March 23, 2013 – Fort Pulaski – The Isle of Hope – Savannah

This morning, for the first time in nearly 500 days on the road, we had our coffee and breakfast in bed while watching the news and decided it was a habit we should try more often.

Mid-morning, we wheaded out to Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, south of Savannah.

While we are always interested in historic forts,

this was the first we’ve seen with an actual filled and functioning moat


Parade Grounds


Sighting a Smooth-bore Canon

Commanding Officer’s Quarters

Officer’s Quarters

Enlisted Quarters

Demilune – constructed in front of the fort’s vulnerable entrance, under which stores and supplies and powder were stored

An interesting historical note, during its construction, a recent graduate from West Point arrived at Cockspur Island to help oversee the fort’s construction … Lt. Robert E. Lee.

Fort Pulaski, named for a Polish general killed in battle fighting for the Americans during the Revolution, was the site of only a single battle … one lasting a mere 30 hours … yet it marked a turning point in warfare.

During our visit to the fort, we were able to witness firings of both a Confederate 12 lb., smooth-bore cannon


 which fired a round cannon ball which weighed 128 pounds and had an effective range of about 800 yards.


as well as a Federal (Union) rifled-bored cannon



which shot a bullet-shaped James Bolt Projectile which weighed 80 pounds and had an accurate impact from more than two miles away

Shortly after South Carolina seceded from the Union in January 1861, local Confederate forces seized Fort Pulaski, then under Federal control.

In February 1862, Captain Quincy Gillmore assumed command of Federal troops on Tybee Island, just a mile away from Fort Pulaski.  He believed that an overwhelming bombardment would force the Confederates to give up the fort.  He erected 11 artillery batteries containing 36 guns and mortars along the northwest shore of Tybee Island.


On April 10th, after the Confederates refused to surrender, Gillmore ordered the Federal batteries to open fire.  The Confederates were not overly concerned as the Union forces were over a mile away and the cannon they were familiar with had limited if any accuracy or destructive power at that range. Moreover, their 7½’ masonry walls


were thought to be impenetrable.

What the Southern forces did not know was that the Federal armaments included 10 new experimental rifled cannons.  Almost immediately, their projectiles began to bore through Fort Pulaski’s walls with devastating effect.

Contemporary image of damage – 1862

The following photos taken after significant reconstruction

By the end of the second day, more than 5,700 shells had been hurled at the fort and holes opened exposing the fort’s main powder magazine to a direct hit which would destroy the Pulaski and kill all of its defenders.  The Confederate commander, Col. Charles Olmstead had no illusions about the danger and decided to surrender just 30 hours after the bombardment began … just over a day which changed the nature of warfare!

Another historical anecdote:

On April 13, 1862, following the Union capture of Fort Pulaski, Major General David Hunter


issued General Order No. 7 freeing those enslaved at the fort and on Cockspur Island.  Hunter, an abolitionist advocating the enlistment of black soldiers in the Union Army, ordered freemen subject to military service … enlisting black soldiers from the occupied districts of South Carolina and formed the first such Union Army regiment, the 1st South Carolina (African Descent), which he was initially ordered to disband, but eventually got approval from Congress for his action. A second controversy was caused by his issuing an order emancipating the slaves in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.

Not yet committed to a comprehensive plan of emancipation, President Abraham Lincoln overturned these orders.  However, Hunter’s orders were a precursor to Lincolns own Emancipation Proclamation, formerly issued on January 1, 1863, and the establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops on May 22, 1863.

For those interested, I have appended a glossary of terms associated with 17th and 18th century forts in what today are the United States and Canada at the end of today’s blog post.  I never realized how much detail there was to learn.

After leaving Fort Pulaski, we drove past the Wormsloe Historic Site, informally known as Wormsloe Plantation. The site consists of 822 acres protecting part of what was once the Wormsloe Plantation, a large estate established by one of Georgia’s colonial founders, Nobel Jones (c. 1700-1775). The site includes a picturesque 1.5-mile oak avenue, the ruins of Jones’ fortified house built of tabby, a museum, and a demonstration area interpreting colonial daily life.  Unfortunately, it was late afternoon and the plantation closed.  However, we were able to look through the gate at some of the oak avenue.


Just a few miles down the road we visited the Isle of Hope, an island (or peninsula, depending on marsh water levels) that stretches for approximately 4 miles along the Skidway River.  Some of the antebellum-styled homes set among the magnolias and live oaks adorned with Spanish Moss and looking out on the river were breathtaking.



Our final destination for the day was downtown Savannah. We walked along the renovated buildings which comprised the Old Cotton Exchange.

When the ships stopped in Savannah with their stock of raw cotton, the bales, some weighing as much as 400 pounds were lugged up on the backs of hired immigrants (many of which were Irish … as slaves were considered ‘’property’’ at the time and too valuable to run the risk of injury toting cotton up step stairs from the quay).  In its heyday, over 2,000,000 bales of cotton moved through the Port of Savannah.

Walking through parks we discovered John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church came to Savannah to preach before returning to Europe.

and along River Road, there were street musicians and singers.



Dinner at the Boar’s Head

where we sat beneath a a ship’s bow sprit

rounded out a perfet day.

US and British Fort Glossary

Abatis. A defensive barricade or row of obstructions made up of closely spaced felled trees, their tops toward the enemy, their branches trimmed to points and interlaced where possible.

Advanced Work. Any work of fortification located outside the glacis yet within musket range.

Artillery. The branch of an army responsible for cannon and the personnel to operate them. Also the barrels, carriages, limbers, side-arms and ammunition used by the artillery. See also cannon, gun, howitzer, mortar, ordnance.

Banquette. A continuous step or ledge at the interior base of a parapet on which defenders stood to direct musket fire over the top of the wall. A fire step.

Barracks. A permanent building for housing soldiers; rare in Britain before 1780.

Bartizan or Guérite. A projecting cylindrical form, usually located high up on the corner of a fortified structure, which served as a lookout or watchtower.

Bastion. A projection in the enceinte, made up of four sides, two faces and two flanks, which better enabled a garrison to defend the ground adjacent to the main or curtain walls.

Battery. An emplacement for artillery. A group of cannon or mortars.

Battlement. A wall or parapet placed on top of a fort with open places for shooting cannon.

Blockhouse. A small fortified building, generally with an overhanging second story, used as a place of retreat or on the diagonal corners of stockades as a flanking device. A stockade was usually made of logs or heavy timbers; but other materials, such as earth and stone were commonly used in conjunction with wood.

Body of the Place. The enclosing fortifications from which the main defensive activities could occur.

Bomb. A hollow iron shell, filled with gun powder (and perhaps small shot) fired at a high angle from howitzers or mortars and fused to explode just above a target.

Bombproof. A structure designed to provide security against artillery fire.

Breastwork. See Parapet.

Camp. A temporary location where soldiers generally housed in tents.

Canister. The cylindrical tin container holding many small iron balls, the whole referred to as case shot. An anti-personnel load which turned a cannon into a giant shotgun.

Cannon. A crew-served piece of artillery, mounted on a field, garrison or siege carriage for discharging solid shot or other projectiles. Sometimes called a gun. See also howitzer & mortar

Capionner. An architectural form extending from the main body of the place for the purpose of providing flanking fire. Often it served as a passage from one work to another, such as from a curtain to a ravelin. Many times it was completely enclosed and was provided with loopholes. At other times it consisted of six- or seven-foot parapets with banquettes on the interior.

Casemate. A mortar-bomb or shell-proof chamber located within the walls of defensive works; generally pierced with openings for weapons; loopholes for muskets or embrasures for cannon.

Case shot. Anti-personnel ammunition, see canister

Causeway. A raised road or way leading to a fort’s entrance; usually over a moat, ditch or fosse.

Cavalier. In fortification, a raised work where artillery was placed to command the surrounding works or country. It was sometimes placed on the terreplein of a bastion or curtain.

Cheval-(chevaux) de-frise. Obstacles, mostly in field fortifications, consisting of a long wooden shaft from which smaller diameter, metal-shod or sharpened staves project radially; any two of which act as legs.

Circumvallation. An enclosing wall, rampart or trench, or any system of these.

Citadel. A small but strong fort within, or a part of, a larger fortification. Usually located to dominate the area and other works surrounding it, so as to function as a place of refuge from which a defense could be prolonged.

Coehorn. A small (and easily portable) mortar with a 4 and 1/2 (English) inch bore, used to fire bombs. After Menno van Coehoorn, Dutch military engineer.

Cordon. The coping or top course of a scarp or a rampart, sometimes of different colored stone and set proud from the rest of the wall. Designed to keep the wall from weathering. The point where a rampart stops and a parapet begins. An open line of troops surrounding an objective.

Covered (covert or hidden) way. A depression, road or path in the outer edge of a fort’s moat or ditch, generally protected from enemy fire by a parapet, at the foot of which might be a banquette enabling the coverage of the glacis with musketry.

Cunette. A furrow located in the bottom of a dry ditch for the purpose of drainage.

Curtain. The wall of a fort between two bastions.

Curtain angle. In plan, the angle formed between the curtain and the flank of a bastion.

Demibastion. A half-bastion with only one face and one flank.

Ditch. A wide, deep trench around a defensive work. When filled with water it was termed a moat or wet ditch; otherwise a dry ditch or fosse. An unexcavated area between an outwork, such as a ravelin and its protected curtain, could also be called a ditch.

Embrasure. An opening in a wall or parapet allowing cannon to fire through it, the gunners remaining under cover. One or both sides of the embrasure would be slanted outward to increase a weapon’s angle of fire. The sides of the embrasure were called cheeks, the bottom the sole; the narrow part of the opening, the throat, and the wide part, the splay. Empty embrasures could be closed with a wooden shield or mantelet.

Empty bastion. A bastion in which the interior space is much lower than the rampart or much lower than the top of the wall, if there is no rampart.

En barbette. A arrangement for cannon to be fired directly over the top of a low wall instead of through slots called embrasures. Safest in raised sea batteries where an opposing ship’s guns could not be sufficiently elevated to strike the guns or gunners.

Enceinte. The whole works of a fort. The walls, ramparts and parapets which enclose such a fortification.

Enfilade fire. Fire directed from the flank or side of a body of troops, or along the length of a ditch, parapet or wall. Guns in the flank of a bastion can direct enfilade fire along the face of the curtain.

Epaulement. A parapet or work protecting against enfilade fire.

Facines. Long bundles of sticks or small diameter tree branches bound together for use in revetments, for stabilizing earthworks, filling ditches, etc.

Flank of a bastion. The section of any bastion between the bastion face and the curtain, from which the ditch in front of the adjacent curtain and the flank and face of the opposite bastion were defended.

Flanked angle. The angle formed by two faces of a bastion or ravelin. Also called the salient angle. The point of a bastion or the point of a ravelin.

Fort. A work, garrisoned by troops, established for the defense of a land or maritime frontier, the approach to a town, a harbour, a pass or a river. A fort is generally an enclosed place with walls, stockades, bastions, blockhouses, palisades and outworks, or any combination thereof. In France, Marshal Sebastian le Preste de Vauban (1638-1707), and in Holland, Baron Menno van Coehoorn (1641-1704) established some basic principles for the building (and taking) of forts.

Fosse or foss. See ditch, dry.

Fraise. A defense of closely placed stakes or logs, 6 to 8 feet long, driven or dug into the ground and sharpened; arranged to point horizontally or obliquely outward from a defensive position.

Front of a fortification. The works; flanks, faces, curtains etc., associated with a single side of the polygon of a fortification. One front of a bastioned fort could thus consist of two demi-, or half-bastions, a curtain and related outworks, such as a ravelin.

Full bastion. A bastion in which the interior area is level with the terreplein of the rampart.

Gabion. A large round woven wicker cylinder intended to be set in place and filled with earth, sand or stones. Used for revetments (supporting walls) parapets and embrasure cheeks in field works or forts.

Gallery. An interior passageway or corridor which ran along the base of a fort’s walls. Used as defensive positions and as a means to move about secure from enemy fire. See also casemate.

Gate. The main entrance in the enceinte of a fort.

Glacis. A broad, gently sloped earthwork or natural slope in front of a fort, separated from the fort proper by a ditch and outworks and so arranged as to be swept with musket or cannon fire.

Gorge. The interval or space between the two curtain angles of a bastion. In a ravelin, the area formed by the flanked angle and either left open or enclosed.

Grape or grapeshot. Anti-personnel ammunition consisting of small iron balls (larger than case shot) tightly bagged and corded around a spindle set on a base plate.

Grenade. A small fused bomb intended to be thrown by hand or otherwise projected. From resemblance to la grenade, French for pomegranate, a thick-skinned fruit with a projecting end.

Guardhouse. The headquarters for the daily guard, sometimes to include their officer. Also a structure containing a guardroom for prisoners. Not interchangeable with Sentry box.

Guardroom. A space near the entrance of a fort where guards or sentries were stationed. Also; a room for prisoners.

Gun. A cannon which has a length of 12 calibers and upwards and was constructed to fire solid shot horizontally, or at very low angles, over the greatest possible distance. Described by weight of shot; 4 pounder, 6 pounder, 9 pounder, 12 pounder, 18 pounder, 24 pounder, 32 pounder, etc.

Half bastion. See demibastion.

Hornwork. A work made up of a bastion front; two half bastions and a curtain and two long sides termed branches. It functioned to enclose an area immediately adjacent to a fort or citadel and create another layer of defense.

Hot shot. Cannon balls (solid shot) heated in a shot oven or hot-shot pit and fired at enemy ships to set them on fire.

Howitzer. A cannon whose length varies from 5 to 10 calibers with carriages designed to permit greater elevation than a gun. A howitzer is intended to fire shells horizontally or at higher angles. Described by diameter of shell, 8 inch, 5 and 1/2 inch, etc.

Loopholes. Small openings in walls or stockades through which muskets were fired. Loopholes also served to permit light and air to enter a casemate or gallery.

Magazine. A place for the storage of gunpowder, arms or goods generally related to ordnance. See: Store or Storehouse. Also powder magazine.

Magistral line. The base line from which the various parts of a fortification were traced.

Mantelet. A movable shield or screen made of heavy planks to protect besieging or besieged soldiers from musket fire.

Merlon. The solid feature between embrasures in a parapet, or in older fortifications, the solid part of a wall between crenels from which archers defended a castle.

Moat. See ditch.

Mortar. Mortars are cannon suitable only for the high-angle fire of shells. Their primary function was to drop a shell or bomb behind earthworks or other defenses which could not be penetrated with gun fire. Mortars fired hollow iron spheres or shells filled with small shot, balls or similar anti-personnel devices combined with a small charge of powder which was ignited by a time fuse designed to explode just as it reached the target. The usual length of a mortar was 3 or 4 calibers and the trunnions were located at the rear of the breech. Described by diameter of shell; 4 and 1/2 inch, 5 and 2/5 inch, 10 inch, 13 inch, etc.

Outwork. An outer defense, inside the glacis but outside of the body of the place. A ravelin is an outwork.

Palisade. A high fence around a defensive enclosure made of stakes, poles, palings, or pickets, supported by rails and set endwise in the ground from six to nine inches apart. See: Stockade.

Parade. Also Place of Arms or Parade Ground. An open area, sometimes at the center of a fort, where troops were assembled for drills or inspection.

Parade face. The wall or side of an enceinte next to the parade ground.

Parapet. A breastwork or protective wall over which defenders, standing on banquettes, fired their weapons. The parapet was usually built on top of the fort’s rampart.

Picket. A pointed pole planted vertically in the ground for about two-thirds of its length. Also a sentry or body of light troops

Portcullis. A timber or iron grating which can be quickly lowered in slots or vertical channels to close an entrance or portal of a fortified place.

Powder magazine. A room or compartment usually lined with lead or copper and placed underground for storing gunpowder.

Postern. A passage leading from the interior of a fortification to the ditch.

Rampart. The mass of earth and masonry formed to protect an enclosed area from artillery and small arms fire and to elevate defenders to a commanding position overlooking the approaches to the fort so created. A bulwark or defense upon which parapets are raised. The main wall of a fortress.

Ravelin. An outwork consisting of two faces forming a salient angle at the front and a flank angle to the rear which was usually closed at the gorge. Ravelins were separated from the main body of the place by ditches and functioned to protect curtains.

Redoubt. An enclosed fortification without bastions.

Revetment. The sloping wall of stone or brickwork supporting the outer face of a rampart. A retaining wall

Royal. A small mortar, not unlike the Cohorn, but of the larger English caliber of 5 and 2/5ths inches.

Sentry. An armed soldier whose duty was to attend to a particular place or area, usually called a post.

Sally. See sortie.

Sallyport. A passageway within the rampart, usually vaulted, leading from the interior of a fort to the exterior, primarily to provide for sorties. The exterior doors in such a passageway. Also, a passage, either open or covered which led from the covered way to the country.

Sap. A trench and parapet constructed by besiegers to protect their approaches toward a fortification.

Saucisson. A double-length facine.

Scarp. The interior side of a ditch or the outer slope of a rampart.

Sentry box. A small roofed wooden shelter against the elements.

Side-arms. Rammers, swabs, wad hooks, handspikes, etc., used in the loading and firing of artillery. Later, personal weapons.

Sortie. A sudden attack on besiegers by troops from a defensive work. The main objective was to destroy siege works that had been constructed by the aggressors. Also called a sally.

Souterrain. or Subterranean. Literally, under earth. An underground chamber, room or series of rooms dug into the ground or bedrock beneath a fort or other work to hold supplies, ordnance stores or provisions in a secure and temperate location. See Magazine.

Stockade. A line or enclosure of stout posts or stakes set upright in the earth with no separation between them, to form a barrier eight or more feet high. Stockades were generally provided with loopholes in the upper part of the fence. The loopholes were reached by banquettes or elevated walks which might be necessary parts of a wooden wall. See also palisades.

Superior slope. The top surface of an earth or stone parapet which slants downward toward the country, the slope of which is inclined sufficiently to allow defenders to cover all the ground outside the ditch.

Terreplein. Literally, earth full. An inner and outer wall filled with dirt or rubble resulted in a level space on a rampart between the parapet and the parade face. The floor from which cannon are fired.

Toise. A linear measure used by the French in the old regime. A toise is equal to 76.71 English inches, 6.39 English feet or 1.9490 meters.

Trace. The outline of the horizontal configurations of a fortification. The plan.

Traverse. A parapet or wall thrown across a covered way, a terreplein, ditch or other location to prevent enfilade or reverse fire along a work.

Trous de loup. An obstacle made up of a series of pits, each of which is an inverted pyramid or cone with a pointed stake projecting from the bottom.

Trucks. Small wheels on cannon carriages designed for garrison or sea service.

Waterfront. The side(s) of a fortification designed to defend against the approach or passage of ships or other vessels.

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