SAVANNAH’s TREASURE: Old Fort Jackson

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A Civil War trooper at Fort Jackson

Georgia’s oldest standing brick fort is not only a National Historic Landmark but Savannah’s most treasured possession.

The National Geographic channel recently began a series America’s Lost Treasures. While curators in nine other cities chose their favourite objects, the producers of the show picked Fort Jackson as the featured treasure of Savannah.

Lovingly restored and kept in a fine state of repair by the Coastal Heritage Society Preservation Team (formed in 2003), the Fort we see today began life in 1808 on the site of a Revolutionary War earthen battery. During the War of 1812 local militia units and Federal troops saw active duty at the fort, located just two minutes outside downtown Savannah towards the coast (Tybee Island).

The fort is not named for President Jackson, but rather James Jackson, who accepted the surrender of the British in Savannah at the close of the Revolutionary War. While the fort was not attacked during the Civil War, it played a crucial role is keeping Union troops from invading Savannah and Georgia. They captured a fort a few miles away on the coast, but were unable to sail the narrow river into Savannah because the guns of Fort Jackson provided such a powerful deterrent.

The Civil War is represented today by soldiers dressed in period uniform who fire a small cannon most days around 230pm. This is preceded by a half-hour talk about the use of various cannon shells, harmless examples of which are passed among the visitors.

Just a few feet away, lying at the bottom of the Savannah River, lies the hulk of the C.S.S. Georgia Ironclad, which was deliberately sunk when the Confederate troops abandoned the fort in 1864 as General Sherman invaded from land with an overwhelming force. Plans are afoot to raise the ship, one of the first made of iron, which will surely make another great tourist attraction here.

In the meantime visitors can see excellent short films about the fort’s history, and view a series of exhibits about artillery, uniforms and ships that were so much a part of early American life.

The Coastal History Society produces a fine magazine highlighting this and other historic sites in the area. Visit their website for more information: www.chsgeorgia.org. The fort itself is open 7 days a week- a must see for any first-time visitor of the lovely city of Savannah.

Story and photo by Cliff Cunningham.  email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Clifford Cunningham

Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist currently affiliated with the National Astronomical Research Institute. He did his PhD work in the history of astronomy at James Cook University, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. He is the author of 12 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honour by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1990.

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