The Fort Pulaski National Monument is located on Cockspur Island in Chatham County, Georgia approximately 15 miles east of Savannah. The fort was named after the polish hero Casimir Pulaski of Revolutionary War fame who was mortally wounded during the battle of Savannah. It was erected about 1820 or 1830 and Robert E. Lee had his first assignment there after graduating from the US Military Academy. Just before the War Between the States, at the instigation of Governor Joseph E. Brown, funds were appropriated by the State to install cannon and prepare for defense. After the news of Federals occupation of Fort Sumter, the citizens of Savannah voted to seize the fort before the Federals could garrison it. Early on the morning of January 6, 1861 troops marched through Savannah in pouring down rain to be assembled at the fort. By midsummer 1861 the union army planned a naval blockade of the South that included the capture of Fort Pulaski and in November forced the Confederates to abandon its coastal fortifications, including Hilton Head and Tybee Island, some within sight of Cockspur Island. Before leaving Tybee, the Confederates were able to ferry the heavy guns over to Fort Pulaski and two companies of infantry from the Tybee garrison were added to the force at Pulaski. They now prepared to face General Sherman's 12,000 men whom they assumed would attack the fort. General Robert E. Lee was in charge of Confederate forces in South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida and maintained that the thick walls of the fort could not be breached by cannon. In early November, Lee arrived in Savannah and personally took charge of defense procedures. A month later the union commander Captain Samuel DuPont set up his blockade operations across the channels of the Savannah River by sinking some vessels loaded with stone and stationed gunboats in Warsaw Sound and Ossabaw Sound. Meanwhile, Sherman decided to attack the city of Savannah. His plan was to bypass the fort by entering the Savannah River above it. But DuPont strongly objected and Sherman was removed from the campaign the following spring. About this same time, Sherman decided it would be a good idea to make a direct attack on the city of Savannah by traveling through the winding waterways that led into the Savannah River above Fort Pulaski, thus bypassing the fort. Since this plan required naval transportation, protection and assistance, Sherman, in his usual abrasive manner, insisted that Du Pont agree to it.
The steamboat Ida made her last run down from Savannah on February 13, 1862 and was fired on nine times by heavy guns hidden along the north bank of the river. In February, the Federals sealed off the main creek waterway which connected the river with the coast. They also destroyed the telegraph line connecting Cockspur Island with Savannah. Fort Pulaski was thus cut off. Left to garrison it were about 385 soldiers, including companies of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, Georgia Volunteers and Georgia Regulars. Federal military leaders could not agree whether to take Fort Pulaski by force or simply wait and starve the garrison. Ultimately by the end of February they had seized the fort for the union army. Photographs are compliments of Lea Dowd.