|Construction was completed in 1846. By that time America was nation building in Mexico and had little interest (or money) for the edifice. On January 3, 1861, when a band of Confederate soldiers occupied the fort, only two people were stationed there.|
One of the first actively targeted sites by the Union Army and Navy, the assault on Pulaski began with troops occupying Tybee Island on November 24, 1861. On April 10th, 1862, shortly after 8:00 a.m., Federal forces opened fire with rifled cannon and mortar, systematically breaching the wall. By noon the following day, Union troops were preparing an assault on the breached wall of Fort Pulaski. The Rebels surrendered. (For complete details on the fighting that occurred here, see Lt. Col. Samuel Taylor's excellent in-depth piece, Fort Pulaski)
Towards the end of the war a group of Confederate prisoners of war were housed in the fort under deplorable conditions. Known as the "Immortal 600" these men survived in spite of starvation rations and brutality. Some of these men remained in Pulaski until March, 1865.
Visiting Fort Pulaski
Located about 15 miles east of Savannah, the first obstacle is getting to the fort since there is no direct route from I-95. We chose a southern approach, although you can drive through downtown Savannah if you wish (directions use this route). Route 80 is an interesting drive. The live oak branch out to form a cover over the road, with Spanish Moss hanging from the branches as if placed there by an interior decorator. My husband is a Civil War buff, so we drove to Tybee Island first, to view the fort from a Union perspective. We parked and walked back along the beach. As we walked, the fort loomed closer and closer, although we were at least a mile away. Between Tybee and Cockspur is the tiny Cockspur Lighthouse, one of five remaining lighthouses in Georgia (See Georgia Lighthouses.
We returned to our car and headed for Fort Pulaski. A small tollgate collected the fee and we crossed the causeway to the parking lot on Cockspur Island. First stop: the Visitors Center. It is important to do this first, so that you can find out the schedule for the interpretive presentations for the day. The museum in the Fort Pulaski Visitors Center is an excellent look into the natural and human history of Cockspur Island and the fort itself, and is well worth taking the time to see.
When you visit the fort you enter through the "sally port," and walk through a massive gate into a tunnel. A cannon is aimed directly at you, giving a perspective of what a soldier might see were he attacking. As we walked into the central area, our guide explained that there were two Fort Pulaski's built, one visible on top and a duplicate beneath for support. He showed us were the troops had written on the walls, and the area of the breach through which the Union forces were preparing to attack when the Confederates surrendered. Then the guide, whom my husband pronounced as "historically accurate," (which is high praise from him) gave us a demonstration of firing a Civil War era weapon. The kids just loved this part!
Now, we were off on our own. We explored the individual casements where the artillery was housed, and circled on the top of the fort (the "ramparts") for a clear view of Tybee Island, so we could understand what the opposing forces looked like to the Confederates. Then we walked around the fort, something many visitors failed to do! Here you can see the remnants of the drainage system designed by Robert E. Lee when he was stationed here. You also get a much better look at the destruction caused by the Union's rifled cannon.
Fort Pulaski is open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Regular interpretive programs are held for visitors. There is a visitors center with a museum, and a modest entrance fee.
Lighthouse on Cockspur Island
Be sure to look for (and visit) the Cockspur Lighthouse, which was in operation until 1909 and is now a part of the National Park System.
Cannon greets visitors to Fort Pulaski