Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tybee Island and Fort Pulaski

Tybee Island's strategic location at the mouth of the Savannah River resulted in the construction of a lighthouse in the 1770s and a defensive fortification in the 1880s. The lighthouse has been rebuilt several times but it has remained the tallest and oldest in Georgia. We climbed to the top from and from there we had a panoramic view of the island and the ocean. From that point we could also see where the Savannah River meets the ocean. The lighthouse is still in use today.
Native American Indians were the first inhabitants of Tybee. Tybee means beach resort, which it primarily is today, but originally the name came from an American Indian word for salt. The Indians harvested sea salt from the tidal pools surrounding the island. The island was at first Screven Indian Reservation but Fort Screven was eventually built there in 1898. It remained in continuous use from the Spanish American War right through the World Wars and was closed in 1944. There is quite an extensive  museum in the fort covering that history, as well as the history of Tybee Island.   Below is a picture of the fort taken from the top of the lighthouse.
In 1861 the Confederate Army gave up Fort Screven to the Union Army and retreated to Fort Pulaski. We drove from Tybee Island to Cockspur Island to tour that fort. The fort was built by Robert E. Lee in 1829. In 1862 the Union Army at Fort Screven fired at Fort Pulaski for 30 hours, causing major damage to its walls and forcing Colonel Olmstead to surrender. The Union Army claimed its success in that battle was due to having some high-powered weaponry.  The damage to the fort walls can still be seen today, some of the cannon shells are still embedded in the bricks of those walls. The one battered side of the fort can be seen below. And in case you are wondering, a seven feet deep moat surrounds the fort.
  After the Union occupied the fort the slaves started escaping from the plantations and flowing into the fort to assist the Union Army as well as to gain their freedom. The fort officially became part of the Underground Railroad. After it was captured by the Union Army it became a jail for 600 prisoners of war. We finished our tour at the fort just as the sun was starting to set. Many deer could be seen in the fields surrounding the fort. A blue heron also flew down near us and stood on the moat's walls.

No comments:

Post a Comment