By Keith Skenandore
Last April, Advertiser Community News & Times-Press publisher Ken Hodgden, along with his family, went and visited Fort Pulaski National Monument, located on Cockspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia.
With the Village of Pulaski gearing up for a week-long celebration for Casimir Pulaski Day, a local holiday officially observed on the first Monday of every March, a history lesson of Fort Pulaski was researched.
According to Wikipedia, Following the War of 1812, U.S. President James Madison ordered a new system of coastal fortifications to protect the United States against foreign invasion. Construction of a fort to protect the port of Savannah began in 1829 under the direction of Major General Babcock, and later Second Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, a recent graduate of West Point. The new fort would be located on Cockspur Island at the mouth of the Savannah River.
Wikipedia states, “In 1833, the facility was named Fort Pulaski in honor of Kazimierz (Casimir) Pulaski, a Polish soldier and military commander who fought in the American Revolution under the command of George Washington. Pulaski was a noted cavalryman and played a large role in training Revolutionary troops. He took part in the sieges of Charleston and of Savannah.
According to Wikipedia, wooden pilings were sunk up to 70 feet into the mud to support an estimated 25,000,000 bricks. Fort Pulaski was finally completed in 1847 following eighteen years of construction and nearly $1 million in construction costs.
Walls were eleven feet thick, thought to be impenetrable except by only the largest land artillery- which at the time were smooth bore cannon. These cannons had a range of only around a half mile, and the nearest land (Tybee island) was much further away than that. It was assumed that the Fort would be invincible to enemy attack.
It was during the Civil War, according to Wikipedia, that Fort Pulaski was to be seized.
“Though completed in 1847, Fort Pulaski was under the control of only two caretakers until 1860 when South Carolina seceded from the United States and set in motion the Civil War. It was at this time that Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown ordered Fort Pulaski to be taken by the state of Georgia. A steamship carrying 110 men from Savannah traveled downriver and the fort was seized by the state of Georgia. Following the secession of Georgia in February 1861, the state joined the Confederate States of America. Confederate troops then moved into the fort.”
By December 1861, Tybee Island was thought to be too isolated and unprepared for conflict and was abandoned by Confederate forces. This allowed Union troops to gain a foothold across the Savannah River from Fort Pulaski. Union forces under Quincy A. Gillmore began construction of batteries along the beaches of Tybee.
The seige of Fort Pulaski took place on April 10, 1862.
Wikipedia says Union forces asked for the surrender of the Fort to prevent needless loss of life.
“Colonel Charles H. Olmstead, commander of the Confederate garrison, rejected the offer,” Wikipedia reports. “Fort Pulaski was prepared for a possible infantry attack. However, it never endured a direct land assault. Using 36 guns, including the new James Rifled Cannon and Parrott rifles, Union troops began the long sustained bombardment of Fort Pulaski. The rifled projectiles could be accurately fired farther (4–5 miles) than the larger and heavier smoothbore cannonballs. Within 30 hours, the new rifled cannon had breached one of the fort’s corner walls. Shells now passed through the fort dangerously close to the main powder magazine. Reluctantly, Colonel Olmstead surrendered the fort. Only two soldiers, one Confederate and one Union, were injured in the attack.
Casimir Pulaski was indeed a very important man and deserves to be recognized with a holiday.
When the Village of Pulaski first recognized this holiday the first three years, they had a one-day celebration.
“We knew Casimir Pulaski Days was celebrated in a lot of different areas, so we wanted to get it going in Pulaski,” said Tammy Brzeczkowski.
Now in it’s fourth year, the village will recognize this Revolutionary War cavalry officer born in Poland in a big way.
According to Brzeczkowski, this week-long celebration will take place on March 7 – 13 with many special events already in place.
Brzeczkowski said Casimir Pulaski Week is an event of Promote Pulaski, Inc., which is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that promotes educating, marketing and building business in Pulaski and surrounding communities through our uniqueness.
She said this is a 7-day history lesson.
“We have a lot of history here,” Brzeczkowski said. This would make Pulaski more of a destination.”
She said businesses, schools and organizations have teamed up to create awareness of the history of Casimir Pulaski, the revolutionary war hero whom our village is named after.
“This has really taken off,” Brzeczkowski said. “It’s going very well. “We have a lot of participation and a lot of excitement.”
The planning of Casimir Pulaski Week is now being handled by Promote Pulaski, Inc.
“We are running everything through Promote Pulaski, Inc. from this point forward,” Brzeczkowski said.
Funding was first to get started, and if there are any proceeds, Brzeczkowski said that will be put towards the Promote Pulaski organization.
“Those funds can be used for our next project,” she said.
She said the first event to kick-off the celebration is a a road dedication and ribbon cutting for Casimir Street.
“We thought this would be appropriate,” Brzeczkowski said.
Following the road dedication and ribbon cutting, there will be a social at the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites.
In addition, there will be a coloring contest, window decorating contest, scavenger hunt and business sales, promotions and open houses.
On Wednesday, March 9th, Casimir Paczki Day at Smurawa’s Country Bakery, will have Pulaski in motion, with live music throughout the day.
Visit the Pulaski Museum at night from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and find out what it’s really all about.
On Saturday, March 12, dance to music of the Maroszek Bros., Chad Przybylski’s Polka Rhythms and Polka Dynamics with a polka dance at the historic Zielinski’s Ballroom. This is where the polka bill was signed into law!
Admission is only $10 a person, kids under 16 free, and there will be polish sausage and souvenirs.
Ending the celebration on Sunday, March 13, will be a special Polka Mass with the Maroszek Brothers at ABVM Catholic Church at 10:30 a.m., with a potluck dinner at the church to follow.
There is still time to get involved in the event, and many advertising opportunities are available for Casimir Pulaski Week
For more information on Casimir Pulaski Week, or if you have an organization that would like to register to participate, visit the website: casimirpulaskiday.org , or contact Dawn or Tammy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.