Location: Savannah, Georgia
Webpage: National Historic Landmark
General Description: Fort James Jackson or Old Fort Jackson is a War of 1812 era brick fort built as part of the system of fortifications by President Jefferson to protect the young country. Build between 1808 and 1812, it is the oldest brick fort in Georgia. It’s original purpose was to protect Savannah from the British during the War of 1812. It was garrisoned but never saw service during the War of 1812. Following the war it was modified to add a moat, barracks, a rear wall, and an additional powder magazine. After the capture of Fort Pulaski by the Union in 1862, Fort Jackson became the headquarters for the Savannah River defenses of the Confederacy. While the Union successfully blockaded the river and thereby the port of Savannah during the Civil War, the Confederates were able to block any advances of the Union in to Savannah from the river. Fort Jackson was the base for this operation which also included the Savannah River Squadron (ironclads C.S.S. Atlanta, C.S.S. Savannah, and C.S.S. Georgia) and a network of earth fortifications with heavy artillery and obstructions and underwater mines in the river. When Sherman captured Savannah at the end of the “March to the Sea” in 1864, Fort Jackson was abandoned by the Confederates who retreated into South Carolina to continue the fight.
1) When we arrived at the fort we were just in time for the afternoon cannon demonstration. We were entertained by a Civil War re-enactor who demonstrated the correct procedure to load and fire the cannon including the series of commands used for each step of the operation. After firing the cannon (which was quite load inside the fort), he then volunteered to also demonstrate the loading and firing of a musket and a saber drill. He again included all the field commands that would be used by the officers to organize the attack. It was a very informative presentation.
2) While Old Fort Jackson does not look very impressive from the outside since all the wooden buildings had been destroyed in a fire, the exhibits they have created withing the walls of the fort were impressive. I especially liked the exhibit about the ironclad ships in the Savannah River Squadron that patrol the river during the Civil War. In particular, the C.S.S. Georgia, which was funded by the Ladies Gunboat Association in Savannah. This ironclad was poorly designed with limited locomotive power, so it was anchored in the Savannah river just off of Fort Jackson. When they abandoned the fort, the C.S.S. Georgia was sunk in the channel and there it remains. It would still be a navigational hazard in the river, except shipping shifted to the south channel of the river following the war.