Cannonball discovery reveals long history of forts in Savannah

One of two cannonballs found at a construction site unearths long history of forts

(SAVANNAH) Two civil war cannonballs, discovered on consecutive days at a construction site reveals that plot of land was home to more than half a dozen forts dating back to the founding of Savannah. The site is near the intersection of Broughton and Barr Streets at the eastern edge of the historic downtown district. Aaron Bradford, a military interpretation coordinator with the Coastal Heritage Society, says the area where the cannonballs were found is also the place where a pair of cannon from that era were uncovered in the early 2000’s. Those cannons are now located at Historic Fort Jackson, one of several museums and historic sites operated under the umbrella of the Coastal Heritage Society. Bradford says the discovery of the cannonballs is a wake up call to the history that is still buried in Savannah. “We’re just very excited to have this reminder of our history and we’re very grateful we can do it in a safe way.” Bradford said.

Although lots of the specific history of the forts that were located on the bluff at the eastern end of the downtown area have been lost, like specific ordinance inventories, the existence of those forts is not. “We do know that there was actually a battery position there during the American Civil War that had two, thirty-pounder, sea coast guns like this cannon behind me and also a ten inch mortar. So we do know there was a battery that was there in that vicinity.” said Bradford.

The American Civil War is the last time that area was used as a defensive battery, making it one of the most fortified positions in the South. “And it’s actually said that this stretch of the river was one of the most heavily defended pieces of the entire southern confederacy, so just the sheer volume of cannon and ordinance, I guess helps explain why after these many years later, there’s so much of it to begin with, that it’s still all around us.” Bradford said.

The history of the forts goes back to 1734 according to Bradford. The single plot of land has had multiple names over the last two centuries. “During the Civil War it was referred to as the Bay Battery because it was on the eastern end of Bay Street, but when Oglethorpe first founded Savannah, it was know as Fort Savannah and at one point the patriots called it Fort Bulloch, named after President Archibald Bulloch of the the Patriot government. The British named it Fort Pervost after their general in the Revolutionary War, Fort Wayne was named after general “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a revolutionary war general, so it’s had a number of names over the years.” said Bradford.

Now that site will be home to the Kehoe Foundry and work on that project is what led to the discovery of two civil war cannonballs. Authorities destroyed the old ordinance and Bradford issues a word of caution to anyone anywhere who finds old cannonballs, it’s better to be safe than sorry. “”So even 150 years later these cannonballs that are filled with gunpowder can still be lethal.” Bradford said.

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