The Aftermath

It is difficult to visualize the conditions which prevailed in Liberty County during the early days of 1865. What live­stock the federal troops could not drive off in December 1864 was killed and left on the spot. Their rotting carcasses attracted flocks of buzzards. and threw off a terrible stench for several weeks in some parts of the county.


Freed slaves from many parts of coastal Georgia roamed the countryside and looted what little was left by federal troops. There was chaos in Liberty County. Federal officials in Savannah posted infantry companies at Riceboro and Walthourville. but they did little to alleviate the confused and dangerous situation. Many people fled the county for their lives.


Mary Jones Mallard, daughter of Reverend Charles C. and Mary Jones, walked with her uncle, the Reverend John Jones, from her mother’s home near Riceboro nearly 30 miles to a place south of the Altamaha River where she could board the train still running to Thomasville, Georgia. She brought her children with her, including a recently born baby boy and Ruthie, the small daughter of her brother, Charles C. Jones Jr. They spent the night at Walthourville and before dawn the next day walked on to Hughes Landing where she and the children crossed the Altamaha River. Her uncle returned to Riceboro to be with his sister, Mary Jones, who was alone. The woman and children somehow made their way through the Altamaha River swamp to the railroad tracks, and waited there until a train came along. Ruthie Jones later recalled that the train was fired at many times as it passed along.


As a state of war still existed between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, federal troops in Liberty County controlled all walks of public and private life. There was no one in the Liberty County Court­house, because officials were either absent or unsure about what they should do.


When freed slaves and stragglers could find no more rice in Liberty County, they descended on Bryan County, where supplies of rice, for some reason, were still to be had. Some residents of Liberty County tried to arrange a trade agree­ment with federal authorities at Savannah. Their efforts came to nothing because the federal troops could have anything they wanted simply by taking it.


All of Liberty County’s combat units continued to harass Major General Sherman and his army as they marched from Savannah to Virginia. One of the more interesting footnotes of the war came when members of the Liberty Independent Troop captured the camp, artillery, and wagon trains of Brigadier General Kilpatrick and held them briefly. Brigadier General Kilpatrick, himself, escaped capture only because he fled half-clothed into a nearby swamp and could not be found.


All fighting between the North and the South ceased on April 9, 1865. That was the day General Robert E. Lee sur­rendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court­house in Virginia.


The governor of Georgia and other state leaders were placed under arrest by federal troops. The state government was replaced by federal officials. Liberty County officials were placed under the direct supervision of federal adminis­trators.