Fort Pulaski
County:Chatham
City:Savannah
Type:National Park, Fort, Battlefield
Cockspur Island has been important to coastal defenses since James Oglethorpe first settled the colony. Two earlier forts, Fort George and Fort Greene had been built on the island. In 1830, as part of the Third System, construction began on a state-of-the-art fort for the defense of the coastal United States.

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.

Ranger at Fort Pulaski loads and fires a weapon

View of the cannon at Fort Pulaski in casements

Cannon greet each visitor to Fort Pulaski
Cannon greets visitors to Fort Pulaski


One of two magazines at Fort Pulaski



Location: Cockspur Island, in the Savannah River 12 miles east of downtown
Directions: Take I-16 to the Montgomery St. Exit (Savannah / Civic Center/ Downtown, the last exit). Travel .3 miles north on Montgomery. Turn right on Liberty St., travel .7 miles and turn left on Broad St. Continue for .2 miles and turn right on President St. In about 10 miles you will see the sign for Fort Pulaski. Turn left, cross the bridge and park. Note:President St. becomes Island Parkway.
Additional information:
Phone:912.786.5787
Website: Additional information on Georgia Forts
Date added: November 16, 2003
Last update: March 12, 2004

Other Attractions in Savannah
Historic Squares of Savannah
Bonaventure Cemetery
Old Fort Jackson
Wormsloe Plantation
Cockspur Lighthouse
Tybee Depot

National Park Listing
Ocmulgee Indian Mounds
Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Fort Frederica
Carter Library and Museum
Fort Listing
Fort Hawkins
Fort Yargo State Park
Eagle Tavern
Fort McAllister State Park
Old Fort Jackson
Wormsloe Plantation
Fort Frederica
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Allatoona Pass Battlefield
Fort McAllister State Park
Point Park, Lookout Mountain
Dug Gap Battle Park
Kettle Creek battlefield
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park


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