Troops of the Chatham Artillery, Savannah Volunteer Guards, and the Oglethorpe Light Infantry occupied Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island near Savannah, Georgia, in January 1861. The fort had been a U.S. Army installation since 1847. Less than a month later the state flag was raised over the U.S. Customs House in Savannah.
Confederate Army troops attacked Fort Sumpter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861. The fort surrendered two days later. President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers for the federal army on April 15, 1861, shattering the hopes of most Southerners that the Confederate States would be allowed to leave the Union peacefully.
Georgia retained its constitution and laws when it seceded from the Union. The governor, therefore, was authorized to call out existing volunteer militia units, or create new ones from the general militia, to repel an invasion of the state by federal troops. He created new militia organizations and issued a call for volunteers to fill their ranks. Eighteen thousand volunteers responded to the call.
Georgia confiscated 22,714 stands of weapons from U.S. Army installations in the state when it seceded from the Union. A factory capable of producing 125 weapons a month was established in the state penitentiary at Milledgeville, and weapons were ordered from within the U.S. and Europe. But there was still a serious lack of individual weapons for new militia units.
The Home Guards was organized at Hinesville in the early summer of 1861, and built a camp on Colonels Island. Members of the unit started constructing defenses along the Liberty County coast. The Liberty Independent Troop and the Liberty Guards were placed on six months active duty at the same time. They were assigned to patrol duty along the Georgia coast.
A notice in the Savannah Morning News for June 1, 1861, said that R.R. Cuyler, a prominent railroad official, was an agent for the Confederate States, and was authorized to buy cotton, rice, and other farm products for the government. The notice said that Confederate States bonds would be given in payment for the products.
Federal troops invaded Virginia in July 1861 and clashed with Confederate Army troops around Manassas Junction near Bull Run Creek, 25 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The Union troops were routed in battle. One of those Confederate Army troops was Major John Minton of Liberty County. He was 70 years of age at the time.
The North then developed a program of offensive warfare with three objectives. Richmond, Virginia, capitol of the Confederate States of America, was to be captured; the Mississippi River was to be so controlled that the South would be split in two, and the Southern ports were to be blockaded. The Southern strategy was centered on defense.
The Rough and Ready Scouts, a general militia unit, was organized in the 16th Militia District by Captain George Troup Dunham in 1859. It was reorganized as the Altamaha Scouts on August 14, 1861. It commenced t raining in the Liberty Guards camp at Jones Creek, vacated when that unit built and occupied a new camp near Darien.
The Liberty Volunteers was organized on August 27, 1861, and started training in the Liberty Independent Troop camp at Riceboro. That camp was vacated when the Liberty Independent Troop built and occupied a new camp on the Isle of Wight.
Equipping and supplying new combat units in the state was a major problem for the Georgia Militia. The Liberty Independent Troop and the Liberty Guards had been established for years and had their own weapons, uniforms, equipment, and mounts. Members of new combat organizations in the county reported for duty with their own private mount, weapon, and home-made uniform.
A good deal of logistical support for the militia in Liberty County in 1861 carne from the county itself. Horses, wagons, food, and supplies came from county plantations on requisition by the state militia. A militia supply point was established at Walthourville, and it was there that unit quartermasters went for tents, equipment, medicine, and other items not available locally, and shipped in by rail from other parts of the South.
Some of the Liberty County combat units had medical doctors serving as private soldiers. They attended members of their unit who became ill. Where no such person was available, medical doctors in the county were called in to take care of the sick. Each unit had a hospital tent. When a soldier died, his body was returned home for burial.
Liberty County took care of its own as long as they were stationed in the county. When its five combat organizations became a part of the Confederate Army and were assigned to other parts of the South, however, they suffered shortages of everything a soldier requires to be an effective fighting man.
One of the most sensational stories in the Savannah Morning News in 1861 was about the hanging of John Brown. Other stories in the newspaper that year told about the authorization by the state legislature for $1 million for defense, and the raising of 10,000 troops in Georgia for the war effort.
John Elliott Ward, U.S. Minister to China, and a native of Liberty County, did not approve of Georgia’s secession from the Union. When it did he resigned his position, spent time in Europe, and made his home in Savannah, Georgia, until the end of the war.
Joseph LeConte and his brother, John LeConte, natives of liberty County, were faculty members at the University of South Carolina, and eventually assumed positions in the Confederate government and army.
Joseph Jones, a physician and son of Reverend Charles C. Jones of Liberty County, came home and joined the Liberty Independent Troop as a private soldier. His brother, Charles C. Jones Jr., was mayor of Savannah, Georgia, and was given a leave of absence by the city aldermen to serve as an officer in the Chatham Artillery.
By late August 1861, the U.S. blockade of Southern ports was being felt in higher prices for food in Savannah, Georgia. Corn cost $1.20 a bushel in Savannah while it cost 45¢ a bushel in New York, New York. Pork cost $27 a barrel in Savannah, while it cost $15 a barrel in New York. Some food prices in the South, however, remained about the same in August 1861 as they had been a year before.
A reporter for the Savannah Morning News visited the encampment area of the Liberty Independent Troop at Hester’s Bluff on the Isle of Wight near Dorchester on August 30, 1861. “We entered the camp ground just at the hour of drill,” he wrote, “and the long line of cavalry in the distance presented to us quite a warlike appearance, particularly when the spirit-stirring sound of the bugle and the clanking of steel was borne to us on the passing breeze.”
The reporter was entertained by Captain Abial Winn, commanding officer of the Liberty Independent Troop, and was then invited to tour the camp facilities. “We were first conducted to their little temple,” he said, “where morning and evening prayers are offered to our Heavenly Father.” The reporter then saw the guardhouse which he said was empty and had been since the camp was made.
“We had a slight glimpse of the interior of every tent,” the reporter said , “and were delighted to discover so much neatness and order in camp life.” The reporter said, “I could see in the faces of the troops the inspiration of battle-the rapture of the strife-each differing in general expression, but all wearing the same feature of enthusiasm.”
Commodore James MacKay Mclntosh, U.S. Navy, son of Major Lachlan Mclntosh, and grand-nephew of Major General Lachlan Mclntosh, died on September 1. 1860, at Pensacola, Florida, and was buried there. Four months later the state legislature authorized the removal of his remains to Midway Church cemetery at the convenience of his survivors.
Commodore McIntosh’s remains were removed and escorted by his nephew, Lachlan Mclntosh, by rail to Savannah, Georgia. The remains were then placed aboard the steamer Everglades, commanded by Captain J.M. Kell, a relative of Commodore McIntosh, and brought to Sunbury on April 16, 1861, where the ship was met by local dignitaries and the Liberty Independent Troop.
W.C. Stevens expressed appreciation to Captain Kell for his part in the removal of Commodore McIntosh’s remains. Captain Kell responded by thanking the people of Georgia and Liberty County for their “sympathy and consideration.”
After the reception was over, the remains were escorted by the Liberty Independent Troop to the Midway Church cemetery twelve miles away for final burial. Reverend Charles C. Jones said a graveside prayer, and his wife. Mary Jones, placed a wreath of roses and olive branches on a headstone already erected at the grave by the state.
The Savannah, Albany & Gulf Railroad announced in late September 1861 that its passenger trains henceforth would depart Savannah, Georgia, at 9.00 a.m. daily and arrive at Thomasville, Georgia, at 5.45 p.m. the same day. Passengers for Darien could make connections with a stagecoach at McIntosh on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. That stagecoach was used regularly in the autumn of 1861 by persons visiting members of the Liberty Guards stationed at Camp Hughes near Darien.
The U.S. blockade of Southern ports was so effective that on October 16, 1861, financial and agricultural leaders in the South met at Macon, Georgia, in a Commercial and Financial Convention. They unanimously passed a resolution recommending that the Confederate Congress throw open Southern ports to free trade with all nations who maintained peace with them.
The U.S. blockade of Southern ports kept products of the South at home and interferred with the obtaining of necessary supplies from abroad for the Confederate Army. Many enterprising men, however, fitted out vessels manned by daring sailors to enter bays, rivers, and creeks, and even slip through the blockading squadrons in to leading ports. Their feats were amazing. But if these same “blockade runners” were caught they and their cargoes were confiscated.
Privateers were outfitted by authority of the Confederate States which captured cargoes to the value of many millions of dollars, and greatly crippled the foreign trade of the Northern states.
Slave control was uppermost in the minds of plantation owners in Liberty County near the end of 1861. A meeting of Liberty County citizens was held in Hinesville on December 2, 1861, to draw up contingency plans for central slave control if militia units in the county were ordered elsewhere. A request was formulated and dispatched to Confederate Army headquarters in Savannah, Georgia, to retain necessary military forces in the county to prevent a mass abandonment of county plantations by slaves.
On Christmas Day, 1861, families of members of the Liberty Independent Troop met with them at their camp on the Isle of Wight for a yuletide celebration, because none of the troops could be spared to go home for the holidays. The ladies brought along baskets of food for the Christmas Day meal.