Category Archives: Georgia

Exploring Historic Savannah

dot stop & to go cupAfter coming all this way, we wanted to make sure we got to experience Savannah as a “city”, with it’s food, architecture and general vibe. It was cold and yucky out (in this photo I am wearing 5 layers, hence the lovely michelin man look) so we opted for a combination of public transit and walking.

A few cool things about Savannah – they allow open alcohol as long as it is in a plastic cup (note the plastic cup with my beer from the wonderful lunch we had at the Distillery restaurant) and they have a free public transit system called DOT that takes people around the downtown area to decrease use of cars and the need for parking. We hopped on the DOT and checked out the churches and plazas on our way to the river front area, where we had planned to transfer over to the free trolley.

The river front area is accessed by multiple sets of very steep historic stone staircases. The river front street is all cobblestone, which was built from the rocks that had been used as ballast for ships crossing the ocean and then emptied out on the shore as part of the unloading process when they hit Savannah.

There is a really neat 2 tiered street area just up from the riverfront where the building are built like a split level house with river front facing businesses and openings on that side and then street facing businesses and openings another level up facing the other side. There are these funky iron bridges and walkways that are used on the upper street and you can see right down to the cobblestone area as well.

After waiting for the Trolley for 10 minutes we found a sign that said the trolley wasn’t running (turns out it was at the Georgia Railroad museum for repairs). We set off to walk along the streets and explore our way back, which was really enjoyable but led us to arrive back at the Georgia Railroad Museum parking lot later than we had planned, causing our evening adventure noted in the postscript of that post.

Georgia State Railroad Museum

hunter locomotiveThe Georgia State Railroad Museum is located just outside of the historic downtown area in Savannah. It is one of 5 sites that are run by the Coastal Heritage Society, with the focus on preserving the heritage of coastal Georgia.

It provides plenty of parking (more on that later) and is part of the discounted ticket package that you can get when you go to 3 sites (you pay for 2 and get the third for free). Very reasonable ticket prices as well.

The staff at the museum were fabulous, even with the frigid weather (note the outfits that we are wearing…). There is a series of tours that go throughout the day and they are very informative. You learn all about the executive cars, the locomotives and the various parts and history of the railyard itself.

** Note – their parking lot is gated and open between 9-5. They close the gates at 5pm and if your vehicle is still there, you are locked in. We happened to get delayed on our historic Savannah wanderings and learned all of this first hand when we arrived back past 5pm to find the truck and camper on the wrong side of a large locked gate. With this forecast to be Savannah’s coldest night in 30 years, we weren’t excited about the idea of spending the night in the camper in the parking lot. Thanks to the above and beyond assistance from Officer Santoro of the Savannah-Chatham Police Department and Nora Jones from the Coastal Heritage Society, we were rescued after 2 hours and able to head back to our campsite at Tybee Island. **

Fort Jackson – the little fort that could…

fort jackson visitors centreFort Jackson is a restored 19th century fort on the banks of the Savannah River. It is a National Historic Monument and the oldest standing brick fort in Georgia.

In 1808 Fort Jackson was started as a brick fortification, built upon an old earthen battery from the Revolutionary War, as part of Thomas Jefferson’s national defence fortification system. Fort Jackson saw fairly immediate use during the War of 1812 against the British. During the 1840’s & 50’s additional construction occurred with the addition of a moat, drawbridge, barracks, privies a rear wall and another powder magazine.

The intent of Fort Jackson was to protect the City of Savannah that was just upriver. During the Civil War, it was a Confederate fort that successfully held back numerous Union attacks. Even well after Fort Pulaski down stream had been taken. It was turned over to the Union troops when General Sherman took Savannah on his famous “March to the Sea”.

Having spent the morning at Fort Pulaski, it was interesting to see the difference in size, structure and approach to construction during different time periods. We were lucky to be the only ones in the fort when we visited (bad weather scared off most people) so we got a personalized musket firing demonstration. You can never see enough of these!

fort jackson soldier with musketThrough all of our reading and fort adventures, Hunter had really become quite knowledgeable about the who/what/where/when of American Revolutionary & Civil Wars. He can recite all of the steps and tools used to fire both muskets and cannons and has his eye out for civil war costumes that he can pick up for halloween next year.

fort jackson hunter confederate hat

Fort Pulaski, Tybee Island Georgia

fort pulaski cannon studyingFort Pulaski is a Civil War fort that is now a National Monument run by the National Parks Service. It was commissioned by President James Madison as part of the coastal fortification system shortly after the War of 1812. Construction started in 1829 and they were still working on the armament in 1860. As it turned out, before United States troops could occupy the fort, they had to conquer it.

fort pulaski lee hunter

On January 3, 1861, 2 weeks after South Carolina seceded from the Union, and one week after Federal troops occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbour, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown ordered state militia to seize Fort Pulaski for the Confederate States of America.

When it was constructed, people felt that it was “un-takeable” as it had 7.5 foot walls and was located over 1,000 yards away from the closest firm ground. This was based on the usage of smooth bore heavy artillery. When the Union came to attack in February 1862, they spent 2 months hauling heavy artillery across the sand and marsh of Tybee Island at night. They brought with them 5 experimental rifled cannons and it was these cannons that successfully penetrated the fort walls and resulted in the Confederates surrender after only 30 hours. The union then took over the fort, repaired the breached wall (notice the red bricks) and used it as a base to attack Savannah and a prison for Confederate soldiers.

The entire fort area is incredibly well maintained. It felt like we were in England looking at old forts and castles there, with the green grass, large moats and solid fort walls.

fort pulaski musket firing

They had a great interpretive program and junior ranger program. We all learn so much from these and Hunter is so proud of the badges that he gets. Because we are doing this as part of our school curriculum, Hunter has to complete all pages of each book vs the minimum to get the badge. We learned all about firing a musket and about the transition from smooth bore to rifled artillery.

fort pulaski rifle cannon

Fort Frederica, Georgia

fort frederica visitor centreFort Frederica is a National Monument run by the National Parks Service. It is more of a ruins than an actual fort these days and highlights the 1700’s when Georgia was settled by the British, through to 1742 when the British and Spanish clashed as part of Spain’s attempt to expand north from Florida. The British were successful in defending their land and the fort was disbanded shortly after then 1742 battle.

Walking through this fort was a big change from the Castillo de San Marcos that we saw the day before. The grounds were beautiful but it left a lot up to your imagination.

The visitors centre had some great artifacts of that time period. The best was a 1700’s drinking game that is the precursor to pinball. Games were how pubs differentiated themselves from each other to gain customers.

fort frederica drinking game