Fort Pulaski

So for my next Savannah adventure, I decided to check out Fort Pulaski. Named after Casimir Pulaski (from Poland), who came to America to help fight in the American Revolution. Construction ran from 1829 to 1847 and took 25 million bricks and 1 million dollars. The fort was positioned along the south channel of the Savannah river and was far enough inland to avoid any cannon fire from enemies. Or so they thought! See, before the Civil War, the best cannon balls were only accurate for about half a mile and could only shoot about a mile total. Then, when the Civil War came around, someone came up with a sleeve that went inside the cannon that would twist and a different style cannon ball that was conical. The sleeve with the new ball made the cannon balls go farther and have more accuracy. This new technology eventually accounted for the Union taking back the fort.

But wait… the fort was built before there was even a Confederacy so shouldn’t the fort have already been held by the Union? Not so much. After the fort was finished, it was decided that it should only be staffed by one guy (and probably also his wife) so when the South started to leave the Union, they just marched right up to the fort with their guns and took it. Even then, the fort didn’t hold as many guns/cannons that were possible and the peak capacity was around 1000. That seemed normal for me, but when the guide said this, everyone was in shock so I guess it was pretty low.

The men stationed in the fort began to hear noises during the night but when they looked out where the noises were coming from during the day, they didn’t see anything. So a MONTH (fools!) later, they realized the noises they were hearing were Union troops unloading cannons and guns and rolling them across the beach. They were all set up with the guns aimed directly at the fort. The Confederate troops weren’t worried though because the walls were supposed to be impenetrable. But remember those special cannon balls I told you about before? Yeah, the walls weren’t impenetrable for long. The battle only lasted 36 hours before Olmstead said, “K! Take my sword! we’re done!” in an act of surrender. Since he did it honorably though, he got his sword back a few days later. The battle probably would have lasted longer but one of the enemy shots went through the fort and into the gun powder room.

So the Union repaired the damage to the inside of the fort and kept it as their own. The fort was made into a national park shortly after WWI and I think was put back into military use during WWII then opened again to the public after.

Looking east

Fun fact! The officers had FLUSH toilets! However they flushed into the moat and then the moat had to be flushed, but still! Livin’ large. Now, alligators live in it.

Cut away view of the floor

The brownish bricks came from a plantation near Savannah. The red bricks were brought in from outside states because they were stronger. The fort today has 95% of its original brick and around 50% of its original floor boards. The fort was said to be “floating on mud” but was built well enough that the bricks didn’t separate over the years. Fascinating.

Those boards were set up all around the fort and piled with dirt to prevent cannon balls from doing a lot of damage. There were also trenches dug in the center area to catch rolling balls. As you walked through the center, you could feel where the ground was uneven.

The side of the fort that was bombarded by enemy fire. See the L shape in the first picture? The guide said a square outline was made and then the center was repeatedly hit which is what allowed the wall to crumble. The red brick is the repaired part that the Union fixed after the surrender.

gun powder

After the wall was busted in, it made it easy for cannon balls to go straight through to the other side and hit this room full of gun powder. The surrender was shortly after.

During the battle, only 1 soldier per side died. However, the fort was also a POW camp for sometime and some people died during that time too (from diseases and malnutrition and the like). There was a few grave sites set up outside of the fort to remember those lost.

It’s probably a good thing that fort wasn’t used for that long because this insane water-gathering system was in place. At the top of the fort there was a layer of earth and grass, then a layer of oyster shells, then a layer of lead sheets that was connected to lead pipes. When it rained, it would filter through each level and that’s where their water came from. Hello, lead poisoning!

Entrance to the park was only $3 and my receipt is good for the next 6 days in case I didn’t get enough fort the first time. Savannah is making me like history again.



2 Responses to “Fort Pulaski”

  1. September 16, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    I think you should write a history book! very nice post. put Gone with the Wind on your reading list. best book ever.

    also: it’s =/ its

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