Historically attired interpreters passionate about their subject brought Sunbury’s Civil War history to life Saturday at Fort Morris State Historic Site in Sunbury. The site is well-known for its Colonial and Revolutionary War history, but the war that tore apart the nation and families from 1861-65 also impacted Sunbury’s small community.
Fort Morris site manager Arthur Edgar, along with Richmond Hill’s Fort McAllister site manager Talley Kirkland and a handful of dedicated volunteers, greeted visitors to their re-enactment campsite overlooking the marsh on a blustery afternoon. The group offered information on day-to-day utensils the common soldier used during the Civil War, as well as the weapons they carried into battle. The re-enactors also fired a 6-pounder cannon on loan from Fort McCallister.
This type of cannon was commonly used in the Civil War, and had a 1,500-yard shooting range, according to the Artillery Society website, artillerysociety.co.uk.
Edgar said the Sunbury area experienced “light” skirmishes during the Civil War, and spoke about how the town of Sunbury was captured Dec. 14, 1864, when Union gunboats arrived. The capture was considered part of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” according to Edgar.
One day prior, Union forces had burned Sunbury’s church, which was unoccupied at the time, he said. Edgar said the Northern troops allowed local residents to rescue the church’s Bible, which now is inside a display case at Walthourville Baptist Church.
Edgar said Sunbury was considered a fall-back position for Sherman if the battle at Fort McAllister didn’t go well, which it did, he said. Sunbury residents were indirectly affected by the Union blockade along the coast, Edgar said. Talley described the blockade as the “anaconda” plan hatched by Union Gen. Whitfield Scott. Scott’s plan enabled Union troops to “squeeze” the Confederate ports in a blockade from one end of the Southeastern coast to the other over a four-year period, he explained.
“The Sunbury residents had to deal with that,” Talley said.
Edgar said the historic site touches on Civil War history the last Saturday in January. Other annual programs at the site typically include a family day of games on July 4, Labor Day activities, the “Come and Take It!” observance in November that commemorates “Col. John McIntosh’s defiant reply to a British demand for surrender,” according to the Georgia state-park website, and a Colonial Christmas celebration each December.
The 67-acre park offers prime bird watching along with a visitor center and gift shop, seven picnic sites, a one-mile nature trail, a pioneer campground and bus parking. Site hours are from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Cost is $4.50 for adults, $4 for seniors age 62 and older, $3 for kids ages 6-17, and $1 for children younger than 6. Group rates are available with advance notice, according to gastateparks.org.
Call 912-884-5999 or visit gastateparks.org for more information.