Islands played a surprisingly large part in the Civil War. Indeed, the war began on the island fortress of Fort Sumter. Throughout the rest of the war, islands served as key strategic points, prisons, and refuges. Many of these sites have been preserved for posterity. If you find that you enjoy Civil War history as well as visiting islands, some islands stand out as points of interest.
Edisto Island, South Carolina
Edisto Island is an hour away from Charleston and has a long history. Natives lived on the land for thousands of years before Spanish missionaries arrived in the 1500s. In fact, the island gets its name from the natives that inhabited it — the Edistow tribe.
Cotton grew important in the 1800s, and planters on the island became very wealthy for their particular variety of cotton. During the War, planters largely abandoned the island, leaving slaves to live ‘free’ lives for the remainder of the war.
Travelers can visit numerous places of interest on the island. A good place to start is the Edisto Museum. Additionally, the National Register of Historic Places includes dozens of locations on the island, including the ruins of plantations and the remains of slave cabins.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island, just outside Savannah, has a similar early history to many east coast islands. Before Europeans arrived, natives inhabited the island and gave it the name Tybee, which means salt. Subsequent centuries saw the island change hands between French, Spanish, and British rulers until it became part of the colony of Georgia.
During the Civil War, Union troops used Tybee as a staging ground to construct batteries of a new weapon: the rifled cannon. The Union used these new cannons to pulverize nearby Fort Pulaski, which Confederate troops surrendered after only 30 hours of siege.
Visitors can enjoy numerous attractions on Tybee. The Tybee Island Light — a colonial-era lighthouse — still stands and is a popular tourist attraction. The Tybee Island Museum provides a good overview of the history of the island. Remains of the cannon batteries built during the Civil War still exist on the island, including Battery Garland, a museum in a former battery. Fort Pulaski is nearby as well and is a National Monument.
Tybee Island is popular with visitors and boasts several hotels and resorts. If you decide to stay on the island, you can find hotel reviews and make a booking online.
Georges Island, Massachusetts
Located near the entrance to Boston Harbor, Georges Island occupies a very strategic location. Agriculture dominated the island until 1825, when the U.S. government occupied it for coastal defense.
The island played an important role during the Civil War in two capacities. First, it served as a training ground for Union troops from Massachusetts. Second, it served as a prison for Confederate soldiers. Notably, the island hosts the only Confederate monument in Massachusets, dedicated to the soldiers who died while in prison. Fort Warren still stands as a historic monument.
Visiting these locations can be fun and enlightening. If you’re looking to learn more about the Civil War, you’ll enjoy these spots.