SEAC: Creation of a New National Monument
Fort Pulaski National Monument, named after Revolutionary War hero Count Casimir Pulaski, was first established in October of 1924 by order of President Calvin Coolidge. It was transferred from the War Department to the Department of Interior in July of 1933. Since that time, it has been the National Park Service's mission to restore, manage, and protect Fort Pulaski National Monument for the benefit of the public.
Early efforts at restoration of the monument were accomplished by members of Camp 460 of the Civilian Conservation Corps from the years of 1934 to 1941. They spent this time building a bridge from McQueens Island to Cockspur Island; clearing the parade of trees and brush; fixing the roofs of the casemates; restoring the terreplein; rebuilding cannon platforms on the terreplein; restoring the dikes and moat; and building the visitor parking lot. The money for repairs of the monument was allotted as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Public Works Administration of the 1930s. This program, which was enacted to alleviate a depressed economy, created jobs for thousands of out-of-work Americans, and helped to reconstruct many of the United States' natural and cultural monuments. In all, approximately $76,400 was allotted for the Fort Pulaski restorations, with the project being overseen by CCC historian (later Park Superintendent) Ralston B. Lattimore.
The work conducted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s affected the archeological record to a large extent. Areas mentioned in previous sections such as the cemetery, the dike system, and the moat all had dirt removed from them or added to them. This made the recognition of the original size and shapes of many of these features more difficult for archeologists in the 1990s. Much of the collection contained at Fort Pulaski National Monument was obtained during its restoration. Unfortunately, the locations from where many of these materials came were not recorded, making it difficult for modern archeologists to understand the context in which they were found. Without this contextual information, the objects provided little in the way of useful information, other than showing that someone was actually there at one time. On the other hand, these vast collections of bottles and other materials helped to create a more tangible history, or one that the public can actually see with their own eyes.
To prevent the similar destruction of archeological sites on any Federally managed lands, the Archeological Resources Protection Act, or ARPA, was passed in 1979 (Click here to read it). This act made it necessary to get a permit before performing any work on Federal lands until an archeological survey was done to see if there were any cultural materials or sites that could be damaged. The archeological work also had to be done for the benefit of the public. Most of the investigations performed at Fort Pulaski National Monument since 1979 have been done under the authority of this act. These projects include the excavations done at the cemetery during the 1998 and 1999 field seasons; investigations of the dike system in conjunction with reconstructive work in 1997; investigations of the mosquito control ditch in 1995; and the 1994 remote sensing survey in the area of the cemetery.
Another investigation made necessary under ARPA was the 1996 assessment of damage done by illegal metal detecting and digging. In January of this year, two locations consisting of a total of 47 holes were found on monument property (Click here for a Map Showing the Location of the Damaged Areas). Since it is illegal under ARPA to do any digging or archeological investigation without a permit, these potholes were attributed to looters. Whether or not the looters actually found any artifacts during their metal-detecting and digging is unknown, but the archeologist who investigated the sites found one minié ball dating to the Civil War period on the surface. This type of destruction of cultural resources on Federal lands is what the Archeological Resources Protection Act was created to protect against.
Future research done under ARPA will include further investigations to see if any sites will be impacted if the parking lot is moved from its present location northwest of the fort to a new location closer to the South Channel. Under ARPA, this new location must be archeologically tested, and possibly excavated, to make sure no cultural resources are damaged or destroyed.
The use of Federal regulations to protect cultural resources is an important step in preserving our nation's heritage. When resources are disturbed or destroyed by looting, construction activities, or natural degradation, a wealth of important information concerning the past of that area is lost. Regulations such as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended, the Archeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974, and the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 were all created to provide for the protection of cultural resources and to ensure funding so that these resources could be properly investigated. All of them were influenced by the 1906 passing of the American Antiquities Act, which sought to protect America's cultural resources by making it a crime to investigate them without a permit. This act was eventually replaced by the Archeological Resources Protection Act in order to create stiffer penalties for those who damage or destroy cultural resources. Without these federal regulations, many of the cultural resources that eventually became National Parks would not exist, Fort Pulaski included.