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Guardian of Savannah

Fort Mcallister, Georgia, in the Civil War and Beyond

Roger S. Durham



Published: Jul 24 2008




OA Ebook



The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

The remarkable story of how an earthen fort defense shielded a Southern city from the ironclad monitors of the U.S. Navy

Built out of sand and mud, Fort McAllister was designed to serve as the southern anchor of the coastal defenses of Savannah, Georgia. Hastily constructed near the beginning of the Civil War, the fort was situated on the Great Ogeechee River, twelve miles south of the Savannah River. During the war, Fort McAllister withstood devasting naval assaults and served well the aims of Confederate strategists. When the city fell to Union troops, it was General William T. Sherman's overland attack and not an assault from the sea that subdued Savannah.

Roger S. Durham offers a comprehensive history of the Fort McAllister's construction and its use during the Civil War, as well as its post-war restoration. Durham intertwines historical narrative with first-person accounts and personal stories through the judicious use of primary sources. By letting the fort's Confederate defenders and Union attackers speak for themselves, Durham offers a compelling account of one of the most hotly contested sites in the naval struggle between Union and Confederate forces.

Roger S. Durham is the director of the U.S. Army Heritage Museum in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Durham is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Georgia Southern University. His other books include High Seas and Yankee Gunboats: A Blockade-Running Adventure from the Diary of James Dickson and Fort McAllister.

"This fascinating book will be enjoyed by any student of the war."—Blue & Gray Magazine

"Durham brings impressive, even impeccable, credentials to the telling of this story... no one is better qualified to do so."—Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Durham has produced a readable, accessible, and highly gripping account of Fort McAllister."—The South Carolina Historical Magazine

"Guardian of Savannah is a much-needed study of Fort McAllister which includes discussion of a number of examples of Civil War technology and innovations. Ironclad warships, torpedoes, and rifled cannons all make their appearances here in this story of the earthen fort and its small band of defenders. Roger Durham is to be commended for explaining how these military technologies were utilized and how the lessons learned at this Georgia fortification had wider implications for this war and others."—Jeffrey Seymour, Auburn University

"In the winter of 1862–1863, a little-publicized duel took place along the Great Ogeechee River of Georgia, twelve miles south of the city of Savannah. The adversaries were newly constructed iron warshipspitted against a massive coast defense position built of the simplest materials: mud and sand. Roger S. Dunham has collected a large number of first-hand accounts by participants on both sides and quotes freely from many of them to narrate the story of the 'Guardian of Savannah'. Readers of Civil War history, especially naval warfare and the history of forts, will find much to savor here."—The Journal of America's Military Past

"In this exciting tale of dirt versus iron, Roger Durham provides an outstanding history of Savannah's Fort McAllister, an earthen battery that withstood numerous attacks by Union ironclads before finally succumbing to a land-based assault. Through his thoughtful interpretation of the facts and his use of defenders' narratives, Durham captures all aspects of life and duty within the walls of this coastal fortification. He also carries the story forward to present day in his discussion of the preservation efforts that have established Fort McAllister as a popular historical site. Guardian of Savannah will appeal to students and enthusiasts of Civil War, Georgia, and maritime history as well as anyone with an interest in preserving our nation's rich and complex history."—Daniel Brown, superintendent, Fort McAllister State Historic Park

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