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Week 34

(December 8th - December 14th)

With the March to the Sea four weeks underway, thousands of refugee slaves in search of liberation follow the Union army.
They are both boon and bane to Sherman’s cause: providing labor, but hindering movement.
At Ebenezer Creek, the bridge is dismantled so none can follow.
Countless refugees drown; survivors are shot by Confederate troops or remanded to their owners.
The enslaved are not yet free.

 

Episode Transcript

I’m Masud Olufani for the Atlanta History Center.

We are four weeks into the march to the sea.

Thousands of refugee slaves follow Sherman's army, seeking liberation.

In many ways, the refugees are assets, offering information and labor.
But for Sherman, they are also a problem.

They hinder the movement of his men and wagons.
Sherman notes he has “at least 20,000 negroes, clogging my roads, and eating up our subsistence. …”

On December 9th, a Union commander sees an opportunity to discourage them.

Near Savannah at Ebenezer Creek, he orders the military’s temporary bridge be dismantled after the army crosses... but before any refugees can follow.

Refugees attempt to cross on their own, swimming or on makeshift rafts.

For those who make it, the experience is repeated at nearby Lockner Creek.
An unknown number drown.

For those who survive these crossings, an uncertain fate awaits.
Some are shot by confederate troops.
Others are captured and returned to suffer the retribution of their owners.

The enslaved are not yet free – and the “massacre” at Ebenezer Creek is a vivid reminder of that.

I’m Masud Olufani and this is week thirty-four.

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