Fort Pulaski, built by the U.S. Army before the war, is located near the mouth of the Savannah River, blocking upriver access to Savannah. Fortifications such as Pulaski, called third system forts, were considered invincible, but the new technology of rifled artillery changed that.
On February 19, 1862, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman ordered Captain Quincy A. Gillmore, an engineer officer, to take charge of the investment force and begin the bombardment and capture of the fort. Gillmore emplaced artillery on the mainland southeast of the fort and began the bombardment on April 10 after Colonel Charles H. Olmstead refused to surrender the fort. Within hours, Gillmore’s rifled artillery had breached the southeast scarp of the fort, and he continued to exploit it. Some of his shells began to damage the traverse shielding the magazine in the northwest bastion.
Realizing that if the magazine exploded the fort would be seriously damaged and the garrison would suffer severe casualties, Olmstead surrendered after 2:00 pm on April 11.
Charles Hart Olmstead, CSA
Charles Olmstead (1837–1926), the CSA Commander of Fort Pulaski was born in Savannah, GA on April 2, 1837. Olmstead graduated from Georgia Military Institute in Marrietta, GA. The school was destroyed during the Civil War and never reopened.
Olmstead was appointed major of the 1st Georgia Infantry Regiment on May 27, 1861 and was placed in command of Fort Pulaski, after Georgia milita captured the fort on January 6, 1861. In November 1861, Olmstead had an estimated 385 men and 48 cannons to protect the fort. After a siege and bombardment, Olmstead surrendered the fortress on April 11, 1862 and was a prisoner for several months.