock a.m., on a pontoon bridge at Ball's Ferry. The country passed through was somewhat better. On the 28th, starting at 8:30 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched eighteen miles, and went into camp in a field, at no particular place, at 8 o'clock p.m. To-day we marched in rear of the brigade, and the brigade in the rear of the division train. Up to this date our division had picked up about two hundred prisoners. On the 29th, starting at 7:15 o'clock in the morning, the march was continued twenty miles, when the command camped in the pine woods, at 5 o'clock in the evening. We fell in with the Seventeenth Corps this morning, and our division "took to the woods," moving on a "blind" road. The country here was a wilderness. The natives called it a "Pine Opening." In fact, it was a dense pine forest, reaching back to the Oconee River. In the evening there was a rumor in camp, that Admiral Farragut had taken Savannah. That was all, just rumor. No one believed it. On the 30th, starting at 7:15 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched twelve miles, and camped at 5 o'clock p.m., at a little hamlet called Sumnerville, in the northern part of Emanual County, (there was no other Emanual in that neighborhood). It was seven miles from, and on the west side of, the Ogeechee River, near the Georgia Central railroad. Still in the pine forest. The houses could hardly be called houses, they were merely places to "stay in," and only occasionally one of them, such as they were. But the whistle of a railroad locomotive was heard in the evening, and the hope was immediately raised the edge of the wilderness was not far distant, and that daylight would soon be reached. No one wondered that the Confederates did not fight much for that part of the country. It was not worth it. On December 1st, the command marched eight miles, starting at 9 o'clock a.m., and going into camp at 5 o'clock p.m. Just where the camp was makes no difference.
It was said to be south of "No. 9," whatever and wherever that was. This was a busy day for the Pioneer Corps. Many bad sloughs were bridged or corduroyed with rails and poles, to make them passable for the artillery and trains. Our camp was made among the famous "turpentine pines." They were from one to two feet in diameter, and from seventy-five to one hundred and twenty-five feet high. The trunks were smooth, and without limbs, except near the tops. The leaves were from eight to fifteen inches long. The trees were thinly scattered over the ground, and there was no undergrowth. Turpentine, tar and resin, in great quantities, was made from these trees. Found more cultivated land in this neighborhood than for several days past. On the 2nd, started at 6:30 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched twelve miles, and went into camp at 5 o'clock p.m., on Scull's Creek, in the edge of Emanual County. The creek was the county line. Still among the tall turpentine pines. The ignorance of the people there was very dense. On the 3rd, the command rested in camp, and was inspected by Inspector General Warren, of the brigade staff. A foraging party went out about five miles from the camp, and brought in a good supply of pork, sweet potatoes, corn, fodder, etc. On the 4th, starting at 7 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched eighteen miles, and camped at 6:45 o'clock p.m., within one mile of Statesboro, the county seat of Bullock County. It was a small dilapidated town, containing about two hundred inhabitants. The foragers of the Second Division, and their escort, had a lively skirmish with the enemy at that place, on entering the town. Seven of the enemy were killed, and thirty-five or forty wounded.
Our loss, mostly of the Seventieth Ohio, was three men killed, and nineteen wounded and missing. The enemy were now continually hanging on our flanks, although they fought but little. In this part of the country the Pioneers were always very busy building bridges and making roads, although the country was somewhat better than that passed a few days ago. The pine timber was not so heavy, and there were a few small oak trees among it. A few cannon shots were heard early in the morning, on the left, over on the east side of the Ogeechee River. On the 5th, the command moved at 7 o'clock a.m., marched seventeen miles, and camped at 4:30 p.m. Passed though a considerably better country, more level, smaller timber, and more thickly settled, than for several day past. Found plenty of provisions and forage, and a good deal of both was taken. Rations from the Commissary Department were getting quite short, less than half-rations of hard bread, only half of coffee, and no sugar. But we got plenty from the country, and lived well. No complaints were heard. A plantation was passed to-day that was cultivated during the revolutionary War by the grandfather of the present proprietor. The latter appeared to be a man seventy-five or eighty years of age. There was a negro on the place who was over a hundred years old. Ancient marks! On the 6th, the regiment remained in camp. We were now on the extreme right of the army, and were halted because we were ahead of the rest of the army. The Second and Third divisions of the Fifteenth Corps were together, and the other two divisions of the corps were between us and the Ogeechee River, on the west side of that stream. The other three corps had crossed to the east side of the river several days before. The Fourteenth and Twentieth corps crossed at Louisville, in Jefferson County, and the Seventeenth Corps, somewhere south of Millen, on the east line of Bullock County. The latter corps crossed about the first of December, and the others before then. On the 7th, starting at 8:30 a.m., the command marched eleven miles, and camped at 5:30 p.m., east of Eden, the county seat of Bryan County, within two miles of the Ogeechee River. Rain fell all the forenoon, and a little in the evening. The country here was level and more open, and the roads bad. The timber was all pine, but it was not so large, nor was there so much of it as was found farther back on the route. A part of the Second Division of the Fifteenth Corps crossed to the east side of the Ogeechee River to-day. The enemy made a slight resistance. The Second Iowa Regiment lost two men killed, and seven or eight wounded. On the 8th, at 10:30 o'clock a.m., the regiment, simply to change the camp, moved one mile nearer to the river, and remained there during the day and night. About 8 o'clock p.m., in a southeasterly direction from camp, heavy discharges were heard, like the firing of guns-boats. Rumors were also flying about the camp, to the effect, that the Confederates, twenty thousand strong, were entrenched on the east side if the river, about eight miles away from us. On the 9th, at 7:15 a.m., the command was on the move. Marching to the Ogeechee River, the regiment crossed to the east side of that stream, on a pontoon bridge, laid at a point nearly due east from Eden.
Then moving in a southeasterly direction, nearly parallel with the river, and having covered fifteen miles of distance during the day, the command went into the camp at 1 o'clock p.m., near the Ogeechee Canal, among the pines and live oaks. Cannoning was heard all day, on our left. Also heard, in the evening, that the Savannah & Charleston Railroad had been cut, west of the Savannah River, by the Fourteenth Corps. On the 10th, starting at 6:30 o'clock in the morning, the regiment marched nine miles, very rapidly, in a northeasterly direction, to a point within six miles of Savannah, Ga. Having crossed to the south side of the Ogeechee canal, early in the morning, this march was made on the towpath of the canal. Leaving the canal, at 120 o'clock a.m., the regiment moved two miles to the right, to open communication with the Fourth Division of the Fifteenth Corps, which had moved up along the Gulf Railroad. When communication was established, and a road opened, the regiment moved back to the canal and rejoined our division about noon. Just as we started back, a Confederate battery fired two shots at us that came uncomfortably close. The division had advanced about a mile from where we left it, and had found the enemy.
Skirmishing was then in progress, and continued until dark, the enemy throwing shells occasionally for variety. A chilly mist, half fog, enveloped the field. The long lines of blue-coated skirmishers, moving through the gloom, presented a most spectral appearance; and the continual crack, crack, crack, of their firing, and the curling smoke from their guns, floating through the mist all along the lines, intensified the weird scene to a degree that caused creeping sensations down the spine. At 9 o'clock p.m., the left wing of the Ninety-Third Illinois went on the skirmish line for the night, relieving the skirmishers of our brigade. And what a night it was! Rain began to fall about 11 o'clock p.m., and continued until 5 o'clock the next morning. The weather was cold. The Confederates were in a fort behind a swamp that was almost impassable, and there were swamps on either side of us. Pines, cypress, live oak and magnolia trees, full of that gloomy Spanish moss hanging from every limb, rose out of the swamp into the mist and rain, like spectres, on every hand. With mud and water underfoot, cold mist and rain overhead, and spectral gloom everywhere, it was a night never to be forgotten! Waiting for the "clouds to roll away," and for the coming of the morning, we leave this command there, and take a little time to briefly sketch the general movements of the army from Gordon and Milledgeville to Savannah.
The route of the Ninety-Third Illinois, after leaving Gordon, as given above, was substantially, the route of the Fifteenth Army Corps. The route of the Seventeenth Corps was on the left of that followed by the Fifteenth, that is, farther east. The route of the Twentieth Corps, after leaving Milledgeville, was via Hebron, Sandersville, Davisboro, Louisville, Millen and Springfield to Savannah. The route of the Fourteenth Corps was between that of the Twentieth and that of the Seventeenth Corps. It will be noted, that the Fifteenth Corps crossed the Ogeechee River at a point nearly due west from Savannah, and only about twenty miles away, and that the Seventeenth Corps crossed about fifty miles farther north, and the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps about one hundred miles farther north. For forty miles north of Savannah the average width between the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers is about eighteen miles. Then the width gradually increases, going north, as far as Louisville, where it is about forty-five miles. The Savannah River forms the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina for about three-quarters of the entire distance on the line between those two states. Hence, it will be perceived, the whole country between those two rivers, for a full hundred miles north of Savannah, was literally swept by this great army, in its march, as well as a strip ten miles or more in width down the right bank of the Ogeechee. Everything that could be of use to the enemy was destroyed. Substantially the entire line of the Georgia Central Railroad from Atlanta to Savannah, a part of the railroad from Augusta to Millen, where the left wing crossed it, and a part of the Savannah & Charleston
Railroad, west of the Savannah River, as well as parts of several other lines at and near Milledgeville, were completely destroyed, and rendered utterly useless to the enemy. Never were the movements of an army better protected and covered by cavalry, than were those of the right wing of this army from Atlanta to Gordon, and those of the left wing from Milledgeville to Savannah. General Kilpatrick's cavalry division was everywhere; and all the time an impenetrable cloud to the enemy. They marched day and night, skirmished with and fought and drove the confederates wherever and whenever they were found, gathered forage and provisions, destroyed mills and factories and warehouses, burned railroad bridges, tore up railroads, and "raised the devil" generally. The Confederate papers confidently predicted the destruction of the army. There was great anxiety in the North as to the result of the campaign.
This confidence on the one side, and the apprehensions on the other, indicated the impressions then prevalent as to the audacity of the movement. But the people of the North, even then, did not comprehend the energy and power and resources of a great army, well disciplined and ably commanded. Neither did the people of the South. And beside, the Confederate generals seemed to have no accurate knowledge of the strength and numbers of this army. Hood and Beauregard estimated it at about thirty-six thousand strong, while, in fact, it numbered sixty-five thousand five hundred men. No serious opposition was encountered until the head of the different columns were within fifteen miles of Savannah. On each of the five different approaches to the city, (unless the canal towpath be counted as another), at about that distance, the enemy felled timber and made earthworks and planted artillery. These approaches, (other than the towpath), were the two railroads and three dirt pikes. They were narrow causeways, through otherwise impassable swamps.
Those obstructions were quickly swept away, however, and the Confederates driven within their intrenched lines at Savannah. This was done by the 10th of December. At night, that day, the city was completely invested, except on the northeast. The city is about five miles from the mouth of the river, which at that point flows nearly due east, a little south, and just across the river, on the South Carolina shore, was a plank road, the "Union Causeway," leading from the city out into South Carolina. This avenue of escape was, per force, left open to the Confederates, because they had gunboats in the Savannah River, with which they could have quickly destroyed any pontoon bridge that might have been laid across the river for passage of Federal troops to the opposite shore; and thus, any force that might have been sent across would have been isolated, and left in great danger. General Foster and Admiral Dahlgren had already located a division of troops between Coosawatchee and Tullifiny creeks, at the head of Broad River, in the eastern central portion of Beaufort County, South Carolina, about forty miles from Savannah, in such position a to threaten the Savannah & Charleston Railroad. In fact, the road was within range of their artillery; but that force was not sufficient to oppose the exit of the Confederates from Savannah. General Hardee was defending Savannah with about ten thousand troops, mostly state militia. Admiral Dahlgren's fleet was off Tybee, Warsaw and Ossibaw Sounds, awaiting the advent of General Sherman's army at Savannah. The fleet had supplies for the army. The Ogeechee River empties into Ossibaw Sound about twenty or twenty-five miles south of Savannah.
The entrance to the river, from Ossibaw Sound, was guarded by Fort McAllister, containing twenty-three cannon, en barbette, and one mortar, and manned by about two hundred and fifty Confederates under the command of Major Anderson. Captain Duncan, one of General Howard's scouts, had passed down the Ogeechee River, in a canoe, and informed Admiral Dahlgren of General Sherman's movements and situation. Such was the situation at night on the 10th day of December. The indications were that a siege would be necessary to take the city. The matter of provisions for the army was likely to become serious very soon; in fact, it was even causing much concern, a number of historians to the contrary, notwithstanding. So that, all in all, the situation was not at all from anxiety and danger. That energetic measures were immediately necessary no one doubted. They were taken.
At daylight on the morning of the 11th, brisk skirmishing began all around the lines. A Federal battery was planted near that part of the lines occupied by the left wing of the Ninety-Third Illinois, and opened on the enemy, firing rather slowly. They replied quite rapidly, but without harm to us. At 8 o'clock a.m., the Third Division moved out for a change of position, our skirmishers being left on the line. At noon, the right wing of the regiment went to the skirmish line and relieved the left wing. During the afternoon, there was some very hard skirmishing. Sergeant Elijah Vangilder, of Company H, was mortally wounded. He died on the 13th, at Station No. 1, on the Gulf Railroad, and was buried there. Sergeant John F. Irey, of Company B, and Corporal William J. Lafferty, of Company F, were also slightly wounded. Remaining until dark, the right wing was then withdrawn from the skirmish line, being relieved by a part of the Eleventh Iowa, of the Seventeenth Corps. At 8 o'clock p.m., the regiment moved about one mile to the rear, and there rejoined the division. The division then moved about six miles to the right, starting on the road opened by the Ninety-Third Illinois yesterday. On the 12th, starting at 8 o'clock in the morning, the command marched six miles, and went into camp, at noon, at Station No. 1, on the Gulf Railroad. It was sometimes called "Miller's Station," and sometimes "Miller's Plantation," It was eleven miles, by rail, a little west of south, from Savannah. On the march we passed a large grove of very fine palmettos, cabbage palms. The camp was within a half-mile of tide-water, and only a little farther from those immense rice fields, extending as far as eyes can reach, between this place and the mouth of the Ogeechee River. In sight of the camp there were many live oak and magnolia trees, as large and beautiful as any on earth. On the 13th, the regiment remained in camp. During the afternoon of that day, about 4 o'clock, the Second Division, (Gen. W. B. Hazen's), of the Fourteenth Corps, assaulted and captured Fort McAllister. The fort was on the right bank of the river, three or four miles above the mouth. General Hazen's division crossed the river, above the fort, on a pontoon bridge, and then moved down and made the assault from the west and south. While the division was crossing the river, General Sherman and Howard went to Dr. Cheves' rice mill, on the east bank of the river, from which they had a full view of the fort. The guns of the fort began firing inland about noon, and General Hazen's skirmishers replied. Later, a signal message was sent to General Hazen, from the rice mill, to take the fort that day, if possible. He did it. The cannon in the fort, being en barbette, were of no utility to defense. The Federal loss was twenty-five killed, and one hundred and ten wounded. Of the enemy, forty were killed and wounded, and the rest of the garrison, with all the cannon, and supplies of ammunition and provisions for two months, were captured. The Confederates continued the fight after our troops entered the fort. The next day, the prisoners, on two tugs, were required to remove the torpedoes from the river. Admiral Dahlgren's flagship followed them up. That night, after the fort was taken, Generals Sherman and Howard went down the river, in a small boat, to the fort, and from thence below to a steamer, from the fleet, that came up the river during the battle to a point within sight of the army. The way was now open for the bringing of supplies for the army, and also heavy guns for use against Savannah. That night, there was rejoicing everywhere in the army. The capture of Savannah was assured, and that within a few days. And if only the avenue of retreat toward the northeast could be blocked, General Hardee and his whole force would also be captured. Everything now was bright enough, except that.
From the 14th to the 20th, both days inclusive, the Ninety-Third Illinois remained in camp at Station No. 1, on the Gulf Railroad. On the 14th, the Confederates somewhat contacted their lines around Savannah, but there was not much fighting. On the morning of the 15th, there was considerable cannonading. The 16th was a quiet day all around the lines. Admiral Dahlgren's fleet was visible at Fort McAllister.
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