Fort James Jackson, more commonly referred to as Old Fort Jackson, is part of a system of nine fortifications along the Savannah River and was primarily used in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Located three miles east of the city of Savannah, the structure was built over the remnants of a Revolutionary era building called Mud Fort as a part of President Thomas Jefferson's Second System initiative to enhance coastal defense. Jefferson chose to name the fort after a patriot from the Revolution and former Georgia governor James Jackson. Visitors today can view the structure's many artifacts and witness history come alive at the oldest standing fort in the state of Georgia.
Fearing that relations between the United States and Great Britain were still worsening after the end of the American Revolution, President Jefferson requested that more fortification be installed along the east coast in preparation of any naval attacks by the British. Construction on the fort began in 1808 and concluded just before the beginning of the War of 1812. Soldiers stood guard ready to protect Savannah from British invaders, but never got to see combat during the conflict period though threats did loom of a nearing fleet off the coast. After the war had passed, periods of construction saw the addition to and expansion of the fort during the 1840s-50s.
In the early days of the Civil War, Confederate militias began their occupation of Fort Jackson before it became the headquarters of the army's defenses along the river after losing Fort Pulaski. Citizens of Savannah would look to the fort for protection from the Union Navy, but were no match for General William T. Sherman as he completed his famous March to the Sea. Rather than combat against Sherman's forces, General William Hardee retreated his forces out of the area, allowing Sherman to take control of Savannah in December 1864.
The fort itself saw very limited use in the years following the Civil War, with the last inhabitats being members of the African-American 55th Massachusetts. The War Department de-comissioned the fort for military use in 1905 before the state of Georgia turned the structure into a museum before being controlled and ran by the Coastal Heritage Society. Today, the CHS does its best to provide an imersive historical experience to the many visitors that come to the fort.