Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Fort Pulaski (May 9)

Last Monday was supposed to be quite chilly and overcast, so we decided to spend the day doing dry-land activities around Savannah. Our first stop was Fort Pulaski, named to honour Casimir Pulaski (a Polish military commander known as the "father of American calvary," who died in the Revolutionary War). Pulaski died in 1779, fort construction was ordered after the war of 1812, construction began in 1829 and was completed in 1847. Confederate troops claimed the fort in early 1861, and in April 1862 Union forces based at Tybee Island conquered the fort using a new "rifle cannon." 

At the time, most known cannons only had a range of a half mile. Tybee Island is about a mile away from Cockspur Island (where Fort Pulaski stands), so the fort wasn't really expecting to be attacked. But...they were. Many shots hit the outer wall and a few landed near the powder magazine on the far end of the fort, spurring on a surrender (for fear the whole fort would blow). 

This fort is known as the fort that rendered brick fortifications obsolete since it was no match for the rifle cannon.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for helping me remember what we learned at the fort).

This is another National Monument that offers a Junior Ranger badge. The kids were quite excited to get to work on their booklets.

Here's our crew heading over the drawbridge and moat to the demilune:

(Rachel took most of the pictures while we were visiting the fort, so she's missing from the group shot.)

Here's Phoebe feeling grumpy about the cold wind:

It was a little mind-blowing for me to consider alligators living in the moat around this fort. Usually when I think of alligators in moats, I think of stories about castles in Europe (though it turns out such stories are generally false; alligators and/or crocodiles simply wouldn't thrive in, say, England or Germany (or France, if Napoleon managed to get a crocodile there, which I haven't been able to verify (though we have read I, Crocodile)). So, no, moats around castles in Europe were not filled with crocodiles.

However, there have been alligators spotted in the moat around Fort Pulaski!

Typically, though, the water in the moat is too salty for alligators to thrive in, so they stick to the marsh farther inland. 

Here's Benjamin in one of the entrances:

The walls were made of a what I assume to be some sort of tabby concrete (lots of shells embedded in there).

Here's sweet Miriam:

And here is Benjamin posing in front of a cannon:

We enjoyed touring through a few of the forts' chambers, showing the barracks and the mess hall and hospital and things like that. 

Notably, because this fort is run by the National Parks Service, rather than by a more local-level office, the signage was rather progressive, including this little display about how words have power, which suggested that we use "enslaved people" rather than "slaves," "enslaver" rather than "master," "forced labour camp" rather than "plantation," and things like that. I honestly find this kind of talk about slavery refreshing. 

Another site we visited (locally run) suggested that the plantation used the "task system" of dividing labour, whereby "each slave is assigned a specific task to complete for the day. After that task is finished, the slave is then free to do as he or she wishes with the remaining time." The wording on the sign, as far as I recall, is very similar to the wording that I pulled from Wikipedia. 

It bothers me because it feels too generous and friendly when in fact, according to Judith A. Carney (in her book Black Rice), enslaved labourers used their knowledge and skills to negotiate a task labour environment, one "forged from the complex process of resistance and negotiation between slaves and planters in which slaves provided critical expertise in exchange for a labor regime that would improve the conditions of their bondage" (p. 100) and make it similar to slavery systems they knew from West Africa (wherein enslaved labourers were given set days to work for their enslavers and other days to work for themselves).

That's all well and fine, but (a) it wasn't great to begin with and (b) it did not last, and I think we need to remember that. Carney notes that "With the consolidation of slavery following the Revolutionary War, the task labor system lost much of its flexibility" (p. 100) and started looking a whole lot more like its nastier cousin, the Gang system, with long days and no breaks.

Anyway, my point is that while it may be true that the plantation forced labour camp we visited may have used the task system, things were probably not as rosy as wikipedia would make it from around 1775 to 1865...that's about 100 years of the task system not really following its own definition. 

So, anyway...words have power:

Here's a picture of laudanum that Rachel wanted (even though the display was in need of repair and we could see that they had simply printed out pictures of old labels and glued them onto empty boxes):

We need to re-watch Mercy Street with the older kids, speaking of laudanum. 

Here are some views inside and outside of various rooms (which you can read about here):

Here's a view of some cannon ball damage on the upper wall of the fort:

And here we are pretending Phoebe's head is a cannonball:

A view of the moat:

The kids all talking about different things all at once:

The kids holding still and smiling for two shakes:

Here's Andrew and Grandpa debating whether or not a cannon from 1862 could really fire from Tybee Island to Cockspur Island (a whole mile). Evidently (with Fort Pulaski being the evidence), they definitely could.

Here's Phoebe looking bored:

A view of the demilune:

Mommy and Phoebe:

Benjamin being Benjamin (he was overjoyed to be here, truly):

A view of the inside of the fort:

Mommy and Phoebe:



Rachel and Miriam looking down a hole/chimney of sorts:

Being on the upper level made me feel a little anxious because there's no guardrail or anything.

I spent a lot of my time screeching, "No running!" and "HANDS! HANDS! HANDS! HOLD HANDS!"

Alexander spent a lot of his time making sure my heart rate was nice a high—by jumping off stuff and practicing his ninja moves.

He was pretty far away from the ledge at this point so I wasn't terribly worried about him falling overboard, but what you can't see is that he has a pencil in his hand. Here he is about to gouge out his eye with the pencil.

Little man—stop jumping! 

He lost this pencil sometime between this jump and heading down this staircase:

Having just witnessed him nearly impale his eyeball, I wasn't terribly upset about the lost pencil...but he was. He cried and cried about how he'd never finish his Junior Ranger badge now. But Andrew borrowed a pencil from someone else (Zoë?) and helped him finish. Andrew also helped Zoë work through a few things in her booklet. 

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself because we're still on the upper level.

The kids rather liked the staircases because they have LEGO stairs that work like this—little wedges with a hole for a center column:

In fact, there was a lot of talk about both LEGO and Minecraft at the fort and the kids have spent a lot of time making models of forts both in the LEGO room and on Minecraft since coming home. At one point in our tour of the fort, Zoë noticed a trap door, as well as...something else...a stone slab in the doorway or something. "Look! A trap door!" she gushed. "And this must be a pressure plate!"

It was definitely not a pressure plate (which in Minecraft can be used to execute a function—like turn on a light or make a door open or close). 

Benjamin really liked this sign with the big blast of the cannon being featured so prominently:

Here we are looking out toward Hilton Head (and many other places):

And now we can all breathe a little easier because at this point we really did go down the stairs to the ground level...somehow without Alexander's pencil. He had the pencil in the picture with Benjamin (above, timestamp 11:11 AM), is poking himself in the belly in the picture with Zoë (also above, timestamp 11:12 AM) and it is completely gone-zo by the time I helped him walk down the stairs (far above, timestamp 11:13 AM). Literally there one minute and not the next. Who knows what happened to it?

But at least we all made it down in one piece, otherwise. Here are some more shots of the inside of the fort:

Look at these sweet sisters:

They are so lucky to have each other, and I'm so grateful that they're usually very much like friends for each other. Sometimes things get tense (with room sharing and so forth) but for the most part they get along royally and I hope they keep it up forever and ever because I just...think that would be kind of have a sister close enough in age that you really grow up together and are just friends. So, that's my hope for these two.

Here's Phoebe giving a snorty-snorty face to someone (she will miss out on the opportunity to grow up with a sister-best-friend, poor thing):

Here's Benjamin interviewing Ranger Joel as part of the requirements for his Junior Ranger badge:

Benjamin was completely in awe. He asked how Ranger Joel became a park ranger. Ranger Joel said that he'd wanted to be a park ranger for years. It began when he was about ten years old. He lived near a different fort and would visit and follow the park rangers around asking questions because he was just so passionate about history and nature. "I was kind of an annoying kid," he admitted. 

"That's me!" Benjamin gasped. 

"At least he's self-aware," Rachel mused.

So because Ranger Joel lived near a national park, he started out volunteering at said national park, which unfortunately Benjamin isn't well-positioned to do. But he minored (or majored?) in history, which was useful, too. But really it was just volunteering leading to summer work leading to full time work leading to...climbing the ladder.

If Benjamin becomes a national park ranger, I'm sure he'll have great stories to tell kids he encounters. If he becomes something else, I don't mind this passion of his in the meantime.

Here's Rachel snorting with Phoebe:

Here's Benjamin in the prison section of the fort:

Here's Zoë looking a little too pleased about being behind bars:

Tee hee:

Oh, her hat! Story time!

This is the hat we purchased last year at Tybee Island when Andrew bought a pair of horrible shoes for Zoë, who'd neglected to pack beach-worthy shoes. And then, even though he'd just purchased them, the store wouldn't give him a refund and instead offered him an exchange. He found a pair of beach sandals that were much cheaper than the original (and very clunky/uncomfortable) ones he'd purchased earlier, so he picked up the hat to make up the difference. And it came in very useful because Miriam got awfully sunburned and needed to shade her face.

Anyway, Zoë packed it to wear back to the beach this year and when we were at Ocmulgee, she had just reached the top of one of the mounds when a gust of wind blew it right off her head. 

Benjamin, ever at the ready, quickly ran after it and caught it before it could blow onto the mounds.

We all cheered.

And then Benjamin chucked the hat. 

We all gaped. 

Fortunately Andrew caught the hat before it could blow away, but we were all just shocked that Benjamin chased it down and then chucked it. Like, hand it off. Don't throw it!

And then at lunch he did the very same thing with someone's mask. It was sitting on the bench, blew off, Benjamin ran after it, caught it, and then tried to throw it to the person.

It was so windy though, so it just got caught on the wind and blew further away. 

Silly kid. 

Anyway, back to the fort prison!

Here are all the Heiss girls posing behind bars:

Phoebe's snort face looked particularly fierce in this environment:

Here's Phoebe testing out the strength (and mouthfeel) of those bars while everyone moaned, "Nooo!"

And here are Alexander and Daddy in prison:

And Benjamin really getting into the part, sitting on his sad, little bunk:

Here we are just before leaving the fort (this time I'm not in the picture because I'm the one behind the camera):

And here's my first attempt at taking a picture of Phoebe with Grandpa, which was ruined when Andrew decided to take that precise moment to smack Phoebe in the face with all the pamphlets he was holding:

And here's a more successful version of the same shot, with Grandpa smirking at Andrew because he knew I was trying to take a picture. Meanwhile, Phoebe is thinking to herself, "Being a baby sure is weird." She honestly wasn't sure what hit her.

We walked around the outside of the fort so we could see all the damage it sustained:

There are still a number of cannonballs lodged in the wall (one of them is in the top, left side of that 7-shaped "scar").

Here's Phoebe getting a little shoulder ride from Daddy:

Here's a little view of the front wall of the fort:

I don't actually know whether that's the front wall or not...more accurately, it's the wall facing Tybee Island. But apparently there were closer-range cannons surrounding the fort as well, so it really didn't stand a chance.

Here's Benjamin deep, deep, deep into imagining he's there in 1862:

At long last we returned to the visitor's center so that the kids could take their oath and become junior rangers of Fort Pulaski:

Pretty big moment!

Ranger Joel even gave them a badge to take home for Waffles. They don't really have a ranger program for cats, but they do for dogs! So they have a little wooden collar charm for Waffles that says "National BARK Ranger" or something like that.

We took our newly minted junior rangers to the picnic area for lunch and then hustled off to our next destination, the Oatland Wildlife Preserve. We had a rather ambitious itinerary for our Savannah Day, so stay tuned!

Here's Rachel and Alexander at the picnic area:

And here's Miriam and Phoebe standing by a couple of trees that I asked them to stand by (I love when my kids are willing to humour me):

1 comment:

  1. We've been here twice. The first time we were able to walk to the little lighthouse, but the second time the trail was closed due to damage from a tropical storm that had come through weeks (months?) before. The details are hazy.

    I love Benjamin's enthusiasm, and his interviewing Ranger Joel!