A trip to Fort McAllister on Saturday was like taking a step back into the Antebellum South, complete with Civil War era guns, clothing, food preparation and even a blacksmith.
The fort hosted its annual Memorial Day weekend celebration Saturday with a Civil War living history. Civil War "soldiers" were in full dress, and visitors were able to learn about the uniforms, guns, cannons, marching, bugle calls and watch a blacksmith shape metal to be used at the camp.
Danny Brown, park manager at Fort McAllister, said these types of living histories are typically done on holiday weekends throughout the year. He said it’s important, especially at Memorial Day, to honor those that have served in all wars. He said the living history was a way of doing that.
"Especially with troops in Iraq we need to honor all the troops that have fallen and served our country," he said. "And these types of (activities) keep the kids interested in that."
Brown, who has been actively participating in living histories and Civil War re-enactments for more than 34 years, said events like Saturday’s are great history lessons.
"This doesn’t just help people learn about the history, but they’re able to experience the history and heritage as well," he said.Rick Phillips of Richmond Hill serves as the captain of the 8th Georgia Infantry re-enactment group out of Savannah. He started re-enacting about 15 years ago and has since discovered relatives who fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy.
Phillips said he enjoys re-enacting because of the education part of it.
"The thing I enjoy most is being able to teach what the Civil War was like," he said. "I’m not pleased with how most books depict the war. Books can’t teach you what you can learn coming out and seeing it."
Phillips taught a mini-course on the guns and dress of the Confederate soldiers, explaining how the guns are loaded and fired and having a group of men demonstrate. He also taught visitors about the varying uniforms worn by the South – unlike the consistent blue uniforms worn by the North – saying many were home-made and others taken from the battlefield.
The lesson was wrapped up by explaining some of the bugler’s calls, and with the firing of the cannon, which was one way the Confederates held off Union troops from the Ogeechee River.
Dee Proman of Richmond Hill said she enjoyed the events on Saturday.
"It was really interesting," she said. "I really enjoyed it and learned a lot."
Fort McAllister was constructed in 1862 as a protection against Union ships trying to access the Ogeechee and Savannah Rivers. In December 1864 the Union forces conquered the fort during General William Sherman’s famed "March to the Sea."
Mainly created to protect the rivers the fort was never intended to be protected from a land attack. The fort fell 15 minutes after thousands of Union soldiers attacked by land.
The fort was re-opened in 1963, 100 years after it fell to the Union forces.