Historic Markers Across Georgia

The Oconee River Railroad Bridge

Marker ID:  L11
Location: 1271 Blue Springs Drive, Buckhead, GA
County: Morgan
Coordinates: N 33° 32.464    W 083° 17.148
  33.54106666    -83.2858
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


The Oconee River Railroad Bridge
Blue Springs – Swords

—March to the Sea Heritage Trail —

Just below where the Apalachee River joins the Oconee River the Georgia Railroad constructed a massive bridge in the early 1840s, eventually connecting Augusta by rail to the newly-established town of Marthasville (now named Atlanta). It was "a fine structure about 400 yards long and 60 feet high from the water, and was approached by several hundred yards of trestle-work at each end." This engineering achievement also made the bridge an important military target for the army of Union Major General William T. Sherman during its "March to the Sea."

On Saturday November 19, 1864, the Federal 20th Corps division of Brigadier General John W. Geary had orders to destroy the Georgia Railroad's bridge over the Oconee River. After marching through Madison they continued their previous day's work of 'tearing up and burning all...of the [rail]road." Stopping for lunch at Buckhead Station, soldiers "destroyed the water-tank...and all the railroad buildings." Shortly thereafter Geary sent two separate parties ahead, one to burn the Oconee River railroad bridge and another to destroy all ferryboats and a large mill to the immediate north along the Apalachee River. After "exchanging shots with the enemy's scouts and driving them away Geary reported, "both of these parties were successful" and the railroad bridge was "thoroughly destroyed." It required months to rebuild the bridge. The Georgia Railroad did not fully operate again until after the war.

Having accomplished their primary mission, General Geary's division marched to the nearby small community of Blue Springs and the plantation of Colonel Lee Jordan. Federal soldiers destroyed almost 50,000 bushels of corn stored at the plantation plus 280 cotton bales. This brought the division's destructive total for the day to over 500 cotton bales, plus several mills, gins, ferryboats, five miles of railroad tracks and numerous other structures...and the Georgia Railroad's bridge over the Oconee River.

The next day, November 20th, General Geary turned his division south, marching hear the Oconee River and generally parallel to the march route of the two other divisions in the 20th Corps. A few miles south of Blue Springs soldiers destroyed Park's Mill (its ruins are now under Lake Oconee). Geary also sent a party across the river to nearby Greensboro to spread a false rumor that General Sherman's entire army was marching east along the Georgia Railroad toward Augusta. By dark Geary's division camped near Denham Tannery northeast of Eatonton.

Blue Springs became known as Swords by 1900, named for local businessman John Buchanan Swords. In 1979 the Oconee River was dammed to form Lake Oconee.

Erected Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails, Inc.