We have been to about four forts during our travels in the South and Fort Pulaski located between Savannah and Tybee Island is probably the best one yet. It is so well preserved and maintained, the National Park Service has done a great job keeping this fort looking sharp. Plus this fort has a moat filled with water – how can you not love a fort with a real moat? I liked that the moat is still filled from a canal that brings water from the river just as it was done from the earliest days.
Fort Pulaski was completed in 1847 to protect the port of Savannah. When the Fort was built it was designed to withstand enemy gun fire. In 1861 Confederate troops moved in to occupy the Fort at the beginning of the Civil War. In 1862 Union soldiers used rifled cannon, a new weapon that was able to batter the brick and mason construction. This was the first time these new weapons were used and and they made brick forts pretty much obsolete. After the main powder magazine was exposed by the battering, the Commander surrendered to prevent further destruction and loss of life. The Confederates only controlled the Fort about 14 months before surrendering. This closed Savannah’s port to the Confederates and was a devastating blow to their economy. In the picture below you can see a closer view of the damage including a cannon ball still stuck in the wall in the top left hand corner. One of my favorite things about visiting here was being able to see the damage to the Fort.
Later in the war, the Fort was used as a prisoner of war camp for Confederate officers known as the “Immortal Six Hundred.” They were housed on one side of the Fort with men crammed into bunks in a very small area for this many people. Thirteen of the men died here. I learned during a ranger talk that the Union commander was more kindly toward the prisoners than other Union officers could be, so the prisoners probably fared a little better. Below is an interior view with gun placements. I noticed that all the floors were swept very clean and free of any debris. This was different than Fort Morgan, Alabama which I wrote about in a previous post. Morgan was more atmospheric with loose dirt and debris all over. It shows how different two places run by the National Park system can be maintained.
To get to Fort Pulaski you have to cross a few waterways including a bridge as the fort is located on an island. After we crossed I noticed many downed and damaged trees, like they had been tossed around. I learned at the visitor center that in one year two hurricanes and a tornado hit the area. An article from a local paper noted: “Fort Pulaski can’t seem to catch a break.” In October 2016 Hurricane Matthew landed in the Savannah area and then on May 23, 2017 a tornado touched down on the island. In September 2017 Hurricane Irma hit and although less destructive than Matthew, the island and fort experienced significant flooding. The fort area was turned into a lake with wooden bridges that visitors used to cross the moat washing away. After each disaster the fort had to be closed for repairs. When we visited the fort itself looked good but the main Visitor Center was still not open.
Once you cross over the moat you enter through two sets of original doorways with the neatest old wooden doors. The first doors have iron studs so they couldn’t be axed by intruders. I have to say I am a fan of doors and doorways and they were one of my favorite things to see here.
You can walk around the whole bottom and top of the fort seeing the parade grounds, the various cannons and views of the waterways around the island. Below, Mark caught a picture of me admiring the view from the top.
After visiting the fort we drove on to Tybee Island which is a favorite vacation spot for visitors to the Savannah area. We visited one of the beaches which was peaceful and pretty.
Since I love lighthouses, I was happy to see the Tybee Island Light Station. Two earlier lighthouses were destroyed after being built too close to the shore. In 1736 the third was built a little further inland and so far has held firm.
In 1867 it was added on to and is now 154 feet tall with 178 stairs to the top. When we visited the light was closed for repairs but you could go inside the lighthouse keeper’s home as well as a few other buildings on the property. This is Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse.
As always, thanks for reading, we appreciate your support! In the next blog we have moved on to Charleston, South Carolina and I plan to write about the first attraction we visited there.