History Lesson: Ft. King George

Before this trip, words that came to mind when I heard the word Georgia:

Peaches

Peanuts

“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)

King George II of Great Britain (wikipedia image)

King George II of Great Britain (wikipedia image)

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.

The reconstructed Ft. King George

The reconstructed Ft. King George

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.

This memorial honors the soldiers who died at the fort in the 18th century

This memorial honors the soldiers who died at the fort in the 18th century

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.

Deer fly. Gross. And HUGE.

Deer fly. Gross. And HUGE.

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.

Smilax is known for forming "inpenetrable thickets"

Smilax is known for forming “inpenetrable thickets”

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.

The Altamaha River at Ft. King George (polloplayer photo)

The Altamaha River at Ft. King George (polloplayer photo)

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.

A bagpiper greets the sunset on St. Simons Island. (image from Squiddoo.com)

A bagpiper greets the sunset on St. Simons Island. (image from Squiddoo.com)

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.

outbuildings at Ft. King George (polloplayer photo)

outbuildings at Ft. King George (polloplayer photo)

(polloplayer photo)

(polloplayer photo)

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.

And everywhere, the live oaks festooned with Spanish moss. Great memories!

And everywhere, the live oaks festooned with Spanish moss. Great memories!

Next: Savannah!

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
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5 Responses to History Lesson: Ft. King George

  1. Batts says:

    I’ve really enjoy reading these posts on your blog, good for you guys to be out there enjoying life, God knows you’ve earned it!!

  2. dizzyguy says:

    Ft. King George reminded us of the frequently extreme hardships taht befell those first Europeans to establish lives in The New World of North America. When you see the crude barracks, outhouses, fortifications upon which their lives depended, etc. you come to understand the degree of risk they were all exposed to. Casualty rates are hard to figure but they would have been very, very high over say a 5-10 year period (doubtful the garrisoned soldiers had R&R leaves either).

  3. Jean Gutsche says:

    So THAT is what King George II is all about. Very interesting! You are intrepid travelers!

  4. Katherine says:

    By George I think you’ve got me interested in traveling to the south AND picking up my history books. Never a dull moment reading the blog (or in blog-writer’s travels.)

  5. pollo amigo says:

    Thanks for your research and sharing. If we ever visit there, we will definitely use your travel tips.

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