Reflections Summer Issue | Volume 17, Number 3 - Page 20

LEGACY and LORE
here were only two fatalities during this two-year naval attack , the most significant of them being the fort ' s commander , Major John B . Gallie . The popular young Gallie took a direct hit to the back of the head from a cannonball while scurrying about the parapets directing his men . The only other fatality by monitor fire , was the camp mascot , a grizzly cat named , “ Tom .” The fort itself would just not fall due to its sand-dune construction . The Union Navy , with all its firepower and state-of-the-art ironclad ships of war , ended up only “ pounding sand .”
On December 13th , 1864 , it took a regiment of 4,000 of Sherman ' s 62,000 troops , under the command of Brigadier General William Hazen , to capture Fort McAllister . The fort was defended by only 230 local “ Rebs ,” including the Republican Blues , a professional fighting militia that had served under the U . S . flag for 50 years before signing on with the Confederacy . Only the ablest of men and volunteers remained to defend Fort McAllister ' s vulnerable back door .
Hazen ’ s battle charge itself lasted only 15 minutes — not even enough time to start a decent wood-burning fire . The resultant siege was mentioned in a letter from one of the Yankee combatants to his wife : Union foot soldier , Francis Bickett , who wrote to his wife Isabella in December of 1865 :
But the actual capturing of Fort McAllister was an all-day event . Fort McAllister ‘ s current Ranger / Historian , Mike Ellis relates , “ It started about 8am . Scouting each other out — counting the other side ' s guns and position . One officer in Hazen ' s regiment started the whole thing off by shooting and killing the camp mule . This made those at the fort scurry for shelter . The actual final attack took only 15 minutes , but the face-off itself was an all-day conflict .”
This was not exactly like the movie where “ 300 ” Spartans fought off one million Persian soldiers — but close . Many historians more accurately refer to the taking of Fort McAllister as “ the Civil War ’ s own version of the Alamo .” Archives will reference Sherman ’ s attack of Fort McAllister in cold black and white : Union : 24 Killed — 110 wounded . Confederate : 16 Killed — 54 Wounded — 195 Captured .
But modern historical accounts can never truly reflect the experience of being there and living through it all . The garrison itself never surrendered but fought until every man was either dead or captured in battle . General Hazen wrote in his own report : “ Each man was individually overpowered ”— meaning — each man had to be .
Fort McAllister was taken by land , not by sea . In doing so , General Sherman finally eliminated any obstacle to his remorseless “ March to the Sea ”— literally . Fort McAllister no longer blocked his view of the Atlantic . Sherman was now able to supply the rear of his own indefatigable forces which freed him to advance on horseback to Savannah , uninterrupted , and unopposed .
Today , Fort McAllister has a lushness of pristine grass-covered mounds and stately oak trees thanks primarily to the philanthropic efforts of Henry Ford , who reclaimed and restored the fort solely for the sake of posterity . The barren waste and blight that was once Fort McAllister ’ s mantle , now lives only amongst old photographs alongside faded handwritten letters in cursive , penned by soldiers and their kin on both sides of the Civil War , each silently looking out at us from the blue and grey folds of the not-so-distant past . •
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