Old Fort Jackson
The oldest standing brick fort in Georgia, Old Fort Jackson (912/232-3945, http://chsgeorgia.org, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., $$6 adults, $5.50 students, free for children six and under), named for Georgia Governor James Jackson, is also one of eight remaining examples of the so-called Second System of American forts built prior to the War of 1812. Its main claim to fame is its supporting role in the saga of the CSS Georgia, a Confederate ironclad now resting under 40 feet of water directly in front of the fort.
Built with $115,000 in funds raised by the Ladies Gunboat Society, the Georgia—wrapped in an armor girdle of railroad ties—proved too heavy for its engine. So it was simply anchored in the channel opposite Fort Jackson as a floating battery. With General Sherman’s arrival in 1864, Confederate forces evacuating to South Carolina scuttled the vessel where she lay to keep her out of Yankee hands.
Maritime archaeology on the Georgia continues apace, with dive teams bringing up cannons, ammunition, and other artifacts. (Unlike Charleston’s CSS Hunley submarine, no lives were lost in the Georgia incident, therefore there are no concerns about disrupting a gravesite.) Every now and then, talk surfaces of raising the ironclad—both for research and because the port views it as an impediment to dredging the channel even deeper—but most experts say it’s unlikely to survive the stress.
Operated by the nonprofit Coastal Heritage Society, Fort Jackson is in an excellent state of preservation and provides loads of information for history buffs as well as for kids, who will enjoy climbing the parapets and running on the large parade ground (this area was once a rice field).
Inside the fort’s casemates underneath the ramparts you’ll find well-organized exhibits on the fort’s construction and history. Most visitors especially love the daily cannon firings during the summer. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be around when Fort Jackson fires a salute to passing military vessels on the river—the only historic fort in America that does so.
Getting to Old Fort Jackson
To get to Fort Jackson, take President Street Extension (Islands Expressway) east out of downtown. The entrance is several miles down on your left.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition