Leroy Lloyd, President of the Effingham County chapter of the NAACP, and other members honored the lives of hundreds of freed slaves who drowned trying to cross Ebenezer Creek in 1864 by commemorating their struggle and death with a wreath Saturday afternoon at the New Ebenezer Retreat Center.
On Dec. 8, 1864, Brigadier General Jefferson Davis and the Union XIV Corps reached the western bank of Ebenezer Creek. Davis had his men assemble a pontoon bridge so they could cross before the Union Army could reach them. By midnight, the bridge was complete and Davis and his 14,000 men began to cross.
Over 600 freed slaves wanted to cross with Davis’ men but were prevented by Davis.
When the Union soldiers reached the bank, the bridge was cut loose and pulled up to shore, preventing anyone else from crossing.
Many of the freed slaves attempted to cross the waters without the bridge, resulting in hundreds of them being overcome by the current and drowning.
On Saturday, Lloyd and members of the Effingham NAACP conducted a ceremony to remember those who were lost.
“There is a gravesite at the Ebenezer Creek where some of the folks who drowned are interred,” Lloyd said Friday. “We’re going to that cemetery and we’re going to put a wreath on that marker.”
Along with the wreath, Lloyd said a prayer, gave a brief history of the event and conducted a Black History Litany.
The historical marker is located at the New Ebenezer Retreat Center near where those who drowned are interred.