Alex: We were driving back home after a wonderful and relaxing weekend in Savannah. We’d spent most of the trip recharging, so we were both feeling a bit adventurous. Heather had the idea to take the next exit with a brown highway sign we saw, no matter what it was. We had no idea what we were in for when we pulled off on Exit 49 for the Fort King George Historical Site.
After a few twists and turns through the tiny town of Darien, we parked and made our way up to the museum entrance. As we opened the door, we found ourselves face to face with a British soldier taking refuge from the heat and humidity. When we paid our admission, we found that we had arrived on the perfect day at the perfect time. The site was filled with reenactors and there would also be various demonstrations throughout the day including a cannon and musket firing down in the fort itself.
We had a bit of time before the explosions, so we took the opportunity to walk through the museum itself before heading back outside. The fortress itself was built by British Colonel John “Tuscarora Jack” Barnwell in 1721. The fortifications were only manned for half a dozen years before Barnwell and His Majesties Independent Company were driven back to South Carolina by the dangerous environment and the threats from the Spanish, French, and native population. The exhibits were very informative, with scale replicas of the fort and a variety of artifacts. The interior was clean and well maintained, and the exhibit on medical procedures and medicines were just as gruesome as they were enlightening (Two words, bleeding bowl!).
It was a short walk from the museum to the fort, but it was incredibly scenic. A few reeanctors strolled ahead of us as we passed the remnants of the sawmill that was in operation from the early 1800s until 1925. Unfortunately, saw milling obliterated the original site of Fort King George, which was painstakingly reconstructed in 1988 with the help of the Lower Altamaha Historical Society and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (see more here). It is always fascinating to see the multiple layers of history existing simultaneously as you walk from the modern day museum, to the turn of the century brick and mortar sawmill operations, and then finally to the fort built of tough seasoned cypress.
The reconstruction is beautifully well done; the wooden palisade juts up from the earthworks and looks just as imposing as it must have looked centuries ago. The four storey wooden blockhouse towers over the area. Today its only manned by locals and tourists armed with nothing more frightening than a digital camera, but it would have been a much more threatening location filled with its garrison of sweaty unhappy colonial soldiers armed with muskets and cannons loaded with grapeshot.
Inside is even more impressive, especially with the troupe of local reenactors. A whole chicken roasted on a stick over an open fire near the enlisted men’s barracks as we wandered around the parade grounds. A family in colonial dress played folk songs long out of fashion. Most of the smaller outbuildings are simplistic one room affairs, but the open kitchen and smithy were worth a look. Inside the fort, the walls seemed less threatening and more reassuring, most likely because the cannons were all pointed in the other direction!