Type:State Park, Fort, Battlefield
History of the land
Civil War buffs will tell you about the incredible stand the Rebels made against a new Yankee weapon, the ironclad, in the first sea-land battles in which this new class of warship was used. Or how General William Tecumseh Sherman watched a division of men overrun 230 Rebel soldiers left to defend the fort during the death knell of the Confederacy.
The history of the land that now comprises Fort McAllister State Park predates the Civil War by some 350 years. The Spanish called this area Guale (pronounced Wah-li). Catholic missions, used to convert the sometimes violent Creek Indians dotted the coastal plain. The mission of San Diego de Satuache was at or near the location of Fort McAllister. Spanish influence in the area ended in the late 1600's. Creek Wars with the English colony of South Carolina continued until English settlers began to work the land in the mid-1730's. When the trustees returned control of the land to King George II, the royal governor he appointed, John Reynolds, decided he did not like Savannah as capitol and tried to move it to Hardwicke, slightly west and north of Genesis Point. This was one of a series of moves that made Reynolds unpopular with Georgians. He was forced to resign within a couple of years.
Just before the American Revolution, William Bartram visited Genesis Point (then known as Jennys Point). Bartram continued his walk into history, exploring much of coastal Georgia, the Savannah River, and the northeast Georgia mountains.
Some of the large plantations in the area grew rice and cotton, harvested by slaves whose life expectancy averaged 18 months at one point. Joseph McAllister's family purchased Strathy Hall, a plantation that contained Genesis Point. The Confederate government built a fort here to protect Savannah's "back door." Then came the war (for more on this era of the park, see Col. Samuel Taylor's "Fort McAllister").
Sherman completed his "March to the Sea" three miles east of the fort, bringing the Emancipation Proclamation and freeing the slaves. The plantation system was destroyed, its place taken by a sharecropper system. In the 1930's Henry Ford purchased Genesis Point and reconstructed the fort. The fort was donated to the state, which opened Fort McAllister State Park in 1963.
About the Park
The flat, coastal plain on which Fort McAllister lies is a haven for wildlife. Pelican, seagulls and terns, the land is rich with waterfowl. The land is sandy with occasional patches of thick black loam woven throughout the sand.
At the entrance a Civil War era cannon greets the guests, a fitting welcome for the centerpiece of this state park is the fort. Inside the visitors center is a small museum, gift shop, and a 17 minute video about the naval and land attacks on the fort. Pay a small admission and you are welcome to walk to the fort, a short hike along a broad, flat plain that was probably constructed as a road.
Along the side of this road, the remains of the CSS Nashville, which also served duty as a blockade runner and privateer. Originally a 1221-ton side-wheel steamer that was siezed at Charleston by the Confederacy, she was refit with heavy steel plating and set out in October 1861 to wreck havoc with the Union merchant fleet. In November, 1861, she engaged that fleet in battle in the English Channel. She was sold, becoming the Blockade Runner Thomas L. Wragg, but was not a good choice for this duty. In November, 1862 she was resold, becoming the Privateer Rattlesnake. This boat sank on February 28, 1863, during one of the 8 naval battles which occured here on the Ogeechee River. The rusted parts of this steamship lie to the right of the path, with an intepretive marker nearby.
The fort is surrounded by pickets, foreboding pieces of pointed wood leaning out at an angle. Follow the path around to the entrance and you are walking along a parapet with the river on one side and formidable cannon on the other. The path has informative signs along the way, with information about both the sea and land battles, life in the fort, and what occurred after General William T. Sherman overran the fort on
At the center of the fort is a bombproof, a sand and mud covered living quarters for the troops. Deep within the mound were the barricks for the men stationed at the low-tech fort. You may enter the mound and walk through, an exceptionally interesting part of the tour. Unlike its neighbor, Fort Pulaski, Fort McAllister was built with earthen walls, yet it withstood repeated Federal bombardments. Towards the far end of the fort is a mortar battery that was interesting.
Visiting Fort McAllister
In addition to the museum, fort, and the hike involved in visiting the fort, there is a 3.1 mile trail through a typical low-land marsh. The culmination of this trek is a viewing tower over a small creek that runs near the park. If you are intending to hike this trail, bring repellant. There is a nature trail in the campground. A fishing pier offers excellent opportunities to watch the abundant wildlife and to fish if you desire.
The park is a combination historic site/camping area, containing 65 campsites with water and electricity. There is an on-site dump station. Richmond Hill has lodging, restaurants, full grocery stores, a modest downtown shopping area and history museum.
Roadside Georgia tips:
Leave 1.5 hours to visit the museum and fort. Add another 1.5 hours if you intend to hike to the lookout tower. The weather is warm in the winter and hot in the summer, so be sure you bring water. Pets are welcome on a leash.
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