Confession: I was a terrible history student, and haven’t improved with age. The only time I find history engaging is when I am on-site – and then it is riveting. Savannah has a LOT of history.
We figured Ft. Pulaski National Monument would be an interesting, fairly brief, stop on our way to the beaches of Tybee Island, an opportunity to brush up on our Civil War history, see what our friend Gypsy was up to during her winter volunteer job there, get a stamp on my National Parks passport, and use the restroom. Surprise! We were captivated as soon as we saw the impressive, moat-encircled, fort. In no time at all, we were back in the days of the Civil War and the surprise fall of Ft. Pulaski to Union troops.
Originally built in the 1840’s to protect the Savannah River and Savannah from foreign invasion, the brick walls of the fort were 8 feet thick and impregnable. During the Civil War, Georgia State troops took and occupied the fort, secure in the knowledge that the walls could not be breeched with cannon typical of the time.
Under cover of darkness, Union troops worked to build defensive positions on Tybee Island, two miles away – then hauled the newest technology into place: rifled cannons. Once the pounding of the Fort’s walls began, it was only 30 hours until surrender of the fort. The distance and accuracy of the new rifled cannons rendered masonry forts obsolete – a huge change in warfare.
The west (front) side of the fort was undamaged. We walked the perimeter of the fort, marveling at it’s bulk and beauty.
The east side of the fort was pounded, and eventually breeched. Confederate officers commanding the fort surrendered before the powder magazine was hit.
One of the many cannon guarding the fort, soon to be rendered obsolete.
Later in the war, Confederate troops (the Immortal 600) were imprisoned here.
Ft. Pulaski was a fascinating place, with plenty of opportunity to absorb history in a relevant setting. We spent way more time there than we had planned, heading to Tybee Island (now seen in a new light!) as clouds formed and thickened overhead.
The change in weather made a trip to the beach unappealing, so we headed to A-J’s Dockside Restaurant, which I had researched on the web. Our po’boys couldn’t compete with those in LA and MS, but we scored with our shared cup of Crab Stew. I didn’t take a photo because it doesn’t look at all luscious – pale, bland, and lumpy. We were hooked at first taste – in fact, we ordered a quart to go when we left, and it was our dinner later that night! Rich, sweet, filled with crab, a little kick of spice in the aftertaste… and did I say rich?
The next day, we went from Civil War history to World War II history with an afternoon visit to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum. The 8th Air Force was activated in Savannah soon after Pearl Harbor, and the museum does a great job of explaining the events leading up to WWII and the role played by the 8th air force.
After reading about the war in Europe prior to Pearl Harbor, we took our seats for “the Mission Experience”":
One of the Museum’s feature exhibits, the Mission Experience, enables visitors to attend a pre-flight briefing in the Quonset hut, receive ground crew orientation, and then become an observer with an 8th Air Force flying mission over enemy territory in the Museum’s immersion theater.
It was a well-done exhibit (and a welcome chance to sit down). We finished up our visit with a turn on the gunnery simulator, where I trounced Odel and the enemy, shooting down 11 German plans to Odel’s 6. And that was enough war for me!
Taking advantage of today’s sunshine, Odel is off playing golf while I catch up on chores around the rig. I plan to take the car and visit a couple more historic sites – not war history – when he returns… then we’re off to Charleston tomorrow. It’s been a great (and too short) visit to Savannah.