Before this trip, words that came to mind when I heard the word Georgia:
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”
“Midnight Train” a la Gladys Knight
Words that never ever came to mind: King George II.
(Guess I was snoozing during high school US History classes)
If nothing else, our Southern trip provided a much-needed kick upside the head to remind us that Georgia’s history is tied as much to colonial days as it is to the debacle of the Civil War. Our first lesson along these lines came when we stopped along our way from Sea Island to Savannah to tour Ft. King George near the little town of Darien, GA.
Originally established in 1721 to counter French and Spanish forays into the area, the fort was, at the time, the southernmost outpost of the British empire in North America. The fort was eventually abandoned after 140 of the soldiers posted there died in harsh conditions that brought on camp diseases including malaria and dysentery.
We got a feel for the harsh conditions. Eighteenth-century Georgia did not have strip malls or Netflix. These poor soldiers were marooned in a lonely corner of the “New World” and they didn’t even have dial-up. What they did have was plenty of standing water and the attendant miseries that accompany stagnant ponds and marshes. The park ranger who greeted us at the visitor’s center drawled “Y’all came on a good day; the cool weather knocked down the deer flies.”
Well, not all of them, and I still have the welts to prove it.
We were also treated to plenty of attention from the resident “no-see-ums”. Luckily, we had no encounters with the deadly coral snakes or water moccasins common to coastal Georgia. We did see lots of scurrying fiddler crabs. And, everywhere, the twining bramble of Smilax or “cat brier” that must have daily moved the soldiers to profanity as they attempted to clear the inhospitable land around the fort.
In 1735, after founding the new British colony at Savannah, General James Oglethorpe (who is the only person more famous than Justin Beiber since we saw his name and visage plastered everywhere in this state!) recruited a hardy group of willing Highland Scots to re-settle this spot at the mouth of the Altamaha river and christened it Darien.
Oglethorpe built another outpost on St. Simons Island where guests at The Lodge at Sea Island can watch bagpipers greet the sundown to commemorate the area’s Scots history.
The reconstructed buildings at Ft. King George include a blockhouse, barracks, a guardhouse and other structures. Also on view are the original remains of a 19th century saw milling operation.
If you go: Ft. King George is at 302 McIntosh Rd SE in Darien, GA and is located just a few miles off I-95 on the route from Sea Island to Savannah. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm. Good for history buffs of all ages. Insect repellant recommended in warmer months.
Also of interest along this road is the historic Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation but be advised that the operating hours are not correctly listed on the nps.gov web site. Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation is NOT currently open Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.