General Sherman’s custom was to march ahead of his army and cut rights of way for them to pass. At this point of the war, many of the slaves were escaping from their plantations and joining the “Yankees.” All of those slaves at Black Swamp who did not voluntarily run away and go to the “Yankees” were now free by right of conquest of the Federals.
Will now found himself in Savannah, Georgia, after refusing to go to Barnswell, South Carolina, with the Federals. This refusal saved him from the fate of his unfortunate brothers who went. Savannah was filled with smoke, the aftermath of a great battle. Lying in the “Broad River” between Beaufort, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia were two Union gun boats, the _Wabash_ and _Man O War_, which had taken part in the battle that resulted in the capture of Savannah. Everything was now peaceful again; Savannah was now a Union city. Many of the slaves were joining the Union army. Those slaves who joined were trained about two days and then sent to the front; due to lack of training they were soon killed. The weather was cold, it was February, 1862, frost was on the ground. Will soon left Savannah for Beaufort, South Carolina which had fallen before the “Yankee” attack. Soldiers and slaves filled the streets. The slaves were given all of the food and clothes that they could carry–confiscated goods from the “Rebels.” After a bloody struggle in which both sides lost heavily and which lasted for about five years, the war finally ended May 15, 1865. Will was then a young man twenty-three years of age and was still in Beaufort. He says that day was a gala day. Everybody celebrated (except the Southerners). The slaves were _free_.