Fort Pulaski, Protecting the Savannah River

Constructed as part of the coastal defenses by the U. S. Military prior the Civil War, Fort Pulaski had walls made of brick that were seven feet thick and 35 feet tall.  It was surrounded by a moat that was 25 feet wide and the walls enclosed an area of approximately five acres.  On January 3rd, 1861, Georgia Militia troops occupied the fort and raised the state flag.  Federal forces occupied Fort walker on Tybee Island about one mile away from Fort Pulaski.  On April 10th of 1862, Federal forces initiated an artillery bombardment that lasted for 34 hours and launched over 5,000 rounds at Fort Pulaski.  On April 11, 1862, the Confederates surrendered Fort Pulaski to the Federals.  It would remain in the possession of Federal troops for the remainder of the war and would become a safe haven to freed slaves from the area.  Many of the freed slaves would volunteer for the Union Army and form the 1st and 3rd South Carolina Colored Volunteers.

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The Moat and earthworks at Fort Pulaski.
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 The moat and one of the fort walls.
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Impact points from Union Artillery are still visible in the brick walls today.
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The brick wall of Fort Pulaski pockmarked from the Federal artillery bombardment.
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Moon over Fort Pulaski
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With a commanding view over the Savannah River, it is easy to see how Fort Pulaski could protect the Port of Savannah.
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Spiral stone stairs inside Fort Pulaski
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Artillery demonstrations occur often at Fort Pulaski.
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Some of the offices, and housing for the Fort.

Old Fort Jackson

Fort Jackson is Georgia’s oldest brick fortification.  It served as the Headquarters for the Confederate Coastal Defensive fortifications that protected the Savannah River.  The Union Navy was never able to capture the fort and it was not until General Sherman occupied the City of Savannah, that the fort changed hands.

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The brick walls surrounded by a marshy moat.
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Gun ports from the outside wall.
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Gun ports from the inside wall.
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Looking downstream on the Savannah River towards the ocean.
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Looking upstream on the Savannah River towards the Port of Savannah.
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It is easy to see so commanding of a view that Fort Jackson has of the Savannah River.
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Train tracks that connected Savannah and the Fort so that supplies could be maintained.

December 24th, 1864

Dec. 24, President Lincoln receives Sherman’s telegram.  The telegram is published in newspapers across the country.  Lincoln replied with “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift, the capture of Savannah, but what next?”

The March to the Sea is complete.  Sherman has reached his goal of Savannah and now has control of the city.  Camps are established and order is maintained.  Sherman’s Chief Engineer, Orland Poe, is reconstructing and fortifying the cities defenses.  The mines and obstructions are removed from the Savannah River and the port is reopened.  The citizens are encouraged to go back to life as normal, as as much of normal as can be expected under occupation.  Freed Blacks begin working for the Federal Army in various roles and schools are established for them in places that were once used in the slave trade.  Sherman rests, repairs, and refits his Army for there is more to come.

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In Savannah’s City Walk shopping district sits this historic building.  It is the Montmollin Building.  The top floor housed one of the largest slave traders in the city.  After the Federals arrived and the slaves were freed, the top floor was turned into a school for freed slaves. 
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Looking north on Bay Lane from Drayton Street towards Bull St.  This was the heart of Savannah’s Slave trade.  This small back alley was the home of many slave brokers and was surrounded by the bankers and lawyers that supported the slave trade.
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Looking south on Bay Lane from Bull Street towards Drayton Street.  The Federals liberated the slaves when they occupied Savannah and put an end to the cruelty that happened here.
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Confederate dead at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah.  Many soldiers made their way here as casualties and were cared for in the cities hospitals.
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Laurel Grove Cemetery
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Live Oaks line the road in Bonaventure Cemetery just outside of Savannah.

December 22nd, 1864

Dec. 22nd, General Sherman entered Savannah and established his headquarters at the Pulaski House.  While working out the details here, an English merchant, Charles Green, offered the General his home as his Headquarters.  General Sherman accepted and the Headquarters was moved to the Green House.  It was here that Sherman penned his famous telegram to President Lincoln.  It read as follows:

“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.”

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General Sherman established his headquarters here at the Greene Mansion and stayed in residence here until the moved the Union Army into South Carolina in February of 1865.
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The Juliette Gordon Low House.  The family here had relatives on both sides of the and they were a well know family in Savannah.  General Sherman and General O.O. Howard both visited the family.  Juliette was a small child and local legend says that she was sitting on the knee of General Howard as he explained that he had lost his arm in battle.  Juliette replied in a very innocent way, “Oh, I bet that was may Papa, he has shot lots of Yankee’s”.
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Factor’s Walk.  This area was full of warehouse areas and stores that catered to the shipping industry of Savannah’s port.  This area is between the level of River Street and Bay Street.  Many people believe that some of the “vaults” built into the bluff were used to house slaves prior to sale, but there have been no primary source documents to prove that belief. 
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Much of the River Street and Factor’s Walk area is paved with cobble stones that came to the port in the form of ballast stones as empty ships came to Savannah to ship out cotton and other items.

December 21st, 1864

Dec. 21st, at 4:00am, Federal forces were met on the outskirts of town by the Mayor and aldermen.  They formally surrendered the city and requested protection from the Federal Army.  Word was immediately sent to General Sherman, who was meeting with Navy Officers.  Sherman was taken back to King’s Bridge.  From there he rode into Savannah.

December 20th, 1864

December 20th, 1864:

General Hardee has had his forces quietly construct a pontoon bridge across the Savannah River.  They constructed it out any boat or pretty much any floating object they could use.  On top of the boats, boards were placed to make a road.  They then placed straw and hay on top of the bridge to dampen the noise of travelers.   On the night of Dec. 20th, Confederate forces withdrew from Savannah and crossed the pontoon bridge into South Carolina.

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Looking across the Savannah River from River Street toward Hutchinson Island where the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center now stand near the area where General Hardee had a pontoon bridge constructed.
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Salt Creek looking north.  The Confederates built a large set of earthworks on the right side of the creek and this is where Battery Jones would have been located.  A total of 8 cannons protected the bridge across Salt Creek from the Federal advance.
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Looking towards Salt Creek on what was the Savannah Ogeechee Road.  Battery Jones crossed the road just in the distance and beyond it was the bridge over Salt Creek.  The Confederates here held the Federals at bay for several days and on the night of December 20th they opened fire with at two hour bombardment of Federal forces to cover the evacuation of Confederate forces in Savannah.  After the bombardment, the artillery crews destroyed what they could not carry with them and evacuated to South Carolina.
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The marsh at Shaw’s Bridge and Shaw’s Dam.  Here, the Confederates also had a set of earthworks that covered the cause way over the Ogeechee Canal.  Heavy fighting ensued in the area as the Federals attempted to assault the position and were repulsed twice.  The Confederates held the position until the night of the 20th, when they evacuated to South Carolina with the rest of the Confederate defenders.
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Isle of Hope United Methodist Church was built in 1859 and during the civil war a Confederate artillery battery was placed here on the church grounds and contained 4 guns.  The church itself was used as a hospital and the pews were used as makeshift beds.  This battery was evacuated like the rest when Hardee moved his forces to the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.

December 17th, 1864

Dec. 17th, General Hardee, commander of the Confederate forces in Savannah, sends a request to Confederate President Jeff Davis for reinforcements from Lee’s Army in Virgina, but receives word that Lee can not spare any troops.  General Sherman, knowing he has the upper hand, sends a request for Hardee’s surrender, but it is rejected by Hardee and the siege continues.

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Savannah was an important Confederate port, and now with it under siege from General Sherman and no reinforcements coming to aid General Hardee’s defense of the city, Hardee plans to evacuate.