The North came to terms with the harsh reality war and began to implement
Winfield Scott's plan called "Anaconda" - the slow strangulation
of the South. They landed men on Big Tybee Island late in 1861, but
these men concentrated on Fort Pulaski.
With the fall of Pulaski in April, 1862, the Union forces began to plan
their next move. Although taking the city of Savannah was a strategic
goal, the Union commanders had significantly less lofty goals in moving
up the Ogeechee River.
Up the Great Ogeechee lay many vital lifelines to the Confederacy:
The King's Road, via which the harvests of southwestern Georgia were
shipped by cart to Savannah, then moved north on rail cars to the Army
of Northern Virginia; The Ogeechee Road, which led to the great plantations
of the coastal islands; and the Atlantic and Gulf railroad bridge which
brought the harvest, supplies and men from Florida to Georgia's port.
Also, the Savannah and Ogeechee Canal might offer a "backdoor" approach to the lightly defended western side of the port city.
On July 7, 1861 Company A of the 1st Georgia
Infantry ("DeKalb Rifles") was detached and ordered to build
the fort with available materials. Under the command of Lt. Alfred Hartridge,
a citizen of Savannah and graduate of the Georgia Military Institute
the troops constructed the fort to the specifications of Capt. John
McCrady [CS], who is generally credited with building the fort.
In addition to the DeKalb Rifles, a cavalry unit, known as the Hardwicke
Mounted Rifles, protected the fort. Deployed along the land route from
the south and west these men constantly patrolled for federal force
that might land and attempt an attack. The Hardwicke Mounted Rifles
were under the command of Capt. Joseph McAllister. The fort is named
in his honor. He owned the land upon which it was built.
Admiral Samuel Dupont, now sole commander of the expeditionary force
that had taken Fort Pulaski, knew of the fort along the Ogeechee River
as early as June, 1862 when an escaped slave told his men of the fortification.
Dates of battle
July 1, 1862
Fort McAllister came under Union attack for the first time. The gunboat
Potomska sailed into the Ogeechee on the tide, approaching the
fort. Within the range of the fort's cannon an unidentified schooner
sat protected. Lieutenant Pendleton G. Watmough [US] opened fire on
the fort, which promptly returned fire. Outgunned, the Potomska
moved back down the river, but tried to return at night to destroy the
unmarked schooner. By this time the schooner was gone.
July 29, 1862
Fort McAllister came under Union attack for the second time, somewhat
by accident. The Thomas L. Wragg (The Nashville) had been
successfully turned away from Charleston and Savannah by the Union naval
blockade that was becoming more effective. The Nashville broke
through the blockade and headed up the Ogeechee to the protection of
the guns of Fort McAllister.
Coming upriver to deal with the schooner were a handful of Union vessels,
under Commander Charles Steedman, led by the Paul Jones, a heavily
armored side-wheeler with a 100-pounder rifled cannon among the weapons
onboard. In support of the Paul Jones were two 90-day gunboats,
The Umadilla and The Huron and the sloop Madgie.
When the Paul Jones rounded a nearby island shortly after 10:00am
its guns were blazing. The fort's commander, now Captain Hartage, could
tell by the range that the Paul Jones must be using the new rifled
cannon and ordered his men to hold fire. Finally the Yankee side-wheeler
came into range and the Rebel gunners saluted it warmly.
For nearly an hour and a half the cannons blazed. Then the Paul
Jones and the others retreated to safety further down the river.
November 2, 1862
After the encounter of July 29, the fort was reinforced by members
of the Savannah Republican Blues and Martin's Light Battery. In September,
the DeKalb Rifles were ordered to withdraw, a movement they completed
in October. They were replaced by the Emmett Rifles.
While on a scouting mission on November 2, the commander of the Emmett
Rifles, Captain Augustus Bonard, approached the Wissahickon and
the Seneca, two 90-day gunboats near the mouth of the Great Ogeechee.
The Wissahickon pursued the captain until it was within range
of the cannon at Fort McAllister, at which point the Rebel gunners opened
fire. After a brief exchange, during which the Wissahickon was
hit, the Union gun boat withdrew.
November 19, 1862
Captain Bonard was replaced by Captain George Anderson before the events
of this date. At about 8:15am the Wissahickon, under a full head
of steam, brought its guns to bear on Fort McAllister. Behind her were
the Seneca and the Dawn. In tow behind the Dawn
was the mortar schooner Para. As the ships advanced they opened
fire. Their guns continued to blaze until 2:30pm, when they withdrew.
Early in this exchange the Wissahickon sustained serious damage.
January 27, 1863
Command of Fort McAllister had passed to Major John B. Gallie, a Scot
by birth, who had become a successful merchant in Savannah prior to
his enlistment in the Confederate Army.
A Passaic-class ironclad, the Montauk, followed by the Wissahickon,
Seneca, and Dawn (towing a schooner, the C. P. Williams)
approached the fort on January 26. The Montauk laid anchor near
the outer edge of the effective range of Fort McAllister's guns. On
January 27, the ship opened fire supported by the other members of the
flotilla. For almost 5 hours the guns blazed, with the land-based artillery
hitting the ironclad some 15 times without seriously damaging it. When
the Montauk and the other ships finally withdrew it was because the
ironclad had run short of ammunition. This would mark the first sea-land
use of an ironclad ship. The first battle involving the ironclads Monitor
[US] and Virginia [CS] had occurred March, 1862, with the Union
ship under command of John Worden, who now commanded the Montauk.
February 1, 1863
Emboldened by the success of January 27, the Montauk steamed to within
700 yards of Fort McAllister before opening up a withering fire at 7:45am.
The ironclad was accompanied by the same flotilla that had escorted
her on her previous sortie. Roughly a half-hour into the battle Major
Gallie was fatally wounded, an artillery shell exploding near his head.
After an hour of intense fighting the Montauk appeared to retreat to
a position roughly twice the distance from Fort McAllister. The Rebels
were elated, assuming that the boat had retreated because of some unseen
success in the artillery attack. In fact, the skipper of the Montauk
knew the tide was going out and was concerned about running aground.
Once a new position was secure the Montauk continued firing, although
less effectively because of the distance.
Just before noon the Montauk withdrew, her ammunition expended. The
other ships continued to fire on the fort for about an hour.
February 28, 1863
Known under a variety of names (including the blockade runner Thomas
L. Wragg (1862) and the CSS Nashville) the privateer Rattlesnake,
a 1221-ton displacement side-wheeler had been stuck in the Ogeechee
River for months. Loaded with cotton and tobacco, which the Confederacy
wanted to trade for war supplies, the Rattlesnake tried to evade the
tightening federal blockade on a number of occasions, all unsuccessfully.
On February 27, the ship once again failed to make its way out to sea.
Upon its return it ran hard aground near Fort McAllister, well within
sight of the federal ships. It was not long before the Yankees realized
that the Rattlesnake was in an unusual position (no ship would stay
near an artillery battery--it could get caught in the crossfire).
Upon investigation the federal forces surmised the Rattlesnake's problem
and prepared to finish her off the next day. The Confederates on the
boat and in Fort McAllister understood that the only hope for the privateer
was to unload her and refloat the boat, a task that was quickly begun.
However, the tide was against the Rattlesnake and by morning, the peril
was immediate. The Montauk, Wissahickon, Seneca,
and Dawn came down the Ogeechee River to their standard positions,
except the Montauk was further away from the fort. With the Montauk
firing at the Nashville, Fort McAllister firing at the Montauk and the
gunboats firing at Fort McAllister an unusual three-way battle developed.
As the gunners in the Montauk gained the range their accuracy increased,
with artillery shells piercing the pilothouse, deck, and paddlebox.
It was after the shell hit the paddlebox that visible flames were sighted
by the Union gunners, although smoke had been coming from the vessel
for 15 minutes.
In a short time the Montauk was withdrawn from the battle. As
it began to return to the federal stronghold at the mouth of the Ogeechee
River it struck a torpedo, blowing a hole in its side. Commander Worden
ordered the ironclad to run aground to prevent it from sinking. With
aid from the other Union ships the hole was temporarily repaired (with
wood and pine resin), the water pumped out, and the Montauk continued
March 3, 1863
During the final days of February, 1863 Admiral Dupont ordered three
additional ironclads from Port Royal, South Carolina to join the Yankees.
Increased Union presence brought rumors of a federal invasion in Savannah,
but the activity was directed towards the destruction of Fort McAllister.
Joining the Montauk were the first-in-class Passsaic,
the Nahant, and the Patapsco. The three newcomers steamed
up the river with the Passaic in the lead. It laid anchor and
commenced firing at 8:40am.
Fort McAllister had already fired a couple of initial volleys. Fire
from the Yankee ironclads was extremely destructive, creating huge gaps
in various walls of the fort. A number of Rebel cannon were damaged
in the onslaught. Some were repaired and returned to service, others
were simply withdrawn. From the shore opposite Fort McAllister the Hardwicke
Mounted Rifles attempted to pick off sailors and gunners. This attack
was as ineffective as Fort McAllister's guns.
After nearly 8 hours of naval bombardment the ironclads withdrew. This
had been the toughest of all the attacks, with shells reigning upon
the fort, rendering large gaps in McAllister's defenses. Once the Yankee
vessels left, the troops, aided by slave labor, repaired the walls and
cannon, but Fort McAllister no longer interested the federal troops.
The ironclads moved north to attack the defenses of Charleston. As attacks
on the fort became less likely troops, weapons and material were moved
to places the Confederacy deemed more important. The fort remained unbroken,
December 13, 1864
William Tecumseh Sherman marched from Kingston,
through the heart of Georgia. Reaching Savannah on December 10th, Sherman
began to invest the city when cavalry "discovered" Fort McAllister,
lightly manned and guarding a backdoor to the Atlantic Ocean. First
the bridge across the river had to be rebuilt. Manned by 230 troops,
the fort was the only obstacle preventing General Sherman from reaching
the friendly fleet just off the Georgia coast.
Although Sherman could not see the sails of the American Navy from
his perch atop a rice mill, the Union Navy was perched off Ossabaw Sound
loaded with supplies, munitions and a good deal of mail. He signaled
William B. Hazen to advance.
Veteran soldiers manning the parapets of Fort McAllister rained deadly
artillery fire on the advancing bluecoats. Hazen's men faced another
problem as well - the land around the fort had been mined with torpedoes.
In spite of the obstacle, and the fact the men in the fort were veteran
soldiers, Hazen took the fort in 15 minutes.
After Sherman's men contacted the Union Fleet, they were resupplied
from the ships. Sherman began issuing messages north for the first time
in six weeks. Less than a year earlier in Chattanooga a reporter asked
Sherman, "What is your objective?" Sherman mumbled, "Salt water." The
general had reached his objective.
CHARLESTON, S. C., January 28, 1863.
Two enemy's gunboats and three steamers attacked for several hours
yesterday Fort [McAllister], Genesis Point, on Great Ogeechee. Attack
repulsed; nobody hurt in fort. Two steamers went out this harbor
safely last night and one came in with various army supplies.
G. T. BEAUREGARD.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector- General.
GENERAL ORDERS, HDQRS. DEPT. OF S. C., GA .,ANDFLA., No. 23.
Charleston, S. C., February 6, 1863.
The commanding general announces to the forces with satisfaction
and pride the results of the recent encounter of our battery at Genesis
Point, Ga., with an iron-clad of the monitor class; results only alloyed
by the life-blood of the gallant commander, the late Maj. John B.
For hours the most formidable vessel of her class hurled missiles of
the heaviest caliber ever used in modern warfare at the weak parapet
of the battery, which was almost demolished; but, standing at their
guns, as became men fighting for homes, for honor, and for independ-
ence, the garrison replied with such effect as to cripple and beat back
their adversary, clad though in impenetrable armor and armed with 15
and 11-inch guns, supported by mortar boats whose practice was of
The thanks of the country are due to this intrepid garrison, who have
thus shown what brave men may withstand and accomplish, despite
"Fort McAllister" will be inscribed on the flags of all the troops en-
gaged in the defense of the battery.
By command of General Beauregard:
Chief of Staff.