3894 Fort McAllister Road — Richmond Hill, GA 31324
I didn’t have Fort McAllister Historic State Park on my list of “must-see’s” while I was staying in Savannah until a couple of fellow RVers insisted that it most definitely should be added. Now I must say “Thanks, guys!”
One of the things I’ve most appreciated about being a fulltime RVer is the chance to visit in person our country’s historic sites. Strange for me because one of the subjects I found most doze-worthy in school was history. But seeing them in person and viewing the real artifacts is endlessly fascinating to me now.
A unique geographic land bounded by river, salt marsh, creek, and separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a barrier island, this location has been home for Native Americans, Spanish missions and early Europeans as can be seen by the numerous interesting artifacts in the park’s museum. Start there where you see incredibly clear pictures taken when the Union troops finally took Fort McAllister after years of effort. Get to know the people that lived through this part of our history through their letters home from the war. There’s a short film that’s interesting to see before you head out onto the site.
I lucked out the weekend I was there that this great guide, Talley, was there to give a group of us a guided tour. It’s always great to get insights from the people who studied the people who lived here back then. Talley was kind enough to pose for the picture at the front with the park entrance sign.
Here you’ll find the best preserved earthwork fortification of the confederacy on the east coast. Designed for functionality with no consideration for the kind of artistic masonry found at nearby Fort Pulaski, the crude earthen walls allowed the fort to hold out for 2 years from attempts to take it by sea. It was finally taken by land in 1864, but never surrendered. In contrast, Fort Pulaski was surrendered in 1862 after 30 hours of being fired on by rifled cannons.
Hearing what he shared and seeing him out there in full Confederate uniform lent a whole deeper dimension to the experience.
A particularly ferocious battle took place with the U.S.S. Montauk. Despite being bombarded by over 450 cannon balls, they were basically absorbed by the earthern walls, which could be repaired overnight. Unfortunately, that ironclad ship was equally unaffected. Wooden ships were successfully fought off by being set ablaze when the cannonball “hot shots” created in this furnace hit their target.
A nearby sign tells this tale of Tom Cat, the Garrison Mascot:
“The sole Confederate fatality after seven hours of intensive bombardment on March 3, 1863 by [several monitors] was the garrison mascot. The death of the cat was deeply regretted by the men, and news of the fatality was communicated to General Beauregard in the official report of the action.”
It took General Sherman’s infamous “March to the Sea” to fell Fort McAllister. It was not designed for land defense and although never surrendered, the fort was finally taken by Sherman by land at the rear in an attack that lasted less than 15 minutes on December 13, 1864. That laid wide open the way to Savannah and on Christmas Eve, Sherman telegraphed President Lincoln: “I beg to present you as a Christmas Gift, the City of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition; and also about 25,000 bales of cotton…”
Looking back from the river you can see a recreation of a building like the old officer’s quarters. Amidst this peaceful setting now it’s hard to imagine the chaos of war taking place here. Rumor has it some of the casualties are still guarding the fort. Some visitors swear they’ve seen and/or felt ghostly figures. Heroic Major Gallie, who was scalped by a cannonball here, has been seen still trying to hold the fort and his head together.
So I got weak at the knees when I was lining up this shot and saw this rebel capped “soldier” in the viewer next to the cannon. I almost dropped the camera and when I looked up, I still wasn’t sure if he was a real live person or not. I got up the nerve to call out to him and it turned out he was a real live tourist, too.
Here I thought it was a good thing I knew Talley was around or when I saw this scene, I would have thought it was a ghost watching over the grounds and bidding farewell to the visitors.
On the second weekend of December each year, they hold a battle re-enactment that looks like it would be fascinating. Check out the pics in the album at the museum.
More Fort McAllister Info:
State Park website: Located south of Savannah on the banks of the Ogeechee River, this scenic park showcases the best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy. The earthworks were attacked seven times by Union ironclads but did not fall until 1864—ending General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Visitors can explore the grounds with cannons, a hot shot furnace, bombproof barracks, palisades and more, while a Civil War museum contains artifacts, a video and gift shop.
Our Georgia History – July 1, 1862: Fort McAllister came under Union attack for the first time. The gunboat Potomska sailed into the Ogeechee on the tide, approaching the fort. Within the range of the fort’s cannon an unidentified schooner sat protected.
All Malia’s Miles Savannah Pages:
Historic Squares — Bonaventure Cemetery —
Laurel Grove Cemetery — Spooky Savannah —
Wormsloe Historic Site — Skidaway Island State Park —
Fort McAllister State Park — George L. Smith State Park —
Savannah Area RV Parks