Fort Pulaski

A forgotten Civil War Battle

Savannah,  GA

November 11th, 2005

A casual look at Tybee Islanda map might leave one with the impression that Savannah is on the Ocean.  Actually,  it's on the Savannah river.  The land between the city and the ocean is mostly swampy with several islands as part of the delta. The one next to the ocean is Tybee Island.  It's now a high price resort island where the likes of Sandra Bullock have summer homes.  In the middle of the island is a campground.  The whole place is accessible by bicycle.  There are beaches on two sides. AcrossTHE DEMILUNE, ENTRANCE TO THE FORT the Savannah River is Cockspur Island where the Fort Pulaski National Monument is located. The fort itself is not old by American Standards.  President Madison authorized it after the War of 1812 but construction was not completed until 1829.  One of those  responsible for the building was a brilliant new Second Lieutenant, right out of West Point by the name of Robert E. Lee.  The fort was named for Kazimierz Pułaski, a THE MOTE AROUND THE FORT Polish immigrant nobleman who served with distinction as a Revolutionary War commander, until his death at the battle of Savannah. The Fort was finally completed in 1847 following 18 years of construction and over a million dollars in cost.  There are an estimated 25 million bricks used in its construction. Upon its completion, it remained unmanned. In 1860, only 2 caretakers were stationedSOUTH WALL LOOKING AT TYBEE ISLAND there.  In 1860 the Governor of Georgia, although not having seceded from the Union yet, sent a steamboat down the river with 110 Georgia regulars and demanded the surrender of the Fort.  The two caretakers capitulated. In February of the following year, when Georgia did secede the fort  was occupied by Confederate troops. There was also a small garrison of troops stationed on Tybee Island,  but the powers to be, considered their position tenuous at best and ordered the garrison recalled to the fort.  The Confederates were quite familiar with the construction of the Fort, since it had been built for the most part with local slaves, contracted from the surrounding land owners.  This would later allow Union SMOOTHBORE CANNON troops to slip across from Hilton Head Island and occupy  Tybee Island, where they busied themselves building redoubts for their cannons. Still the Fort's defenders were unconcerned as the walls of the fort were quite thick and believed its walls could not be breached by cannon, besides there were no smoothbore cannons that could shoot that far with any accuracy.  On April 10th, 1862, the Union Commander, out of a courtesy, asked for the surrender of the Fort.  The defenders declined. But the North had been busy in their munitions factories and fierce new weapons of destruction had been invented.  The rifled cannon was the new powerhouse of artillery.  Rifling in the barrel of the cannon made the shot spinGUARDS READING TO GO ON POST and travel very straight at far greater distances.  The South had no comparable weapon.  The bombardment lasted only 30 hours before the rifled shells had blown a sufficiently large enough hole in the south wall.  With shells now passing through the wall and landing dangerously close to the power magazine, the Commanding officer felt he had no choice but to lower the flag and surrender;  thus ending the battle for Fort Pulaski. In addition to the scenery and history, there were ample docents about, acting as they would have during the Union occupation of the Fort.  This is a nice outing and there are other parts of the park to see, so leave some time to wander.

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