Savannah GA II

I hope you people realize the troubles we go through on your account…it’s ridikilous as Sylvester the cat would say.

Today’s mission was to visit both the Tybee Island Lighthouse about 20 miles east of here right at the mouth of the Savannah River and then visit Fort Pulaski which is located on Cockspur Island…the latter is located just north of Tybee Island in the middle of the river.

Anyways…the troubles were due to having to get up in the middle of the doggoned night to start…we wanted to be over at the lighthouse at sunrise to get the best light for this shot…well, Neil wanted to be there for sunrise anyway, I can’t say that anybody else ‘round here was all that enthusiastic about it…but anyways that meant we had to leave the campground at 0530…which meant that the alarm went off at 0430. 

What’s up with these humans anyway…don’t they realize a bear needs his beauty sleep and if it’s dark then you’re s’posed to be asleep and not up wandering around the countryside?

Once Connie had made coffee in our go-cups…we packed up cameras, water, and all the usual paraphernalia and headed out…arriving at the lighthouse grounds just a couple minutes before sunrise…but instead of the golden sunrise-y light we hoped to see there were some clouds…but one deals with the hand you’re given so we quickly decided that moody lighthouse photos would be the order of the day.

Oh bother.

The current Tybee Island Light is the 4th tower located at the site…although the first two weren’t lit…so I guess you really can’t call them lighthouses. The first wooden one was built in 1736 and washed away in a storm in 1741. It was replaced by a stone and wood version the following year…and the second succumbed to shoreline erosion. The third was a brick tower 100 feet tall erected in 1773 with a candle lit light and retrofitted with oil lamps in 1790. The third tower was burned and the fresnel lens for the light removed to nearby Fort Pulaski in 1862 during the civil war. After the war was over construction of a new light started in 1866 and after several modifications reached it’s current height of 144 feet in the late 1880s. Automated in 1972 it still serves as a navigational aid for entering the Savannah River…but instead of having a rotating mirror behind the Fresnel lens to produce a periodic rotating beam it is a fixed always-on white light. The light is one of seven remaining colonial era lighthouses in the US.

OK…so what did we see.

Different views of Tybee Island Light to start with.

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Connie grabbed this one with the moon in the background.

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While Neil got a wider view from the same location at the same time

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Afterwards we walked over to the beach and took a shot looking back west towards the light.

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While Connie got this artsy-fartsy shot of the beach at sunrise with sea grass in the foreground.

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Our second stop for the day was Fort Pulaski…so let’s talk about it a little.

It was named after Casimir Pulaski…the Polish officer who fought for the colonies during the Revolutionary War. After the city of Washington DC was burned by the British during the war of 1812…President Madison had a series of forts established along the eastern seaboard to protect our ports and cities from bombardment. Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island just north of Tybee Island was one of these forts…it was actually designed, laid out, surveyed and had a portion of the construction supervised by a fellow you might have heard of…a young Army 2nd Lieutenant on his first assignment after graduating from West Point…by the name of Robert E. Lee. The fort was constructed of masonry with 7.something million bricks and was considered to be invulnerable…the only place it could be bombarded from was Tybee Island and at ranges of over a mile masonry forts were considered invulnerable to bombardment by smooth bore artillery firing round shot. In 1861…shortly before Georgia seceded from the Union…the governor ordered the lightly manned, almost undefended, and somewhat broken down fort to be seized for the state. With it’s artillery commanding both the wider north and narrow south passages of the Savannah River around Cockspur Island…it was ideal to protect the port of Savannah…and because of it’s range to Tybee Island the Confederates weren’t really worried about it being attacked. Around this same time…Tybee Island Light was burned and the Fresnel lens moved as I discussed earlier. The Confederates spent the next 15 months or so returning the fort to truly operational status and the Union commander at the time on Tybee Island Captain Quincy Gilmore believed that only an overwhelming bombardment would threaten the fort. He set up 11 batteries along the north shore of Tybee Island including mostly smooth bore artillery and mortars but also had 10 of the newly developed rifled Parrot and James rifles which…as it turned out…were the guns that caused the fort to surrender.

After rejection of a surrender demand by the Union forces…Union artillery opened fire early on April 10, 1862 and fired about 3,000 rounds against the southeast side of the fort. The mortars were ineffective as were the smoothbore artillery initially…but the rifled Parrot and James rifles had enough penetrating power to loosen the masonry and then followup impacts from the smoothbores finished knocking the loosened brickwork down. By the end of the day…the southeast wall of the fort had been breached.

Early the next morning the bombardment resumed and by early afternoon shells from Tybee Island were entering through the breached southeast wall and impacting the northwest wall from the inside…perilously close to the fort’s main magazine with 20 tons of black powder inside. Realizing that a single lucky shot would result in the destruction of the fort and the loss of all his men…and with most of the Confederate cannon out of action by this time…the fort was surrendered by Colonel Charles Olmstead.

The quick fall of the fort was the death knell of masonry fortifications as it…despite being considered one of the most strongest forts in the country…proved that masonry structures could not stand up to bombardment by high caliber rifled artillery. Interestingly enough…Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortuga Islands west of Key West Florida is of similar construction and was essentially abandoned as a defensive structure by the Union after the destruction of Fort Pulaski.

Ok…on to some photos from the fort.

The demilune in front of the fort’s main entrance. Deminlune is French for half moon and serves as a barrier to easy access for attackers to a fort’s main entrance. The entrance is behind and the entire fort is surrounded by a 7 foot deep moat. Of note…the main entrance of the fort has a drawbridge with inner and outer doors along the entrance sally port and musket slits for firing into invaders if they managed to cross the moat and breach the outer doors. Since it’s got both a moat and a drawbridge…it must be a castle, right?

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One of the Confederate artillery along the top of the southeast wall…you can see it was struck during the bombardment and damaged.

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A panoramic view looking south towards Tybee Island across the southern passage around Cockspur Island…the 36 Union artillery pieces were divided into 9 batteries essentially across the width of this shot…it’s just over a mile from the fort wall to the battery positions on Tybee.

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Damage to the interior side of the northwest wall…this was caused by round shot that entered through the southeast wall behind the camera position after it was breached by the combination of James/Parrot rifle and smoothbore artillery. The northwest magazine is directly underneath these impact points and the Union actually had on shell detonate just inside the magazine access tunnel…but the turns and corners in the tunnel prevented it from getting into the magazine.

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Two shots of the outside of the southeast wall with damage due to impacts. The breach point was just a round the corner you can see. Union forces repaired the damage after the fort was taken and remained in control of it until the end of the war. After the war the fort was used as a prison for a time before being abandoned and then eventually turned into a National Monument in 1924.

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Actual casualties during the bombardment were almost nonexistent…the fort had 3 injured personnel and the single loss of life was a Union soldier at one of the batteries on Tybee Island.

With that our day’s Fun Stuff© was done. We were originally going to hike out to the eastern end of Cockspur Island to get some photos of the smaller Cockspur Island Lighthouse which marks the entrance to the south channel…but it was getting hot, we were tired, and the ‘skeeters were pretty fierce…so we packed it in, came home with a stop by Scuba Steve’s Fish Market to get some fresh grouper for dinner, and had a nap since we got up so early.

Interesting things found on the net.

It’s important to have accuracy on your tax returns…even in the UK.


Captain Crunch has been lyin’ to us all this time…he’s just a Commander.


Why people have trust issues.


And a couple of groaners for ya’.



About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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