Fort Pulaski National Monument | PARK AT A GLANCE

Fort Pulaski National Monument

Fort Pulaski National Monument


Fort Pulaski National Monument preserves the fort that protected the mouth of the Savannah River, deterring enemy ships from launching an assault on the city of Savannah. Constructed between 1829 and 1847, Fort Pulaski’s place in history was sealed when it became the first victim of modern rifled artillery, which rendered masonry forts of its type obsolete.

The fort is named after Casimir Pulaski, a Polish soldier and mercenary who fought for the Patriots in the American Revolution and helped develop the cavalry, which he felt was superior to the infantry. He became a general in the Continental Army and is said to have saved George Washington’s life at the Battle of Brandywine. He died on October 11, 1779, while fighting in the Battle of Savannah.

On January 3, 1861, three months before the Civil War began, Fort Pulaski was seized by the Georgia militia—at the time only two Federal soldiers occupied the fort—then turned it over to the Confederacy when Georgia seceded from the Union on the 19th. Confederate troops also occupied Tybee Island, but when the Union took control of Hilton Head Island in November, an island just seven miles to the north by water, the troops were removed to the safety of the fort, leaving Tybee undefended. At one mile away, and with the range of heavy artillery only being a half mile, the Confederates saw no reason to maintain a presence on Tybee. The Union, however, had other plans. Soldiers took control of the abandoned island a month later and immediately commenced with the construction of eleven batteries that could hold thirty-six cannon, ten of which sported a new rifled-barrel technology.

On April 10, 1862, after Confederate commander Colonel Charles Olmstead refused the Union’s demand to surrender earlier in the day—and why not, they were a mile away—Union forces used rifled cannon to bombard Fort Pulaski. These guns, with their interior barrels cut with spiral grooves, sent bullet-shaped shells spinning like footballs, increasing not only their accuracy, but also their range and velocity. The walls of the “indestructible fort” were breached in less than thirty hours. With gunpowder storage facilities now exposed to incoming shells, the Confederates surrendered the fort back to the Union, and it remained under Union control for the remainder of the war.

Visitors to the park are welcome to tour the grounds and the interior of the fort, either on a Ranger-guided tour or on their own. On Saturdays, park Rangers conduct historical weapons demonstrations, firing actual cannon and muskets. Be sure to first stop at the Visitor Center to see a film about the fort’s history and browse through the museum exhibits.

What may come as a surprise at a historical park is the availability of outdoor activities including picnicking, hiking, biking, fishing, and even paddling. While Fort Pulaski itself is no larger than any other fort in the National Park system, the grounds of the park not only include the entire Cockspur Island, but also McQueens Island, the island across the South Channel of the Savannah River. Granted, much of this is marsh that is inaccessible by foot, but there are plenty of rivers and creeks that you can canoe or kayak on and still be within the boundaries of Fort Pulaski National Monument.


Fort Pulaski National Monument is open from 9 AM to 5 PM every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The park is located on Cockspur Island and is accessed via a bridge. All cars must be back over the bridge by 5:15 PM or they will be stuck on the island for the night. The bridge closes at 4:45 PM for entry into the park.

Operating hours can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to check out the National Park Service’s Operating Hours and Seasons web page for Fort Pulaski National Monument to get the latest schedule.


There is a fee to enter the park. A pay station is located on McQueens Island right before the bridge to Cockspur Island. If this is not manned, pay your entrance fee at the Visitor Center. For the latest prices, visit the National Park Service’s official Fees and Passes web page for Fort Pulaski National Monument.


Visitor Center
allow 45 minutes

Fort Tour
allow 1.5 hours

Hiking Trails
allow up to 2 hours

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Last updated on April 3, 2022
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