SEAC: The Search for Battery Halleck
Due to Battery Halleck's historical significance, archeologists and historians at both the Southeast Archeological Center and Fort Pulaski National Monument began conducting test excavations on the northern part of Big Tybee Island, located southeast of the national monument. The one week of testing sought to expand on information recovered from metal detector surveys conducted in the summer of 1990, and while no identifiable Civil War-period artifacts were excavated, the earthen fortifications marking the location of the battery were recorded and mapped.
Intensive archaeological examination of a low sand hammock in the tidal marsh on Big Tybee Island in September 1990 documented a series of features and associated artifacts consistent with extant descriptions of a U.S. Army mortar battery, Battery Halleck, that was placed in this approximate area in March and early April of 1862, and that was used in the reduction of Fort Pulaski by Union forces on April 10 and 11 of that year. At 8:15 a.m. on the morning of April 10, 1862, the signal to begin operations against Fort Pulaski was a shot fired from the right, or east, mortar of Battery Halleck, which then participated in the shelling for the next day and a half until the fort surrendered. Battery Halleck's approximate location was recorded on detailed maps of the period.
Pedestrian survey coupled with limited shovel testing and metal detector work of the only dry ground in the tidal marshes-a low sand hammock about 200 feet south of U.S. 80 and one mile southeast of Fort Pulaski-was conducted on July 2, 1990, and located a series of depressions consistent with descriptions of a Union mortar battery. The entire hammock was intensively examined from September 17 to 21, 1990. Work included brush clearing, detailed contour mapping, and the excavation of eleven two-meter test units in three of the four depressions discovered. These depressions were found to closely correspond to the location, size, and spacing of a mortar battery that encompassed left and right mortar platforms, a powder magazine, and a loading room or antechamber, together with associated parapets and revetments. The investigations indicated that the depressions were constructed some time prior to the mid- twentieth century. No Civil War period artifacts were conclusively identified, although a number of heavily eroded iron fragments and concretions were found at depth in the tested depressions-materials that are consistent with what was a relatively brief Civil War period use of the area.
The archaeological evidence collected during the 1990 fieldwork indicates that the hammock is indeed the location of Battery Halleck. Furthermore, this battery is in a remarkable state of preservation and warrants purchase and protection by the National Park Service through its incorporation into Fort Pulaski National Monument. The surviving physical features of the mortar battery make it amenable to restoration and public interpretation. Additional archaeological investigations should be carried out in conjunction with any restoration to ensure that it is accurately conducted.