Savannah in the Civil War - A Chronology of Key Events

by Lawrence Martin

Three novels on the Civil War by Lawrence Martin: Sherman's Mistress in Savannah; Out of Time - An alternative outcome to the Civil War; and Liberty Street: A novel of late Civil War Savannah. Click on cover for Amazon link.

Sherman's Mistress in Savannah Out of Time: Alternative Outcome LibertyStreet-cover

Civil War Savannah:
Books, pamphlets and videos

Civil War Savannah is a straightforward, annotated history, highly recommended as an introduction to Civil War Savannah. This book and Jacqueline Jones' Saving Savannah (below) complement each other.

Saving Savannah is a detailed narrative, with emphasis on the role of Savannah's slaves and free blacks during and after the war. This is a scholarly work by a distinguished professor at the University of Texas, with many references. Jacqueline Jones de-emphasizes battles (barely mentioning Fort McAllister, and omitting Pulaski's victor Quincy Gillmore altogether), and instead emphasizes the society of Savannah before during and after the war. Click here for a brief interview with the author. Saving Savannah and Civil War Savannah complement each other.

Civil War Savannah is an epic 4-volume history of Savannah in the Civil War. Information about the book project and the authors can be found at the book's web site. The first volume, "Savannah, Immortal City" (cover above), contains many maps and photos of the era. Click here for video presentation about the book.

Official Report to the United States Engineer Department of the Siege and Reduction of Fort Pulaski Georgia February March and April 1862 is by Brig-General Quincy Adams Gillmore, who commanded the bombardment of Ft. Pulaski on April 10-11, 1862. It is his official account of the battle, full of wonderful detail, including a chronology leading up to the battle, information about each of the gun batteries used to "reduce" the fort, and several photos.

Gillmore Account
Gillmore's full account (cover page above) is also available on-line at Google Books.

Vital Rails is about the rail line between Savannah and Charleston that was completed in 1860. It became integral to the Confederacy's battle against the naval blockade and held until Sherman's occupation of Savannah in December 1864. It was so vital during the war (hence the title) that Robert E. Lee placed his low country command headquarters (November 1861 to March 1862) in one of the towns along the route, Coosawhatchie. Altogether there were eight battles and skirmishes with Union forces along the line -- including the Battles of Pocotaligo in May and October of 1862 and the Battle of Honey Hill in November 1864.

The "low country" refers to the coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina, including the principal cities of Savannah and Charleston. Though Lee is most often associated with famous battles (Chancellorsville in Virginia, Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, Antietam in Maryland), early in the war he spent quite a bit of time in the low country. His first sojourn was as a young West Point graduate, 1929 -1931, helping to build Fort Pulaski. He then returned 30 years later as a Confederate General, and commanded defenses from November 1861 - March 1862. Initially his headquarters was at Coosawhatchie near Beaufort, SC, then in Feb 1862 he moved to Savannah. In March 1862 he was recalled by president Jefferson Davis to Richmond. Lee in the Low Country concentrates on Lee during 1861-1862.

Dr. Schiller's book on Fort Pulaski

Sumter is Avenged!, published in 1995, is now out of print but was found on eBay. It's a well-annotated account of the siege and reduction of Ft. Pulaski, by physician and civil war historian Dr. Herbert M. Schiller. Includes many period maps and photos. This book and Brig-General Quincy Gillmore's own account are core documents for studying the fall of Fort Pulaski.

A good portion of Guardian of Savannah: Fort McAllister, including some maps and photos, is available free via Google Books. In this meticulously researched book the author, Roger Durham, lays out three reasons for the fort's significance:
  1. It was used as a "testing ground where the Confederates refined concepts of coastal- fortification design, and the Federals evaluated new warships and ordnance under combat conditions.
  2. It was the final obstacle to Gen. William T. Sherman's March to the Sea and proved to be the key to his capture of Savannah.
  3. The physical survival of the fort in modern times is due to Henry Ford's initial renovation in the mid 1930s.

Lee & Fort Pulaski
Robert E. Lee and Fort Pulaski, a 27-page pamphlet, was published in the early 1940s by National Park Service Historian Robert W. Young. Shown above is the cover as republished in 1970 (found on eBay). Text and most of the photos from this pamphlet are reproduced in the web site on Robert E. Lee and Fort Pulaski.

Georgia Secession Convention Journal The complete minutes of the Georgia Secession Convention, including both "public" and "secret" meetings.

1861 Mayor Report

Savannah Mayor Charles C. Jones' Annual Report, 1861. In addition to the Treasurer's Report of the city's finances, it contains Mayor Jones' comments justifying the rebellion and calling on citizens to keep firearms handy for use "at a moment's notice."

Ebb Tide - Story of Habersham family of Savannah

Ebb Tide (1958), by Stephen Bidwell King, is the story of the Habersham family of Savannah. Several sections quote from the 1863 Civil War diary by Savannah native Josephine Clay Habersham. (See Chronology for 1863-1865.)

Fanny Yates Cohen Diary

Fanny Yates Cohen Diary, December-January 1864
. This brief diary -- only 4 sheets of paper, front and back -- was kept by a young Savannah woman during Sherman's occupation of the city. The entire diary is included in the above 1957 article published by the Georgia Historical Society. Only the first page of the aricle is on-line, but the entire article is available from numerous lending libraries (listed on the web site).

Platter Diary Platter Diary, Nov 10, 1864 to April 27, 1865. This diary, meticulously kept in neat script by Lt. Cornelius C. Platter, covers his march through Georgia and the Carolinas with General Sherman's army. The diary has been transcribed, indexed and placed on-line by the University of Georgia Libraries.

Books About Sherman's March - Eyewitness Accounts

There are numerous books about Sherman’s “march to the sea” from Atlanta to Savannah, November-December 1864. (The Platter Diary, above, is a first person account by a soldier who made the march.) I have found that many people associate Savannah’s involvement in the Civil War only with Sherman’s invasion of the city and his famous telegram offering Savannah as a Christmas gift to Lincoln. Of course there is much more than that, as shown by the chronology on these web sites. The books below detail Sherman’s march and his army's occupation of Savannah. The first three are historical: Sherman's own account, that of his military secretary Henry Hitchcock, and then an altogether different perspective from Charles C. Jones, Jr., mayor of Savannah in 1860-1861.

Sherman's Memoirs, first published in 1875, went through 4 editions, each one slightly revised from the former. The entire fourth edition (pub. 1892) is on-line at Google Books, Volume 1 and Volume 2. The print version can also be purchased at (click on book cover above). It can also be downloaded free from the website as a Kindle e-book.

Marching with Sherman, by Henry Hitchcock, contains portions of his diary written during the march, plus letters to his wife. This eyewitness account by Sherman's military secretary -- a prominent St. Louis attorney until he joined the union army in 1864 -- was not published until 1927.

The Siege of Savannah In December, 1864, & the Confederate Operations in Georgia & the Third Military District of South Carolina During General Sherman's March from Atlanta to the Sea is available from and also in an on-line e-edition. This personal memoir was self-published in 1874 by Charles C. Jones, Jr. (1831-1893). Jones was Mayor of Savannah from Oct, 1860 to Oct, 1861. An attorney by training, he moved from Savannah to New York in 1866. He later became a foremost historian of Georgia history and a proponent of the South's "Lost Cause".

Books About Sherman's March - Modern Day Histories

Sherman's March
Sherman's March, published in 1978 (Crowell Publishers, New York), was found in a used bookstore and is not currently in print. It offers eyewitness accounts of the epic 1864 march through Georgia, as told by people who experienced it: slaves, housewives, farmers, merchants, politicians, soldiers, nuns, reporters, even Sherman himself. Wheeler interweaves quotes from all the participants with his own narrative, to make for a fascinating read.

Noah Trudeau’s Southern Storm, published August, 2009, points out that the actual amount of destruction caused by Sherman’s army was limited even by Civil War standards; the reality is that war had not yet come to that part of the south. One reviewer wrote: “This is a book which is convincing because of its rigorous attention to detail and the fairness and writing skill of the author.”

Burke Davis’s Sherman's March was published May 1988, and includes numerous eyewitness stories that flesh out the well known narrative. One reviewer wrote: “This is a fascinating, well-researched and well-written account of Sherman's march through the South, and if there is any better, I don't know of it.”

David Smith’s Sherman’s March to the Sea, published February 2007, is a straightforward narrative with pictures and maps to complement the text. One reviewer wrote: “Photos, maps, and art examine the major participants, strategies, and campaigns of the last months of the Civil War, making for a top pick for any military collection strong in Civil War history.”

Stanley Weintraub's General Sherman's Christmas, published in 2009, is an engaging account of Sherman's march, culminating in Christmas in Savannah. It was from the Charles Green mansion that Sherman penned his famous telegram to President Lincoln, offering him the City of Savannah as a Christmas gift. Weintraub talks about his books, including General Sherman's Christmas, in a C-Span video.

If you decide to visit Savannah...

For a list of virtually all Civil War sites, I recommend Civil War Walking Tour of Savannah. This guide is actually for walking and driving. While many Civil War-era buildings are concentrated in the historic district (e.g., Sherman's headquarters), battle sites like Ft. Pulaski and Ft. McAllister are far from the city center. The book has many nice color photographs but lacks maps showing the exact location of each site. The author has also posted on Youtube still images in video format based on this book.

The Savannah Walking Tour & Guidebook covers just the Historic District, and includes several nice maps (which Civil War Walking Tour lacks).

If you intend visiting Civil War sites outside Savannah, Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia will come in handy. It divides the state into 9 regions, and gives plenty of detailed information on each. The Southeast Georgia section (Savannah and Environs) nicely complements Civil War Walking Tour.

Frommers Portable Savannah is a general guides that includes hotels, restaurants and major tourist sites. Perusing it (or a similar general guide) before your trip will help you decide in advance what you want to see. Apart from walking the Historic and touring various Civil War sites, also recommended are a boat trip down the Savannah River, a visit to Tybee Beach if the weather's warm, and Bonaventure Cemetery.

Several guidebooks include both Charleston & Savannah. Of these, the one by Jim Morekis is the best. If you want to compare the cities, see also Savannah vs. Charleston.

For 91 Days in Savannah is an e-book by "two travelers who spend 91 days in various cities around the world." They give a more personal view of the city than is found in general guidebooks.

Not a guide book in the traditional sense, but read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil if you have any interest in Savannah, especially if you plan to visit. Midnight was a huge best seller in the 1990s, and you'll see references to "the book" everywhere in Savannah. I also recommend the movie.

Short videos on Civil War Savannah

Savannah Civil War Videos, a series of short educational videos covering Ft. McAllister, Civil War railroads, Prison Camps, Fort Walker, Fort Jackson and other topics.

Short History of Ft. Pulaski (1:45)

Savannah Harbor during Civil War. The narrator, Barry Sheehy, is author of Immortal Savannah (see above).

Forsythe Park Confederate Memorial. Another Sheehy narration about Civil War Savannah. Look for several other Youtube videos Sheehy narrates about Civil War Savannah.

Sherman's March, part 3 of 5. Part 3 of this series starts with capture of Fort McAllister and includes the occupation of Savannah. Note the narrator mistakenly gives the date Sherman sent his famous telegram as December 24, 1864; it was actually sent Dec 22.

The story behind Special Field Order #15 ("Forty Acres and a Mule"), narrated by the mayor of Savannah


Over 150 years ago the United States was engaged in a great civil war, the outcome of which would preserve or splinter the nation. The 1860 census found Savannah, Georgia's largest city and a major seaport, with 22,292 people. Of these, 14,580 were free inhabitants (including 705 free blacks) and another 7,712 were slaves. Unlike Charleston and Atlanta, Savannah was never attacked or bombarded during the war. The immediate area experienced only two important civil war battles, sieges of Ft. Pulaski on April 10-11, 1862 and of Ft. McAllister on December 13, 1864 (both won by Union forces). In civil war history Savannah is nonetheless famous as the destination of General Sherman's March to the Sea (Nov 16 - Dec 21, 1864). And, as the commercial hub of Southeast Georgia's rice plantations and slave trade, Savannah's history in the 1860s is a window on the Civil War South.

This chronology lists key events that occurred in and around Savannah during the civil war. It is largely based on historical documents found on the web and in books (see the sidebar). While this is not the place for Civil War scholars or those interested in complex narrative, it IS the place for details beyond what's found in most web sites and general history texts. Along with a timeline of major events I've included links to some important civil war documents, such as Journal of the Georgia Secession Convention, Brig.-General Gillmore's account of the Siege of Ft. Pulaski, Lt. Cornelius Platter's diary of Sherman's epic march, and General Sherman's Memoirs. The chronology spans 2 web sites. The 2nd web site covers 1863 to the end of the Civil War in 1865, including Sherman's occupation of Savannah. I have also posted a separate web site about General Sherman's famous telegram to President Lincoln, offering him the City of Savannah as a Christmas gift.

Part 1: 1861-1862

COMMENT. Abraham Lincoln's election as 16th U.S. President in November 1860 reinforced much of the South's belief that the U.S. Government was determined to end slavery, and soon. In Charleston, on December 20, 1860, South Carolina's legislature voted to secede from the Union. The vast majority of Savannah's white population, living in a city much like Charleston in geography, size and slave-owning history, was in full sympathy.


January 1, 1861 (Tuesday)

Since South Carolina voted to secede on December 20, 1860, Georgia leaders and politicians have strongly considered secession. They realize that Fort Pulaski -- at the mouth of the Savannah River -- could soon be occupied by Union forces against them. On this date George Governor Joseph E. Brown arrives in Savannah from Milledgeville, the state capital, to determine a plan of action.

Fort Pulaski drawing 1861
Fort Pulaski, as drawn in 1861 (from Harper's Weekly)

January 2, 1861 (Wednesday)

Governor Brown issues an order for the Georgia militia, under General Alexander Lawton, to "take possession of Fort Pulaski" and to "hold it against all persons, to be abandoned only under orders from me or under compulsion by an overpowering hostile force."

January 3, 1861 (Thursday)

The steam ship Ida sails from Savannah with 150 troops, and lands on Cockspur island, site of Fort Pulaski, 15 miles downriver from Savannah. Confederates seize the fort without firing a shot. (Only a caretaker and one ordinance officer are in the fort.) While the fort itself is in good shape the grounds are overgrown with vegetation, the guns are in disrepair and the moat is filled with silt. Over the next several months the Confederates - with the aid of slaves - proceed to rehabilitate the fort.

Fort Pulaski Map        Fort Pulaski aerial view

Left: Civil War map showing location of Ft. Pulaski at mouth of Savannah River. (Click here for larger image of map.) Right: Modern-day view of Ft. Pulaski, showing southeast wall with cannon damage from April 1862 bombardment. Savannah River is at top of photo.

January 10, 1861

Fort Jackson is occupied by Confederate militia. [Construction on Fort Jackson began in 1808, and the fort served in defense of Savannah during the War of 1812, though it never saw battle. Only 3 miles east of Savannah, Fort Jackson soon became the headquarters for coastal defenses during the Civil War. The fort would not fall until Sherman's army reached the city December 20, 1864.]

Fort Jackson 
location on Savannah River Fort Jackson 
overlooking Savannah River

Left: Location of Ft. Jackson (A) in relation to Ft. Pulaski (B) in modern day map of Savannah area (click on map for larger image). Right: One of Ft. Jackson's guns overlooking Savannah River.

January 16-19, 1861

Georgia state convention convenes in Milledgeville to decide on secession. On January 19 a majority of Georgia delegates vote to secede from the United States. The vote is 208-89 to adopt an Ordinance of Secession.

We the people of the State of Georgia in Convention assembled do declare and ordain and it is hereby declared and ordained that the ordinance adopted by the State of Georgia in convention on the 2nd day of Jany. in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the constitution of the United States of America was assented to, ratified and adopted, and also all acts and parts of acts of the general assembly of this State, ratifying and adopting amendments to said constitution, are hereby repealed, rescinded and abrogated.

We do further declare and ordain that the union now existing between the State of Georgia and other States under the name of the United States of America is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Georgia is in full possession and exercise of all those rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.

Passed January 19, 1861.

February, 1861

Oglethorpe Barracks becomes the center of military activity in Savannah, with troops coming in from all over the state. [Barracks were located where the current DeSoto Hilton Hotel now sits, at corner of of Bull and Liberty Streets.]

March 7-23, 1861

Georgia's Secession Convention reassembles in Savannah.

  • On March 16 the convention ratifies the new Confederate Constitution and begins work on a a revised Georgia state constitution.

  • On March 21 Alexander Stephens, provisional Confederate Vice-President, delivers his Cornerstone Speech in which he lays out a defense of slavery.

    ...[Slavery] was an evil [the Founding Fathers] knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it -- when the "storm came and the wind blew, it fell."

    Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition...

    (Click here for the complete speech)

  • On March 23 the Secession Convention adopts a proposed new state constitution for Georgia, which will be submitted to voters in July. Following this last action, the Convention adjourns.

April 12, 1861

Confederates under General P.G.T. Beauregard bombard Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, another of the "3rd Defense Forts" like Ft. Pulaski. Union forces in Ft. Sumter under Major Robert Anderson surrender the next day. The Civil War has begun.

April 19, 1861

President Lincoln proclaims a Union Blockade of all southern ports. Initially, the blockade has little effect on Savannah. but after the fall of Ft. Pulaski a year later it effectively cuts off Savannah as a port city. [When the blockade began in 1861 an estimated 1 in 10 ships was intercepted. By 1864 one in every 3 ships attempting to run the blockade was intercepted, and many ships never even made an attempt. As result, the blockade severely reduced Southern cotton exports, on which the Confederacy depended on for hard currency. Cotton exports fell 95%, from 10 million bales in the 3 years prior to the war to just 500,000 bales during the blockade period. Savannah suffered accordingly.]

April 20, 1861

Robert E. Lee resigns his commission from the United States army and joins the Confederate army, stating his allegiance is to Virginia.

June 7, 1861

Company A of the 1st Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, the DeKalb Riflemen, arrive at Genesis Point on the Ogeechee River, to initiate construction of a defense fort. The land is owned by Joseph L. McAllister, who also owns a large nearby plantation, Strathy Hall. The Ogeechee River is 12 miles south of Savannah and opens to the Atlantic Ocean, making it a potential route for Union forces to invade Savannah. The troops begin to construct an earthen-walled fort. [It is named the Genesis Point Battery until sometime in late December 1861 or early January 1862, when it is officially named Fort McAllister.]

Fort McAllister    Fort McAllister location
Early drawing of Ft. McAllister on the Ogeechee River, and present day Google map showing location of Fort McAllister. Fort McAllister is now a state historic park.

October 1, 1861

1861 Mayor Report    Charles Jones   

1861 Mayor's Annual Report is published by Charles C. Jones, Mayor of Savannah from Oct 1860 to Oct 1861. (First paragraphs are reproduced above; the entire report is on line.) Figure at right is of Jones as young man, from his biography in The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Much of the 1861 Mayor's Report is devoted to the Treasuer's Report, but Jones also goes at some length in his flowery prose to justify the rebellion. He calls on all citizens to take up arms in the struggle: "Let each, young and old, see to it, that he has within his reach some trusty weapon, with ready ammunition, which may be brought into service at a moment's warning." (Page 22)

October 30, 1861

The first exchange of hostile gunfire on the Georgia coast takes place. Men of the Republican Blues, a Georgia militia unit established in 1808, engage a blockading vessle near the north end of Wassaw Island. "The brief exchange of cannon fire served no real purpose, but it was the first test of combat for the Republican Blues." (Guardian of Savannah: Fort McAllister, page 7).

November 5, 1861

Robert E. Lee, now a general in the Confederate army, is appointed commander, "Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida." He is charged with improving the defenses of the southeast coast.

November 7, 1861

Location of Port Royal Sound Union forces capture 2 Confederate forts -- Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard -- that guard the entrance to Port Royal Sound. Port Royal is strategically located just 10 miles north of Tybee Island and Ft. Pulaski. See current-day map; Port Royal Sound is just north of Hilton Head Island. Fort Pulaski (not labeled on this map) is situated immediately north and west of Tybee Island (see map under January 3, 1861). After the battle Port Royal Sound becomes a base of Union operations to further enhance the naval blockade of Charleston and Savannah. The next major Union objective is the siege and reduction of Fort Pulaski.

November 10, 1861

Robert E. Lee arrives in Savannah and the next day comes to Ft. Pulaski. There he is welcomed by its commander, Commander Olmstead Commander Olmstead Major Charles H. Olmstead (left). Lee (right) gives instructions on defensive work in the fort. During this visit Lee points to nearby Tybee Island and, as famously quoted by Olmstead, says: "...they will make it very warm for you with shells from that point but they cannot breach at that distance."

November 24, 1861

Union forces, having learned that all confederate guns on Tybee have been removed, set ashore on Tybee Island. Under the command of Quincy Gillmore, they begin building batteries of guns on the north end of the island. These guns are hauled across Big Tybee Island at night, to avoid detection (drawing from Harper's Pictorial History of the War of 1861).
Guns on Tybee Island
The stretch of island where the guns are arranged is from about 1 mile (Battery Totten) to about 2 miles (Battery Stanton) from Fort Pulaski, across the southern branch of the Savannah River (see April 8, 1862). In addition to preparing for assault on Fort Pulaski, the guns help seal the mouth of the Savannah River from blockade runners (at the same time helping prevent ships already in port from leaving, like the Fingal (later remade into the CSS-Atlanta).

December 14, 1861, Harper's Weekly

Georgia slave map    Georgia slave map
WE publish...a CHART MAP OF GEORGIA, similar to the one we published of South Carolina in our Number of November 23. The tint, by its depth of shade, shows the comparative percentage of slaves to the total population in each county, that percentage being likewise stated in figures in the centre of the tint. Thus in Ware County only seven per cent of the total population are slaves, while in Chatham County the percentage is 71, or nearly three-quarters. It will be noticed that the largest slave communities are on the seashore and round the points to be occupied by our troops. Chatham County, in which Tybee is situated, contains 71 per cent. of slaves ; Glynn County, where Brunswick is situated, 86 per cent. ; Camden County, whose sea-port is Fernandina, Florida, 67 per cent. This map will be of use to the philosopher and student.
[Comment: In the 1860 census Savannah, situated in Chatham County, had 22,292 people, of whom 7,712 or 35% were slaves. As can be seen in the above figure (right), the city at the time occupied a small portion of the county.]


February, 1862

Robert E. Lee, commander of forces in Coastal Georgia and South Carolina, has just about completed reinforcing Savannah defenses with numerous gun batteries around the city. He feels Fort Pulaski is well defended, and that there is little threat from Union forces on Tybee Island.

March, 1862

Lee is recalled to Virginia, to become military advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis's office. (Lee will not return to Savannah until after the war is over, when he meets with friend and former Confederate General Joseph Johnston.)

April 8, 1862

By April 8 Union preparations are complete on Big Tybee Island. They consist of 11 Batteries, each with 1 or more large guns, listed below with their distance from Fort Pulaski (list is from the book Sumter is Avenged!; see sidebar). Their placement is shown in the map of north Tybee Island. The batteries are named by Gillmore for "the persons most prominent or most likely to be so, in political or military service." Included in the batteries are the new rifle canon never before used by the American army in battle. These are the 5 30-pounder Parrotts and the James rifles.

1. Battery, Stanton, 3 heavy 13-inch Mortars, 3,400 yds
2. Battery Grant, 3 heavy 13-inch Mortars, 3,200 yds
3. Battery Lyon, 3 heavy 10-inch Columbiads, 3,100 yds
4. Battery Lincoln, 3 heavy 8-inch Columbiads, 3,100 yds
5. Battery Burnside, 1 heavy 13-inch Mortar, 2,750 yds
6. Battery Sherman, 3 heavy 13-inch Mortars, 2,650 yds
7. Battery Halleck, 2 heavy 13-inch Mortars, 2,400 yds
8. Battery Scott, 3 10-inch Columbiads,1 8-inch Columbiads, 1,740 yds
9. Battery Sigel, 5 30-pounder Parrotts, 1 48-pounder James rifles, 1,650 yds
10. Battery McClellan, 2 84-pounder James rifles; 2 64-pounder James rifles, 1,650 yds
11. Battery Totten, 4 10-inch siege mortars, 1650 yards

Tybee gun placement

Click here for larger image

Below is a photo labeled as Battery Burnside, with the gun surrounded by soldiers from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery unit.
Burnside gun

Also, by this date Fort Pulaski has been modified for the expected attack, with the parade or field dug up to keep shells from rolling on the grass. (See drawing under April 12).

April 9, 1862

April 9 is rainy and not a good day for bombardment. The siege's commander, Brigadier-General Quincy Adams Gillmore (photo on right), waits until April 10. Quincy Gillmore

April 10, 1862

Just before sunrise, Union Lieutenant James Wilson is rowed to Fort Pulaski, to present a written demand for the Fort's surrender. It is delivered to the fort's 25-year-old commander Charles H. Olmstead (see photo under November 10, 1861), who famously replies: "I have to acknowledge receipt of your communication of this date demanding the unconditional surrender of Fort Pulaski. In reply I can only say that I am here to defend not to surrender it." Wilson returns to Tybee and gives the reply to Brig-Gen. Gillmore. Gillmore then gives the order to commence bombardment at 8:15 am. As expected, traditional canon do little damage to the fort's masonry walls, but the new rifled canon tear up the walls and breach one section, the southeast corner. Firing continues without stopping until sunset, at which time only a few shots are fired every hour to keep the confederates awake. In his contemporary account of the battle, Siege and Reduction of Ft. Pulaski, Gillmore writes:

"The first shell was fired at a quarter past eight 0'clock, A.M., from battery Halleck. The other mortar batteries opened one after the other, as rapidly in succession as it was found practicable to determine the approximate ranges, by the use of signals. The guns and columbiads soon followed, so that before half-past nine, A.M., all the batteries were in operation..."

Pulaski bombardment from Tybee
Drawing of Ft. Pulaski under bombardment, as seen from Tybee Island

April 11, 1862

Intense firing re-commences at dawn. By 1:30 pm the fort is breached in one section, so that a cannon ball could go right into the interior and possibly blow up 40,000 lbs. of explosives stored in the fort. Olmstead realizes he can no longer save the fort and decides to surrender. That afternoon Brig-Gen. Gillmore and his party come to the fort to accept surrender. The officers give up their swords at the time of surrender. Altogether 24 officers and 359 men (non-officers) surrender. (Sumter is Avenged!, by Herbert M. Schiller, White Mane Publishing Co., 1995; see Books About Sherman's March, left sidebar)

General Gillmore's map of the area at the time of bombardment. His blue-colored gun batteries are arrayed opposite the red-colored fort.
Ft. Pulaski Gillmore's Battle Map, April 1862 Click here for larger image

April 12, 1862

The first full day of federal occupation of Ft. Pulaski. Some of the Confederate soldiers are sent on steamers north, to prison camp. Except for the sick and wounded, the rest are sent off on April 13, including Olmstead, the fort's commander. Olmstead writes: "Fort Pulaski is the first work that has ever been exposed to the fire of the newly invented rifle canon and the results have proved that brick and mortar cannot stand before them." (Sumter is Avenged!, by Herbert M. Schiller, White Mane Publishing Co., 1995; see left sidebar)

Fort Pulaski as it looked April 1862, immediately after the bombardment. Note the destruction in the southeastern corner.
Ft. Pulaski April 1862

April 13, 1862

Maj. General David Hunter issues General Orders No. 7, freeing all slaves on Cockspur Island. (The historical marker below is just outside the entrance to Fort Pulaski.)

Hunter Orders No. 7

[Maj. Gen. David Hunter was Commander of the Union's Deaprtment of the South, and Brig. Gen. Adams Quincy Gillmore's superior officer. Hunter authored the surrender demand sent over to Fort Pulaski on April 10. On May 9 he issued General Order No. 11, freeing slaves in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina; see May 9.]

April 16, 1862 -- Published in the New York Times

The Fall of Fort Pulaski

The anniversary of the attack on Fort Sumter could not have been more fitly celebrated than it was by the capture of Fort Pulaski, by its rightful owners, from the rebels, who for sixteen months have usurped its possession. Twelve months to a day from the time the now discomfited BEAUREGARD summoned Major ANDERSON to surrender Sumter, the beleaguered garrison in Pulaski capitulated to the National force. Whether Gen. HUNTER had an eye for a bit of poetic justice in thus timing the attack, we know not, but the gratifying achievement is made doubly gratifying by presenting a conspicuous instance of historical retribution.

It is moreover worthy of note that the reduction was made in precisely the same manner as that employed in the rebel assault of Fort Sumter -- namely, by an investing circle of batteries around the fort. Finally, the parallel, curiously enough, holds good in the result also; for in neither case, if the rebels may be believed, was there any loss of life on either side...

April 17, 1862

The first of the Pulaski prisoners begin arriving to Governor's Island, New York. They will move several times before the war ends.

April 19, 1862 -- Published in the New York Times

(In periodicals of the day the General's name was spelled Gilmore, but in his printed report of the Pulaski battle (see sidebar) it is Gillmore.)


SIR: I have the honor to report that several batteries established on Tybee Island, to operate against Fort Pulaski, opened fire on the morning of the 10th instant, at 8 o'clock, commencing with the 13-inch mortars.

When the range of these pieces had been approximately obtained, by the use of signals, the other batteries opened in the order previously prescribed in "General Orders, No. 17," from these headquarters, hereunto appended, as part of this report, so that by 9 1/2 o'clock all our batteries -- eleven in number -- had commenced their work.

The breaching batteries opened at 9 1/2 o'clock. With the exception of four 10-inch columbiads, dismounted at the outset by their own recoil, in consequence of their having been supplied pintles, and from very serious defects in the wrought-iron chapis, which will be noticed more fully in my detailed report, all the pieces were served through the day.

May 9, 1862

Maj. Gen. David Hunter issues General Order No. 11, freeing slaves in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

General Order No. 11 - HDQRS Dept. of the South, Hilton Head, Port Royal, S.C.

The three States of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, comprising the military department of the south, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three States — Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina— heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.
Maj, General David Hunter, 1862

May 10, 1862 - Published in Harper's Weekly


WE publish on this page a portrait of GENERAL GILMORE, the hero of Pulaski, from a photograph by Lieutenant Haas. Quincy Gillmore General Gilmore was born in Ohio, about thirty-six years ago. He entered the Military Academy at West Point in 1845, and graduated in 1849, at the head of a class of 43 members. He was appointed to the Engineers, and was promoted to a First Lieutenancy in 1856, and to a Captaincy in 1861. From 1849 to 1852 he was engaged on the fortifications at Hampton Roads; from 1852 to 1856 he was instructor of Practical Military Engineering at West Point, and during this time he designed the new Riding School on the crest of the Hill. He served from 1856 to 1861 as Purchasing Agent for the department in New York, and made many friends here. In 1861 he was assigned to the staff of General Sherman, and accompanied him to Port Royal. General Sherman appointed him Brigadier-General of Volunteers—a rank which it is hoped the President will confirm. General Gilmore had entire charge of the siege operations against Fort Pulaski, and it is to his skill that the success of the bombardment is due. The Tribune correspondent well says:
The result of the efforts to breach a fort of such strength and at such a distance confers high honor on the engineering skill and self-reliant capacity of General Gilmore. Failure in an attempt made in opposition to the opinion of the ablest engineers in the army would have destroyed him. Success, which in this case is wholly attributable to his talent, energy, and independence, deserves a corresponding reward.

May 19, 1862

CSS Georgia is launched on the Savannah River, but is not battle ready.

June - December, 1862

By June Union forces have repaired Fort Pulaski and the Union naval blockade of Savannah is near total. Over the next 2 1/2 years - until Union forces capture Savannah December 1864 - it ceases to be a port city. However, the city is well fortified and remains under Confederate control. There are minor skirmishes in the surrounding marshes, and several gunboat attacks on Fort McAllister, but no real military threat to the city until General Sherman's army arrives. Some key events in the latter half of 1862:

  • July 1 -- Fort McAllister comes under Union bombardment in the first of seven gunboat attacks in 1862-1863. On this date the gunboat USS Potomska approaches the fort on the Ogeechee River, looking for a blockade runner. Shots are exchanged between the gunboat and fort, but no damage is done. The Potamska's commander, Lt. Cmdr. Pendleton G. Watmough, files a report which is the U.S. Navy's first official notice of the existence of Fort McAllister.
    Wartime Fort McAllister

    Fort McAllister as it appeared in the Civil War. The Ogeechee River is behind the fort.

  • July 29 -- The second attack on Fort McAllister is mounted by four Union vessels; their goal is to seek out and destroy the blockade runner Thomas L. Wragg, which is moored upstream from Ft. McAllister. [This sidewheel steamer has 3 owners and 3 different names during the Civil War: the CSS Nashville during 1861 and part of 1862; the Thomas L. Wragg during part of 1862, and Rattlesnake from November 1862 until it is destroyed by Union monitor USS Montauk February 28, 1863. Photo below shows drawing of the Nashville, at sea. This ship should not be confused with the CSS Nashville ironclad that was built in Mobile, Alabama and launched in mid-1863.]

    CSS Thomas L. Wragg The U.S. navy ships are the Paul Jones, the Unadilla, the Huron and Madgie. Shots are exchanged for about an hour, and the boats then retreat, without touching or seriously damaging Fort McAllister. However, after this skirmish the gunboats Potomska and Unadilla alternate blockading duty at the mouth of the Ogeechee River, to assure Wragg does not escape.

  • July 31 -- First trial run of ironclad CSS Atlanta, also on Savannah River (shown below). This ship was originally the Scottish steamer Fingal remade into an ironclad when the Union blockade prevented it from returning to England to pick up much needed supplies. She proves to be leaky and "slow to respond to her helm."
    CSS Atlanta

  • October -- Construction of CSS Georgia is completed; she is covered with armor plating 4 inches thick and is 250 feet long (photo below). She suffers from "lack of propulsion" and has to be towed into place, in effect becoming a "floating battery."
    CSS Georgia

  • November 2 -- A third encounter takes place between the Union navy (gunship Wissahickon) and Fort McAllister's guns. This time the Union boat is hit, but safely retreats toward Ossabaw Sound.
  • November 19 -- Union ships Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn open fire on Fort McAllister, an attack that lasts from 8:15 am to 2:30 pm. This time the Wissahickon sustains damage below the water line. As with all gunboat bombardments of the fort, its earthen structure has minimized damage (in contrast to Fort Pulaski), and repairs are quickly made when the gunboats leave.
  • November 22 -- CSS Atlanta is commissioned. She weighs more than a thousand tons and is 204 feet long. She has propulsion but suffers from "poor steerage, a deep draft, and perpetual leakage." In 1863 she will be captured by Union gunboats and enter into the U.S. Navy.

Sherman's Famous Telegram to President Lincoln | Savannah in the Civil War: 1863-1865 | Savannah vs. Charleston | Return to Lakeside Press | email Lawrence Martin

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