A Brief History of Coastal Georgia

Coastal Georgia History

The Coastal Region county sites may be accessed here.

NEW! English Crown Grants in St. Andrew Parish in Georgia NEW!

Coastal Georgia has a very rich history as one of the original thirteen colonies and one of the original states.  At the time of the founding of the United States of America, Georgia was the southern-most state.  A great way to show the rich history is to look at the banners that have flown over Georgia since the year 1500 .  This document should be viewed as an overview of the history of Coastal Georgia, and not as an extensive history.  Links have been created where in depth information is available.  Some links, such as settler's lists, stay within the site.  Other links go to external sites over which we have no control.

Some of the personalities that you find in Coastal Georgia history are James Edward Oglethorpe , John and Charles Wesley , J.P. Morgan , John D. Rockefeller , Joseph Pulitzer , Blackbeard , and the U.S.S. Constitution. On January 25, 1915, the first intercontinental telephone call in the United States was made between T.N. Vail (president of AT&T) while at Jekyll Island, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell in New York, Bell's Assistant Thomas Watson in San Francisco and President Woodrow Wilson (a former Georgian) in Washington, D.C.

Guale (pronounced Whallie") was the name given by the Spanish to the area between the Altamaha River to the north and the St. Mary's River to the south.  This area included what is now Glynn County and Camden County. Guale was the name of an Indian chiefdom in Georgia.

The first European to set foot on what is now Camden County may well have been Captain Jean Ribault of France.  He came ashore on the order of Admiral de Chastillan in order to find a suitable settlement for the French Huguenots on board.  Ribault named the two rivers that he saw there the Seine and the Somme (now known as the Satilla River and the St. Mary's River).

The first European Settlement in the thirteen colonies was actually in Georgia in 1526.  The settlement was called San Miguel de Gualdape .  While its actual location is unknown, historians have placed this settlement at Port Royal located at the mouth of the Savannah River and St. Catherine's Sound.  A year later, in 1527, the starving colonists would abandon San Miguel de Gualdape with only 150 of the original 600 settlers remaining alive.

The founding of St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in North America in 1565 would come to be instrumental in the history of Georgia despite it being over a hundred miles distant from the English colonies.

Sometime around 1563, a group of Frenchmen came into what is now modern-day Georgia.  They had been assigned to Charlesfort in South Carolina.  Their goal was to obtain whatever food products they could for their stranded brethren.  It is not believed that the French ever established a fort or any other stronghold in Georgia, but they were most assuredly here in 1563.  For more information, Consult the Carl Vinson Institute of Goverment at the University of Georgia .

It is believed that a pirate of some fame, Blackbeard (a/k/a Edward Thatch - not Teach as has been erroneously reported - possibly of Bristol, England), used the Georgia coast and its meandering rivers, creeks and inlets as hiding places.  Blackbeard and his pirate brethren could strike a ship fast and return to hiding.  It is rumoured that Blackbeard buried treasure on a Georgia island that was never recovered.  Will you be the lucky one to find it? Maybe it is on Blackbeard Island , near Sapelo Island .

In 1721, the English built Fort King George at the mouth of the Altamaha River at the behest of South Carolina and under the supervision of Colonel John Barnwell, an Irishman.  While Fort King George was well placed from a military standpoint, it is unlikely that it could have been in a worse place from a standpoint of health.  In 1721, there was no electrical power, and refrigerators are an invention of the 19th century.  Thus, the only way to preserve meat was to salt it.  In the humid heat of Georgia, the meat rotted.  Moreover, there was little, if any, knowledge of the importance of fruits and vegetables in the diet.  Thus, the men were often sick, and the mortality rate at Fort King George was extremely high.  A fire in 1725 and haphazard reconstruction of the barracks caused the garrison to be withdrawn in 1727.  However, until 1732, there were always two Carolina Rangers on duty in the fort to act as lookout for enemy troop movements.

While the fort was abandoned in 1732, the need for a buffer colony was established and known.  In the late 1720's, General James Edward Oglethorpe and others discussed this need.  The primary purpose of this thirteenth colony would be to protect South Carolina from the Spanish in Florida.

Oglethorpe was granted a charter from King George II to form a colony and a Board of Trustees to manage the colony, and Oglethorpe planned to establish Georgia as a refuge for Debtors in England .  The early settlers of Georgia were Scottish Highlanders, Welsh, Germans and Italians.  Catholics were essentially banned, as were Jews from the other colonies.

Georgia was chartered with three essential goals in mind: "1] as a hospice for the debtors of crowded English debtor's prisons (remember, you could be jailed for not having enough money to pay your debts in 18th century Great Britain); 2] to provide raw materials for British manufactories and act as a market for British goods; and 3] to provide a buffer between the Spanish at St Augustine and the British colony of South Carolina."

The City of Savannah was founded by General James Oglethorpe with 115 settlers on February 12, 1733.  Savannah was the unofficial government center for Georgia for over half a century of English Rule.  Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and still exists today.  It is the County Seat for Chatham County .  A list of these original settlers is set forth here .

Map - Location of Savannah

The second boatload of passengers to arrive in Georgia came over on the James. It anchored at Port Royal on May 2, 1733. Among its passengers was the youthful Peter Tondee , destined to gain fame as the proprietor of Tondee's Tavern , a gathering spot for the Liberty Boys in Revolutionary Georgia. Tondee's Tavern, at Broughton and Whitaker streets, was but one of many casualties of the fire of 1796.

Savannah was a planned settlement, with predestined blocks.  

Early Planning Map of Savannah

General Oglethorpe invited John Wesley to come to Savannah to serve and the colony's chaplain.  On October 14, 1735, Wesley sailed for Georgia along with his brother, Charles, who served as Oglethorpe's personal secretary.  On February 6, 1736, the Wesley's finally set foot in Georgia on what was then called Peeper Island.  Peeper Island is a small island in the mouth of the Savannah River that separates the north channel from the south channel.  It was called Peeper Island because it seemed to "peep" out of the surf, and would be completed covered by water twice a day at high tide.  The arrived on The Simmonds along with Benjamin Ingham and Charles Delamotte and a group of Moravian Christians.  The Moravians seemed to have had a particular impact on John Wesley.

Charles Wesley was not well-suited to be the secretary to General Oglethorpe.  Likewise, he was not well-suited to be the parish priest for the town of Frederica (remember, this came after the rise of the Church of England).  He suffered numerous illnesses, had trouble with the colonists, and became so disheartened that he returned to England a scant six months after their arrival.  

John Wesley, too, battled his demons in Georgia.  He was often unpopular with the colonists, and a disastrous affair with Sophy Hopkey only made matters worse for him.  His continued contact with the Moravian Christians made him question his faith and his soul.  He would say, "I came to convert the Indians, but who will convert me?"  His dream of an Indian mission was never realized, and he returned to England on December 2, 1737 disheartened and unsaure of his future.  Of his time in Georgia, John Wesley said that he was "only beating the air".

The "Peeper" or Peeper Island soon grew to the point that it actually stayed above the tides, and was renamed to Cockspur Island.  It is believed that the name comes from the burdensome plant of the same name that grows abundantly on the island.  Cockspur Island was the perfect place to build a fort to warn against Spanish invasion, and three forts have been built there over the years.  The first, Fort George, named for the king, was a simple blockhouse surrounded by a palisade.

On 19 January 1736, one hundred and seventy-seven Highlanders - mostly MacKays from the Strathnaver region; and members of Clan Chattan - mostly MacIntoshes from Inverness; arrived on the Prince of Wales at the southern outpost of the Georgia Colony. Each Highlander was granted fifty acres for himself and each member of his family. Their primary mission after settling the land was to protect the colony from the French to the west, the Spanish to the south, and fend off attacks from Indians hostile to the British Crown. This new town was originally named "New Inverness," and the name was later changed to "Darien" to recall the Darien Isthmus colony of Panama which came to grief in 1698. Darien was the only Gaelic-speaking community in the Georgia Colony.

The early Scots had a strong sense of family, integrity, and a proud work ethic which contributed greatly to their success. The Scot and other Celts are descended from the legendary fierce Norse-Gael warriors, and they had a well-earned reputation in combat - and were frequently employed as mercenaries. The Highlander's military prowess and reputation in combat was Oglethorpe's prime reason in chosing them to defend "his" colony.

In many ways the Scots were unique - especially from the viewpoint of the Native American. Most Scots did not wear boots  - they wore soft leather footwear similar to a moccasin.  They did not wear pants - they wore a philbeg, or great tartan, they (for the most part) spoke Gaelic, not English  Finally, their family structure was similar to the Native American's - tribal, or clan. The Scots enjoyed the best relationship with Native Americans, especially the Creeks. The Scottish women had rights under the law and were allowed to own property. Women in the Darien community were trained in the "Manual of Arms" for rifles and were capable of manning the battery of cannons at Fort Darien when the men were on patrol or fighting the Spanish.

The town of Darien had been settled by Scots who had left Scotland .  Many were recruited by Lt. Hugh Mackay, himself a Scot.  Interestingly, there was nothing against nepotism as the records show that, in a 1741 shipment of Scots, over 46% were known Mackay relatives.  

Three years later, General Oglethorpe would establish Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island, about 80 miles south of Savannah.  Like Savannah, Frederica was a planned settlement.  In 1736, Fort Frederica Was founded, along with the town of Frederica.  Frederica was named for the son of King George, Frederic.  The location of the fort was chosen because of its location along the banks of the river with two big bends on either side of the fort.

Click the Image for a Larger View

Frederica was initially settled with 44 men and 72 women .  Of course, the Fort at Frederica , named for the son of King George, had plenty of soldiers .  All that remains of Fort Frederica is the King's Magazine and part of the barracks .  Even less remains of the town of Frederica as the tabby houses have not withstood almost 300 years of Georgia weather.

John and Charles Wesley are prominent in the history of Coastal Georgia.  They traveled here and established Christ Church at Savannah and Christ Church near Frederica.

In 1739 the Scots of Darien petitioned the Trustees of Georgia that no slavery be allowed in Darien.  This petition was granted, and it remained so until 1749, when the anti-slavery clause in the Charter was removed despite their strong protests.

By the 1740's, Frederica was a thriving town of close to 1,000 souls.  The town was abandoned after the end of the threat of Spanish invasions brought about by the vistory of Oglethorpe at the Battle of Bloody Marsh .  The fort was disbanded in 1749 because there was no longer any threat of Spanish attack.  

Around 1752, a new group of settlers came to Georgia.  They were Puritans from South Carolina, and had gone there from Massachusetts in 1695.  These Puritans built Midway Church in 1754.  Midway Church was burned by the English in 1777, and it was rebuilt in 1792.  Many of these Puritans were buried in Midway Cemetery and it is estimated that more than 1,200 people are buried there.  When it was founded, the area was simply called the Midway District.  In the late 1750's, Fort Morris was built to protect the thriving port town of Sunberry, which was founded in 1758.  That same year, the Midway District was renamed St. James Parish.  The County was named Liberty County for the efforts of these Puritans in the American Revolution.

Like with any base closing, the local economy was devastated by the closing of the fort, and the town's last hurrah was a fire in 1758 that destroyed what was left of Frederica.  It was the Scots Highlanders who won the Battle of Bloody Marsh , forcing the Spanish to return to Fort Augustine, forever giving up any interest they had in Georgia.

Nonetheless, the Scottish people are so much a part of Georgia history that the State of Georgia adopted an official state tartan in 1997.  This is a matter of Georgia law, though other tartans remain legal in Georgia (the author herein wears the MacNeil tartan, which serves as the background on one or more pages of this history).

Commencing in 1736, Colonial Georgia's second city, Ebenezer, was founded and populated after negotiations with the Colony of Georgia .  Ebenezer is located about 25 miles north of Savannah on the Savannah River.  Ebenezer was established with about 60 German people from the Salzburg area (now Austria) seeking religious freedom.  These Salzburgers were among 20,000 people expelled from Salzburg by Archbishop Firmian for following the teachings of Martin Luther.

By 1741, Ebeneezer reached a population of over 1,200 souls, and continued to grow until the time of the Revolutionary War.  The town burned in 1779, and was never rebuilt.  All that remains today are a cemetery, the church and a home built in 1755.  The first Governor of Georgia, John Adam Treutlen, was a Salzburger.

In 1763, the Spanish abandoned Florida under a treaty of peace with England.

In 1765 three parishes were laid out between the Altamaha and St. David's Rivers: St. Patrick's, St. Mary's and St. Thomas. The County of Camden was formed from St. Mary's and St. Thomas Parishes in 1777. Camden County was named for Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden of England. Woodbine is the county seat.  In large measure, the parishes were changed to counties as an outward sign of shaking off English rule.  Some of the early settlers and officers of Camden County are listed here .

Oglethorpe's mark on Georgia did not end with these settlements.  Oglethorpe founded Fort Williams, a strong battery, on the southern end of Cumberland Island .  He also founded Fort St. Andrews on the northern end of Cumberland Island.  Fort Williams commanded the entrance to the St. Mary's River.  Oglethorpe was at Cumberland Island when an Indian chief named it, and Oglethorpe later erected a hunting lodge on the island, which he called Dungeness .  Dungeness was the predecessor to the Greene Dungeness Mansion and the Carnegie Dungeness Mansion, both famous mansions built on Cumberland Island.  Oglethorpe would die in 1786, before the completion of Dungeness.

In 1771, the City of Brunswick was founded.  It was rectangular in shape and consisted of 383 acres and was named for the Duke of Brunswick, a brother-in-law of King George III who had served with honor in the Seven Years War.  Those who wished to live in Brunswick were required to erect "a good and Sufficient dwelling house not less than 30 foot in length and 18 foot wide with a good brick Chimney thereto"; failing that, the property would "revert to his Majesty, his heirs and Successors."

Georgia and the American Revolution

The American Revolution was both a bloody time and a victorious time for the colonies.  To quote Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times."  As the fledgling nation rebelled against it's founding land, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, it suffered many trials and tribulations.  It was no different for the citizenry of Georgia.  While most of the battles occurred to Georgia's north in South Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts, Georgia did see some bloodshed .

Just like all of the other colonists, Georgians had negative reactions to many of the abusive laws and acts passed by the Crown.

Towards the end of 1775 and the beginning of 1776, James Wright, the Royal Governor, became powerless to stop the rebellion in the Georgia House.  In early 1776, a part of the British Fleet arrives at Cockspur Island (formerly Peeper Island) to buy provisions.  Wright urges the Georgians to allow this and is detained, effectively ending Royal rule in Georgia.  Shortly thereafter, additional ships and troops arrive at the Port of Savannah, and Wright and his Loyalist advisors board one of the ships.  Further north, the British target and attack several rice ships, and the Council of Safety reacts quickly in setting The Inverness affire and sends it downstream, where it runs into the brig Nelly .  Royal Governor Wright barely escapes, and will take up residence on Cockspur Island for the next several years.

Fort George, on Cockspur Island, was destroyed by the Patriots over the course of two years from 1774 to 1776.

The brothers of Georgia's Royal Governor Wright, Charles and German Wright - both English loyalists - built a fort to protect their land.  The fort was called Fort Wright, and it became a hangout not only for loyalists from Georgia and northern Florida, but also outlaws who called themselves the Florida Rangers.  The Florida Rangers would rob south Georgians and store their plunder at Fort Wright.   Captain John Baker led a failed attempt from Savannah to burn the fort and stop this outlawishness, as did Major-General Robert Howe.  The fort was burned by retreating British soldiers in 1778.  It would be rebuilt by the Americans, only to be destroyed to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

Finally, Georgia could no longer stand by as the Crown committed attrocities which many Georgians had come to America to avoid.  To be sure, Georgia had more than its share of loyalists, but loyalty was beginning to wear thin.  Georgia sent three men to the Continental Congress with instructions to vote for independence.  They were Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton.  These men did vote for and sign the Declaration of Independence.  It is with mirth and interest that we point out that King George's diary entry for July 4, 1776 said "Nothing of importance happened today."

On February 14, 1779, Patriot militia troops meet with Loyalist militia troops at a small place called Kettle Creek.  Though having significantly more men, the Loyalist troops are served with a bitter defeat in large measure due to dissention among the ranks because expected reinforcements have not arrived and these militia troops are not regular army.  With 700 Loyalist troops encamped at Kettle Creek, Col. John Boyd is severely defeated by Patriot troops numbering 340 who attacked in three separate columns.  While the Loyalist troops take a great advantage atop a hill, their ambush of the advancing Patriot troops is unsuccessful, and the Loyalists begin to flee.  As fate would have it, Col. Boyd is felled by a musket shot and the troops under his command panic.  Total losses: Loyalist 40-70 dead, 70 captured, Patriots 9 dead, 23 wounded.  The men who escape the battlefield make their way to Wrightsville, although some are captured and hung later that year.   Col. Andrew Pickens , who became famous for his many battles in the Revolution would later write that Kettle Creek was the "severest chastisement" for the Loyalists in South Carolina and Georgia. Dooly is later brutally murdered by British Regulars.

On the same day as the Battle of Kettle Creek, Col. Archibald Campbell and his Loyalist forces are in control of Augusta, Georgia.  Campbell sees Patriot troops from North Carolina across the Savannah River from Augusta and wisely chooses to withdraw.  The North Carolina troops are under the command of General John Ashe .  They are ready for a battle because of the great success at Kettle Creek, and, in the vernacular of today, are "pumped up".  What Ashe does not know and could not know is that Campbell is reinforced by troops from Savannah under the command of General Augustine Prevost .  The combined Loyalist forces total over 2,300 men.  On March 13, 1778, the Patriot troops are caught by surprise at their campsite at the meeting of Brier (Briar) Creek and the Savannah River.  The North Carolina troops and Ashe retreat from the battle, leaving only Col. Samuel Elbert and his Georgia militia to defend the camp, and they do until almost all of them are dead, and the Patriots suffer a most humiliating defeat with 400 Patriots dead or captured as compared to only 5 Loyalists.  Elbert, a future Georgia governor, is captured and held by the British until 1781.

Three months later, the battle begins to heat up at Savannah, where a major battle is about to brew.   General Benjamin Lincoln has put together a small force to fight off the British in South Carolina.  Lincoln is ordered into Georgia and General Lachlan McIntosh is ordered back to Georgia to assist Lincoln's troops.  McIntosh is the man who killed Button Gwinnett (signer of the Declaration of Independence) in a duel and has left Georgia as a result.  McIntosh and Lincoln are able to make contact with Admiral Valerie D'Estaing of the French Navy who is sailing in the French West Indies and the three decide to attack Savannah together.  In September, D'Estaing makes land with 20 ships and 11 frigates.  D'Estaing sends a surrender demand to Augustine Provost, whose response is to simply fortify the city quicker than before.  On October 9, 1779, French and American troops make a joint attack on the city.  Among those fighting are Count Casmir Pulaski , a Polish Count, Samuel Davis (father of Confederate President Jefferson Davis ) and Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant (architect of Washington, D.C.).  Both Pulaski and D'Estaing are wounded.  Pulaski's wound is mortal, and he dies two days later aboard the Wasp, an American ship.  By day's end, 800 French and American soldiers are dead (out of a combined invasion force of 5,000 men).  Lincoln and McIntosh retreat, heading for Charleston, where they believe the British will next attack, and Savannah is now under British control.

Georgia was the only colony to ever fall completely under British control, and the Patriots are forced to go into hiding, fearing all strangers.  Many leave for territories controlled by Patriots.  Lyman Hall, signer of the Declaration of Independence is one of those who leave.  Hall, a wanted man, goes to Connecticut, where he is not so well known.  Of course, the British destroy Hall's properties both at Savannah and at Sunbury.

However, we all know that Georgia is not controlled by the British today.  This is due, in very large measure, to the heroics of General Nathaniel Greene and General "Mad" Anthony Wayne .  Greene made a decision to mount a weak offensive in Georgia.  This offensive is successful, and Augusta is liberated in 1781.  Now free of the British in upper Georgia, the Patriots are able to recruit some militia men from the people of Georgia.  After leading Patriot troops to success at Fort Stoney Point, Wayne is placed in command of operations in Georgia, and Savannah is the target of the Continental Army and the Georgia militia.  The British are lacking morale, due in large part to the defeats they suffered at Ninety-Six and the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.  Even though they hold an advantage of 2-to-1, the British surrender Savannah to Lt. Col. James Jackson and evacuate Savannah.  Within six months, the British are out of Georgia, and the war in Georgia is essentially over.

John Adam Treutlen , a Salzburger, was elected Georgia's first governor in 1777.  There are several good biographies of him, including the Official Georgia version.  During the time of Treutlen's term as governor, the capitol of Georgia was Savannah .  It was moved to Augusta in 1783, then to Louisville in 1796, followed by Milledgeville in 1804, and finally, Atlanta in 1868.  Another good story of the movement of the capitol may be found here .

Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the Constitution of the United States on January 2, 1778.

The English returned Florida to the Spanish at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1784.  Many residents of Camden County came home after the war to find their property having been taken by the state.

With the revolution over, it was time to get down to business, and Georgia did not wait long to do so.  The first order of business was to charter a state-run and state-sponsored university or seminary.  Georgia was the first to do so when the University of Georgia was founded.  Of course, UGA is located on Athens, which is not part of the Coastal Region.  However, UGA is a religion in every part of the state, thus it bears some mention.

William Bartram was the first native-born American naturist.  He traveled extensively the pristine areas of Coastal Georgia and several other modern-day states.  A map of his Georgia travels may be found here .

Another course of immediate business was the land lottery for Revolutionary War soldiers.

The town of St. Mary's was established in 1787.

In 1794, the construction of Fort Greene was commenced on Cockspur Island.  This fort was named for the Revolutionary War hero, Nathaniel Greene.  The construction of Fort Greene took two years.  The fort had an outer picket works, an earthen embankment reinforced with timbers where artillery could be set, and a small guardhouse which housed the garrison.  Fort Greene was destroyed during a storm in 1804, which is now classified as a hurricane.

Also in 1794, the government of the United States looked high and low for the best timber on the Atlantic Coast with which to build vessels for the United States Navy, and found Georgia's Live Oak to be particularly suited for this task.  Some of the wood for U.S.S. Constitution was cut from the Couper property at Gascoigne's Bluff on St. Simons Island in Glynn County.

Ebo Landing is an interesting and historically significant place.  People from Igboland (the "b" is silent) (now known as Nigeria) had been brought into Savannah and were sold as slaves.  They were purchased by two families from St. Simons Island, who had them brought to the island on a boat called the Morovia.  The captain's own slave was the first to commit suicide by drowning in Dunbar Creek, a tributary of the Frederica River.  At this point, the Igbo Chief started chanting "the sea brought me and the sea will take me home".  The other slaves joined in the chant.  Instead of walking onto the bank and a life of slavery, the Igbo Chief walked into Dunbar Creek, followed by the remaining slaves.  Even though this happened in May of 1803, they say you can go to Ebo Landing at night and hear the chant and the chains.  As you will see shortly, Coastal Georgia has more than its share of ghosts.

On October 17, 1804, John Couper deeded four acres of land known as "Couper's Point" to the federal government for the construction of a lighthouse at the southern tip of St. Simons Island.  In 1807, James Gould was contracted to build the lighthouse.  The lighthouse was to have been built from brick.  However, for economic reasons, tabby was used for a majority of the 75 foot tower, with brick at the top.  In 1810, the first lighthouse was built on St. Simons Island.  The tabby was brought over, in large measure, from the tabby of the ruins at the abandoned town of Frederica.  Upon the completion of the lighthouse, Gould applied for, and was awarded, the job of lighthouse keeper.  He remained for 27 years.

Georgia was left alone during the War of 1812, at least for the most part.  British ships were commonly sighted off the coast of Liberty County.  This brought particular fear to the residents of Sunbury, many of whom remembered the British occupation of that city during the Revolutionary War.  In order to protect (and placate these citizens), the United States decided to curtail the "commerce raiding" of the English.  This was done by taking boats that amounted to barges, and fitting them with small artillery (mostly small cannons).  It was difficult to find other weapons for these barges.  Likewise, it was difficult to locate crewmen for these barges.  The expedition of these barges left Charleston on July 29, 1812.  It's commanding officer, who had been detained, was left behind, leaving a junior officer, Charles Grandison, in charge of the "fleet".  On the maiden voyage, the flotilla heard rumours of three British ships in the area, and searched for them as far south as Sapelo Island.  Grandison discovered that the ships had been there, but were now gone.  He decided to leave a barge at Sapelo Island.  The remainder of the flotilla headed for the Midway River and Sunbury.  No one bothered to tell the people of Sunbury of the flotilla of barges, and the townspeople became scared and upset as they saw the barges approaching.  They quickly activated the militia and prepared to fire on the flotilla, and would have, had they not seen the American flag first.  There were no provisions made for these men, and by September, nearly a third of them had deserted.  As word arrived that the British privateer, Calednoia, had captured the American sloop, William, they were unable to even launch the barges and the mission was deemed a failure.

After the War of 1812, the federal government discovered the necessity of a string of coastal forts from the Florida Keys to Maine to protect the United States from foreign invasion.  These forts were called the Third System .  Over 200 forts were planned, and only 30 were actually built, although not all of them were finished (Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina comes to mind).  Of those that were completed, none were war-tested.  Once they were war-tested, it became clear that they were already obsolete, as shall be more fully explained later.

One of these Third System forts was to be built on Cockspur Island (now, you may understand why we have spent so much time discussing Cockspur hereinabove).  The Cockspur Island fort was to be called Fort Pulaski, in honor of Count Casmir Pulaski, the father of the American Cavalry (he trained, among others, General Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee , the Father of General Robert E. Lee .  Lee's importance to Pulaski will become apparent in short order.  Just suffice it to say, "it all connects".).

Upon his graduation from West Point (Lee was second in the 1829 class of the United States Military Academy ), a young Lt. Robert E. Lee was assigned to the construction of Fort Pulaski.  More specifically, Lee was directed to design the series of canals and earthworks to drain the excess water from Cockspur Island.  Because the soft mud would not support the 25 million pounds of bricks required to build the fort, a foundation had to be built.  This foundation required driving 70 foot long pilings into the mud, followed by two wooden layers of subflooring.  Construction was slow, especially during the long, hot and humid Georgia summers that brought mosquitoes and disease with them.  On many occasions, work was stopped for the summer.  The completed two tier fort is a truncated hexagon that faces east with walls 7' 6" thick and up to 35' high.  Included is a demi-lune, moat, two powder magazines, and a parade ground a little bigger than a football field.  The lower courses of brickwork are local brownish 'Savannah Gray' brick, while the red brick on the higher levels of the fort is from Baltimore, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia.  The red is harder than the 'Savannah Grays', so it was used in the arches and embrasures.  It took almost 20 years to build Fort Pulaski.

John McIntosh Kell , who would become a Confederate Naval Officer, was born in Darien in 1823.  Kell would command the C.S.S. Alabama prior to its sinking off the coast of Cherbourg, France.

In 1843, the Church of the Messiah was founded in St. Mary's, Georgia (it is now Christ Church ).

Slavery was legalized in Georgia at some point after the founding of the state, probably around 1749.  Many plantation owners deplored the idea, yet knew that they could not afford to operate their plantations if they had to pay for labor.  To many of them, slavery was a curse that they would rather not bear so long as it did not affect the bottom line.  In many cases, the portrayal of plantation owners as wealthy is as much a myth as the Medusa.  In most cases (at least in Georgia), they never made a profit from their land holdings and most died deeply in debt.

Secession and the Civil War

Georgia became the fifth state to secede from the United States when it's Declaration of Causes of Seceding States was approved by the Georgia Legislature on January 29, 1861 (it is with great interest that we point out that the vote total was actually against secession with 42,744 votes in favor of remaining in the Union and 41,717 votes for secession .  This was only discovered in the 1970's and the error is attributed to irregularities with the votes in Cobb and Forsyth Counties - not unlike the Florida problems in the 2000 presidential election).  Prior to the election, and as shown by the revised totals, Georgia was closely divided on the issue of secession.  Floyd County voters are 3-2 in favor of secession, while Murray County voters are 3-1 in favor of remaining in the Union, and Clarke County votes 3-1 in favor of secession.  In White County, voters prefer co-operation with the Union by a vote of 320 to 48 and in Dade County (which actually seceded from Georgia when Georgia seceded from the Union), voters vote 346 to 42 in favor of staying in the Union.  However, prior to Georgia's secession, it seized Fort Pulaski on January 3, 1861.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Camden County had a population of 5,482 of which only 1,721 were white.  Yet Camden County would send two full divisions to fight the civil war.

We are working on a Master List of CSA Muster Rolls from the Coastal Georgia Counties , as well as final resting places for CSA veterans who are buried in counties that were created after Civil War.

The seizure of Fort Pulaski was a significant event in the Civil War.  The fort was taken by Savannah volunteer infantry units such as Irish Jasper Greens , Savannah Volunteer Guards , and Oglethorpe Light Infantry .  Georgia Governor Joseph Brown and Colonel Alexander Lawton , commander of the 1st Volunteer Regiment of Georgia knew that Fort Pulaski housed only two men and the time.  They knew that the federals were preparing to move more troops into Fort Pulaski.  They also knew that, with Savannah being a major port and a major rail hub, possession of Fort Pulaski was vital to the State of Georgia in general and the Confederacy as a whole.  Pulaski was taken on January 3, 1961 by 50 men from the Savannah Volunteer Guards, 50 men from the Oglethorpe Light Infantry and 34 men from the Chatham Artillery who had made the 17 mile journey on the steamship Ida.  These volunteer soldiers entered through the main gate and took the fort without resistance.  While at Fort Pulaski, these volunteers were turned into soldiers, and became very good soldiers.  Fort Pulaski now belonged to Georgia, and Captain Francis S. Bartow was given this command.  In May 1861, Bartow's unit would be sent to Virginia where they engaged the Union during First Manassas (Bull Run).  Bartow (promoted to Brigadier General) would suffer an injury and be the first officer on either side to be killed on the battlefield.   James Buchanan (possibly the worst president the country has ever had) was president when Pulaski was taken and when secession started.  From an historical perspective, it seems that he simply did not care that the Union was crumbling around him.  He took no steps to regain Fort Pulaski or Fort Sumter .

By October of 1861, it was apparent that the Union was preparing to take Fort Pulaski and the City of Savannah.  General Robert E. Lee was sent to Savannah to take personal command of the situation.  Lee's first move was to order the withdrawal of forces from Tybee Island.  This was because Lee was aware that, based on the shortage of troops, without a sufficient garrison, the artillery units could be easily overtaken.  If there was one commodity that the Confederacy could not afford to lose, it was human bodies.  Lee ordered the artillery units moved to Fort Pulaski.

The Union troops were under the command of Flag Officer Samuel F. DuPont and General Thomas W. Sherman .  Because of the Confederate withdrawal of Tybee Island, the federals were able to take Tybee without a fight.  Tybee Island was important to Sherman because it contained a lighthouse and gave the federals the ability to see ships navigating the waters around Savannah, and also provided the federals with a refueling depot for its coal-burning fleet (and to think of our complaints about CARS!).  Pulaski was commanded by Col. Charles H. Olmstead .  His troops believed that Pulaski was impenetrable and believed that they could hold the fort despite the federal troops just south of them.  General Lee made an inspection of the fort, and discovered that the system of canals and earthworks that he had designed to drain the excess water from the island really worked.

Pulaski and the city of Savannah were well protected by the fleet of Commodore Josiah Tattnall , and there was no shortage of supplies.  On the morning of February 13, 1862, the steamship Ida was surprised when it was fired on from the north bank of the Savannah River, which could only mean that the federals had fortified a position on the northern bank of the river without the Confederates even knowing about it.  Then to add insult to injury, the federals cut the telegraph wire, thus cutting the men at Pulaski off from the outside world, save for the weekly courier who swam the channel at night to avoid detection.

Nonetheless, Fort Pulaski's 385 men with 48 cannon and 6 months worth of rations believed that they could probably hold out until September, even if the federals did storm the walls.  Sherman realized that the only clear approach to Pulaski would result in an unacceptable loss of life, and turned to Captain Quincy Adams Gilmore to command the troops.  At this point in history, the rifled gun was experimental.  No one knew its true range or power.  While Union commanders doubted whether the rifle cannon would have any effect at a range of two miles or more, Robert E. Lee himself stated, "Colonel, they will make it pretty warm for you here with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at that distance."

Union troops worked primarily at night, constructing 11 sand batteries at the northwest end of Tybee Island (four of which were on land used to quarantine newly arrived African-Americans in the 1770's).  As the federals worked at night, they were as quiet as possible and whispered more than anything else.  They used whistles instead of drums and bugles.  Everything that was used in constructing the batteries, food, ordinance, weapons and shelter materials, had to be carried over and through swampland.  Many loads, particularly of weapons, required 250 men or more to carry them.  And, the new construction had to be covered with vegetation before the break of day in order to avoid being seen by the Confederates.  Despite the measures taken to conceal these batteries, the Confederates knew that something was going on.  However, curiosity never turned into the concern that it should have arroused, in large measure because of comments like that of General Lee above.

On the morning of April 10, 1862, the Confederates noticed the overnight changes to the landscape.  They also noticed a boat sailing under a flag of truce as Captain Gilmore was offering a chance to surrender the fort.  Col. Olmstead refused the surrender demand, and the battle was on.

At ten minutes past 8:00 on the morning of April 10, 1862, federal gun positions opened fire on Fort Pulaski.  The important guns were the rifle cannons, whose fire was concentrated on the southeast corner of the fort, which soon knocked out many of the Confederate guns.  The corner started to crumble.  By the morning of April 11, 1862, the corner had effectively been breached, and the magazine could be hit.  Now that the magazine was exposed, the Confederates had no choice but to raise the white flag and surrender the fort.

General David Hunter was assigned to command Fort Pulaski.  Hunter freed the slaves in Georgia, Alabama and Florida by issuing General Order Number 11 .   President Abraham Lincoln ordered Hunter to retract the statement, and issued his own statement on the issue .

In 1862, the Confederates destroyed the St. Simons lighthouse by dynamiting it.  This was to prevent the federals from using it as a navigational guide.

St. Mary's in Camden County suffered greatly during the war.  Federal gunboats targeted the city's waterfront, and many of the residents moved inland.  Major Thomas Higginson, the commanding officer of the federal troops in St. Mary's, ordered that the town and all of its churches be burned.  This included the Church of the Messiah (now Christ Church).

By no means was this an end to the War of the Rebellion, or to the war in Georgia.  However, very little else of the war occurred in Coastal Georgia.

Fort McAllister was located on what was previously known as Jennis Point.  Over the course of the hundred-plus years since the founding of Georgia, the land had passed through several owners before being acquired by Joseph McAllister.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, McAllister founded the Hardwicke Mounted Rifles, which served in Virginia.  He also agreed to allow the construction of Confederate gun defenses and earthwork fortifications on his land in order to guard the entry into the Ogeechee River, which led to an important railroad bridge and cotton and rice plantations.  This was also important given the loss of Pulaski and, for all intent and purposes, the Port of Savannah.  In late 1862, a blockade runner known as the Thomas L. Bragg , outran Union ships and slipped into the Ogeechee River.  To get to this ship, the Union Navy had to pass the guns of Fort McAllister.  Despite four bombardments of the fort, the Union Navy was unable to silence these guns.

On January 27, 1863, the U.S.S. Montauk attempted to capture the fort, but failed .  A second attempt was made on February 1, 1863, with the same result.  By this time, the blockade runner had been converted into a Privateer and renamed Rattlesnake.  The Rattlesnake attempted to run the Union blockade on February 27, 1863, and was forced back into the Ogeechee River, where it ran aground at Seven Mile Bend, not far upriver from the fort.  The Montauk returned on February 28, 1863 and begun to attack the crippled Rattlesnake .  The fort's guns fired heavily on the Montauk, but could not seem to damage her.  She fired on the fort, with no result.  Finally, as the Montauk was leaving the area, she struck a mine and was heavily damaged.  On March 3, 1863, three Union ironclads joined in the assault on Fort McAllister, but were unable to silence her guns.  They finally withdrew a few hours later, ending the naval engagement.

On June 11, 1863, federal troops burned the city of Darien "to the ground".  Darien had become a major port for shipping cotton that was grown inland and sent down the river to the port.   Col. Robert Gould Shaw commanded the Massachusetts 54th , a U.S.C.T. regiment of black troops (the unit made famous in the move, Glory ).  The unit was stationed on St. Simon's Island from June 10 to June 24, 1863.  On June 11, 1863, Col. James Montgomery ordered the unit to Darien with instructions to burn the town to the ground, in large measure because it was used by blockade runners.  The town consisted of between 70 to 100 homes, three churches, a market, a courthouse and a school.  The town was looted and burned, and the fires were visible from St. Simon's Island, 15 miles away.  Shaw, who was the son of a noted Boston abolitionist, did not approve of the burning of the town and wrote to superior officers to convey the same.

Fort McAllister would continue to defend the Ogeechee River until late in 1864.  In late 1864, the Civil War was all but over.  Atlanta had fallen and the Confederacy was in tatters.   General William Tecumseh Sherman was on his march to the sea.  Being deep into the south, and having cut many of the rail lines that brought much-needed supplies (a double-edged sword, but a necessary act to defeat the Confederacy), the federals needed the Ogeechee River.  Thus, Sherman dispatched a division to cross Bryan's Neck and attack Fort McAllister from the rear and over land on December 13, 1864.  While Fort McAllister was essentially immune to naval assaults, it was neither prepared nor able to defend itself from land attacks.  As a result, Fort McAllister fell after only 15 minutes of fierce combat.  While never having surrendered, the fort was nonetheless taken, and Savannah would be taken within a week.  Sherman reached Savannah on December 10, and the city had surrendered within 10 days.  Sherman issued a special field order regarding Savannah on December 23, 1864 .  On December 26, 1864, Sherman issued Field Order 143 , which established the guidelines for the governance of the City of Savannah by civilian authorities as a military outpost.  Thus, the capture of Georgia was complete and the War of the Rebellion was over in Georgia.


As William T. Sherman marched through Georgia, he brought the Emancipation Proclamation with him.  As Sherman marched east, he created a path of destruction that destroyed what was the best rail system in the South before the War of the Rebellion.  Georgia was faced with problems of famine, drought and anarchy.  The state was left bankrupt by the war, and was essentially broke from 1865 to 1871.

In May of 1865, the federal government abolished the state government and President Andrew Johnson appointed Columbus attorney Charles Johnson, a man with strong Unionist ties, as the provisional governor.  In short, Johnson is only a babysitter until the State of Georgia fulfills the mandate required by the federal government.  These requirements are that the state repeal the secession ordinance, outlaw slavery, repudiate an $18,000,000.00 debt to the Confederate government, and acknowledgement of the federal government as supreme.  Georgia met all of these requirements in December of 1865, and President Andrew Johnson recognized the elected government of Georgia, and Georgia was reconstructed as a state of the union .

Prominent people of Savannah reacted strongly to the abolition of slavery .  Savannah, being a little bit different, never truly accepted slavery, so it was easy for Savannahians to accept the abolition of slavery.

From 1870 until 1910, Darien became a huge port town again.  This time, the cargo was timber.  However, as that resource was depleted, it became the sleepy fishing town that it is today.

A new lighthouse was built on St. Simons Island in 1872.  

The town of Ludowici enjoyed a short golden age in the early days of the Twentieth Century.  For a detailed article on the Golden Age of Ludowici by Thomas D. Houston (a personal friend of the author of this page), click here .

During the Second World War, the J.A. Jones Company built "Liberty Ships", which carried supplies to American troops in the European Theater.

Kings Bay Submarine Base was opened in .  It is located in Camden County near St. Mary's, Georgia .  You can stand on Cumberland Island and see the " boomers " coming in and out of Kings Bay.  Were you or a member of your family born at Kings Bay?  Contact our Camden County Coordinator, Nancy Gay Crawford.

(c) 2002, 2003, 2004 by Richard R. Pettys, Jr.
May be used freely without permission or consent for personal or educational purposes.
No license is granted for commercial purposes, domestic or otherwise.