FORTIFICATION IN THE CIVIL WAR
Fort Pulaski was part of a large system of fortifications that by
1860 guarded virtually every important harbor in the United States. As
such, it reflected an outlook that for nearly two centuries dominated
American military policy. With the army small and scattered over the
frontier, coastal fortification in fact was about as much military
policy as the country was willing to implement.
The first act of the first English colonists in Virginia in 1607 was
to build a fort. As the colonies expanded in the following centuries, so
did their penchant for fortifying any place deemed threatened or useful
as a refuge. By the time the Americans declared their independence from
Britain in 1776, they were decidedly fortification-minded. This outlook
was reinforced after independence by the Founding Fathers' distaste for
professional armies, as well as anxiety about threats from Britain or
other European nations. Forts offered physical strength at threatened
points and would bolster the militia who would rush to meet an attack.
The navy was the country's first line of defense, and forts protected
THE NORTHWEST CORNER OF FORT PULASKI DURING UNION OCCUPATION. (USAMHI)|
The first fortification program of the new nation was a series of
simple earthworks erected to meet a threat of war with France in the
1790s. A decade later, increasing tensions with Britain called for a
more sophisticated set of installations, the first public work partly
conducted by engineers American in birth and trainingthe early
graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The war that erupted in 1812 between the United States and Britain
saw few American successes, except for repulses of the enemy from
fortified places such as Craney Island in Virginia and Fort McHenry in
Maryland. The country was invaded several times, and only forts and
fieldworks offered any bright spots in a dismal story. The legacy of the
War of 1812 dominated military policy thereafter, in two
respectsthe country was vulnerable to invasion, and forts answered
Over the next half-century, army engineers erected works at every
major and many minor harbors along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and,
after 1850, on the Pacific as well. Like Pulaski, they were
sophisticated exercises in geometry and masonry, expressions of
principles worked out in European siege warfare and perfected in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They were no match, however, for
advances in military and industrial technology happening in the
THE FIERCE UNION BOMBARDMENT OF FORT PULASKI RENDERED ITAND
MASONRY FORTS LIKE ITOBSOLETE. (USAMHI)|
The forts were built to withstand solid shot fired by smoothbore
cannons. The advent of explosive rounds fired by rifled guns spelled
their doom. As Union gunners demonstrated at Fort Pulaski in 1862,
rifled shot could penetrate fort walls, exploding within amid a shower
of splinters. The smoking holes in Pulaski's walls looked out on the end
of an era.
There was some attempt to reinforce the forts to meet the new
realities after the Civil War, but by 1875 they were mostly abandoned.
Advances in metallurgy, explosives, gun design, and shipbuilding went on
apace, and in the 1880s the country began another attempt to fortify
itself. Modern gun emplacements appeared at harbors around the country,
but they nearly always were outmoded before completion. Still the
country turned to fortifications with new types in the 1930s and
Forts, however, were yesterday's answer to tomorrow's challenges,
which now came from above. They received their ultimate insult during
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, after which it was
apparent that fixed coastal emplacementswhether Fort Pulaski or
something newerno longer met the need. The last expression of
fort-mindedness was the NIKE missile antiaircraft installations of the
1950s, mostly abandoned within a decade.
Fort Pulaski exemplifies an important and long-standing part of
America's military past. Its dramatically sudden obsolescence in 1862
reflected more than the end of an era, however. It signaled the birth of
David A. Clary
SKETCH OF FORT PULASKI AT THE TIME OF ITS SURRENDER ON APRIL 11, 1862.
Hunter initially planned to open on the fort on April 9, but
torrential rain fell all day. He postponed the bombardment. The day was
spent rushing preparations for an opening the next day. Bags of powder
for the 13-inch mortars had not arrived; the men would have to measure
powder with empty vegetable cans, pour it loose into the guns, and
adjust it in the chamber before firing. Columbiad shells were bound to
wooden sabots, or disks, with strips of tent canvas; the sabots were at
the end of the shell opposite the fuse hole and served to orient the
ball, fuse away from the charge, before firing. That night the Federals
suddenly discovered they had no fuse plugs for their 10-inch mortar
shells. The Connecticut men sat up during the night whittling mortar
fuses; after seven weeks' exertions hauling guns and building batteries,
they were content to sit and whittle.
The Federals on Tybee Island had constructed eleven batteries
containing 36 artillery pieces. Benham later remarked that Gillmore had
named the batteries for "the persons most prominent or most likely to
be so, in political or military service." The batteries, their
armament, and distance from Fort Pulaski are listed below:
|Stanton||3 13-inch mortars||3,400|
|Grant||3 13-inch mortars||3,200|
|Lyon||3 10-inch mortars||3,100|
|Lincoln||3 8-inch mortars||3,045|
|Burnside||1 13-inch mortar||2,750|
|Sherman||3 13-inch mortars||2.650|
|Halleck||2 13-inch mortars||2,400|
|Scott||3 10-inch columbiads||1,740|
|Sigel||5 30-pounder Parrotts||1,670|
|1 48-pounder James rifle|
|McClellan||2 84-pounder James rifles||1,650|
|(old 42 pounder)|
|2 64-pounder James rifles|
|(old 32 pounder)|
|Totten||4 10 inch mortars||1,650|
A UNION SOLDIER POSES WITH A 10" COLUMBIAD IN VIRGINIA. (LC)|
Close to each battery was a service magazine filled with sufficient
powder for two days' firing. Nine hundred shot and shells for each gun
were also stored in the service magazines. A depot magazine near the
lighthouse held an additional 3,600 barrels of powder. Traverses
separated the guns in each battery, protecting the gun crews from
lateral explosions. Each battery had splinterproofs for the shifts of
men not on duty. Each battery had its own well. The advanced batteries
were all connected by trenches for safe communication. A bombproof
surgery was erected at Goat Point, near Lazaretto Creek, also the site
of the four batteries closest to Fort Pulaski.
That night Gillmore issued his final instructions, coordinating the
role of each battery. The eastern mortar batteries and Battery Totten
were to drop their shells on the parapet above the casemates to
penetrate the earth and collapse the underlying arches. Columbiads in
Batteries Lyon and Lincoln were to fire over the southeast wall and hit
the interior of the the gorge and north face. Batteries Scott and Lyon's
columbiads were to help silence the barbette guns and then direct their
fire at the pan coupé between the south and southeast faces. The
rifled guns of Battery Sigel were to incapacitate the barbette guns,
then direct their efforts to breach the pan coupé. The rifled
guns in Battery McClellan were to fire directly at the pan coupé
to attempt to breach the wall.
That night Hunter and Benham sailed from Port Royal Sound to Tybee;
Hunter anchored near the lighthouse early on the morning of April 10.
Hunter had invited Du Pont to accompany them, but the commodore regarded
it as "an army affair" at which he had no business. While Benham made
his final inspection, Hunter remained aboard his boat to prepare his
summons for Olmstead's surrender. Horace Porter noted the arrival of the
two new "stars," a reference to their shoulder straps of rank, and noted
that they were "as impatient for the fray as Roman ladies for the
commencements of a gladiatorial combat."
THE LIGHTHOUSE ON TYBEE ISLAND. (USAMHI)|
As light dawned at 5:30 on the morning of April 10 Confederates in
Fort Pulaski discovered that mounds of sand at the west end of Tybee
Island had been leveled, brush cut away, and four batteries stood where
dunes had been visible before. Only part of Pulaski's artilleryten
barbette guns, six casemate guns, and two mortarscould fire on
Tybee. Only four barbette guns and three casemate guns could bear on
Goat Point, site of the Federal rifled guns, four columbiads, and four
At dawn Hunter sent Lieutenant Wilson over to the fort to demand its
surrender. Four sailors rowed Wilson over to Cockspur Island; Wilson sat
in the bow and an additional sailor in the stern held aloft a white
flag. Hunter's terms of surrender read:
I hereby demand of you the immediate surrender and restoration of
Fort Pulaski to the authority and possession of the United States. This
demand is made with a view of avoiding, if possible, the effusion of
blood which must result from the bombardment and attack now in readiness
to be opened.
The number, caliber, and completeness of the batteries surrounding
you leave no doubt as to what must result in case of your refusal; and
as the defense, however obstinate, must eventually succumb to the
assailing force at my disposal, it is hoped you may see fit to avert the
useless waste of life.
Wilson's orders allowed him to wait only thirty minutes for a reply.
A Confederate lieutenant, also with a flag of truce, politely received
Wilson at the south wharf. Leaving Wilson with his boat, the Confederate
returned to the fort. He rejoined Wilson exactly thirty minutes later
with Colonel Olmstead's sealed reply. With the Federal batteries
unmasked, Olmstead knew the moment he had awaited for two months was now
arrived. He used his thirty minutes to assemble his men, post them to
their guns, serve ammunition, and prepare the hospital. The colonel's
message to Hunter was brief:
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 the fort, not to surrender it. I have
the honor to be, very respectively, your obedient servant,
Chas. H. Olmstead
Colonel, First Volunteer Regiment of Georgia, commanding Post
MORTARS FIRE FROM BATTERY STANTON ON TYBEE ISLAND DURING THE BOMBARDMENT
OF FORT PULASKI ON APRIL 10, 1862. (FL)|
Hunter read Olmstead's reply, then quickly sent an aide to Porter
with the message, "The General sends his compliments and desires you
open the ball at once." At 8:15 A.M., Porter aimed and fired the first
gun, a 13-inch mortar in Battery Halleck. A member of the 7th
Connecticut gun crew chalked on the side of the shell, "A nutmeg from
Connecticut; can you furnish a grater?" The shell moved in a graceful
arc over Pulaski and exploded on its descent beyond the fort.
Confederate Lieutenant Henry Freeman offered the first response with a
32-pounder casemate gun. Initial firing on each side was slow and wild
but each soon learned the range of his targets. Within an hour, the
Federal batteries were firing three rounds a minute. The northwest shore
of Tybee Island was a line of smoke punctuated with blasts of flame. The
reverberation of fifty cannons from both sides made the ground shake. As
the morning passed, the guns, especially those of the Federals, gained
A HARPERS WEEKLY ILLUSTRATION OF THE ATTACK ON FORT PULASKI.|
Colonel Rosa and members of his 46th New York manned the guns of
Battery Sigel. Rosa disregarded his firing instructions, mounted the
parapet, drew his sword, and directed all six guns to fire in one
volley. Continuing to fire in volley with great cheers, the men made up
in enthusiasm what they lacked in accuracy. Rosa was unable to control
his men, ignored his orders, and "was making bad work of it" when
Gillmore ordered him away. The New Yorkers refused to work their guns
without their colonel, so Gillmore sent them all packing and replaced
them with sailors, trained on artillery, from Du Pont's
Shortly before noon, the halyard of Pulaski's flagpole was cut by
a shell and the flag fluttered down. Thinking the fort had surrendered,
Federal soldiers mounted their pararpets and cheered their
Shortly before noon, the halyard of Pulaski's flagpole was cut by a
shell and the flag fluttered down. Thinking the fort had surrendered,
Federal soldiers mounted their parapets and cheered their victory.
Confederates soon removed the tangled flag from the parapet and
remounted it on a temporary staffa cannon rammerin the
northeast angle of the fort. A volley at the Federals sent them
scampering into their batteries and fire immediately resumed.
Confederate shells directed against the middle batteries frequently
fell short, splashing into the river. The marshes behind the breaching
batteries at Goat Point caught many Confederate mortar rounds, which
sank before exploding.
Inside the fort, a shot came through a casemate embrasure early in
the day, dismounting a gun and severely wounding one man. The James
projectiles were flaking brick. Olmstead wrote, "Thirteen inch
mortar shells, columbiad shells, Parrott shells, and rifle shots were
shrieking through the air in every direction, while the ear was deafened
by the tremendous explosions that followed each other without cessation."
After three hours of firing three casemate guns lay dismounted. Most of
the Confederate parapet guns, on the sea face, were dismounted by the
end of the first day. "The effect upon the fortification was becoming
disastrous," the colonel observed. Later during the first day of the
bombardment, Olmstead was in a casemate when a columbiad shot from Goat
Point struck the fort while the wall was still intact and "bulged the
bricks on the inside, a significant fact that left little doubt of what
the ultimate result would be." By the end of the first day's
bombardment, the wall had been flaked away and only two to four feet of
A CURRIER AND IVES RENDITION OF THE BOMBARDMENT. (NPS)|
THIS THEODORE DAVIS SKETCH DEPICTS LIEUTENANT HORACE PORTER DIRECTING
MORTAR FIRE ON APRIL 11. (AMERICAN HERITAGE COLLECTION)|
During the night of the first day's bombardment, Olmstead went out to
inspect the exterior of the fort:
It was worse then disheartening, the pan-coupe at the
south-east angle was entirely breached while above, on the rampart,
the parapet had been shot away and an 8-inch gun, the muzzle of which
was gone, hung trembling over the verge. The two adjacent casemates were
rapidly approaching the same ruined condition; masses of broken masonry
nearly filled the moat. . . . [In] the interior of the three
casemates... dismounted guns lay like logs among the bricks.
To his wife, Olmstead wrote that the angle opposite the Goat Point
batteries was shattered and that he knew that "another day would breach
Federal fire continued during the night, one round every ten or
fifteen minute's to prevent the defenders from sleeping. Early the next
morning, both sides resumed in earnest. Only three Confederate parapet
guns bore on Tybee and only one could reach the Goat Point batteries.
Benham and his staff, standing on a dune behind Battery Lyon, observed
progress through a large tripod telescope. They saw the growing pile of
rubble overflowing the moat. Shells from rifled gun's penetrated deeper
and deeper, fracturing the brick wall. Solid shot from the columbiad's
smashed the masonry, dislodging great slides of brick into the moat
amid rust-colored clouds. One Federal observed that with each shot that
struck the wall "a cart-load of brick [would] fall into the ditch." By
10:00 A.M. Benham could see the thinnest wall of a recess arch at the
angle. An hour or so later the next arch was visible. Toward noon three
casemate arches were opened. Gillmore now ordered the guns to begin
concentrating on the next adjacent casemate wall along the southeast
By now great masses of brick, loosened the previous day, filled the
moat. With the first visible opening, Tybee Island rang with "cheer
after cheer." "What a scream ran down the line when the first hole
appeared! Every shot that enlarged it was hailed with another yell."
Another Federal officer reported that "soon a huge opening appeared in
the wall through which a two horse wagon might have been driven."
Excited gunners redoubled their rate of fire and it seemed as if "even
the solid earth shook with the long thunder peal."
THE BREACHED PAN COUPÉ AS VIEWED FROM THE SOUTH OF THE
A BLAKELY GUN SITS ON THE BRICK-STREWN BARBEETTE. (USAMHI)|
It was now apparent that the face of the southeast wall would be
peeled off. With the moat filled with brick debris, an assault party,
aided by ladders, could scramble over the nibble and into the fort and
overpower the garrison, the strength of which Federals had learned
earlier from deserters. Benham's aide, Major Charles G. Halpine, was
assigned to lead the assault. Knowing that two Irish companies were in
the fort, the Irishman Halpine wanted to lead the column. Scheduled for
April 12, the assault would prove unnecessary.
During the morning of the second day a Confederate shell burst over a
gun in Battery McClellan mortally wounding Private Thomas Campbell,
Company H, of the 3d Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. Horace Porter
observed that "his face was burned perfectly black, his left side torn
away and his left leg taken off. He lived three hours, spoke about his
wife and family, seized hold of his captain's hand and died." Campbell
was the only Federal fatality of the bombardment.
Inside Pulaski, Olmstead realized that "it was simply a question of a
few hours as to whether we should yield or be blown into perdition by
our own powder." By now seven barbette guns were disabled, the traverses
were "giving way," the west side of the fort was a wreck, and the
southeast angle was badly breached, allowing "free access of every shot
to our magazine." The magazine, in the northwest corner, was protected
by a large traverse; however, around 1:00 P.M. a shell entered an opened
casemate at the southeast angle, passed across the parade, and through
the top of the traverse to explode in the entrance way of the magazine.
The magazine was piled high with barrels of powdertwenty tons. The
magazine filled with light and smoke but did not explode. Olmstead knew
that the next such shot could blow up the fort beneath them all. He
realized he had reached the end. Beyond any help from the "Confederate
Authorities," he "did not feel warranted in exposing the garrison to the
hazard of the blowing up of our main magazine. . . . There are times
when a soldier must hold his position 'to the last extremity,' which
means extermination, but this was not one of them, there was no
end to be gained by continued resistance."
HEAVY TIMBERS OR BLINDAGE COVERED THE CONFEDERATE LIVING QUARTERS,
PROTECTING THEM FROM EXPLODING SHELLS. (NPS)|
INTERIOR OF ONE OF THE RUINED CASEMENTS AFTER THE SURRENDER OF FORT
Confederate fire ceased at 2:00 P.M., the Confederate flag was
lowered, and a white flag was raised. All but two parapet guns were
disabled; two casemate guns bearing on Tybee Island were dismounted, The
outer wall covering two casemates had been destroyed and that of the
adjoining casemate on either side was crumbling. Incredibly, only three
ConfederatesA. Shaw, T. J. Moullon, and Isaac Ameswere
Benham and members of his staff gathered at Lazaretto Creek to find a
boat to take them over to Pulaski. A violent storm had blown throughout
the eleventh and the soldiers were unable to get their boat away.
Gillmore had joined Benham's party to cross to Cockspur Island and
accept the surrender; he left and found some of the Wabash
sailors, who, understanding tides and currents, quickly rowed him to
the fort. He entered, had the gates shut, and met with Olmstead for an
hour arranging the terms of surrender. When the other Federal officers,
led by Halpine, were finally able to reach Cockspur Island, Gillmore
kept them waiting outside the fort until he had the signed surrender
ARTICLE 1. The fort, armament, and garrison to be surrendered at
once to the forces of the United States.
ART 2. The officers and men of the garrison to be allowed to take
with them all their private effects, such as clothing, bedding, books,
&c.; this not to include private weapons.
ART 3. The sick and wounded, under charge of the hospital steward
of the garrison, to be sent up under a flag of truce to the Confederate
lines, and at the same time the men to be allowed to send up any letters
they may desire, subject to the inspection of a Federal officer.
Gillmore left the fort as Halpine and his party entered to take
charge of the surrender of the fort and receive the officers' swords and
take possession of the flag.
COLONEL OLMSTEAD AND HIS OFFICERS SURRENDER TO MAJOR HALPINE, ASSISTANT
ADJUTANT-GENERAL TO GENERAL HUNTER. (FL)|
ILLUSTRATION OF FORT PULASKI AFTER ITS SURRENDER. (BL)|
Twenty-six-year-old Colonel Olmstead handled the surrender
gracefully. He impressed all as "a man of superior character . . .
reflective countenance, and mild and gentlemanly manners." Once the
garrison had been assembled to stack arms, Olmsted asked if he might be
spared ordering his men to disarm. Halpine gave the necessary orders.
Next the officers surrendered their swords and sidearms. Olmstead
stepped forward first, placed his sword on the table, and said, "I yield
my sword, but I trust I have not disgraced it." The other officers came
forward according to rank and laid their swords on the table, "most of
them making a slight inclination of the head and showing good bearing."
A few sullenly threw their swords down. One said, "I hope to be able to
resume it to fight for the same cause." Another officer claimed to
have no sword and offered to surrender his sash, which was refused.
After the ceremony was finished, the officers adjourned to the mess
room where food and wine were served. Feelings of awkwardness lifted
during the informal conversation. One Confederate officer joked, "Why
you are only four and we three hundred and fifty; I think we ought to
take you." Another Confederate sarcastically asked a Connecticut officer
about wooden nutmeg's. Pointing to a 10-inch columbiad shot, the
Northerner answered, "We don't make them out of wood any longer."
Altogether, 361 Confederates surrendered, 24 of whom were officers.
Eighteen sick or wounded Confederates would remain in the fort; the
remainder were sent north to prison. Contrary to the surrender term's,
the prisoners were not allowed to take their private effects with them
into captivity. Those remaining in the hospital were not returned to
Confederate authorities but, when well enough, were sent north to
prison. The officers and men were exchanged in August and September 1862
and again served the Confederacy. Years after the war, Colonel Olmstead
was offered the opportunity to meet with Gillmore; the Georgian declined
because he felt that Gillmore had allowed Hunter to violate the terms of
INTERIOR OF THE FORT AS IT LOOKED ON APRIL 12, THE DAY AFTER ITS
THE BAND OF THE 48TH NEW YORK VOLUNTEER INFANTRY INSIDE THE OCCUPIED
The 7th Connecticut immediately occupied the fort. Lieutenant Colonel
Joseph Hawley, of the 7th Connecticut, retrieved the white surrender
flag and sent it to his wife. Officers cut the Confederate flag into
fragments and sent them home as souvenirs of their victory. It had been
a year since the bombardment of Fort Sumter; Horace Porter wrote his
sister, "Sumter is avenged!" Along with members of the 1st New York
Volunteer Engineers, the Connecticut men began repairing the breach and
by the end of April the repair work was well under way; it was completed
the following month. Guns were removed from Tybee Island and shipped
northward, some destined for the siege of Fort Sumter. Batteries Vulcan
and Hamilton on the Savannah River were disarmed. On June 4, the 48th
New York replaced the 7th Connecticut; they remained for almost a year.
In June 1863, Pulaski's garrison was reduced.
Federals had fired over five thousand projectiles; the Confederates,
a third that many. Gillmore observed that the 84-pound solid James
projectiles had penetrated up to twenty-six inches. The lighter James
projectiles had penetrated twenty inches. Most of the damage was caused
by three James riflestwo 84-pounders and one 64-pounder. The
Parrott projectiles penetrated up to eighteen inches; however, they
frequently wobbled and flipped end over end and were of little use in
the bombardment. The columbiad's had less penetrating power but were
most effective, "crushing out immense masses of masonry." Fewer than 10
percent of the mortar rounds even hit the fort. The mortars caused none
of the anticipated damage to the casemate arches. As effective as the
Federal artillery was, it would have been even more so had the crews
been given opportunity to drill and fire their artillery pieces before
the actual bombardment.
UNION SOLDIERS PROUDLY POSE IN ONE OF THE GAPING HOLES CAUSED BY THE
CONSTANT BOMBARDMENT. (LC)|
THE SOUTHEASTERN WALL WITH THE BREACHED PAN COUPÉ ON THE
LEFT. RUBBLE NEARLY FILLS THE MOAT AT THE POINT OF THE BREACH. (USAMHI)|
The effectiveness of rifled artillery meant that future sieges and
bombardments could be prepared for far more easily. Instead of seven
weeks of heavy labor preparing batteries and moving heavy mortars and
columbiad's lighter rifled guns could be more quickly maneuvered into
position. Rifled guns would play a major role in Gillmore's next
endeavorthe siege and bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston
The use of rifled artillery revolutionized siege warfare. Before the
reduction of Fort Pulaski, masonry forts were regarded as impregnable.
Major General David Hunter best summarized the significance of what
happened on Cockspur Island:
The result of this bombardment must cause, I am convinced, a
change in the construction of fortifications as radical as that
foreshadowed in naval architecture by the conflict between the
Monitor and Merrimac. No works of stone or brick can resist
the impact of rifled artillery of heavy caliber.
After its capture, Fort Pulaski played little active role in the war.
It closed Savannah as a Confederate port. Held by a reduced garrison, it
would gain brief noteriety during 1864. In June, the Confederate
commander in Charleston, South Carolina, Major General Samuel Jones,
attempting to relieve the bombardment of his city, placed five generals
and forty-five field officers in quarters in parts of the city that had
been under constant shelling. He then notified Major General John G.
Foster, commander of the Department of the South. Foster retaliated
immediately, requested a similar number of Confederate prisoners of
equal rank, and placed them in a stockade on Morris Island under the
gun's of Fort Sumter. Jones soon realized that his strategy had served
no useful end; however, it suddenly became difficult to move the
prisoners from Charleston. Major General William T. Sherman had begun
his campaign into northwest Georgia and the Confederate prisoner of war
camp in Andersonville was believed to be among his possible objectives.
Hundreds of Federal prisoners were transferred elsewhere, and many began
to arrive daily in Charleston. Jones's problem suddenly changed when a
yellow fever epidemic erupted in the city. He was able now to transfer
his prisonersofficers to Columbia and men to Florence, South
Carolinawithout authorization from his superiors.
Foster had accumulated 600 Rebel prisoners before the crisis passed.
Forty-nine were hospitalized, four had escaped, two had taken the
Oath of Allegiance to the United States, two had been exchanged, four
were dead, six were imprisoned elsewhere for attempting to escape, and
thirteen were "unaccounted for." Foster sent his 520 bedraggled men to
Fort Pulaski for imprisonment. Shoeless, dressed in rags, they were ill
with dysentery and pneumonia.
Colonel Philip P. Brown, of the 157th New York, now commanded the
fort. Knowing the prisoners were coming, he requisitioned blankets,
clothing, and firewood. His requests were ignored. Confined in the
casemates within an iron prison cage, the Confederates had neither
blankets nor decent clothes. Coal was absent and firewood scarce;
cookstoves could be lit only once a day. Colonel Brown fed the
prisoner's as well as he could from the garrison stores, for which he
was censured by his commanding general.
After conditions in Andersonville prison became known, Federal
authorities retaliated. On December 15 Brown was ordered to impose a
starvation ration: a quarter pound of bread, ten ounces of cornmeal, and
a half pint of pickles daily and one ounce of salt every five days.
Brown was instructed to allow the prisoners to purchase additional food
from sutlers, but they had no money to do so. Further, Brown was not
allowed to receive money from Confederate authorities.
Winter was unusually severe. The prisoners subsisted on their bread,
corn-meal, and pickles. Rats and an occasional stray dog or cat added to
their diet. There were no blankets and no fires. The men began to
succumb to scurvy in mid-January.
THE SOUTHWEST CORNER OF FORT PULASKI, 1863. (USAMHI)|
Savannah fell to Union authorities on December 21, 1864, and by
January 21, 1865, Fort Pulaski was assigned to Major General Cuvier
Grover's District of Savannah. Six days later, the district's medical
director inspected the fort and the prisoners were immediately returned
to full rations. Four hundred and sixty-fiveall that
survivedwere sent north on March 5, 1865, to the Federal prison at
In May 1865, the captured president of the Confederate States,
Jefferson Davis, was briefly imprisoned in Fort Pulaski. In command of
the detail escorting Davis northward was Brigadier General James H.
Wilson, who had served during the preparations to isolate, besiege, and
bombard Fort Pulaski earlier in the war. During the summer three
Confederate cabinet officersSecretary of State Robert M. T.
Hunter, Secretary of the Treasury George A. Trenholm, and Secretary of
War James H. Seddonwere imprisoned in the fort. Confederate
assistant secretary of war John A. Campbell, Alabama governor Andrew B.
Moore, South Carolina governor Andrew G. Magrath, Florida governor
Alexander K. Allison, and Florida senator David L. Yulee were all
confined during 1865.
PAINTING OF TODAY'S FORT PULASKI FROM THE WEST SHOWS THE PLAN OF THE
FORT. STRUCTURES IN THE DEMILUNE WERE BUILT DECADES AFTER THE CIVIL WAR.