On the Savannah River in Savannah.
Take I-16 East to Montgomery St. (Exit 167B, Savannah / Civic Center /
Downtown - Last exit). In .8 miles turn right on Liberty St. Turn left on
Randolph, then make an almost immediate right on E. President St. This
becomes the President St. Extension. In 1.9 miles, turn left on Woodcock
Road, for .3 miles. Turn right on Old Fort Jackson Road and continue for
.2 miles. Enter through the "Tybee Depot".
Old Fort Jackson is the oldest standing fort in Georgia. Used
extensively during the War of 1812 and the Civil War, Fort Jackson stands
on the River near Savannah and was the home port for the ironclad CSS
Georgia which was scuttled across the river from the fort to keep the
ironclad out of the hands of the Union Army when Union General Sherman
neared Savannah on his infamous "March to the Sea". Being heavily
outnumbered Confederate troops pulled back from Savannah as Sherman pushed
near after taking Fort McAllister in Richmond Hill Georgia.
Fort James Jackson, also known as Old Fort Jackson, has been a part of
Coastal Georgia’s history for nearly two centuries. Named in honor of
Georgia governor and Revolutionary War soldier James Jackson, the fort is
the oldest standing brick fortification in the state. Fort Jackson is also
a National Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of
Historic Sites. The fort is one of only eight Second System fortifications
(a series of forts built prior to the War of 1812) still standing in the
United States. It served as headquarters for the Confederate Savannah
River defenses during the American Civil War.
Nearly obsolete, having Fort Pulaski as a much stronger defense for
Savannah, Old Fort Jackson became the Confederate headquarters for all of
the river defenses guarding Savannah during the War Between the States. In
addition to the numerous earthen work fortifications General Robert E. Lee
had authorized to be built along the rivers surrounding Savannah, the
Savannah River Squadron was formed consisting of a handful of small armed
ships and three new ironclads, the C.S.S. Georgia, C.S.S. Atlanta, and
C.S.S. Savannah, all of which had been built at the Savannah shipyards.
On December 17, 1864, General William T. Sherman demanded the surrender of
"the surrender of the city of Savannah and its dependent forts." The
surrender demand was received by General William Hardee, who commanded the
Confederate forces in Savannah. Rather than fight (General Hardee was
overwhelmingly outnumbered nearly 6 to 1), the order was given to evacuate
the city of Savannah and surrounding defenses on the evening of December
20, 1864. The following morning General Sherman's army marched into
Savannah seizing all military fortifications including Fort Jackson."
Old Fort Jackson is now owned by the state of Georgia, but operated by the
non-profit Coastal Heritage Society. Fort Jackson receives no federal or
state funding for its operations. Thousands of visitors enjoy the fort
every year, including numerous student and scout groups, as well as people
who rent the fort for community events or after-hours gatherings. Old Fort
Jackson is also known for its daily cannon firing demonstrations each
summer, and is the only historic fort in the United States delivering
cannon salutes to passing military vessels.
Visiting Old Fort Jackson
Plan on spending at least 1 hour when you visit the fort. As you leave the
Tybee Depot the site of the C. S. S Georgia is directly in front, near a
cannon embankment. From here continue to the sentry box in front of the
"sally port," the technical designation for the entrance to a fort. The
open land in front of the fort was once a rice field.
After entering through the sally port there is a brief film describing the
history of the fort. A highlight of the visit is the Coastal Heritage
Society exhibits that explain the fort's relationship with the city of
Savannah, weapons used at the fort, and the fort itself. These displays
are located in the casemates (technically a protected chamber within the
fort) beneath the ramparts.
Then comes the tour of the ramparts itself. In addition to the cannon,
there is a beautiful view of the Savannah River and the coastal plain.
Leaving the rampart be sure to visit the privy in the southeast corner of
the fort. Once a day the tidal nature of the river would "flush" it out.