Built in 1861, Fort McAllister is the best preserved earthen fort constructed by Confederate forces during the Civil War. Along with Fort Jackson and Fort Pulaski, Fort McAllister protected the city of Savannah, home of one of the South's most important seaports. Given the strategic importance of the fort, flotillas of Union ships, including the famed ironclad ships that were created during the war, bombarded the fort on several occasions. However, the fort withstood the attack owing to its thick sand and earthen walls. The Union captured this fort thanks to the efforts of the army rather than the navy in 1864, when the city was surrounded and its forts were captured by General Sherman.
Fort McAllister was the last of the three forts to fall into Union hands. Its capture marked the end of Sherman's infamous March to the Sea campaign, during which the Union army plundered food and supplies and destroyed almost anything of use to the Confederacy.
Captain John Grady designed the fort. Upon inspecting it in 1861, General Robert E. Lee recommended it be enlarged to better withstand heavy bombardment, which of course was proven correct. The Union ironclads—the Montauk, Passaic, Nahant, and Patapsco—could not damage the fort despite having some of the biggest cannons of the time, especially the Montauk which featured 11 and 15-inch guns. The fort itself was only defended by a few hundred soldiers and in no way could withstand Sherman's attack with a far larger force. The battle itself only lasted 15 minutes. Henry Ford bought the property in the 1930s and began efforts to restore it. In 1958, the International Paper Company bought the property and gave it to the State of Georgia. The state worked with preservation groups and historians to restore the fort to match its appearance in the middle of the Civil War, prior to its capture by the Union army.