Fort Pulaski

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After the war of 1812, President James Madison set out to fortify the coastal defenses of the United States by directing the creation of a number of forts. In 1829 construction of Fort Pulaski began, requiring 18 years to complete at a cost of $1 million and 25 million bricks. The fort was erected on Cockspur Island, a small marshy island between Tybee Island and the Savannah River, near Savannah, GA. Cockspur Island was a popular site for forts, having been the site of Fort George prior to the American Revolution and Fort Greene, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804. It's position was idea for defending the Savannah River and allowed no firm ground on which siege batteries could be erected for over a mile away. Given that artillery of that time could have little impact from over 1000 feet away, the 7 foot walls were considered to be invincible by most engineers of the day.

The fort was surrounded by a moat (which is now the home for two alligators). The moat was 7 feet deep and 32 to 48 feet wide. It's only entrance was a draw bridge, the interior of which was defended by a second locked door and rifle slits protected the passageway in between.

Two weeks after South Carolina seceded from the Union and a week after Federal Troops occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston, on January 3, 1861, Georgia Gov. Joseph E. Brown gave the State militia the order to seize the fort. The fort was taken without resistance. After Georgia seceded in April, the fort was transferred to the Confederate States of America.

President Lincoln ordered a U.S. Naval blockade on the Southern ports, creating a strangle hold on the Southern economy. In November, the Union was able quickly to capture the fort at Port Royal Sound, SC. - just 15 miles north of Fort Pulaski. Confederate soldiers abandoned Forts Walker and Beauregard on Hilton Head and soon after, the fort on Tybee Island. What the Confederates didn't realize was that Tybee Island was the one position which would allow the Union to be able to take Fort Pulaski. By December of 1861, Federals were able to move troops to Tybee to began to prepare their siege of Fort Pulaski.

The fort was defended by 385 officers and men under the command of Charles H. Olmstead. There were a total of 48 guns of various size and type mounted around the full circumference of the fort. While Union soldiers prepared their placements under cover of dark, the Confederates rested easy, believing their position to be unbeatable.

What the Southern Soldiers didn't know was that Capt. Quincy A. Gillmore was about to unveil a new weapon which would change the face of warfare - the rifled cannon. Unlike conventional smooth-bored cannons, these guns contained spiraled (rifled) grooves which gave the projectile greater range, accuracy and penetration. Their effective range was 8453 yards, far exceeding the existing artillery. The 10 new experimental cannons, erected in secret by the North, were able to breach the walls of the fort within the first 30 hours of the bombardment. Col. Olmstead realized that he would either have to surrender, or the next few volleys would have ignited the exposed 40,000 pounds of gunpowder. He chose to surrender. He and his men were marched off to prison, although he was later released and served out the remainder of the war.

The first known photograph of men playing baseball in the United States was taken of Union soldiers who occupied the fort a few years later.

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