Darien, Georgia

Photos/text courtesy of Richard Edling, Philadelphia, PA
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1. Darien, Georgia - Wikipedia
2. City of Darien, Georgia, Visitor Guide
3. History of McIntosh County, Georgia

Darien, established on the mighty Altamaha River in 1736 by Scottish Highlanders, saw some of the first action of black troops in the Civil War when Federals looted and burned the town "to the ground" on June 11, 1863. Involved in the action was the 2nd South Carolina and the Massachusetts 54th, the U.S.C.T. regiment commanded by 25-year-old Col. Robert Gould Shaw and made famous in the movie Glory. Darien was an important shipping port before the War, exporting cotton grown inland and rafted down the river. During the War, the port was used by blockade runners and consisted of 75 to 100 residences, including three churches, a market house, a courthouse, and an academy.
Shaw's troops, stationed on St. Simons Island June 10-24, 1863, were ordered to Darien by Col. James Montgomery. The next day, the town was looted and burned, with the light from the fires visible from St. Simons Island, 15 miles away. Col. Shaw, the son of a famous Boston abolitionist, did not approve of burning the town and wrote letters to superiors about his feelings on the matter. Twenty-five days after leading troops to Darien, Shaw would be dead and buried in a mass grave with many of his men. He led the Massachusetts 54th on a suicidal assault of Battery Wagner, South Carolina, forever proving the battle courage of black troops in U.S. history.
Darien recovered from the Civil War to become the second largest lumber shipping port on the southern coast from 1870-1910. When timber resources were depleted, Darien became what it is today, a fishing village. Thirty-two historic sites are featured in a driving tour available at the Welcome Center. The only remains from the Civil War days are some tabby ruins, constructed from 1815-30, near the river on the west side of the bridge at Broad Street. Darien was the birthplace of John McIntosh Kell, a famed Confederate naval officer, who was executive officer of the Alabama throughout its brilliant career, and was present at its sinking at the hands of the Kearsarge off Cherbourge, France.
Letter from Col. Shaw about the raid at Darien, Georgia


(10-2006) Port of Darien, Altamaha River
Interpretive Markers:

Fort Darien    
Fort King George    
Port of Darien
The Burning of Darien


(10-2006) Adam Strain Building (1813-1815) was burned in 1863 and later refurbished in 1873. It was used for many years as a mercantile store and ship’s chandlery. It is the oldest commercial building in Darien
The burning of Darien was featured in the movie GLORY


(10-2006) Adam Strain Building
Tabby, the Coastal Concrete
Thomas Spalding was a big proponent of using tabby as a construction material. “I was born in the old town of Frederica in one of these Tabby house; I had seen time destroy everything but them,” he wrote. “Tabby…a mixture of shells, lime and sand in equal proportions by measure and not weight, makes the best and cheapest buildings, where the materials are at hand, I have ever seen; and when rough cast, equals in beauty stone.” In most places on the coast, there is no natural stone or soil appropriate for producing quality brick, and wooden structures were vulnerable to decay in the subtropical coastal environment. Tabby, called “coastal concrete,” became a popular building material with settlers who wanted homes that could survive the rough coastal storms.
Tabby is created by mixing equal volumes of oyster shells, sand, lime, and water. Early builders would make ash-lime by digging a 4-foot hole in the ground, then setting afire a 10-foot-high kiln of oyster shells and heart pine logs in alternating tiers. The lime would be mixed with equal volumes of oyster shells, sand, and water, then poured in wooden forms 12 inches wide by 18 inches deep. After waiting a day or two, the process is repeated and the walls slowly grow one layer at a time. The exterior of finer homes were then covered with stucco, such as Savannah’s Owens-Thomas House. Tabby ruins are found all along the Georgia coast, and historians once believed they dated back to the Spanish mission period, but archeologists have proven that the ruins date back to colonial and plantation periods.

  (10-2006) Darien Methodist Church
Interpretive Marker

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