One of the most historically significant and ecologically fragile areas of Effingham County will be preserved for future generations.
The Trust for Public Land has purchased 278 acres around the Ebenezer Crossing, and it has sold the land to the city of Springfield.
“I am glad we have finalized the preservation of such an important resource to our county,” said Springfield City Manager Brett Bennett. “Ebenezer Creek plays a significant role in telling the story of the history of Effingham. There are so many events in Effingham County history that revolve around this creek, and this piece of property is likely one of the most significant historically and ecologically. We are certainly proud to have played a part in protecting it.”
The Trust for Public Land purchased the land from the previous owners. The state Department of Natural Resources received a $400,000 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Ebenezer Crossing was the locale for one of the most infamous incidents of the Civil War. Freed slaves were caught between elements of Gen. William Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee’s advance on Savannah and Confederate forces bearing down on the Union column’s rear under the command of Brig. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis.
Instead of taking the slaves with them, Union troops left the freed slaves to fend for themselves. They tried to cross the rain-swollen Ebenezer Creek without the aid of a pontoon bridge. Hundreds of African-Americans drowned in an attempt to reach the other side.
The 150th anniversary of the event will be Dec. 8.
The National Park Service designated the lower 1,350 acres of the Ebenezer Creek watershed, which includes the Ebenezer Crossing tract, as a National Natural Landmark, noting it was the best remaining cypress-gum forest in the entire Savannah River Basin. Protection of these lands is a priority in the DNR’s comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy because of the old growth bald cypress-water tupelo swamp.
The total project cost is $589,890 and conservation of the tract supports migration of the endangered wood stork and swallow-tailed kite, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The city accepted a donation of 19 acres off Ebenezer Creek near Tommy Long Landing last November from the Georgia Conservancy. The city’s work on Springfield-Ebenezer greenway grant applications helped make the connection with the Conservancy. The Ebenezer Creek is one of only four state scenic rivers.
Springfield has spent about $20,000 in the purchase of the Ebenezer Crossing property.