One of the coolest things the Georgia Historical Society does every year is to open up the state’s historical homes, museums and sites to the public free of charge on the first Sunday of February.
Super Museum Sunday, part of the month-long Georgia History Festival, is a perennial favorite, giving natives and newcomers alike an opportunity to learn more about what life was like for early settlers.
While the mention of Super Museum Sunday most often conjures up visions of beautiful antebellum mansions, there’s another part of Georgia history that is tied to our ports and the defense of our coastline.
Without the protection of the forts that dotted the coast from Savannah to Brunswick – an area claimed by both England and Spain - the young colony might not have survived.
Gen. James Oglethorpe knew this well – it was the reason he chose to establish the new settlement on a defensible high bluff of the Savannah River.
This Sunday, why not wander down the coast and take in some of the history of conflict that shaped both the early days of the colony and – more than a century later – pitted brother against brother.
It’s too much to take in on one day, but a great way to get started.
Here are three options fairly close to one another:
- Fort King George, 302 MacIntosh Road SE, Darien
The oldest English fort remaining on Georgia’s coast, Fort King George was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America from 1721 to 1736. It consisted of a cypress blockhouse, barracks and an earthen fort built by British scouts led by Col. John “Tuscarora Jack” Barnwell. The soldiers who garrisoned the fort for nearly a decade endured incredible hardships, including disease, Spanish and Indian attacks and the harsh, unfamiliar coastal environment. After the fort was abandoned, Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736. The settlement, called Darien, eventually became a foremost export center of lumber until 1925.
Using old records and drawings, this 18th century frontier fortification on the Altamaha River has been reconstructed for public tours. Structures include a blockhouse, officers’ quarters, barracks, a guardhouse, moat and palisades. A museum and film cover the Guale Indians, the Santo Domingo de Talaje mission, Fort King George, the Scots of Darien and 19th century sawmilling, when Darien became a major seaport.
In addition to the reconstructed fort buildings, the remains of three saw mills and tabby ruins are still visible.
On Sunday, Fort King George will have demonstrations of colonial toys and games, soldier talks and musket firings. Local historian Buddy Sullivan will offer a brief presentation based on his newest book: ”A Low Country Diary: Bessie M. Lewis and McIntosh County Georgia.”
- Fort McAllister Historic Park, 3894 Fort McAllister Road, Richmond Hill
Located south of Savannah on the banks of the Ogeechee River, this scenic park showcases the best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy. The earthworks were attacked seven times by Union ironclads but did not fall until 1864, ending General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.”
Visitors can explore the grounds, which include cannons, a hot shot furnace, bombproof barracks, palisades and more, while a Civil War museum contains artifacts, a video and gift shop.
Nestled among giant live oaks, Spanish moss and salt marsh, this park is a beautiful location for camping, fishing, boating and picnicking. Seven cabins sit on stilts near the marsh, surrounded by palm trees and palmettos. The shaded campground is bordered by tidal Redbird Creek, a boat ramp, fishing dock and nature trail. A large picnic area offers river views and playgrounds, while another boat ramp provides access to the Ogeechee River.
- Fort Morris Historic Site, 2559 Fort Morris Road, Midway
When the Continental Congress convened in 1776, the delegates recognized the importance of a fort to protect their growing seaport from the British. Soon afterwards, a low bluff on the Medway River at Sunbury was fortified and garrisoned by 200 patriots. When the British demanded the fort’s surrender on November 25, 1778, the defiant Col. John McIntosh replied, “Come and take it!” The British refused and withdrew back to Florida. Forty-five days later, they returned with a superior force, and on January 9, 1779, Fort Morris fell after a short but heavy bombardment.
Under the name of Fort Defiance, this bulwark was once again used against the British during the War of 1812, and Sunbury’s harbor was guarded by armed barges. Today, visitors can stand within the earthwork remains and view scenic Saint Catherine’s Sound. A museum and film describe the colonial port of Sunbury and the site’s history.
Visitors may borrow binoculars and a field guide to go birding. Downy woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, goldfinches, wood storks, painted buntings, great egrets and many other coastal species can be seen.
Other coastal historic sites open Sunday include Fort Frederica National Monument and the site of the Battle of Bloody Marsh, both on St. Simons Island; Fort Pulaski National Monument between Savannah and Tybee, Old Fort Jackson, off President Street between Wilmington Island and Savannah; and the Tybee Light Station and Museum on Tybee Island. If you are downtown, check out the Ships of the Sea Museum.
For more information on Super Museum Sunday, go to: http://georgiahistoryfestival.org/events/super-museum-sunday/
Senior business reporter Mary Carr Mayle covers the ports for the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow. She can be reached at 912-652-0324 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following are the ships expected to call on Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City and Ocean terminals this week. Schedules are supplied by GPA and are subject to change.
TERMINAL VESSEL ETA
GCT ZIM PIRAEUS Today
GCT MAERSK DETROIT Today
GCT MAERSK WESTPORT Today
GCT MSC LAURA Today
GCT HYUNDAI JUPITER Today
GCT MSC METHONI Today
GCT MSC RACHELE Saturday
GCT SAINT NIKOLAOS Saturday
GCT APL BARCELONA Saturday
GCT CMA CGM CORNEILLE Saturday
GCT CMA CGM AMERICA Saturday
GCT SANTA REGULA Saturday
GCT MSC LAUSANNE Saturday
GCT NYK DAEDALUS Saturday
GCT MSC KLEVEN Saturday
GCT CSCL ASIA Saturday
GCT MSC BARBARA Saturday
GCT FETEKOZ Saturday
GCT EVER LEARNED Sunday
GCT IRENES REMEDY Sunday
GCT MSC MARINA Sunday
GCT NILEDUTCH OSPREY Sunday
GCT MAERSK KENSINGTON Monday
GCT MAERSK SOFIA Monday
GCT MSC JULIA R. Monday
GCT DALIAN EXPRESS Monday
GCT MAERSK DHAHRAN Monday
OT FIDELIO Monday
GCT HELSINKI BRIDGE Tuesday
GCT CMA CGM MELISANDE Tuesday
GCT SPIRIT OF LISBON Tuesday
GCT MOL MAJESTY Tuesday
OT GRANDE TEMA Tuesday
GCT HANNOVER BRIDGE Wednesday
GCT CMA CGM AZURE Wednesday
GCT TAMMO Wednesday
GCT ZIM LUANDA Wednesday
GCT MSC ASYA Thursday
GCT NYK REMUS Thursday
GCT MAERSK KAWASAKI Thursday
GCT WEHR HONG KONG Thursday
GCT EVER LAMBENT Thursday
GCT ZIM HAIFA Thursday
GCT MAERSK KOKURA Thursday
OT TOLEDO Thursday