SEAC: The Search for Battery Halleck
During the summer and fall of 1990, archaeological investigations were undertaken on a low sandy spit, or hammock, located in tidal marshlands on Big Tybee Island in an area about one mile southeast of Fort Pulaski National Monument. The fieldwork was conducted in an effort to locate Battery Halleck, a Union mortar battery that had been built somewhere in this area during the siege and reduction of Fort Pulaski, which in early 1862 was held by Confederate forces. Battery Halleck appears on detailed maps of the period that show the disposition of forces at the time of the battle (Figure 1 95.6KB).
Although eleven Union gun emplacements fired on Fort Pulaski from Big Tybee Island during the attack, none were known to have survived the more than a century of land development that has occurred since the battle. In the late 1980s, however, inspection of maps by National Park Service (NPS) personnel assigned to Fort Pulaski National Monument led to the suggestion that the remains of Battery Halleck, which had been placed in marshlands well away from areas built up in modern times, might still be present. If this was the case, the remains of the battery might be relatively undisturbed. As such, they might be worthy of acquisition and preservation by the NPS and, eventually, be restored for public visitation and interpretation.
Determining whether or not Battery Halleck had survived was thus considered a high priority by NPS personnel at Fort Pulaski. The importance of this particular battery was highlighted by the fact that a shot fired from the right (east) mortar, touched off at 8:15 a.m. on the morning of April 10, 1862, was the signal for all the Union guns to begin operations against Fort Pulaski. The assault continued for a day and a half until the fort surrendered. The rapid reduction of Fort Pulaski-a masonry fort of a type previously thought to be largely invulnerable-dramatically demonstrated the effectiveness of rifled cannon in sieges and the need to rethink methods for both reducing and defending fortifications. In mid-1990 the superintendent of Fort Pulaski, John Breen, asked the NPS Southeast Regional Office (SERO) in Atlanta if an archaeologist could come and investigate the matter. This request led to the research and findings reported here. Although a detailed memo outlining the findings and recommendations was submitted to the superintendent of Fort Pulaski on October 23, 1990, this report was produced to provide more comprehensive technical and management information for the Fort Pulaski staff.
On July 2, 1990, the author, David G. Anderson of the Interagency Archeological Services Division (IASD) [now a part of the Southeast Archeological Center in Tallahassee, Florida] of the NPS-SERO visited Fort Pulaski and spent the day with NPS rangers Kent Cave and Talley Kirkland looking for evidence of Battery Halleck. We were accompanied by Hans N. Neuhauser of The Georgia Conservancy, an organization that had expressed an interest in helping NPS purchase the land. After Cave, Kirkland, and Neuhauser spent about one hour filling us in on the significance of Battery Halleck and the existing evidence as to its location (derived primarily by comparing Civil War period maps with existing USGS maps), we went out to the presumed location of the battery. This turned out to be an overgrown sand spit-locally called "Spanish Hammock"-located on private property in the tidal marsh on Big Tybee Island (Figure 2) approximately one mile southeast of Fort Pulaski and about 300 feet south of modern U.S. 80. The field investigations were conducted with the permission of the property owner, who is interested in transferring ownership of the land to the NPS.
The fieldwork conducted during this initial visit (see Chapter 3) included surface reconnaissance coupled with limited shovel testing and metal detector work. A series of earthen depressions were found that closely correspond to Civil War period descriptions of the kind of Union mortar batteries erected during the siege and reduction of Fort Pulaski. Unfortunately, no artifacts of the appropriate period were found, and, since the area was densely overgrown, only limited observations about surface and subsurface conditions and features could be made during this brief visit. Accordingly, on July 11, 1990, in a memo to Fort Pulaski's superintendent describing the results of our activities, I stated that a more extensive program of archaeological testing should be undertaken to determine whether or not the location was indeed the site of Battery Halleck.
This recommendation was approved and intensive archaeological investigations were conducted at Spanish Hammock from September 17 to 21, 1990, under the direction of IASD archaeologists David Anderson and John Jameson. We were assisted by many Fort Pulaski staff members, including John Breen, Kent Cave, Mike Hosti, Talley Kirkland, Susan Orsini, Mark Padgett, Kimberly Walsh, Sherry Webster, Walt West, and Larry Williams. In addition, David Fuerst, a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, volunteered his services for the week and assisted in supervising the excavations. The help of all of these people made the fieldwork both enjoyable and rewarding.
The intensive testing program included the detailed topographic mapping of the hammock, the visual inspection of its entire surface area, and the excavation of 11 one-meter test units in three areas of the landform. The fieldwork documented the existence of four large, roughly circular depressions in the central part of the hammock. Testing in three of these depressions indicated each had been created by extensive human activity some time prior to the mid- twentieth century-an effort consistent with that described for the Civil War period mortar battery we were looking for. The size and relative placement of these depressions, and their occurrence in an extensively disturbed and built-up portion of the hammock, furthermore, provided a set of features that closely corresponded to Civil War period descriptions of mortar batteries. The four depressions were, accordingly, interpreted in the field and subsequently in the laboratory as corresponding to the east (right) mortar battery, the central powder magazine and an associated antechamber, and the west (left) battery of a two-mortar battery. The only emplacement known to have been in this area was Battery Halleck, constructed in 1862.
Although no diagnostic Civil War period artifacts were found during the September 1990 testing, the overall evidence-specifically the occurrence of extensive, pre-mid-twentieth-century earth movement on the hammock, resulting in a disposition of features identical to that expected from a Civil War mortar emplacement-leads to the inescapable conclusion that the site is, indeed, that of Battery Halleck. Acquisition and interpretation of this property by the NPS would ensure its preservation and offer park visitors the opportunity to view a gun emplacement operated by the Union forces in the 1862 battle. Since all of the other Union gun emplacements that took part in the battle have apparently been destroyed by development (although formal archaeological survey activity to verify this assumption is recommended), and since the features making up the battery are in a remarkable state of preservation, its preservation should be of the highest priority.
This work was undertaken with the support of IASD's chief, John E. Ehrenhard,
who helped organize and review all aspects of the project. Anderson conducted
the actual analysis and writing of this report, with review assistance
from John Jameson, who had helped direct the fieldwork. Richard Bryant
processed the photographs, while Julie Barnes Smith drew the accompanying
artwork. The draft manuscript was reviewed by IASD archaeologists Ehrenhard,
Jameson, and Harry G. Scheele, and by IASD technical editor Virginia Horak.
This report owes its existence, however, to the hard work of the Fort Pulaski
National Monument staff, without whose help the intensive field program
would never have been accomplished.