Fort McAllister traveled back in time Saturday with its annual Winter Muster and Battle.
Spectators braved rain and low temperatures as they toured the state historic park and observed nearly 150 living history actors prepare to re-enact the 1864 Battle of Fort McAllister.
Union and Confederate re-enactors clashed at the edges of the fort in the battle’s final assault at 5 p.m. Reports from cannon and rifles sounded, and smoke clogged the air as Confederate troops tried to defend the fort against its northern aggressors.
Despite a valiant effort, however, the outcome of the battle remained unchanged, and Union forces overwhelmed the fort — clearing the way for Maj. Gen. William Sherman’s infamous siege of Savannah.
Fort McAllister Park Manager Danny Brown has organized the annual reenactment for the past 25 years.
“We use living history because people can understand and remember what took place,” said Brown. “It’s not just a state park. Real people died here.”
In the actual battle, which took place 147 years ago Tuesday, more than 4,000 Union troops descended on Fort McAllister, outnumbering the Confederate troops nearly 17-1. The final assault only took about 15 minutes, and casualties were high for the Confederate side.
“By commemorating the attack every year, we remember the lives of the soldiers on both sides and their devotion to their convictions,” said Jim Dunigan, who has participated in the last 13 musters. “It takes a lot of strength to fight for what you believe in — doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong.”
This year, Dunigan played the role of Capt. George Nicolls, commanding artillery officer for the Fort McAllister garrison.
“Artillery. I love Artillery,” said Dunigan. “Nicolls, he’s my favorite character. He doesn’t get a scratch on him.”
In addition to the battle, re-enactors also portrayed daily life in the Civil War-era fort.
Women in period dress served cornbread and wassail to spectators in the one-room plantation home onsite, and blacksmiths gave demonstrations outside the fort.
Re-enactors cooked gumbo over on an open fire and answered questions from guests about life during the Civil War.
Samantha Taylor, a living history actor from Sarasota, Fla., said the event was a good time for the actors as well the guests.
“The ambience is great, and it’s really fun to share stories around the fire with the other re-enactors,” she said.