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Cutting edge 19th Century Artillery Technology at Fort Pulaski

After a nice stay in Hilton head, we took some time after breakfast to drive through the outskirts of Savannah to visit Fort Pulaski National Monument.  We were eager to see the fort, as it is a part of not only Civil War history but also exhibited the first use of cutting-edge 19th century Artillery technology.  It was also nice not to have to immediate go into a 6 – 7-hour car ride, as well. I am sure our kids felt the same.

We made our way over to the park, by driving on the outskirts of the city of Savannah. After going through a few side roads, we were at the main gate. Watch out for the turtles crossing the road!

Special note: At the time of our visit, there is a fee ($10 per person) to visit and see Fort Pulaski and the access the trails and other sites at the National Monument. We used our America the Beautiful Annual Pass. Make sure you check the NPS site before you go.

Upon arriving, the parking lot was easily assessable and right in front of the fort itself. The small round visitor center was to the right with the restrooms outside. It was chilly that morning, but we did not mind getting the chance to walk around outside.

The visitor center was small, but the Rangers were super nice and attentive. A short film is available, which tells the story of the Fort. The stamping station is along the wall as you exit to go to the fort. My daughter, and I dutifully stamped our books before we entered the fort.

View of Fort Pulaski earth works and moat

I was impressed by how well the monument was maintained. Walking along the paths and through the Demilune you can tell how much effort and care has been taken. In fact, we found a ranger in the open field of the fort cleaning one of the Cannons while we were there.

My daughter was keen on completing the Jr. Ranger activities at the fort. So, we did get around to a lot of the different parts of the monument. We visited the Mess Hall, Chapel, Officers’ Quarters, and of course we walked along the top of the fort to see the collection of cannons.

Fun Fact: Three of the artillery pieces in the Fort were actually in the fort at the time of the engagement in 1862.

My daughter discovered that there were three different people who worked at the Fort named Shannon, which was a little funny. We did not realize that was one of the conditions of employment!

Moat Surrounding Fort Pulaski with Brick fort in the background

The condition of the Fort gives a clear indication why the confederates surrendered so quickly after the bombardment. The fort was getting blown apart and there were several spots where shells came dangerously close to the magazine storage. A direct hit would have completely destroyed the Fort.

Rifled Cannon at Fort Pulaski

This was all due to the surprised effectiveness of the new Rifled Artillery. Before the engagement, some quipped that “You might as well bombard the Rocky Mountains.” The rifled guns were used before, but never in a siege situation. It was always thought ineffective against thick masonry walls, especially at a distance beyond 1,000 yards.

The results of the normal mortar and cannon artillery on April 10, 1862 proved how strong the Fort was against these conventional pieces. These artillery pieces barely made a dent in the structure. The accuracy and range of the Rifled Artillery, however, were devastating. It was a great honor to hear the story of this battle and how it became a mark in history as an end to a military era.

Sign graphic on brick wall showing cannon artillery angles hitting Fort Pulaski
Girl taking Junior ranger oath from Park Ranger at Fort Pulaski National Monument

As time moved forward, we realized we were at the Fort much longer than we anticipated. Especially since we intended to get to Florida by late afternoon. We moved quickly but we could not leave until my daughter got sworn in by the Ranger for completing her Jr. Ranger booklet.

We were disappointed that we did not have time to take in some of the trails around the Fort or see the lighthouse, but perhaps we save that for another visit. Overall, we were really happy to have made a stop here and would encourage anyone who is in the Savannah area to take a few hours to check out this special place in history, as well as the Reconstruction Era site in nearby Port Royal.

Check out more National Park Sites in the Southeast USA HERE

Circular Fort Pulaski National Monument stamp

Unit: Fort Pulaski National Monument

Path to 428#: 57

Region: Southeast

Month/Year: Dec 2022

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