The Historic Effingham Society Marker Program will commemorate a historic marker on Moss Loop Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Historic Effingham Society fall meeting.
The marker commemorates the fighting at Cuyler’s Plantation and Monteith Swamp on the Effingham/Chatham County line Dec. 9, 1864. This was in essence a rear guard action conducted by Confederate Col. C.C. Jones and 600 troops supported by four guns.
The troops involved were from Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee. Arrayed against them was the 14th and 20th Corps of Sherman’s Army, who were approaching Savannah down the Augusta and Monteith roads.
Jones’ orders were to slow Sherman’s advance in order to keep open the vital railway bridge to Charleston for as long as possible. The bridge was the last line of communication and supply with the Confederate Army in South Carolina. Once the bridge fell into Union hands, Savannah was cut off and effectively under siege.
Jones set up blocking positions behind well prepared earthworks at points where the roads were bordered by swamps thus making outflanking difficult. These where located at the juncture of the Middleground Road and Augusta Road (near what is now Rice Hope Plantation on Highway 21) and where Monteith Road crosses Monteith Swamp (near the intersection of Hodgeville Road and Highway 30).
The ground in between the two positions was mostly impenetrable forest and swamp crossed by a few small trails-that were picketed by cavalry. Jones was attacked by the 20th Corps on the Monteith Road and 14th Corps on the Augusta Road on the afternoon of Dec. 9, 1864.
Between them these two U.S. Corps (along with supporting units) mustered about 30,000 men and more than 30 guns. Despite these odds, Jones and his small band put up a stiff fight. The positions at Monteith gave way in the late afternoon but not before hard fight which resulted in about 20 casualties including a number of dead on both sides. The position at Cuyler’s held until after dark.
In the fighting at Cuyler’s, an artillery dual between Union and Confederate guns resulted in the death of the Union Battery Commander young Lt. Coe. He was buried near the battlefield somewhere between Cuyler’s and Mulberry Bluff plantations where his body was recovered by his family after the war and shipped home to his widowed bride in New York.
The marker is sponsored by Barry Sheehy, a resident of Effingham and an active life member of the Historic Effingham Society. The marker is located about 1,200 yards from both the Monteith Swamp and Cuyler’s Plantation battle sites.
Sheehy chose this site because it is dead center of the defensive arc linking Monteith and Cuyler’s plantation. Sheehy covered the cost of the marker and wrote the historical supporting paper “Forgotten Battles” published in Georgia Historical Quarterly Summer 2005.
According to Sheehy, “This was really one engagement fought at two locations simultaneously so a single marker is a good starting point.”
In time he hopes additional markers can be placed at the Monteith and Cuyler’s battle sites but as Sheehy put it, “it can take a long time and a lot of effort to acquire the necessary permission, donation of land and financial sponsorship for a historic marker. But given the pace of development in Effingham it is vital that these historic sites be identified and, whenever possible, preserved. Once they are paved over they are gone forever.”
Cuyler’s Plantation is now long gone subsumed by Rice Hope and Monteith Swamp is threatened by encroaching development. Harrison’s field on the battle site has been preserved by local land owner Gerry Dotson who, according to Sheehy, “deserves a medal for resisting developers.”
To set the example Sheehy has placed almost all of his 280 acres of land-including the site of the marker-into permanent conservation easement with the Georgia Land Trust. This means the land will remain undeveloped in perpetuity.
The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. at 450 Moss Loop, followed by a reception and refreshments at 420 Moss Loop, “The Gunner’s Mess.” There will be a brief presentation at the Gunner's Mess on the details of the engagements for those interested presented by Barry Sheehy and local historian Norman Turner.
A map to the location is available at Effingham Museum or on the Web site, www.historiceffinghamsociety.org.