Haunted Fort McAllister | Civil War Ghosts in Savannah

The Ghosts of Fort McAllister

Savannah's haunted Civil War Fort

Most people know that the city of Savannah is haunted with all sorts of ghosts, ghouls and spirits. It's even considered one of the most haunted cities in all of the United States.

However, not many people realize that the entire Savannah region, more commonly known as the Low Country, has its share of haunted locations and ghost stories as well. The Civil War was fought here, the Revolutionary War was fought here . . . Human beings were kept in chains and tortured, right outside of what has become the modern-day city of Savannah.

The History of Fort McAllister: The Haunted Fort on the Ogeechee River

One of these haunted locations is Fort McAllister, about 30 minutes south of the city of Savannah. Situated along the tranquil Ogeechee River, Fort McAllister was built upon the original plantation of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Longworth McAllister. McAllister himself would ultimately die in 1864 in the midst of one of the Civil War battles in Virginia.

During its history, there were four battles fought at Fort McAllister. Used as a military fortification by the Confederate Army, For McAllister was expertly placed along the river and for many years kept the citizens of Savannah safe from attack, especially during the American Civil War. Due to the fort's strategic location, there was always at least one waterway which could be used to bring trade into and out of Savannah. Even more, its positioning made it difficult for opposing forces to try and enter Savannah . . . or leave.

And if the fort's location was not enough of a threat, the weaponry stationed at Fort McAllister were quite intimidating. The fort was equipped with ten massive guns, as well as a holding place for the "red-hot shot." These were cannonballs that when fired, and if they caught their prey, were able to set wood ablaze almost instantaneously. (Greek fire times ten, if you will). These cannonballs and other artillery facilities were more than capable of destroying any Union gunships who dared to try and make its way up the Ogeechee River past the fort.

A photo of one of the canons at Fort McAllister at sunset, which is located just outside of Savannah Georgia
The canons at Fort McAllister

Between 1862 and 1863, the forces at Fort McAllister warded off not one but seven attacks by the Union navy forces. That the Union tried to storm Savannah by sea was fortunate for the troops stationed at For McAllister--while the military fortification had been built with the navy in mind. Because of the complicated earthen works, the fort held strong. Until 1864, that is.

On his way across Georgia, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman made his way to the outskirts of Fort McAllister. His troops were malnourished, starving and in desperate need of supplies. Those supplies were waiting just offshore in a Union ship. Sherman sent cavalry south to the fort and determined that his men could take the Fort with a single, sudden attack. The army swept in through Genesis Point, a narrow strip of land that did not allow for much movement. But the Union troops caught the Confederates by surprise, which was entirely Sherman's plan.

Sherman himself stood perched across the way at the Cheves rice plantation, watching the battle below from his hidden vantage point. The battle was over in a quick, fifteen minutes. Without forewarning, without having realized that Fort McAllister might be attacked by land--for which it had not been built to withstand--there was little to be done in the way of defending the fortification. Confederate Major George W. Anderson's forces conceded to the Union, and General Sherman swooped in to take over the fort . . . as well as the city of Savannah, too.

The Ghosts of Fort McAllister

During the attack at For McAllister, Union and Confederates soldiers both suffered casualties--even despite the fifteen minutes that the battle lasted. Of the 4,000 Union soldiers who had swarmed the 120 Confederates, the Confederates were nearly decimated with 71 casualties. Some of the fighting was particularly brutal, where the butt end of muskets were used as brutal clubs and hand-to-hand combat was the norm.

The earthworks of Fort McAllister, where a Civil War Battle was fought in 1864, located just outside of Savannah Georgia
The earthworks of Fort McAllister, where a Civil War Battle was fought in 1864.

After the close of the battle, Fort McAllister served a prison camp for Confederate soldiers who were captured along the upper Georgia coast. It remained a prison camp for the remainder of the Civil War, where the imprisoned were often forced to do menial labor for the Union troops. This included digging the land for torpedoes. While there isn't evidence to suggest that the casualty rate at the Fort McAllister prison came anywhere near the total travesty of Andersonville Prison, Fort McAllister was not all so pleasant for those who were stuck.

It seems that some of these soldiers have apparently decided to stay at Fort McAllister in the form of Ghosts or Spirits.

An illustration of prisoners at Fort McAllister, one of Savannah's haunted forts
An illustration of prisoners at Fort McAllister, one of Savannah's haunted forts

Over the years, many of the Rangers have reported all sorts of ghostly phenomena. The most disturbing account of events involve park employees who have occasionally seen a headless soldier standing on the earthworks that make up the Fort. This ghost is said to be the ghost of Major Gallie, a Confederate Major who was killed at the Battle of Fort McAllister. How anyone can know the specter's identity is beyond us . . . you know, because he doesn't have a head. Whomever it is, it must be a ghastly sight to behold (sign me up).

In the 1930's Henry Ford (yes, THAT Henry Ford) had the fortifications on Fort McAllister repaired and rebuilt as he owned the nearly 5,000 acre plantation. It is said that he asked the men doing the work to spend their nights in the fort to prevent looting while work was going on, especially as after the close of the war the fort had fallen into complete disrepair.

Only, there was not a single night that passed after Henry Ford's demand that any of the men spend the entire night in the fort. Those who tried complained of hearing strange noises; of hearing people shouting military commands in the dead of night and more. There was the sounds of canon fire as well as the moaning of those in pain. These events were so unnerving that the grown men who were told to stay and repair the fort, hardly ever lasted long.

But perhaps one of the most interesting ghostly inhabitants of Fort McAllister may be the ghost of a cat which is occasionally seen wandering around the Fort. While this ghost may be the easiest to dismiss as something of our world, it is fun none-the-less. The idea that even our animal companions can stick around is an interesting and heartwarming thought.

Touring Fort McAllister

Fort McAllister is about 30 minutes south of Savannah, and is well worth a visit should you be seeking a little bit of time away from Savannah itself.

During the day you may visit the Park and tour the Fort. Be sure to speak with the Rangers, who have probably more ghost stories than we could ever imagine. However, at no time--under no condition--are you allowed to be at the Fort at night. So, there you have it, don't blame us if you are stupid enough to try and get caught.

For more information on visiting Fort McAllister please visit their website or call them at 1-912-727-2399.

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