In keeping with our apparent Civil War theme for homeschool social studies, we visited yet another fort. Fort Pulaski is right outside of Savannah on the way to Tybee Island and it’s not to be missed. We picked up the Junior Ranger workbooks for the boys and got right to work. We were just in time for a Ranger-led tour and lucked out with a funny, engaging guide who knew so much about the fort and the Civil War in general that she made the experience super enjoyable. And she was only 23. I don’t know why that surprised me. But she made me want to be a Park Ranger when I grow up. My favorite things about this fort are the moat around it (a moat! cool!) and the fact that there’s a Union cannonball lodged in the side of the fort still.
Fort Pulaski, thought to be invincible, was built before the Civil War (1847) to block upriver access to Savannah but had only 2 caretakers living there until 1860 when the Governor of Georgia decided to take the fort, which he did easily with 110 men. In 1861, Confederate troops moved in and prepared for attack. Union troops then set up at Tybee Island with a new weapon – the rifled gun – thought to be able to penetrate the 7 1/2 foot thick brick walls plus thick concrete piers of Fort Pulaski. And that it did. On April 11, 1862 the Confederate flag came down and the white sheet of surrender went up the flagpole. <<Talk about a nutshell. There’s SO much more to this story. So much to learn about the Civil War!
Then, all the sudden, it was Thanksgiving. On the road. In an Airstream. With no oven. Okay. We can do this, I says to me. So we slacker-cooked a Thanksgiving feast for ourselves including a 7 pound turkey (with no limbs) on the grill (YUM!), microwave mashed taters, stove top stuffing, canned cranberry sauce and green bean casserole in the convection oven. Nailed it. The store bought pumpkin pie completely sucked (at least the boys scarfed it down happily) and we were missing family and Grammy’s pumpkin pie with a shot of liquor in it. But otherwise we felt pretty darn good about our first traveling holiday. Before this feast, we spent a few hours on the beach at Tybee Island. I can think of worse ways to spend Thanksgiving.
Our last big field trip while in Savannah was to buy day passes to the on/off trolley to see the city and hear some history. While it was pricey, it was a great way to be able to hit all the touristy highlights and get a little flavor of Savannah. The many “squares”, or parks, here are covered in the shade of some seriously old and impressive live oaks complete with ornamental fountains in many of them. The architecture is amazing as well. I could have walked the city for hours and hours. Alas we had children to whom we had promised ice cream and they were reminding us of that fact every 7 minutes or so. Leopold’s Ice Cream was everything it was talked up to be. Although I really like all the ice cream, so I’m probably a horrible judge since it’s all good. We stopped in this awesome little gallery (the dude abides) full of local artists’ work in the City Market and fell arse over teacup in love with a group of giclées depicting pop culture through several decades. Funky place. Anyway…pictures of pretty, historic buildings and some Jerry Lee Lewis–Great Balls of Fire (a la Goose and Maverick of course) on the jukebox. And the red brick building in the last picture was the cotton exchange in the 1800s. Cotton prices would be set here.
“The original building was built in 1872 when export revenue from cotton was $40 million when Georgia was the leading cotton producer in the country, and Savannah was one of the major cotton seaports on the Atlantic. By the 1880s the area was known as the “Wall Street of the South.” Ironically the current building was constructed when cotton was only selling for as little as ten cents a pound. But it was a little insect, the boll weevil, which finally rendered the building obsolete by 1920.”
On our first drive through Savannah we weren’t sure we were going to like it that much. It didn’t feel charming or quaint but it did feel congested and maybe even dirty? As the week progressed and we got to experience more of it and the area, we saw the beauty, the richness of history, the quirks and we were digging it.