Siege and Battle of Fort Pulaski - Savannah, Georgia
Siege and Battle of Fort Pulaski - Savannah, Georgia
|Dungeon of the Immortal Six Hundred
This iron cage once sealed the damp dungeon were
the Southern heroes remembered today as the
Immortal Six Hundred once were confined.
Immortal Six Hundred
A monument to the men of the
Immortal Six Hundred stands
in the small burial ground at
Fort Pulaski, Georgia.
Scene of a War Crime
The men of the Immortal Six
Hundred were confined here
in 1864-1865 and subjected
to an intentional starvation
diet by the Union Army.
Immortal Six Hundred - Georgia & South Carolina
Six Hundred Southern Heroes
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: February 22, 2013
Civil War Sites in Georgia
Fort Pulaski Cemetery
Some of the dead of the
Immortal Six Hundred are
buried here in the small burial
ground at Fort Pulaski.
Suffering and Death
Subjected to a starvation diet
and deprived of heat, clothing
and shoes, the men of the
Immortal Six Hundred
suffered here at Fort Pulaski.
The Immortal Six Hundred were a group of
Southern heroes subjected to intentional war
crimes by the U.S. Army during the closing
year of the War Between the States.
Their ordeal grew from the ongoing battle for
control of the vital Southern city of Charleston,
South Carolina. Union artillery on Morris
Island had been bombarding civilian areas of
Charleston for months in an intentional
campaign of terror against the citizens of that
beautiful but war-weary city.
Fed up with this deliberate targeting of
women, children and other noncombatants,
Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones (then commanding
the Department of South Carolina, Georgia
and Florida) notified his Union counterpart,
Maj. Gen. J.G. Foster, that he was resorting to
...Five general officers and forty-five field
officers of the Untied States Army, all of them
prisoners of war, have been sent to this city
for safe keeping. They have been turned
over to Brigadier-General Ripley,
commanding First Military District of this
department, who will see that they are
provided with commodious quarters in a part
of the city occupied by non-combatants, the
majority of whom are women and children. It
is proper that I should inform you that it is part
of the city which has been for many months
exposed day and night to the fire of your guns.
Jones' notification to Foster, dated June 13,
1864, that he would use 50 Union prisoners
of war as human shields to save the lives of
women and children in Charleston electrified
the U.S. Army. General Foster replied three
days later, calling the move an "act of
Foster then requested that Washington, D.C.,
authorize him to use an equal number of
Confederate prisoners of war as human
shields to protect not civilians, but the very
walls of his artillery batteries. He was given
an "equal" number of Confederate prisoners
by order of the War Department.
Before these Southern officers could be put
in place before Foster's ramparts, however,
he received an unexpected letter from the
Union prisoners of war in Charleston. They
had learned of his plans from the city's
...We think it just to ask for these officers
every kindness and courtesy that you can
extend them in acknowledgement of the fact
that we, at this time, are as pleasantly and
comfortably situated as is possible for
prisoners of war, receiving from the
Confederate authorities every privilege that
we could desire or expect, nor are we
unnecessarily exposed to fire.
Jones sent a letter of his own to Foster,
offering to exchange the prisoners then in his
custody. The Union high command refused,
however, and instead ordered that an
additional 500-600 prisoners of war be sent
to Morris Island for use as human shields.
These additional prisoners also came from
the Northern prison camp at Fort Delaware
and left that place believing they were on their
way to be exchanged. Instead they found
themselves packed into the hold of the ship
Crescent City in conditions they compared to
the "Black Hole of Calcutta."
As the steamer made its way south, its first
mate tried to slip bread and meat to the
prisoners but was caught doing so and
thrown into irons by the commander of the
Throughout the journey, the prisoners were
told they would be exchanged. But finally, as
they neared Charleston Harbor on
September, 7, 1864 - after spending 18 days
crammed into the hold of they Crescent City,
they were told they would be used as human
shields for the Union gun batteries on Morris
On September 8, 1864, Brig. Gen. Rufus
Saxton reported that the prisoners had been
placed in the line of fire:
...I have the honor to report that on yesterday
the Rebel prisoners of war were safely
landed and placed in the stockade in front of
On the second day that the prisoners were in
place on Morris Island, the Union cannon
they had been placed to protect suddenly all
opened fire on Fort Sumter and Charleston.
Confederate gunners across the harbor
replied, doing their best to avoid hitting the
men of the Immortal Six Hundred.
Having failed to provoke the Confederates
into shelling their own men, the Union
officers then subjected the prisoners to an
intentional starvation diet of four hardtack
crackers at breakfast, one-half pint of soup
and lunch and nothing for supper.
After six weeks confinement on Morris Island,
the men of the Immortal Six Hundred were
moved to Fort Pulaski near Savannah,
Georgia. There they were informed by their
new commandant that he had requisitioned
food, blankets and other supplies for them
but that his request had been denied.
Instead, Col. P.P. Brown of the 127th new
York told them that he had been ordered to
feed them only "ten ounces of corn meal and
one-half pint of onion pickle each twenty-four
hours, as a ration, without salt, meat, grease,
The prisoners also were deprived of clothing,
shoes, blankets and warmth. Confined in an
iron cage inside the walls of Fort Pulaski,
their health grew worse and one by one they
continued to die.
The men of the Immortal Six Hundred were
intentionally starved by the U.S. Army for
sixty-three days. Scurvy erupted among them
and the rate of sickness and death became
alarming. As one of the prisoners later
wrote, "It was a pitiable sight to see human
beings being starved to death by a
government claiming to be civilized, humane,
Snow fell in Savannah on Christmas Day,
1864, and reached a depth of 4-inches on
the parade ground of Fort Pulaski. The
prisoners, however, were allowed no
additional clothing, no blankets and no fires.
They became, prisoner J. Ogden Murray later
wrote, "walking skeletons."
After Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman took
Savannah at the end of his March to the Sea
in December 1864, his medical officers
inspected the condition of the prisoners at
Fort Pulaski and were shocked. On February
7, 1865, Brevet Maj. Gen. C. Grover, who had
been placed in command at Savannah by
Gen. Sherman, reported that the prisoners
were "in a condition of great suffering and
exhaustion for want of sufficient food and
clothing." He urged that they be helped.
Instead, their suffering continued with no
relief. Prisoner Murray later wrote:
...Language cannot describe our condition
during the last days at Fort Pulaski, on the
corn meal and pickle diet. Words are
inadequate to make the picture. No pen can
draw the ghastly picture and horrors of those
days and nights....
The prisoners did note the humanity of their
guards at Fort Pulaski. Humiliated by the
treatment of the human beings they were
compelled to guard, soldiers from the 127th
New York often slipped them loaves of bread
and other items of food.
The survivors of the Immortal Six Hundred
remained at Fort Pulaski until March 1865
when they finally were loaded aboard ship
and taken back to Fort Delaware. Thirteen of
their comrades remained behind in the
swampy soil of Cockspur Island where Fort
Pulaski still stands today.
By the time they left Georgia, the men had
become heroes to the people of the South.
Subjected to intentional torture and starvation
because a Southern general dared to
threaten to use Union prisoners of war to
stop the U.S. Army from firing on civilians,
they were remembered by the people of the
South for generations. Their memory is
fading now, but their story is one that the
nation would do well never to forget.
A monument to the men of the Immortal Six
Hundred can be seen today in the small
cemetery by the moat of Fort Pulaski. It was
placed there by the Georgia Division, Sons of
Confederate Veterans, on October 27, 2012.
The thirteen men buried at Fort Pulaski came
from six different Southern states: Florida,
Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina,
Tennessee and Virginia.
The cemetery and the fort itself are open to
the public daily. Please click here to learn
Please click here to read their story as written
by one of the survivors.
Guns of Fort Sumter
On the second day the men of
the Immortal Six Hundred
were imprisoned before the
Union batteries on Morris
Island, the Federals opened
fire on Charleston to provoke
a Confederate response.
Maj. Gen. Samuel Jones, CSA
The commander of Southern
forces in Charleston in 1864,
Gen. Jones tried to stop the
Union shelling of civilians
there. He later commanded
Confederate forces at the
Battle of Natural Bridge in