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.
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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 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.

The Ebenezer Creek Incident, December 8th – 10th, 1864

Dec. 8th – Dec. 10th, the Left Wing marches toward Savannah passing through Springfield and Ebenezer.  All the while meeting more resistance.  The Right Wing begins to push elements to the East through Pooler and also faces increased resistance.

The Ebenezer Creek Incident:  On the 9th of December 1864, the Federal 14th Corps was being hounded by Confederate Cavalry.  When they reached the creek they found the bridge had been burned and the engineers were brought up to build pontoon bridges.  The 14th Corps had been followed along their march through Georgia by a growing number of freed slaves, some historians estimate that there were nearly 5,000 former slaves following the 14th Corps. The Federals had asked the freed slaves not to follow the army as they did not have the resources to support their growing numbers.  In a tactical decision, Brig. Gen. Jefferson Davis(not the Confederate President of the same name), ordered the pontoon bridge to be taken up before the refugees crossed.  He was being pressed by the Confederate Cavalry and in order to save his troops, he stranded the refugees across the rain swollen Ebenezer Creek.  As the Confederates closed in, many of the former slaves were in a panic and attempted to swim across the creek.  Few made it across and hundreds died trying to cross the swift moving water.  Many were recaptured by the Confederates as they reached the creek.  Upon reaching Savannah later in December, there was an official investigation of the incident and General Davis was not reprimanded or punished in anyway.  Some historians speculate that the move was planned as a way to rid the 14th Corps of the refugees as they were slowing their advance.  General Sherman supported Generals Davis’s decision as the right thing to do from a military standpoint.  (I was unable to photograph the location as the land was in the process of changing hands and is now set aside to become a public park sometime in the future.)

Dec. 10th, General Sherman arrives on the outskirts of Savannah’s defenses and begins to plan for siege operations.  Sherman begins to lay siege to the defenses of Savannah and artillery exchanges become a frequent occurrence.  In order to keep up a siege, Sherman know he will need supplies and must make contact with the Federal Navy just off the coast.

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Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church is located in New Ebenezer and was built in 1767.  It is the oldest Lutheran congregation in the country as well as the oldest church still standing in the state of Georgia.  The 14th Corps camped here for several days.  There is a good museum with some period structures and the oldest orphanage in the state located adjacent to the church property.
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The interior of Jerusalem Church.  The Federals ransacked the church and burned down the parsonage as well.  In 1915 the U.S. Government reimbursed the church the $225.00 for damages done by the 14th Corps.
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The cemetery at New Ebenezer was once surrounded by wooden fence that was destroyed by the Federal troops for a variety of uses. 
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Zion Church, located at the intersection of Ga. 17 and Ga. 30, was used as a headquarters on December 8th by General Sherman. 

December 6th and 7th, 1864

Dec. 6th and 7th, the Right Wing marched through Bulloch County and crossed the Ogeechee River at Jenks Bridge, where US 80 crosses the Ogeechee River, and at the canal bridge, the remnants of which are visible today at the Savannah Ogeechee Canal Society park.

 

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The Savannah Ogeechee Canal as it opens to the Ogeechee River.  The bricks in the foreground are part of the final lock of the canal. 
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All that remains of this bridge over the Ogeechee river are the pilings.  It is located just below, down stream, of the canal.  The Confederates burned the bridge prior to the arrival of elements of the Federal 15th Corps.  Two Divisions of the 15th were on the far side of the river and skirmished with Confederates as they crossed river north and south of the canal. 

December 5th, 1864

Dec. 5th, 1864:

General Hardee is now well aware of the Sherman’s intent to move on Savannah and has placed his command between Sherman and Savannah.  The Right and Left Wings are both moving in a south easterly direction using the main roads into Savannah.  On the 5th, Sherman, traveling with the 17th Corps reaches the Ogeechee Church in what is now Oliver.  He took possession of a private home for his headquarters and remained here for several days to coordinate the movements of his command.  They were now within 50 miles of Savannah.

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Here at Ogeechee Church, a small force of Confederate soldiers about 4,000 strong, established a line here in an attempt to hold the Federal advance in check.  After skirmishing with Sherman’s 17th Corps on the 4th, the Confederates were forced to withdraw during the night as they learned Federal forces were crossing the river on their and right in an attempt to surround them.  On the 5th, Sherman moved into the area and established a headquarters at a private residence.  This church was used as a battlefield landmark and was used by Federal forces as well.
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The Railroad to Savannah, looking south along the straight and flat tracks from Oliver towards Savannah.  The Federals continued to destroy as much of the railroad as possible during their march towards Savannah.