One of the must stops in Savannah is the National Historic Landmark, the Old Fort Jackson (Fort James Jackson). Fort Jackson may no longer be an operational fort (good thing too, considering it was built in the nineteenth century), but it has been painstakingly restored, and offers interactive programs for the entire family and daily live cannon demonstrations.
Fort Jackson is located on the Savannah River, just a couple of miles from the hotels of the downtown area; so, it's a quick and easy trip. When walking the historic grounds of the fort, you are treated to amazing views of the riverfront and will quickly find yourself in agreement, that it is indeed a must stop for any visitor.
Considered to be one of the oldest brick forts in the United States, the Old Fort Jackson celebrated its 200th year birthday back in 2008 (creeping up on the 210 mark, get the happy birthday grandpa cards out). Every year, more and more people (in the thousands) come out to see the fort.
Most who have visited the old Fort Jackson have claimed that despite its beauty, there is something in the air that can suddenly give you the chills. So much so that it feels like someone or something could jump out at you at any given moment. Some of these individuals visit Fort Jackson for its historical importance, at the time not knowing of its haunted reputation . . . but upon leaving the fort there is no doubt left in their mind that the place is indeed haunted.
Whether you see a ghost or not (in this case you probably should hope not to) the Old Fort Jackson is without question worth visiting for its historical grandeur alone.
The Fort James Jackson (better known by the moniker Old Fort Jackson) in Savannah was constructed under the authority of Thomas Jefferson (the 3rd President of the United States), right on top of an old English Battery from the time of the American Revolution. The fort was named in honor of James Jackson, a man who was British by birth and American by choice.
During the revolution, Jackson joined the cause, via the Georgia militia. Jackson quickly rose through the ranks to become a colonel (at only twenty-five years of age). He went on to become a politician, serving as a U.S. Congressman and later a U.S. Senator, before finally becoming the Governor of Georgia. Jackson died about two years before the ground of his namesake fort was broken.
Fort Jackson was part of a fortification system, issued with the goal of defending the young nation from any and all threats that may arise. Jefferson's decision to fortify the coast was mainly due to his concerns over a possible attack by either the ever bitter fish across the pond (the British), or the tempestuous French.
The site for the fort was chosen for its ideal location—it was the perfect spot for defending the City Of Savannah from any attackers traveling by sea. The construction process of Fort Jackson began in 1808, and was completed just four years later in 1812.
The completion of the fort was quite fortuitous (pun intended), as the War of 1812 had commenced. Both local militias and U.S. troops were stationed at Fort Jackson. After the British were sent home (yet again), the fort went under additional construction. Including a moat (gators?) and a drawbridge (castle style, yo). They also built brick barracks, a rear wall (makes sense, right?), privies (also a must) and an extra gunpowder magazine.
The Old Fort Jackson saw action again during the Civil War, when it, along with Forts McAllister and Pulaski, were tasked with defending the city from the Union soldiers. The Old Fort Jackson became the headquarters for the Confederate's defense of the Savannah River. The commander of the Old Fort Jackson was Savannah born, Colonel Edward Clifford Anderson.
The fort that was so successful in keeping Savannah safe from the British in the War of 1812, failed to do so against General William T. Sherman and the Union Army on December 20th, 1864. General Sherman and his men forced the Confederates to abandon Fort Jackson, driving them from their home of Savannah and across the river to seek refuge in South Carolina.
A few months later on April 26, 1865, the Confederate troops of North Carolina and South Carolina (joined by the men of Savannah), surrendered to General Sherman and his men in Durham, North Carolina.
In 1884, Old Fort Jackson's name was changed to Fort Oglethorpe, and continued to operate for purposes of defense under the U.S. Military. However, in 1905 its official designation was discontinued, and the Engineer Department took over responsibilities for the Old Fort. Later that year, the name Fort Jackson was restored.
Nearly two decades afterwards, the Old Fort Jackson was purchased by the City of Savannah, who wished to repurpose the Old Fort into a park. The task proved to be a rather difficult one to actualize, facing delays brought on by the Great Depression, World War II and many other obstacles. It would take just over fifty years (1976) before Fort Jackson was finally renovated in full and was finally able to open to the public.
Fort Jackson and its grounds, which are soaked with blood, are as haunted as any location that can be found in the City of Savannah, and it for this reason that the Old Fort should be treated with great respect. The story of military life that the fort tells is a history lesson without words. It's an experience that one can only fully comprehend by feeling the atmosphere it presents.
When walking around the Old Fort it is easy to become overwhelmed. There's an unsettling energy in the air, an energy that was wounded and left to scar for centuries. Those who have visited the fort have claimed to witness many unexplainable occurrences and some even reportedly have had paranormal encounters.
The most common form of paranormal activity to transpire at Fort Jackson are the disembodied sounds of phantom footsteps. The footstep are believed by most to emanate from the ghosts of soldiers, the very soldiers who died valiantly to protect the City of Savannah. These ghostly soldiers roam the fort's grounds, and guard its walls with an implacable wariness toward any of those who choose to visit. British and Yanks beware.
One ghost story about Fort Jackson that has been told more than once originates back to the Civil War, just before the Confederates had been defeated by the Union Army and forced to abandoned Fort Jackson. One of the Rebel soldiers had attempted to assassinate his lieutenant, as he was obviously displeased with his commanding officer.
The rebel soldier's name was Patrick Garrity, who held the low rank of private, and his commanding officer was Lieutenant George Dickerson. The story behind Private Garrity's discontent remains a bit of a mystery, though some speculate that Lieutenant Dickerson was anti-Irish and anti-Catholic, and thus treated Garrity and the other Irish immigrants serving under his command rather poorly.
As the haunting story goes, Private Garrity was at his post guarding the drawbridge when Lieutenant Dickerson arrived back to the fort from an unknown outing. Garrity used this opportunity to finally take care of his problem once and for all.
As Dickerson neared, Garrity attacked him with his musket. The assault was so violent that it was alleged that Garrity actually cracked Dickerson's skull in four different places, and that he didn't stop hitting Dickerson until his musket broke in half.
Once Dickerson's most trusted minions took notice of the incident, they charged to their lieutenant's aid. Garrity then fled the scene, and, according to legend, he jumped in the moat to evade capture. Apparently, Garrity tired from the assault (or perhaps was just not a strong swimmer) and drowned in the water.
As for Dickerson, he somehow was able to survive the attack, but was unable to remember the assault and claimed the he had no idea what prompted Garrity's actions. Dickerson never fully recovered from the incident, and was forced to step down from his command. So, while Garrity died, he achieved his goal of dethroning the lieutenant.
Throughout the years, there have been numerous reported sightings of a spirit appearing in the same spot where Garrity was said to have viciously attacked his lieutenant. For this reason, many people believe that this spirit must be the lost soul of Private Patrick Garrity.
One person who claims to have witnessed the ghost of Private Garrity, was the site manager, Greg Starbuck. Greg's encounter occurred late one evening, when he was closing the fort after a long day of work. It was then he saw something walking in the shadows, and apparition of whom looked to be a Civil War soldier. Upon closer examination of the ghost, Greg said that the soldier appeared to be a rebel as his coat was a shade of gray. Not wanting the press his luck, Greg stepped back from sight, then recorded his account in the logbook and swiftly left for the night.
Every year a Fort Jackson reenactor is honored with the Garrity Award for their dedication. The award itself is shaped like the very Civil War Musket that Garrity used to assault Dickerson. Apparently, the ghost of Garrity takes offense to the award being named after him. And, as a result of his displeasure, every year something rather mysterious happens to the award. This has actually been the case going back to the first recipient of the Garrity Award.
As the story goes, the honoree noticed one day that a piece of the musket had seemingly disappeared. However, the missing piece of the musket later emerged at the drawbridge of the Old Fort Jackson. Yep, right where Garrity savagely beat Dickerson. A former attendant at the Old Fort, Daniel Grisette, claims that he has found countless broken musket pieces near the drawbridge over the years. One would think by now that they would have gotten a clue and changed the name of the award. Why on earth would you provoke a spirit, especially one that is prone to such violence?
Other spirits of fallen soldiers have been spotted at the fort by employees and visitors alike. Some of the ghosts seem to be out strolling about, almost in a leisurely way; while other spirits possess a greater intensity, manning their post to keep a watchful eye. It's uncertain whether these guardsman are looking for the tea drinking redcoats or those damn yanks.
One encounter, which happened some odd years ago, involved a newly hired cleaning lady. On her first actual day on the job, just after they had closed for the evening, she had entered into the fort to begin cleaning. Not long after, she began to hear loud disembodied noises. She stood up to look around to see what was causing the commotion, but when she turned around she was shocked to see a full form apparition of a Confederate soldier standing in a nearby doorway. Frozen in fear, she just stood there as the soldier glared at her. After a few moments, the soldier vanished into thin air. Once the lady was able to snap out of her petrified state, she quickly left.
She never returned.
Sightings of these soldiers are not at all uncommon. As Greg Starbuck (the manager) put it, many people have experienced "an eerie feeling" overcome their bodies, just before witnessing a mysterious form take shape in the shadow, and upon stepping out from the dark corners of the fort, the ghost reveals himself, still fully dressed in military garb.
These encounters tend to happen after hours, and usually when there is only one attendant working. The ghosts of these soldiers are believed to be the reason for why the Old Fort has such a high turnover rate. But, can you really blame the attendants? After all, who wants to work alongside a crazed rebel ghost?
If you're look for a morning or afternoon adventure before heading out on one of our tours at Ghost City (of course), we suggest that you head out to the hauntingly majestic, Old Fort Jackson. It can be found just off of the Islands Expressway, located at 1 Fort Jackson Road (I wonder how they came up with that name).
Yes, it is true that the Old Fort Jackson is the oldest standing brick fortification in the State of Georgia, and is one of only eight forts built in the country as part of the Second System Fortification, just prior to the War of 1812 that still stands to this very day. Yes, Fort Jackson is a historic marvel, and one that should be appreciated.
But this Old Fort is so much more than a tourist attraction—it was the final site of many men who perished by the hands of war.
Today, the Old Fort Jackson is owned by the state, and run as a museum, operating under the direction of the Coastal Heritage Society. The fort is open from 9 am to 5 pm almost everyday.
The small entrance fee is worth the price, just for the Old Fort's serene view of the Savannah River. But, don't become too complaisant when touring Fort Jackson, since you never know when a ghostly soldier may feel threatened by your presence and take supernatural action.