Seeing Civil War History at Fort Pulaski In Savannah Georgia

Dear Henry,

When I was in Savannah a while ago, I stopped by the old US Civil War fort called Fort Pulaski, the stronghold that the Union army used to blockade the Savannah River. It was also used as a prison for Confederate officers. It has a long and interesting history. Let me tell you all about it.

Construction on Fort Pulaski began in 1829 in response to the coastal assaults during the War of 1812. The Fort was named after General Casimir Pulaski, the Polish cavalryman who joined the US Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and is considered the father of the US Cavalry. He fought in the Battle of Brandywine and Germantown and was with the Continental Army during that terrible winter at Valley Forge. General Pulaski was killed during the Siege of Savannah and, like the Marquis de Lafayette and Bernando de Galvez, is one of the few foreign nationals to receive honorary US citizenship.

The Fort's construction was overseen by Major General Babcock and a recent graduate of West Point, 2nd Lieutenant Robert E. Lee. It was created to be impenetrable to the cannons of the time, with walls 11 feet thick and 32 feet high, and it is, I think, essential to mention that the Fort's construction relied heavily upon enslaved labor. Construction was finished in 1847.

Initially, the Fort was ungarrisoned and staffed only by only a few caretakers. That changed in February 1861, after the southern states began seceding from the United States and Georgia governor Joesph E. Brown ordered the Fort staffed by Confederate troops.

By December of 1861, however, Confederate leadership felt Fort Pulaski was too far away and too unprepared to be of significant strategic value and so reduced the troops stationed there to a mere handful, trusting that the walls would hold off any onslaught.

Union troops, however, saw great strategic value in the Fort and began to surround it. On April 10, 1862, Union troops asked the remaining Confederate troops (nicely) to surrender. The Confederate forces (respectfully) declined. The Union troops attacked and, using the new James Rifled Cannons, breached the walls within 30 hours.

After taking Fort Pulaski, the Union army quickly repaired the Fort and used it as a staging ground to blockade the Savannah River and cut off much of the supplies to the city.

While the blockade was necessary, strategically, to the Union cause, Fort Pulaski is most known as a wartime prison for the Confederate officers known as the "Immortal 600."

From the beginning of the war, the Confederate army had sold any African American Union soldiers into slavery (if they weren't killed outright). By the midpoint in the war, and particularly in response to the fighting around Charleston, South Carolina, began using Euro-American Union officers as human shields to prevent bombardments. The Union army retaliated in September 1864 by bringing 600 Confederate officers to Morris Island, South Carolina, where they were fed starvation rations. The Confederate officers were moved to Fort Pulaski in October 1864 after an outbreak of Yellow Fever. The officers were forced to Hilton Head, South Carolina, in December 1864 and finally to Fort Deleware in March 1865, where they remained until the war ended in April. Of the original 600 men, 41 died due to malnutrition and dysentery. To this day, all are still held in high honor by Confederate apologetics because they refused to take an oath of allegiance or surrender from the Confederate cause.  

The whole story reminds me of what a terrible, horrible time the US Civil War was. The jail of the Fort is not that big, and I can't imagine 600 men wedged into it, never mind their crimes.

After the Civil War, the Fort was briefly staffed during the Spanish-American War but began to fall into disrepair until it was declared a National Monument on October 15, 1924. The Civilian Conservation Corps restored it in 1933.

Fort Pulaski again fell under military control during World War II as a section base for the US Navy but reverted to the National Park Service immediately after. 

The Fort is open to visitors from 9am to 5pm daily (holidays excepted) and has a gift shop on site. The entrance fee is $10.00, and the funds are used for maintenance and staffing.

It's well worth the visit.

You can see a video tour of Fort Pulaski on my YouTube channel here:

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at, you can also read her book reviews at and US military biographies at

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