Cannon fire will be heard around 3 p.m. Thursday as members of the Bulloch County Historical Society and other history enthusiasts conduct a ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of Gen. William T. Sherman's "March to the Sea" through Statesboro.
The ceremony will take place on U.S. Highway 80 West near Food World, where the site of the "Skirmish of Statesboro": took place, said Dr. Brent Tharp, the director of the Georgia Southern University Museum and Bulloch County Historical Society member.
The skirmish took place when some local Confederate soldiers encountered Union soldiers in that area, and fought briefly before the Union solders went on into town, where they burned Statesboro's courthouse, he said.
Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Ogeechee Rifles Camp 941 will fire the cannon during the ceremony, which will include installation of a renewed state marker commemorating the battle, said Mike Mull, acting division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Georgia Division.
"It has always been an honor for me and members of my camp to participate in anything having to do with our heritage," said Mike Sorrell, the commander of the Ogeechee Rifles Camp 941.
The fact that the marker has been refurbished and history is being preserved means a great deal, he said, because so many historical markers issued by the state have become damaged or in disrepair, and "There has not been a lot of interest in preserving (markers for) battle sites."
The cannon fire will honor local soldiers who "stood up to Yankee tyranny," Mull said.
Accounts of the historical battle were reviewed in an article published in the Statesboro Herald in 1989, the 125th anniversary of the March to the Sea, which shared information from the late Dr. Kemp Mabry, one of Bulloch County's renowned historians.
His account had Union soldiers crossing Skull Creek into Bulloch County on Dec. 4, 1864. Sherman himself didn't come into Bulloch, but his soldiers did, cutting a path of destruction on their march to Savannah.
According to the article, "a column under Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick destroyed an area along the Ogeechee River, including a farm belonging to James Jackson located "five miles from old Portal" near Emanuel County, as well as several other homesteads, stealing food, destroying property and looting."
The soldiers who battled Confederates near the Highway 80 site went on to burn the Statesboro courthouse — then a log-cabin style building that, along with "three or four" residences, a saloon and a cemetery, made up the town. Court was canceled the next day since the courthouse had been burned, but court records were hidden and saved, according to Mabry's accounts.
The 1989 article featured sources including former Bulloch County historians Smith Banks, Dorothy Brannen, Alex Lee, and Rita Turner Wall.
Another source of information about Statesboro's history is a book, "Good Times at Lakeview: The Story of Some Families in North Bulloch County Long Long Ago" by Charlton Moseley.
In describing Sherman's March, Moseley wrote: "Half of his army cut a swath down Old River Road in the northern part of the county — another force passed through Statesboro," along Moore Road, which is now Highway 80 and U.S. Highway 25.
Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen's division of Sherman's army sent out "foragers, or ‘bummers,' to secure food," Moseley wrote. On Dec. 4, 1864, bummers came to home of Sarah Rigdon and her children, taking hams, hogs, sweet potatoes, chickens, bacon, corn and butchering steers, carrying what they could, according to Moseley's account.
Both sources stated that the Union soldiers' plundering affected many Bulloch County families, many of which consisted only of women and children, as the men were away, fighting in the Confederate army.
The ceremony to install the renovated battle marker will take place Thursday at 3 p.m. along Northside Drive West in front of Food World.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.