"Now you understand what a ﬂank movement means"
—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —
Little Ogeechee Baptist Church is the oldest congregation in Screven County. Organized in 1790, its first two structures were composed of logs. During the Civil War members met in a white clapboard building with a high-pitched roof and an impressive steeple. The present church sanctuary was constructed in 1912.
During the Federal army's march to the sea in November and December 1864, Major General William T. Sherman predicted that any Confederate defensive stand between the Ogeechee and Savannah Rivers would likely occur at Station Number 4-1/2 (aka Oliver), where the Louisville road and the Central Railroad crossed Little Ogeechee Creek. By Friday, December 2nd, Henry C. Wayne, Georgia's adjutant and inspector general had ordered the destruction of the railroad bridge over the creek and started entrenching on its south bank with the Georgia Military Institute cadets, various militia and three cannon. On December 4th, Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws arrived from Savannah with three brigades of militia, two regiments of state infantry and one brigade of North Carolina veterans. McLaws assumed command with a combined force of about 4,000.
A Federal probing force selected from the more than 11,000 men in the 17th Corps was led by Lieutenant Colonel Dennis T. Kirby. They encountered General Wayne's cadets,
suffering a few casualties. Kirby's shoulder. strap was "out by a ball" wrote Major Henry Hitchcock of General Sherman's staff in his diary. Kirby's force also rescued about 70 other Federals who advanced without orders and had been surrounded.
General McLaws quickly realized that he could be outflanked by the Federal 20th Corps approaching from his right or by the 15th Corps west of the Ogeechee River. He ordered a retreat to Eden (toward Savannah) during the night of December 4th. The next morning the 17th Corps cautiously advanced toward Station 4-1/2, fording the creek with no opposition. General Sherman smiled as he
commented to Major Hitchcock, "Now you understand what a flank movement means."
Major Hitchcock observed hat the Confederates had constructed a defensive line of earth and rails across the Louisville road. "They could have poured an ugly fire right on the road."
He thought a second line of embankments and felled trees was superior to the works nearer the creek and potentially more troublesome.
General Sherman and his staff rode on to "...Ogeechee Church, a large plain frame church in group of oaks—fine grove for camp where at first General ordered camp made, but presently learning of good house nearby we went there."
For two days Federal soldiers camped all around present-day Oliver. On Wednesday, December
7th, General Sherman and the 17th Corps continued south from Station Number 4-1/2 on the Louisville road.
Background: Little Ogeechee Church
Left top: Little Ogeechee Baptist Church As seen by soldiers in 1864
Middle top: Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws
Middle bottom: Union Lt. Col. Dennis T. Kirby (after his promotion to Brigadier General)
Left top map: Approximate routes of the "March to the Sea" through coastal Georgia in November & December 1864