Savannah – Yesterday I visited Fort Jackson to get a look at the work the US Navy Divers are doing to raise the remains of the ironclad CSS Georgia, which lay in the Savannah River just off of the fort. Since I was there I toured the fort, which was part of the city of Savannah’s defenses from the Revolutionary War when it was just an earthen fortification through the Civil War. By the time of the Civil War it was undoubtedly outdated but it still held a commanding position on the approach to the port of Savannah. In one of the photos below, you can clearly see the tops of the cranes on the barge being used to recover the Georgia showing over the walls of the fort, which shows how close it is to the channel.
Fortunately for us, and for Fort Jackson, there was no need for Union forces to reduce Fort Jackson the way they took Fort Pulaski further downriver near Tybee Island. They could blockade Savannah from Fort Pulsaski and take the city from inland (as Sherman would eventually do). If they had attacked Fort Jackson as they did Fort Pulsaki, it would likely have taken a much shorter time. The fort was evacuated when Savannah fell to Sherman and the garrison retreated into South Carolina with Hardee. As a result, the fort is still standing pretty much intact (minus structures that were burned when it was evacuated) and here for us to tour and learn from today.
As a student of History, it was great to see a group of Girl Scouts there getting a guided tour of the fort from museum interpreters. Among the topics the went over were the Girl Scouts were the role of nurses in the Civil War and how nursing changed during the war, the use of semaphore flags to communicate, and how the fort protected Savannah. As part of showing them how the fort protected the city, the interpreters ran some of them through a gun drill on the fort’s 12 pound Mountain Howitzer. During the drill, the Scouts learned that firing the gun effectively under the pressure of battle wasn’t easy or safe.
Naturally, the Girl Scouts didn’t use live ammunition; they simulated loading and used an inert ignition device. After putting the Scouts through the drill, however, the interpreters did it with a live blank round. They demonstrated the use of the Mountain Howitzer to defend the fort from the land side using a canister round.
Along with Fort Pulaski near Tybee Island and Fort McAllister in Richmond Hill, Fort Jackson helps illustrate the development of fortifications prior to and during the Civil War. Fort Jackson’s place is the oldest standing brick fortification in Georgia and if you live in Savannah but have never been or are visiting Savannah, I highly recommend a visit to it along with the others. We’re lucky to have the three in such close proximity. If you visit Fort Jackson within the next couple of weeks, you’ll have the chance to see the work on the recovery of the CSS Georgia, who knows – you might even get lucky and see them bringing something up!