South by Southeast late 2018 - early 2019 travel blog

Fort McAllister

Fort McAllister

soldiers' dorm

officer's quarters

Fort McAllister

Fort McAllister

Fort McAllister

Tybee Island light house

Tybee Island

Tybee Island

Cockspur light house

Fort Pulaski


Whenever we are in this part of the country, it feels like the Civil War just ended a few weeks ago. This national trauma which seems so remote to me, appears to remain uppermost in the minds of many people who live here. The state park where we are camped has a recreation of a fort that was built to defend Savannah during the Civil War. Strangely enough, the rebuilding of the fort was initiated by Henry Ford who had a winter home here and was from Michigan. He bought nearly the entire Georgia coast line as well as large parts of the Gulf Coast in Florida. It's nice to have money.

I digress.

After the southern states seceded from the union, it was quickly apparent that they needed to continue trade with Europe for many of the manufactured items that they did not make themselves. It was quickly apparent to the North, that they needed to blockade the ports to prevent this from happening. Savannah was the most important port in the south and there are many rivers around it that provide access. Where we are camped, a rice plantation owner donated land to build a fortification to guard the Ogeechee River. This fortification was primarily earthen works built by the slaves who had also built the terraces where the rice was grown. Even though this type of fortification seemed primitive, it survived bombardment far better than the forts that were built of stone and brick. The fort withstood attack from the water for two years, but was eventually captured by General Sherman who marched 60,000 troops from Atlanta to the sea. The general here mined the woods behind the fort, which is the direction it was finally captured from. Sherman was so incensed by this unsportsmanlike behavior, he made everyone who survived here including the general, dig up the mines and remove them. War was different then.

After wandering around Fort McAllister, we headed to Tybee Island, a barrier island east of Savannah I had always heard about, but didn't know why. It has a cute little beach town, which turned us off a bit because there was no parking anywhere that didn't involved feeding a meter. The light house there was beautiful and is the third oldest in the US.

Since our visit in Tybee was brief, we found ourselves at another Civil War fort: Fort Pulaski National Monument. This fort on the Savannah River took eighteen years to build in the traditional manner with brick and stone after the War of 1812. It was considered as strong as the Rocky Mountains, but was severely damaged by a Yankee naval bombardment. The Yankees used grooved projectiles that traveled much farther and more accurately than the old bowling ball style. After they captured the fort it was a major thorn in the side of the Confederacy and immobilized Savannah. The Yankees here freed the slaves here long before Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and mobilized some of them as soldiers.

Although the museums and explanatory signs at both forts were factual, there was often an editorial comment about how bravely and heroically the southern boys had fought to defend Savannah. I would imagine that the Yankee boys fought hard, too.

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