Civil War: It was rumored that Abraham Lincoln said to Jefferson Davis, “work the slaves until they are about twenty-five or thirty years of age, then liberate them.” Davis replied: “I’ll never do it, before I will, I’ll wade knee deep in blood.” The result was that in 1861, the Civil War, that struggle which was to mark the final emancipation of the slaves began. Jefferson Davis’ brothers, Sam and Tom, joined the Confederate forces, together with their sons who were old enough to go, except James, Tom’s son, who could not go on account of ill health and was left behind as overseer on Jack Davis’ plantation. Jack Davis joined the artillery regiment of Captain Razors Company. The war progressed, Sherman was on his famous march. The “Yankees” had made such sweeping advances until they were in Robertsville, South Carolina, about five miles from Black Swamp. The report of gun fire and cannon could be heard from the plantation.
“Truly the Yanks are here” everybody thought.
The only happy folk were, the slaves, the whites were in distress.
Jack Davis returned from the field of battle to his plantation. He was on a short furlough. His wife, “Missus” Davis asked him excitedly, if he thought the “Yankees” were going to win. He replied: “No if I did I’d kill every _damned nigger_ on the place.” Will who was then a lad of nineteen was standing nearby and on hearing his master’s remarks, said: “The Yankees aint gonna kill me cause um goin to Laurel Bay” (a swamp located on the plantation.) Will says that what he really meant was that his master was not going to kill him because he intended to run off and go to the “Yankees.” That afternoon Jack Davis returned to the “front” and that night Will told his mother, Anna Georgia, that he was going to Robertsville and join the “Yankees.” He and his cousin who lived on the Davis’ plantation slipped off and wended their way to all of the surrounding plantations spreading the news that the “Yankees” were in Robertsville and exhorting them to follow and join them. Soon the two had a following of about five hundred slaves who abandoned their masters’ plantations “to meet the Yankees.” En masse they marched breaking down fences that obstructed their passage, carefully avoiding “Confederate pickets” who were stationed throughout the countryside. After marching about five miles they reached a bridge that spanned the Savannah River, a point that the “Yankees” held. There was a Union soldier standing guard and before he realized it, this group of five hundred slaves were upon him. Becoming cognizant that someone was upon him, he wheeled around in the darkness, with gun leveled at the approaching slaves and cried “Halt!” Will’s cousin then spoke up, “Doan shoot boss we’s jes friends.” After recognizing who they were, they were admitted into the camp that was established around the bridge. There were about seven thousand of General Sherman’s soldiers camped there, having crossed the Savannah River on a pontoon bridge that they had constructed while enroute from Green Springs Georgia, which they had taken. The guard who had let these people approach so near to him without realizing their approach was court martialed that night for being dilatory in his duties.
The Federal officers told the slaves that they could go along with them or go to Savannah, a place that they had already captured. Will decided that it was best for him to go to Savannah. He left, but the majority of the slaves remained with the troops. They were enroute to Barnswell, South Carolina, to seize Blis Creek Fort that was held by the Confederates. As the Federal troops marched ahead, they were followed by the volunteer slaves. Most of these unfortunate slaves were slain by “bush whackers” (Confederate snipers who fired upon them from ambush.) After being killed they were decapitated and their heads placed upon posts that lined the fields so that they could be seen by other slaves to warn them of what would befall them if they attempted to escape. The battle at Blis Creek Fort was one in which both armies displayed great heroism; most of the Federal troops that made the first attack, were killed as the Confederates seemed to be irresistible. After rushing up reinforcements, the Federals were successful in capturing it and a large number of “Rebels.”