Historic Ebenezer Creek Property Protected for Future Greenway

150 years since the tragic Ebenezer Creek crossing that led to “40 acres” proclamation

December 2, 2014
Atlanta

The Ebenezer Creek site of a frantic and tragic moment of Civil War history has been protected as a new public park. On December 9, 1864 hundreds of freed slave refugees died trying to cross Ebenezer Creek to avoid confederate troops pursuing General William Tecumseh Sherman during the union Army’s “March to the Sea.” Public outcry over the deaths led President Abraham Lincoln to approve Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15 that were intended to redistribute to former slaves 400,000 acres of confiscated coastal property in 40-acre tracts. The order was revoked by President Andrew Johnson following Lincoln’s death.

The 275-acre property protects almost two miles of rivers and streams at the confluence of the Savannah River and Ebenezer Creek. For the residents of the City of Springfield the property becomes a key piece in the proposed Ebenezer Greenway planned along the creek to the river.

“The City of Springfield is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Ebenezer Crossing property. This purchase will be important for Springfield, Effingham County and the State of Georgia due to the historical and cultural nature of the property. It has been our dream to preserve Ebenezer Creek’s natural beauty for the enjoyment of future generations. Our hope is that the Creek will remain as it is now, bringing tourists to enjoy the peace and serenity of the area, said Mayor Barton Alderman. “We would like to thank The Trust for Public Land, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Foundation and the Knobloch Family Foundation for making this dream a reality.“

“This coastal Georgia property is quite special for people, history, and the environment,” said Curt Soper, The Trust for Public Land’s Georgia state director. “The public recreational benefits along Ebenezer Creek to the Savannah River will benefit generations of people to come. And the historical significance of the Ebenezer crossing is immense and this land is protected in memory of the many lives that were lost here 150 years ago in the pursuit of freedom.”

Sherman’s Brigadier General Davis destroyed a pontoon crossing which stranded 5,000 freed slaves on the wrong side of the creek. Remnants of the pontoon bridge have been located on the property.

“I am very pleased that the site of the crossing on Ebenezer Creek is going to be preserved for future generations. Saving unspoiled land associated with the Civil War is becoming increasingly difficult and The Trust for Public Land is to be commended for their vision and leadership,” said Dr. W. Todd Groce, President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “Although not a battlefield, the site is still historic ground filled with meaning for all Americans. As the scene of one of the war’s most tragic events, it sheds light on the plight and courage of African Americans during the war and illustrates the extent to which human beings will go in order to be free.”

The diverse and productive habitat on the property, including fresh water tidal wetlands and bottomland hardwood forest, has been coveted for protection by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The National Park Service lists the land as a National Natural Landmark for its cypress-gum swamp forest. Federally listed rare species on the property include the wood stork and the shortnose sucker.

Funding for the acquisition of this property included a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as well as grants from the R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Foundation and the Knobloch Family Foundation.