Thursday, March 19, 2009

R.I.P. Regg The Drummer (1961-2009)

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-- And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-- like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
--by Langston Hughes

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Proposed Atrium at the Virginia Slavery Museum

The U.S. National Slavery Museum, with a spacious, light-filled atrium, was designed by New York architect C.C. Pei, son of renowned architect I.M. Pei. I.M. and C.C. Pei worked together on the famous Louvre addition in Paris, including the iconic Pyramid. C.C. Pei's plans for the new museum call for a 290,000-square-foot, glass-and-concrete structure overlooking the Rappahanock River midway between the Confederate capital of Richmond and the Union capital of Washington. Says C.C. Pei: "This is an educational project. It is about reconciliation, as opposed to recrimination." (source: Businessweek)

Portuguese Slave Ship

The visual centerpiece of the proposed U.S. National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Va., is to be a full-size replica of the Portuguese slave ship Dos Amigos. The reproduction vessel will be visible through a giant wall of glass to drivers on nearby Interstate 95. (source: Businessweek)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Durrs and Rosa Parks

Since Paul Harvey died this year, I'll have to tell you the rest of the story. Now, as I posted earlier, at the close of the Civil War the Lehman Brothers partnered with a cotton merchant by the name of John Wesley Durr in Alabama. Cotton was indeed king and the trading fortunes of the Lehmans and the Durrs were tied to the crop. The grandson of cotton merchant, John Wesley Durr was Clifford Durr (1899-1975).
Clifford Durr was a lawyer and nationally respected defender of civil liberties during the post-World War II Red Scare, a supporter of the civil rights movement, and counsel to civil rights icon Rosa Parks. In his early life he reflected the race- and class-based attitudes of his Alabama contemporaries, but during the years of the Great Depression and the subsequent New Deal he experienced an intellectual awakening. With the help of his activist wife, Virginia Foster Durr, Clifford Durr defended those unable to defend themselves, often at the expense of his own livelihood. Clifford Judkins Durr was born on March 2, 1899, to John Wesley Durr and Lucy Judkins Durr, a privileged Montgomery family with deep Alabama roots. His grandfather John Wesley Durr was a Montgomery cotton factor (a business agent for cotton growers) in the years just before the Civil War, and his grandfather James Henry Judkins owned a plantation; both served as captains in the Confederate army. A few years before Clifford's birth, his father founded the business that became the Durr Drug Company, and the basis for the family's comfortable life. (source: )
In December 1955 when police arrested Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. Durr called the jail when authorities refused to tell black activist Ed Nixon what the charges against Parks were and Durr and his wife accompanied Mr. Nixon to the jail when Nixon bailed her out. Nixon and Durr then went to the Parks' home to discuss whether she was prepared to fight the charges against her. Durr and Gray represented Parks in her criminal appeals in state court, while Gray took on the federal court litigation challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance. (source: Montgomery Bus Boycotts )

So, here we have the son and grandson of Confederate officers. Men who made their money from slavery and slave labor in the cotton trade. This was the family tree of the lawyer, Clifford Durr, who defended Rosa Parks. Redemption occurs when the heir of a cotton plantation and cotton merchant fortune dedicates his life for the total freedom, emancipation and citizenship rights guarenteed under the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.

Lehman, Durr & Co

By 1858, as the [Lehman] brothers witnessed the shift in cotton's center from the South to New York City, where factors and commission houses were based, Lehman Brothers opened its first branch office there, at 119 Liberty Street. Thirty-two year old Emanuel relocated to New York to run the office. In 1862, facing difficulties as a result of the Civil War, the firm teamed up with a cotton merchant named John Durr to form Lehman, Durr & Co. Following the war the company helped finance Alabama's reconstruction. The firm's headquarters were eventually moved to New York City, where they helped found the New York Cotton Exchange in 1870; Emanuel would sit on the Board of Governors until 1884. (source: Old Stocks)


The Quakers were the first religious denomination on either side of the Atlantic to come out against slavery. There were only some 20,000 Quakers in Britain in the late 18th century, but they supplied nine of the 12 members of the influential abolition committee that began meeting in 1787.

That first meeting took place in a London Quaker bookstore and printing shop. An all-Quaker abolition committee had actually been started four years earlier, but because of widespread prejudice in Britain against religious dissenters, the committee's efforts failed to gain public attention until it joined forces with similarly-minded Anglicans.

For decades to come, Quaker merchants and businessmen provided most of the movement's financial support. The network of Quakers around the country were the core of the local anti-slavery committees organised by Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson himself once said he felt 'nine parts in ten' a Quaker, but politically it was more sensible for him to remain an Anglican. Clarkson and others were much influenced by the writings of the early Quaker abolitionist Anthony Benezet, who, like many Quakers, spent time in both Britain and America.

Other Quaker stalwarts of the anti-slavery movement included Elizabeth Heyrick, businessman-philanthropist Joseph Sturge - who travelled to investigate conditions in the West Indies - and his sister Sophia, who personally called on 3,000 households to ask them not to eat slave-grown sugar. The Quaker John Woolman campaigned against slavery on both sides of the Atlantic, and his 1754 anti-slavery tract was one of the very first to profess opposition to slavery. (source: BBC)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lehman, From Cotton to Crash

An opionion piece by Kenneth Libo, published on September 18, 2008, in the Jewish Daily Forward states: The global financial system was shaken by news that Lehman Brothers is filing for bankruptcy. Given its longstanding prominence as a pillar of high finance, it may be difficult to imagine a Wall Street without Lehman. And yet, it is worth recalling, Lehman Brothers, like so many of the firms that loom large on our economic landscape, had a modest start.
The origins of Lehman Brothers are not unlike those of other prominent companies launched by the handful of German Jewish families that came to refer to one another as “Our Crowd.” Like the Seligmans, Kuhns, Loebs, Goldmans, Sachses, Lewisohns and other such families, the Lehmans got their start in America as single young men who came to these shores in the years preceding the Civil War.
The Lehmans and many of their cohorts came from families that were involved in the cattle trade in small towns and villages in southern Germany. Buying and selling was, for them, like mother’s milk. They grew up on it. When they came to America, they started out as peddlers along the waterways, highways and byways of a rapidly expanding nation. In a single generation, these German Jewish immigrant families advanced from peddling pots and pans to running family-owned and -operated merchant and investment banking houses on Wall Street.
So it was for Emanuel Lehman, the son of a cattle dealer, who in the 1840s traveled from Bavaria to Alabama. He went there because “cotton was king” — as the saying went — and Emanuel felt he could cash in. In Mobile, Emanuel obtained peddler’s supplies on credit from a Jewish wholesaler who knew his family back home. Emanuel boarded a boat headed up the Alabama River, selling his merchandise to plantation folk who waited at the river bank for the sound of a cowbell, announcing his impending arrival.
In Montgomery, Emanuel joined an older brother, Henry. A year later, they opened a general merchandise store in the heart of town, directly opposite Montgomery’s slave auctioning block. Initially specializing in cotton goods, the store carried everything from sheets, shirts and yarn to cotton rope and ball thread. In 1850, after the arrival of a third brother, Mayer, the name of the store was changed from Lehman & Bro. to Lehman Brothers.
“It was largely a barter arrangement,” recalled Mayer’s son Herbert, who, with the help of familial wealth and connections, became governor of New York and a United States senator. “The farmers would come in with their cotton and trade it for shirts and shoes and fertilizer, such little as was used in those days, and seed, and all the necessities. That’s how they got started in the cotton business.”
By 1852, the brothers were also buying and selling real estate and extending long-range credit to planters, settling accounts in bales more often than in dollars. Every year, Emanuel went to New York to replenish supplies and negotiate with cotton manufacturers and exporters, while Mayer, in addition to managing the store in Montgomery, dealt with planters and farmers in the surrounding area. In 1858, Emanuel moved to New York and, starting out as a cotton broker, opened a branch of Lehman Brothers at 119 Liberty Street, just a few blocks from where the Kuhns, Loebs, Goldmans, Sachses and Seligmans would later make names for themselves as Wall Street entrepreneurs.
For some 40 years Emanuel and Mayer were the firm. Emanuel was considered conservative, Mayer adventurous. According to family tradition, Mayer made the money; Emanuel made sure they didn’t lose it. With Mayer’s death in 1897 and Emanuel’s 10 years later, the firm passed into the hands of a second generation of Lehmans.
Until 1924, nearly 75 years after the firm was founded, all the partners were named Lehman. No one who was not a Lehman was allowed to join the firm. John L. Loeb Jr. has recalled that his father, who was married to Mayer’s granddaughter Frances, “couldn’t get a job at Lehman Brothers when he wanted to work on Wall Street. They wouldn’t hire any in-laws, and in fact for years I don’t think there was even a descendant who had a name other than Lehman who got the job.”

During much of its rise to prominence, Lehman Brothers had been trading in basic commodities, mostly on the New York cotton exchange but also on the coffee and petroleum exchanges. It wasn’t until the second generation took over that the character of Lehman Brothers was altered from “merchant” to “investment” banking.
A major step in that direction resulted from a fateful turn-of-the-century meeting over the backyard fence between Emanuel’s son Philip and his counterpart at Goldman Sachs who asked Philip to raise money with him for a new and emerging retail company known as Sears, Roebuck. This led to the financing by Lehman Brothers of other Jewish-owned and Jewish-run businesses, in particular department stores, textile and clothing manufacturers, five-and-dime operations, and cigarette manufacturers.
The results were extremely profitable. Riding the crest of technological innovation and economic expansion, the Lehmans were destined to take the high road that led the firm inexorably into the ranks of America’s foremost banking institutions. Following the passing in 1969 of Emanuel’s grandson Robert — for whom the Robert Lehman Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is named — Lehman Brothers, after three generations, passed largely out of the hands of the family.

And so this family-owned firm that was built up through trading in cotton and other worldly goods came to be a massive multinational corporation that dealt in complicated securities based on otherworldly mortgages. Emanuel Lehman, it is safe to say, would not have been pleased. (source: Jewish Daily Forward)

Slavery and the Founding of the Banking System

The thriving British economy after 1660 was made possible mainly because of Britain's financial institutions. Trading houses, insurance companies and banks emerged to underpin Britain's overseas trade and empire. The expansion of overseas trade, especially in the Atlantic, relied on credit, and bills of credit (like modern travellers cheques), which were at the heart of the slave trade. Similarly, the maritime insurance, which was focused at Lloyds of London, thrived on the Atlantic slave trade.

There were no banks in the City until the mid-17th century, and even a century later, banking was under-developed outside London. But slave traders and planters badly needed credit. A slave voyage from Liverpool to Africa then on to the Caribbean, before heading home, could take 18 months. And each point of the trade - buying and selling Africans, buying and importing produce (mainly sugar) cultivated using the labour of enslaved people - involved credit arrangements. Merchants and traders in London, Bristol and Liverpool, bought the planters' produce, so in effect, British merchants became the bankers of the slave trade. Provincial banking emerged in the 18th century because of the need for credit in the long-distance Atlantic slave trade. For example, Liverpool merchants involved in slave trading later formed Heywoods Bank, which eventually became part of Barclays Bank. Other modern banking names, such as Lloyds, emerged in this way and inevitably had links to the Atlantic slave trade. The Bank of England was also involved. When it was set up in 1694, it underpinned the whole system of commercial credit, and its wealthy City members, from the governor down, were often men whose fortunes had been made wholly or partly in the slave trade. The Bank of England stabilised the national finances, and enabled the state to wage its major wars of the 18th century. These wars were aimed at securing and safeguarding overseas possessions, including the slave colonies, and to finance the military and naval means that protected the Atlantic slave routes and the plantation economies. (source: BBC)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Betrayal at Ebenezer Creek

Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis had few complaints about the able-bodied black men who were supplying the muscle and sweat to keep his Union XIV Corps on the move with Major General William T. Sherman’s 62,000-man army. The black ‘pioneers’ were making the sandy roads passable for heavy wagons and removing obstacles that Rebel troops had placed in his path. Davis was irritated, though, by the few thousand other black refugees following his force toward Georgia’s coast. He had been unable to shake them since the Union army stormed through Atlanta and other places in Georgia in late 1864, liberating them from their owners.

The army fed the pioneers in exchange for their labor. It also took care of the refugees who worked as teamsters, cooks, and servants. It did not, however, assume responsibility for the others. So every day, hundreds of black women, children, and older men wandered into the camps, begging for food. That was not so bad when forage was plentiful, but fall had turned to winter and the sandy soil closer to the ocean was not exactly fertile. Living well off the land was but a fond memory.

‘The rich, rolling uplands of the interior were left behind, and we descended into the low, flat sandy country that borders for perhaps a hundred miles upon the sea,’ recalled Captain Charles A. Hopkins of the 13th New Jersey Infantry. ‘…The country is largely filled with a magnificent growth of stately pines, their trunks free–for sixty or seventy feet–from all branches…. These pine woods, though beautiful, were not fertile and rations–particularly of breadstuffs–began to fail and had to be eked out [supplemented] by rice, of which we found large quantities; but also found it, with our lack of appliances, very difficult to hull.’
Besides exacerbating the food-shortage problem, the refugees tested Davis’s volatile temper by slowing down his march. Davis was eager to reach Savannah, the destination of Sherman’s 250-mile destructive ‘March to the Sea’ from Atlanta to Georgia’s coast. But at every step of the 25 miles left in Davis’s march, the XIV Corps would have to contend with Major General Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry corps, a constant hindrance and annoyance. Quicker movement would make it easier to evade the Rebel horseman as well as to defend against them.
Map of Sherman's March to the Sea

So as Davis’s men approached the 165-feet-wide and 10-feet-deep swollen and icy Ebenezer Creek on December 3, the general envisioned more than merely another mass pontoon-bridge crossing. He saw an opportunity to rid himself of the refugees in a manner he thought would be subtle enough to elude censure. Controversy might follow, but he was used to that.

General Jefferson Davis, known to some by the derisive nickname ‘General Reb’ because of his name, was a veteran Regular Army soldier who loved battle. Short-tempered and a proficient cusser, he had a nasty reputation and was infamous in his time for a furious, short-lived feud with Union Major General William Nelson. In August 1862 Nelson and Davis had got into a heated argument over the defense of Louisville, Kentucky, where Nelson was in command. Nelson ordered Davis, a brigadier general, to leave. The two men met again a few weeks later in a Cincinnati hotel. Davis demanded an apology from his superior, and Nelson stubbornly refused to give him one. Minutes later the angry brigadier shot and killed the major general at point-blank range. Davis was arrested but later released. Though plenty of questions went unanswered, no charges were ever filed against him.

As the XIV Corps prepared to cross Ebenezer Creek, Davis ordered that the refugees be held back, ostensibly ‘for their own safety’ because Wheeler’s horsemen would contest the advance. ‘On the pretense that there was likely to be fighting in front, the negroes were told not to go upon the pontoon bridge until all the troops and wagons were over,’ explained Colonel Charles D. Kerr of the 126th Illinois Cavalry, which was at the rear of the XIV Corps.

‘A guard was detailed to enforce the order, ‘ Kerr recalled. ‘But, patient and docile as the negroes always were, the guard was really unnecessary.’

Though what happened once Davis’s troops had all crossed remains in dispute, it seems fairly certain that Davis had the pontoon bridge dismantled immediately, leaving the refugees stranded on the creek’s far bank. Kerr wrote that as soon as the Federals reached their destination, ‘orders were given to the engineers to take up the pontoons and not let a negro cross.’

‘The order was obeyed to the letter,’ he continued. ‘I sat upon my horse then and witnessed a scene the like of which I pray my eyes may never see again.’

How many women, children, and older men were stranded cannot be determined precisely, but 5,000 is a conservative estimate. ‘The great number of refugees that followed us…could be counted almost by the tens of thousands,’ Captain Hopkins of New Jersey guessed. Major General Oliver O. Howard, commander of the right wing of Sherman’s army (which included Davis’s corps), recalled seeing ‘throngs of escaping slaves’ of all types, ‘from the baby in arms to the old negro hobbling painfully along the line of march; negroes of all sizes, in all sorts of patched costumes, with carts and broken-down horses and mules to match.’ Because the able-bodied refugees were up front working in the pioneer corps, most of those stranded would have been women, children, and old men.

What happened next strongly suggests that Davis did not have the refugees’ best interest in mind when he delayed their crossing of the creek, to say nothing of his apparently having ordered that the bridge promptly be dismantled. Davis’s unabashed support of slavery definitely does not help his case, though Sherman insisted his brigadier bore no ‘hostility to the negro.’

Kerr saw Wheeler’s cavalry ‘closely pressing’ the refugees from the rear. Unarmed and helpless, the former slaves ‘raised their hands and implored from the corps commander the protection they had been promised,’ Kerr wrote. ‘…[but] the prayer was in vain and, with cries of anguish and despair, men, women and children rushed by hundreds into the turbid stream and many were drowned before our eyes.’

Then there were the refugees who stood their ground. ‘From what we learned afterwards of those who remained upon the land,’ Kerr continued, ‘their fate at the hands of Wheeler’s troops was scarcely to be preferred.’ The refugees not shot or slashed to death were most likely returned to their masters and slavery.

Kerr’s descriptions of the atrocity apparently met widespread skepticism, and he was forced to defend his integrity. ‘I speak of what I saw with my own eyes, not those of another,’ he asserted, ‘and no writer who was not upon the ground can gloss the matter over for me.’ Still, he left it to another officer, Major James A. Connolly of Illinois, to blow the whistle on Davis. ‘I wrote out a rough draft of a letter today relative to General Davis’ treatment of the negroes at Ebenezer Creek,’ Connolly wrote two weeks after the incident. ‘I want the matter to get before the Military Committee of the Senate. It may give them some light in regard to the propriety of confirming him as Brevet Major General. I am not certain yet who I had better send it to.’

Civil War Pontoon Bridge

Connolly decided to send the letter to his congressman, who evidently leaked it to the press. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton reacted to the subsequent bad publicity by steaming down to Savannah, which Sherman’s army had captured on December 21, to investigate the matter. Stanton did not preannounce his visit, but Sherman had received advance notice about it from President Abraham Lincoln’s chief-of-staff, Major General Henry W. Halleck. ‘They say that you have manifested an almost criminal dislike to the negro…, [that] you drove them from your ranks, preventing their following you by cutting the bridges in your rear and thus caused the massacre of large numbers by Wheeler’s cavalry,’ Halleck wrote.

Stanton arrived on January 11 and began asking questions. ‘Stanton inquired particularly about General Jeff. C. Davis, who he said was a Democrat and hostile to the negro,’ Sherman later wrote. Stanton showed Sherman a newspaper account of the affair and demanded an explanation. Sherman urged the secretary not to jump to conclusions and, in his postwar memoirs, reported that he ‘explained the matter to [Stanton's] entire satisfaction.’ He went on to say that Stanton had come to Savannah mainly because of pressure from abolitionist Radical Republicans. ‘We all felt sympathy…for those poor negroes…,’ Sherman wrote, ‘but a sympathy of a different sort from that of Mr. Stanton, which was not of pure humanity but of politics.’

Sherman’s attitude toward black people is perhaps best illustrated in his own words, in a private letter he wrote to his wife, Ellen, shortly before he left Savannah to continue his march up the coast. ‘Mr. Stanton has been here and is cured of that negro nonsense,’ he wrote. ‘[Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P.] Chase and others have written to me to modify my opinions, but you know I cannot, for if I attempt the part of a hypocrite it would break out in every sentence. I want soldiers made of the best bone and muscle in the land, and won’t attempt military feats with doubtful materials.’ As he admitted in his memoirs, ‘In our army we had no negro soldiers and, as a rule, we preferred white soldiers.’

‘The negro question was beginning to loom up…and many foresaw that not only would the slaves secure their freedom, but that they would also have votes,’ his memoirs further reveal. ‘I did not dream of such a result then, but knew that slavery, as such, was dead forever; [yet I] did not suppose that the former slaves would be suddenly, without preparation, manufactured into voters–equal to all others, politically and socially.’

In course, when considering Sherman and his actions, it’s important to remember that his ideas about black people, though shocking today, were hardly unique in his time. The majority of Union volunteers, and of Northerners in general, were at most ambivalent about emancipation and were vehemently opposed to black suffrage.

Given the prevailing beliefs of the time, it might be no surprise that Union authorities justified the incident at Ebenezer Creek as a ‘military necessity.’ None of the officers involved was even officially reprimanded. Most of them advanced in their military and, later, civilian careers.

Davis’s commander, Howard, who had been described as ‘the most Christian gentleman in the Union army,’ went on to found Howard University, a black college in Washington, D.C. He also became the first director of the Freedmen’s Bureau, which the Federal government set up to help the recently freed slaves make the transition from slave to citizen.

Wheeler’s cavalry was roundly condemned for its part in the affair, but the reputation of its young commander was evidently not harmed. Wheeler went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1885 to 1900 and as a major general of volunteers in the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Davis handled the Ebenezer Creek commotion with the same coolness that had taken him back to battlefield command so soon after the Nelson shooting. Again he was never punished or even reprimanded. In fact, he was later made a brevet major general.Then there is William T. Sherman, the field commander ultimately responsible for Davis’s actions. Sherman was rewarded with the Thanks of Congress for the revolutionary ‘total war’ he waged during his March to the Sea. At the May 1865 Grand Review of the Armies, the huge parade through Washington, D.C., to celebrate Union victory, Sherman was hailed as a war hero. A few years later, newly elected President Ulysses S. Grant made Sherman a full general and general-in-chief of the U.S. Army.

Sometime during those postwar years, Sherman offered a rosy recollection of the reception he and his men had received as they marched through Georgia. ‘…the Negroes were simply frantic with joy,’ he said. ‘Whenever they heard my name, they clustered about my horse, shouted and prayed in their peculiar style, which had a natural eloquence that would have moved a stone.’ Apparently, though, it did not move Sherman deeply enough to make him seek justice for the soon-forgotten victims of the Ebenezer Creek incident.
This article was written by Edward M. Churchill and originally published in Civil War Times Magazine in October 1998, posted on History Net.

also see: Ghosts of Ebenezer Creek

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ghosts of Ebenezer Creek, Georgia

Located in the Southeast corner of Georgia is a quiet area known as Ebenezer Swamp. But it is said that whenever the swamp becomes swollen from rainfall that cries from spirits dating back to the Civil War pierce the silence.

Sometime in November of 1864, Union General William T. Sherman was told of alleged atrocities taking place at Camp Lawton, a Confederate prisoner of war camp located near Millen, Georgia. There are conflicting accounts of the validity of these claims, but upon hearing them, Sherman vowed to free his comrades and ordered his troops to begin marching South towards the camp.

However, before Sherman arrived at Camp Lawton, the Confederate troops stationed there were made aware of his approach. As a result, when Sherman entered the camp a month later, he found it deserted. Incensed that he was too late, Sherman ordered the entire camp burned to the ground. He next ordered his troops to continue moving south in pursuit of the Confederates who had vacated the camp.

As Sherman’s troops continued south, they began to attract a large number of slaves. To many of these slaves, Sherman’s troops represented a chance for freedom. Soon, entire slave families began gathering up their meager possessions and following the Union troops. There are reports that by the time the soldiers reached Ebenezer Swamp there were over 2,000 slaves with them.
Upon reaching the area surrounding Ebenezer Swamp, Union troops found that the heavy rains caused the riverbanks to overflow, washing away the roads. It was also discovered that while they were retreating, Confederate soldiers had destroyed the bridge over Ebenezer Creek, which was the only way to cross the swamp. In addition, nearby Confederates had begun to sporadically fire upon the Union solders from their hiding places along the Savannah River.

Seeing the need to cross Ebenezer Swamp as soon as possible, Union General Jefferson C. Davis immediately ordered the construction of a crude bridge. Davis also began to worry that the large number of slaves would impede his troops’ progress. As so, Davis gave orders that the slaves were to stand aside and wait until the Union troops had all safely crossed first.
On a dark, rainy night, the bridge was finally completed and Davis gave the order to cross. As instructed, the slaves stood silently and waited for their turn. However, as the Union troops crossed, Confederates opened fire. In the darkness, it was unclear as to where the Confederates were stationed. Davis feared that the enemy would use the bridge as a means for attacking his troops from the rear. And so, as soon as the last of his men were safely across, Davis ordered the bridge destroyed.

Upon seeing the bridge collapse, fear raced through the crowd of slaves gathered at the water’s edge. They had all heard the horror stories from other slaves and were convinced that if the Confederate Army captured them, they would be killed. And so, one by one, thousands of men, women and children jumped into the raging water in a last-ditch attempt at freedom.

Davis ordered his troops to ignore the cries for help and to continue moving forward. And while there are accounts of a few Union soldiers felling large trees in an attempt to create a makeshift bridge, the sad fact is that most of the slaves were simply left to drown. It is said that so many perished in the water that for some time after, their bodies piled high enough to create a macabre dam before finally washing away.

Today, if you find yourself in the area surrounding Ebenezer Swamp during the rainy season, you will undoubtedly hear the stories. For many claim that on dark, rainy nights, you will still hear the ghostly cries of those who bravely struggled for freedom—-a freedom that many of us today still take for granted. (source: The Ghosts of Ohio)

Sherman’s Ebenezer Creek Crossing

In this Sherman's Total War Tactics video, brought to you by the History Channel, learn about the Ebenezer Creek Cross that Sherman sought out to get to Savannah, Georgia quicker.
Click here to watch the video.


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