Explore The Parks

Tour a Historic Fort in Georgia: Fort Pulaski National Monument

While staying on Tybee Island, Georgia, for a few days I had a chance to check off another national park site. Fort Pulaski National Monument is on Cockspur Island, between Savannah and Tybee Island.

Fort construction started in 1829, but it took 18 years to complete. In 1833, it was named after Casimir Pulaski, a Revolutionary War soldier who served under George Washington. It’s estimated that 25 million bricks were used in the construction. The eleven foot walls were believed to be impenetrable. The fort was originally used to defend the port city of Savannah.

In 1862, during the Civil War, the Union Army used James Rifled Cannons and Parrot Rifles to penetrate the fort. After a 30-hour bombardment, the Union forces with their state-of-the-art weaponry forced the Confederate garrison under Colonel Charles Olmstead inside to surrender. It was a turning point in the war and a landmark advancement in military science and invention.

As I walked in drizzle toward the fort, I was fascinated by the moat surrounding the fort, making it look like something out of mid-evil times. The moat is seven feet deep and ranges from 32 to 48 feet wide. If you’re wondering how the water got there, it was funneled through a canal from the Savannah River. It’s controlled by tide gates and there is small marine life in the moat.

I noticed a triangular piece of land with mounds in front of the drawbridge. It’s called a demilune. During the Civil War it was flat with some makeshift storage buildings. The earthen mounds were built after the Civil War. I was curious as to what they were so I entered and found a series of passageways and empty rooms. I assume they would have been used for storage of ammunition and weapons.

I walked across the drawbridge centered on the gorge wall and entered Fort Pulaski. It was here I learned I was actually at the rear of the fort.

The Cistern Room was the first room I went into. It’s one of ten room that would have been used to store fresh water. Rain watered was filtered through the sod on the terreplein up top and make its way through lead pipes into the water rooms. The whole system could hold more than 200,000 gallons of water.

I continued walking along the Gorge Wall and saw some of the officers’ living quarters. There are several rooms furnished to represent life at the fort.

I climbed up some stone steps to the top of the southeast corner of the fort. This is where Union cannonballs breached the fort and into an area containing 40,000 pounds of gunpowder. The Confederate garrison surrendered rather than be blown up by their own gunpowder. I took in the view for a moment, but not for long as the rain was picking up in intensity.

I retreated to a long hallway and was fascinated by the design created by the toll of time on the brick walls. Because of the rain, there weren’t a lot of people in the fort, so I had this part of it to myself. I imagined cannons and other weapons being moved along the distinct groove in the floor as I passed through archways of empty rooms with only a window to other rooms filled with military weaponry including cannons.

When it got dark and dingy, I knew I had found the prison area of the fort. From October 1864 to March 1865, Confederate officers were held here.

I continued walked around the fort stopping to check out a few more rooms like one that would have been used to store food.

I ended at the Surrender Room. In his quarters, Confederate Colonel Charles Olmstead surrendered Fort Pulaski to Union forces after the 30-hour bombardment.

Author Jennifer Broome stayed two nights on Tybee Island. For another historical adventure, check out her blog on the Tybee Island Lighthouse.