03160 - Removing ammunition; Fort McAllister, Savannah, Ga; December 1864 [LC-DIG-cwpb-03159]
Long before Sherman made it his destination on his "March to the Sea", Savannah had been recognized as the most important seaport for Georgia. Approaching Savannah from the water, required passing by the plantation of Joseph McAllister, at Genesis Point. Built in 1861 to protect from attacks from the sea, Fort McAllister was built primarily of earthworks. The Fort consisted of “bombproofs” to garrison the men and protect the ammunition, as well as, earth embankments protecting the artillery positions.
Starting in 1862, the Union Navy began blockading Savannah and attacks on the Fort were inevitable. With the large caliber weapons of Fort McAllister, it was a formidable position to attack. In March of 1863, the Union Navy sent three monitor class ironclads to destroy the Fort. Over eight hours of bombardment caused damage to the earthworks but they readily absorbed the shelling and were easily repaired with fill of new dirt. With the Navy unable to take McAllister, Savannah remained in Confederate hands until Sherman arrived in December of 1864.
The Confederates had built the Fort with attacks from the sea in mind. To defend the Fort in the event of attack by land, they had placed “land torpedoes” (mines). The mines slowed Sherman's approaching troops but was unable to stop waves of soldiers attacking the fort. The defenders were quickly overwhelmed in a fifteen minute battle. Sherman was so incensed with the use of mines that he had the captured Confederates, including all the officers, clear every one of the remaining mines by hand. When the commanding officer of the fort complained, Sherman steadfastly ignored the protest.
Following the war, McAllister quickly fell into ruins. The land was purchased by Henry Ford to supply raw materials to his automobile plants. Surprised to discover tunnels, Ford learned of McAllister's history and restored the Fort in the late 1930’s. Today the Fort is operated as a state park and remains one of the best examples of the use of earthworks from the war.