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map of Fort Pulaski
Map of Fort Pulaski.
(click on map for an enlargement in a new window)

Guide to the Area

Fort Pulaski, resembling a medieval castle, is surrounded by a wide moat, with two drawbridges, and a rear fortification known as a demilune. After crossing the outer drawbridge, a short walk through the demilune will bring you to the second drawbridge and the sally port or only entrance into the main fortification.

Numbered markers have been placed at significant points of interest. These markers correspond with the numbers of the text below and with those shown on the guide map. They should be followed in consecutive order.

1. THE SALLY PORT. The fort entrance is equipped with many devices for last-ditch defense. The massive drawbridge, weighing several tons, is raised by winches and counterweights which may be seen in the rooms on either side of the entrance. As the drawbridge rises, a strong wooden grill, called the portcullis, drops through a slot in the granite lintel overhead. The heart-pine doors are studded with iron bolts to make it difficult to chop through them with axes. Within the sally port are two recesses for the protection of guards and 10 slits, or loopholes, through the side walls for small arms fire. In time of great danger, the inner doors could also be shut and barred.

2. THE GORGE. The western, or rear, section of Fort Pulaski is known as the gorge ("throat") because it contains the sally port, or entrance of the fort. The living quarters are also in the gorge. Enlisted men occupied the barracks rooms, or casemates, to the north of the entrance; officers were quartered in the casemates to the south of the entrance. The word casemate means a bomb-proof shelter. Each of the arched chambers surrounding the parade ground is a casemate. During the Civil War, when a large number of troops was stationed at Fort Pulaski, most of the enlisted men were quartered in the casemated gun galleries or in tents. Originally, all of the casemates were closed in with wooden fronts to provide shelter from rain and cold. The parade ground, on which the men exercised and drilled, is 2-1/2 acres in extent. The covered veranda, which runs the length of the gorge, is an unusual feature in fort architecture.

3. BARRACKS ROOMS. When Georgia troops seized Fort Pulaski in 1861, the barracks rooms were unfurnished. The Confederates built triple-decker bunks against the walls and filled mattress covers with hay from the parade ground. They brought chairs, tables, and camp cots from their homes in Savannah. After the surrender, Federal troops added many items of furniture obtained by raiding plantations along the coast. The rooms were lighted by candles, coal-oil lanterns, and lamps. The large fireplace in each room was equipped with a crane and other devices for cooking, but both Confederate and Union soldiers did most of their cooking on field ranges. While walking through the barracks rooms, note how the loopholes in the rear wall are variously angled to give a wide range of fire.

4. THE NORTH MAGAZINE. On the second day of the bombardment Federal projectiles, exploding near the entrance to this powder magazine, threatened to blow up the Confederates with their own powder. The interior walls of the magazine are from 12 to 15 feet thick.

Bronze howitzer in northwest bastion.

5. THE NORTHWEST BASTION. A bastion is a part of a fort which extends out from the main wall, with embrasures and loopholes to permit lateral fire along the walls. Fort Pulaski had only demibastions, or half bastions, as they extend out only in one direction and give protection to only one wall. The rectangular openings through the outer walls of the fort are embrasures to permit the firing of cannon. The embrasures in the bastions are angled to bring a crossfire on the main drawbridge and on the point of the demilune. The slot under each embrasure was to receive the tongue of a gun carriage which was then held in place by a large iron pin dropped through the round hole in the floor of the embrasure. The openings in the ceiling above the embrasures are smoke vents. The circular grooves in the floor originally held iron tracks on which the wheels of the gun carriages turned. The slots and grilled trapdoors in the floors of the casemates are to provide ventilation under the floors. The round pegs in the floor cover iron spikes that hold the planks in place and originally served to reduce the hazard of a powder explosion ,when the guns were in use. Hobnails in soldiers' boots on contact with exposed spikes might have resulted in a dangerous shower of sparks.

gun galleries
Arched gun galleries.

6. THE GUN GALLERIES. The casemated gun galleries, which surround the parade ground on four sides and give to Fort Pulaski the atmosphere of a cloistered monastery, contain fine examples of brick masonry. The arches were constructed over wooden forms, each brick being hand cut to fit its special place. The joints were mortared from above and, when the arches were firm and strong, the wooden forms were removed.

7. THE WATER SYSTEM. Under the brick pavements, which replace the wooden floors in the two center casemates of each gallery, are water cisterns. There are 10 of these cisterns, or storage tanks, in the fort, each capable of holding 20,000 gallons of water. During rainstorms, water falling on the top of the fort seeps through about 3 feet of earth and a foot of oyster shell until it reaches the lead-covered brick roof, whence it is diverted through pipes to the cisterns. Overflow water from the roof emerges through weep holes between the arches high on the walls facing the parade ground.

8. THE TERREPLEIN. The flat surface on top of the rampart of the fort is called the terreplein and contains brick and granite platforms for mounting guns. From this high level, guns had a range of fire greater than those mounted in the casemates below. The breast-high parapet on the outer edge of the terreplein was for the protection of both guns and gun crews. The recesses in the parapet wall were to allow gun carriages to swing freely.

9. TERREPLEIN, EAST ANGLE. From this point a good view may be obtained of the shore of Tybee Island, from which the fort was bombarded. The two batteries containing the 10 James and Parrott rifled guns, which did the principal damage to the fort, were located on the western point of Tybee just north of the present highway bridge. The 9 other batteries of mortars and siege guns were at various places along the shore for 2 miles in the direction of the lighthouse. The small brick lighthouse on Cockspur Point was built about 1840 and therefore was a feature of the landscape at the time of the bombardment.

10. THE PRISON. From October 23, 1864, to March 4, 1865, the north east, southeast, and part of the south casemates of Fort Pulaski were used as a military prison.

11. THE BREACH. In three casemates at the southeast angle there are solid brick walls without embrasures. These walls were constructed in 1862, after the surrender, by troops of the 48th New York Volunteers to close the breach, or opening, made by the Federal shot and shell during the bombardment.

12. THE SOUTHWEST BASTION. The interior of the southwest bastion was destroyed by fire in 1893. This part of the fort has been left unrestored to show details of the foundation construction. All arches are completed beneath the floor level and are laid on a platform of yellow pine timbers, called grillage. The grillage in turn is supported by yellow pine piles which are driven deep into the mud of Cockspur Island.

13. HEADQUARTERS (SURRENDER ROOM). The surrender of Fort Pulaski was executed in the quarters of Col. Charles H. Olmstead, Confederate commander. In 1925 a lightning fire destroyed the officers' quarters. This room was restored in 1935.

14. CISTERN ROOM. This room, also destroyed in the 1925 fire, has been left unrestored to show construction details. The cylindrical brick structure below floor level is the top of a water cistern.

15. BOTTLE COLLECTION. Nearly 1,000 bottles were found in the Fort Pulaski moat when the mud was cleaned out in 1935. These bottles had been thrown into the moat by workmen building the fort and by Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War. A part of the collection is shown in this room.

16. THE MOAT. The wet ditch, or moat, which completely surrounds the main fortification and the demilune, varies in width from 30 to 48 feet. It has an average depth of 7 feet. The water, brought through a canal from the South Channel of the Savannah River, is controlled through a series of tide gates. Fish, crabs, shrimp, oysters, and turtles live in the moat.

17. THE DEMILUNE. The outwork often found at the rear of a large fortification was originally constructed in a half-moon shape—hence the name demilune. The principal earthworks in the demilune were built in 1869, after the Civil War, and contain four powder magazines and passageways connecting gun emplacements. The detached mound of earth near the entrance to the demilune was erected in 1893 to protect an underground chamber in which were placed the controls for electric mines in the main channel of the Savannah River. This room is kept locked today as it contains a large and dangerous electric transformer.

damaged wall
The damaged wall.

18. DAMAGED WALL. Evidence of the bombardment can best be seen from the outside of the fort. The breach through the southeast angle was repaired in 1862 with a bright-red brick, which, in contrast to the original brown brick, shows the area of the damage wrought by the siege guns. The southeastern wall facing Tybee is pock-marked by shell hits, and many of the balls and projectiles are still embedded in the brickwork.

19. THE CEMETERY. On the glacis, or north bank of the demilune moat, a small cemetery was established when the fort was under construction. Here, during the Civil War, both Confederate and Union soldiers were temporarily buried. The 8-inch columbiad, which marks the site, was a Confederate gun damaged in the bombardment.

20. THE WAVING GIRL. Just after the Civil War a girl was born on Cockspur Island in the former quarters of the engineer officers. The child was named Florence Martus, and her father was an ordnance sergeant at Fort Pulaski. From the stone pier on the north shore of Cockspur Island young Florence first saw the passing ships going with cargoes to the farthest corners of the earth. The small child was fascinated by these gay ships and waved her handkerchief. Sailors on the ships waved back. A few years later, the child, then in her 'teens, went to live .with her brother, a light keeper, in a white cottage close by the riverbank, about 5 miles up river from Fort Pulaski. From this time on she waved at every ship that passed—a table cloth or towel by day, a lantern by night. For more than 44 years she never missed a ship, and each ship, as it passed, returned her salute with three blasts of the whistle. Many stories were told of this small girl, who finally grew to be a white-haired old lady. These legends of the Waving Girl of Savannah are known in all the seas where ships have sailed.

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Last Modified: Mon, Mar 4 2002 10:00:00 pm PDT

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