The Grand Tour – Day 7 – Fort Pulaski


We woke up to our last morning at the Marshall House and Savannah, Georgia. We got moving and went downstairs to have another fantastic breakfast with quiche and fruit. Awesome! (Yes, I’m frequently guided by my stomach. So what?) Then we headed out for one last morning wander around town before we had to check out, say goodbye and head on our way. We paid another visit to Colonial Cemetery (I can never get enough of this place!) and we wandered down to get a good photo of the Lucas Theatre.

The Lucas Theatre opened as a movie theatre in December 1921 and at the time, was the largest movie screen in Savannah.  It holds a special place in my heart though, because the first movie shown there, at the Grand Opening, was the silent film Camille, starring Rudolph Valentino!  My namesake!  No, not really, as the movie is about a courtesan, but it is a really good film.  And the 1936 version starring Greta Garbo is awesome too.  Camille is based on the 19th century book La Dame aux camélias by French author Alexandre Dumas’, and the book is also the basis for the more recent film Moulin Rouge (although it diverges quite a bit from the original story).  And in case you are wondering why the film is called Camille, when the main character is named Marguerite, Camille was the American name given to the movie, presumably to give a nod to The Lady of Camellias book title.

The Lucas Theatre, Built 1921, Greek Revival Architectural Style

On our way out of town, we decided to see Fort Pulaski, which is a fort outside of Savannah that was built in beginning in 1829 (it was finally finished in 1847). Although it was begun under the direction of another officer, Robert E. Lee was the second officer in charge of construction, and the one who oversaw the completion of the fort. He was a Second Lieutenant at that time in the U.S. Army.  It was built from bricks, both from a nearby Savannah plantation, and from as far away as Baltimore, Maryland.  Fort Pulaski is named for Kazimierz Pulaski (known in the U.S. as Casimir Pulaski), who was a Polish cavalry soldier who fought for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  He was a genius at military strategy, learning his trade fighting in battles all across Europe.  He trained U.S. troops fighting the British and participated in the sieges of Charleston and Savannah (shout out to my Polish heritage!).

Jon Posing on the Walk Up to Fort Pulaski

The Arched Entrance to Fort Pulaski

The fort was occupied at the beginning of the Civil War by Georgia troops, but Union troops assaulted Fort Pulaski with rifled cannon (a new innovation that scored the inside of the cannon with grooves to allow heavier cannonballs to travel further and with more accuracy).  Union troops spent a period of time constructing sand batteries on distant Tybee Island, where they then placed 36 guns.  The Confederates knew they were there, but were feeling secure inside the fort.  In fact, Robert E. Lee said, “Colonel, they will make it pretty warm for you here with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at that distance.”  The 11 foot thick walls of Fort Pulaski were considered to be impenetrable, but after 30 hours of bombardment, the Union cannons had breached one wall of the fort and were shelling dangerously close to the fort’s powder magazine.

A View of the Inside of Fort Pulaski From the Upper Wall

The Confederates surrendered the fort and it was occupied and repaired by Union troops for the remainder of the war, successfully blockading the Savannah River and shutting down commerce in and out of Savannah.  At one point, over 500 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned at the fort, in response to the Confederates placing 600 Union soldiers in the direct line of Union fire in the city of Charleston.  These Confederate soldiers became known as the Immortal 600 – and 13 of them died of starvation and dysentery while imprisoned there.  They are buried outside the fort.

Grave Marker for the Immortal Six Hundred – 13 Confederate POWs Who Died at Fort Pulaski

The fort is now operated by the National Park Service as a National Monument, so I was able to get another stamp for my National Parks Passport!  It was an awesome place to spend a couple of hours, checking out the history and enjoying the Southern sunshine.  While we were there we got to see a musket firing demonstration (see the smoke in the photo!), and see what it would have been like to live at the fort (I would rather live at Fort Pulaski than Fort Sumter, hands down). I tried to find alligators too, because I saw on the brochure that they live on Cockspur Island around the fort, but I was thwarted again – no alligators were to be seen.  Jon and I did take a walk on some of the nature trails, but we headed back when we started getting eaten by mosquitoes!

A Musket Firing Demo at Fort Pulaski

After Fort Pulaski, we headed over to Tybee Island to see what it was like. Tybee Island is a resort island with lots of beach access and seaside fun for the kids. We cruised through and took a look, but since neither Jon nor I are real beach vacation folks, it probably won’t be next on our vacation agenda.

Then, we got back on the road for another long drive to our next destination – Americus, Georgia!

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6 thoughts on “The Grand Tour – Day 7 – Fort Pulaski

    • Well, truth be told, when they were building the fort there was no confederacy, but it does illustrate how the same men who were friends and partners before the war now were expected to try to kill each other. Sad there couldn’t have been a different solution.

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