Darien Georgia Visitor Guide

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Fort King George

Fort King George, a mile east of present-day Darien, was the first English settlement of coastal Georgia. The fort was established to deter French expansion into the Altamaha region, as well as to assert British claims against the Spanish who had maintained a string of missions along the lower south Atlantic coast in the previous century. Fort King George served as a "trip-wire." An attack by either France or Spain against the lonely outpost would represent an act of war against England.


The Georgia colony, when Fort King George was established in 1721, was a dozen years from its birth. South Carolina claimed the coast down to 29 degrees north latitude, just south of the Spanish stronghold of St. Augustine.


South Carolinians also wanted a fort to the south to aid in the protection of their colony. A site was chosen on the first high ground on the north branch of the Altamaha but, instead of strong young fighting men to garrison the fort, the British government sent a regiment of invalid soldiers instead.


Colonel John Barnwell, an Irish settler who lobbied hard for the fort on behalf of South Carolina interests, was appointed to lead the expedition to the Altamaha and build the outpost he called "King George's Fort."


Utlilizing South Carolina rangers and sawyers, including some slaves, Barnwell oversaw the construction of a three-story cypress blockhouse in the fall of 1721 at a total cost of about 1,000 pounds sterling. South Carolinians, who regarded the Savannah River as the practical southern boundary of their colony, now had some security with Fort King George established 65 miles south of that river.


Barnwell had chosen the site well from a military standpoint, but it was not a healthy area, even by 18th century standards. In those days, the only way to preserve meat was to thoroughly salt it. Salt meat tended to rot in hot, damp weather, and nothing was known of the need for fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet. Thus, the men were often sick. Fort King George had a high death rate and burial ground just west of the blockhouse attests to this. The garrison was largely idle as there was little action against the French or Spanish, or their Indian allies.


A fire in 1725 and a haphazard reconstruction of the barracks afterwards left the fort in poor condition, and the garrison was withdrawn in 1727. Two South Carolina rangers were kept on station at the site to keep an eye on enemy movements in the area until 1734. Two years later, Oglethorpe's Highlanders arrived to establish another military outpost on the site.


The fate of the original Fort King George blockhouse is unknown. Since Barnwell designed it to be easily dismantled, it might well have been moved to another location.


In 1988, through a cooperative effort between the Lower Altamaha Historical Society, which raised ,000, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which maintains the site and provided matching funds, the Fort King George blockhouse was reconstructed to the specifications of the original plans by Barnwell. The present blockhouse and surrounding palisades, earthworks and moat are almost an exact duplicate of the Fort as it was in 1721 when Barnwell built it.


The blockhouse, typical of other frontier fortifications in use in colonial America, dominated the fort and offered expansive views of the inland waterways. Fort King George's blockhouse had three floors: the first two floors to serve as repository for ammunition and stores and to provide firing positions for musket-bearing soldiers as well as naval carriage-type cannon; and a third floor for musket defense and observation purposes.

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