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My husband Tom is contributing a chapter in an upcoming book on Vermont during the Civil War. It's his choice as to what he should write on and being a retired Naval officer he decided to write on the Vermont Navy. I don't know when the book will be published but he gave me a small bit to read about a Greek Commander and I just had to pass this one on. But he also duped me into writing the section of his chapter on the Commander.

What appears in the book will be a shortened version, the full version will put on his website in case anyone is interested.

George M. Colvocoresses was born on the island of Scio, Grecian archipelago, 22 October, 1816. When the Turks massacred the people on the island in 1822, George was sent to the United States. He landed in Vermont and was adopted by Capt. Alden Partridge, the founder of Norwich Military Academy. (This is the same school where the Vermont Quilt Festival is held every year) George attended the academy and was commissioned a midshipman.

He had an impressive career in the Navy before the Civil War, but what I want to tell you about is an incident that occurred in August, 1864. Mind you, these are sailors and we normally think of sailors as conducting operations from a ship of some sort. George Colvocoresses is now Commander of the sloop Saratoga, anchored in Doboy Sound, Georgia. On 2 August he received a copy of a Savannah newspaper with an article calling for a meeting at the McIntosh County Courthouse to form a coastal defense unit. The Commander considered himself and his men "interested parties" in the meeting so he decided to attend. He took eight officers and one hundred seven sailors and Marines as he left the Saratoga. Leaving the ship in seven boats the party reached the mainland just before 9:00 that evening.

The commander sent the boats back to the ship with instructions to meet him later at a place he previously decided. He proceeded to set up a skirmish line and advanced toward the main road leading to Savannah. When they reached a bridge, he left a boatswain and seven men to guard it and to capture anyone coming from McIntosh County. He also left orders for them to burn it at 11:00 A.M. the next morning, the time of the meeting. He hoped that by burning the bridge anyone trying to escape would have a difficult time and that the any Confederate cavalry in the area would fail in any attempt to attack his rear.

The rest of the party continued toward the courthouse and arrived without being seen. Commander Colvocoresses divided his men in the woods on both sides of the building. At 11:00 A.M. the following morning, the Commander and his men attacked as the people began to arrive for the meeting. They surrounded the courthouse and captured all but three men, who managed to escape. Those left at the bridge arrived shortly thereafter bringing with them eleven more men and some horses and buggies. On the way back to the ship the sailors captured an additional three men bringing their total number of prisoners to twenty-six. As if this wasn't enough, Commander Colvocoresses and his men destroyed another bridge and a large encampment on their way to the predetermined meeting place with the boats.

This whole incident caused quite a stir on both sides. The prisoners taken were mostly over the age of 50 or under 20. Some were considered important local officials. Rear Admiral Dahlgren heard the circumstances of the episode with amusement and was pleased with the results. Remember these were not ordinary circumstances for sailors and to have accomplished so much must have caused the Confederacy some embarrassment and given the Union something to snicker about. Dahlgren proposed to hold the prisoners to be exchanged with naval officers held in captivity. He maintained these men were legitimate prisoners of war but the Confederates claimed they were citizens who had borne no weapons. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles upheld Dahlgren's proposal.

As if this wasn't enough, before the controversy of the first raid ended Colvocoresses made a second raid. On the night of 16 August, he struck again. This time a party of 10 officers and 120 men landed at South Newport, McIntosh County, Georgia. During this operation in addition to capturing a lieutenant and twenty-eight privates of the Third South Carolina Cavalry, he also took a cache of small arms. Before leaving he burned the encampment, a bridge and destroyed two salt works. This time he returned to the Saratoga with six overseers of the salt works, seventy-one slave, and twenty nine soldiers.

Browning, Jr., Robert M. "Success Is All That Was Expected, The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron during the Civil War" Washington, D.C., Brassey's, Inc.,2002

© 2006 Winifred Ledoux