– Civil War Series –
An imposing structure with walls 11 feet thick, Fort Pulaski was widely regarded at the start of the Civil War as an impenetrable fortress guarding Savannah, Georgia from a Federal naval attack. The U.S. Chief of Engineers, referring to the fort’s heavy masonry walls, once quipped: “You might as well bombard the Rocky Mountains.” (Note: Like Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina and Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia, Fort Pulaski was part of the “Third System of Defenses” constructed after the War of 1812.)
Union Captain Quincy Gilmore, however, was determined to prove his doubters wrong, employing a relatively new and untested invention—the rifled gun—in a siege of Fort Pulaski in April 1862. The effect was devastating—two days of heavily artillery fire had blown two large holes in the fort’s walls, and the southeast corner was near collapse. On the second day of bombardment, the garrison at Fort Pulaski was forced to surrender.
The Union takeover of Fort Pulaski halted shipping in and out of Savannah and strengthened the Federal blockade. More significantly, however, the success of the rifled cannon made once-mighty forts of brick and stone obsolete. (Note: Later forts would be built of mud and earth, such as nearby Fort McAllister.)
Today, visitors to Fort Pulaski National Monument—situated on Cockspur Island, a 30-minute drive from Savannah—can explore the fort and see the artillery damage firsthand: though the southeast corner has been restored, dozens of scars and intrusions remain. The park is open 9-5 daily and includes a handful of hiking trails.