Union General William Tecumseh Sherman had only twenty miles left on his “March to the Sea”, heading toward Savannah, Georgia. Former slaves had started following his army as he began the march from Atlanta, but Sherman didn’t have the means to support them all. With food being scarce the freedmen were encouraged to turn back, but on December 9th 1864 there were about 640 former slaves, men, women and children following the army.
Union Brigadier General Jefferson C Davis, the leader of the XIV Corps made a decision to rid himself of theses 640 souls. Davis had the pontoon bridge laid out across Ebenezer Creek. He ordered his troops to cross first telling the former slaves to wait for their own safety, in case there was fight in the front. Once the Union troops were across the bridge Davis ordered the 58th Indiana to cut the line holding the pontoon, and the current moved the bridge about thirty-five yard away from the bank. This left the former slaves trapped on the far side of the icy water.
At just about the same time Confederate cavalry under the command of Major General Joseph Wheeler arrived at Ebenezer Creek where the former slave had been left. Many of the trapped men and women went into the river trying to swim across and were drowned, other were killed during the skirmish with Davis men on the other side of the river. The Confederates left to find another way around the river, but they came back later to round up any of the former slaves left behind.