The Underground Railroad refers to efforts of enslaved people seeking freedom by escaping from bondage. Many slaves were assisted in their efforts by abolitionists and other civilians who opened their homes and businesses for the purpose of moving people to safe destinations and eventual freedom.
Following the fall of Fort Pulaski, Union Major General David Hunter issued General Order No. 7 on April 13, 1862. It stated that "All persons of color lately held to involuntary service by enemies of the United States in Fort Pulaski and on Cockspur Island, Georgia, are hereby confiscated and declared free, in conformity with law."
Many enslaved people would make their way to Fort Pulaski, some under the guidance of a former slave, March Haynes. Under the cover of darkness, Haynes would bring hundreds of escaped slaves to the Union command of Fort Pulaski. Once on the island, the newly freed slaves took up residence in the fort's old construction village, carving out a simple existence along the occupied Georgia coast.
Many of the men who arrived at Fort Pulaski would join together to form one of the first colored troops division during the Civil War. These men became the members of the 1st and 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, seeing action late in the war.
Due to General David Hunter's orders, hundreds of former slaves gained their freedom at Fort Pulaski and Cockspur Island, which became a final destination, one of the most southern points, on the vast Underground Railroad network.
Did You Know?
The present Cockspur Lighthouse dates from 1856. The lighthouse survived the Civil War despite being in direct line of fire during the battle for Fort Pulaski in 1862. Finally extingushed in 1909, the lighthouse was relit in 2007. Fort Pulaski National Monument, Georgia