Welcome to Darien GA, originally called New Inverness and home to about 2,000 souls. Darien itself was established in 1736, but there was an earlier English settlement here, in 1721. That settlement was actually a fort, strategically built to try to assert English influence in an area that could easily have fallen into the hands of the French or Spanish.
The fort was strategically placed to guard the entrance of the Altamaha river, and for a good while it represented the southern-most point of British influence in the New World.
Meet Valerie Ikhwan, superintendent of the fort and a kind soul of the type that gets a lot done without seeming to break a sweat. She was a big help in getting these photos, and she also helped immensely to help me get tomorrows article, which will be a re-enactment back at Fort McAllister.
The fort is picturesque, sitting on a channel now as the Corp of Engineers diverted the flow of the river years ago to make it a straight shot out of Darien.
It is a beautiful place that would not be possible without the donations of many private individuals and many volunteers that have helped build it back to its original state and keep it maintained. There was a Swiss gentleman here originally who made detailed notes on the fort, its exact positioning and the manner of construction of all of the buildings. So the fort is built very close to how it stood almost 300 years ago.
You are going to have to indulge me for a few photos. A place like this - especially at sunset - affords a lot of great photo opportunities. There are a lot more good shots here to be had. This first one is from the top floor of the main fort out onto the channel to the river. The setting sun adds a beautiful effect to the iron hinged door.
Some of the wood for the fort came from the surrounding land, but the fort was built so it could be assembled, dismantled and moved. So most of the pieces came from South Carolina areas and then was assembled here.
This next one is kinda cool with the lantern. It doesn't photograph as good as it looked in person.
Lots of textures and careful attention to original details.
The fort had a couple of fences and three gates. Of course its primary purpose was to defend the river, so not too much attention was spent on land fortifications. If the enemy was attacking by land, they had in effect already beaten the fort.
A view of the inside wall . . .
. . . and a view of the moat.
Of course, a fort has to have cannon. Here are a few that looked over the river.
More were stationed inside the fort. This gave a bit more elevation. Back in that time period, canon had an effective range of about a mile, and they relied on skipping the cannon ball across the water like a stone. The hope was to hit the ship when it rose on a wave so that you damaged beneath the water line.
When the ships got closer they fired two cannon balls hooked together with a chain in an attempt to tear down the sails and rigging. Still closer they had charges full of pellets that were more for anti-personnel.
Then even closer is this little fellow, who sits on a pivot and can be easily rotated before firing.
There are numerous buildings, including officer's quarters and barracks.
But tonight is a special night at the fort. Once a year they put on a dinner to thank those that have contributed to the fort's building and upkeep.
Tiki lamps have been lit, blazing a trail all the way from the entrance.
Dozens of volunteers have shown up and dressed in period dress for the occasion.
Pictured are Dan Zynda and Micah Hall. Dan works for e-bay and does promotions and photography on the weekends - besides volunteering. Micah is active duty army, and is stationed here in Georgia at nearby Fort Stewart. Both men are Iraqi war veterans, were involved in the invasion under Bush Junior and Micah is also an Afghanistan veteran.
Along with many others, they helped Valarie set up for this event, serve the folks while they were here and then clean up after the event.
Micah tended to the fires - the whole occasion was lit by lanterns and candles, with the exception of electric lights on the Christmas tree.
Those are bunks along the sides of the building - back in the day the men slept three to a bed here. Over 100 men slept in this space. It sure did make a georgious space for this event.
I did not photograph during the event due to concerns about the privacy of the guests. But one regret I have is that I did not photograph the primary musician. He played an instrument called a "Hammer Dulcimer," an incredibly haunting sounding instrument. He was quite good at it. Also four women in period dress regaled the audience with carols.
When you visit, there are a few things you don't want to miss. There is a large welcome center with an auditorium and a museum.
The museum has the largest and best presented collection of colonial medical tools and medicines I have seen yet. There was far too much to photograph, but are the tooth extraction tools.
I just had to have two molars pulled three weeks ago - it hurts to look at those instruments. The one with the wide handle was designed to clamp on a tooth, then the surgeon rotated it and it twisted the tooth out using pressure against the jaw. Ouch, ouch ouch. But when a tooth hurts bad, just having something else hurt seems like a relief.
Here is a chest of all of the medicinal plants and extracts they used. There is a very extensive collection and detailed information on how each was used.
This was a lumber town that was built by selling bald cypress and pine products as ship stores. So also in the museum is a mock-up of an old lumber mill office along with many of the tools. Elsewhere on the site are the ruins of several old saw mills - one of them steam powered and another tide powered. It is neat stuff to read about, and the presentation of the information here is easy to read and understand.
Another thing not to miss is the nature trail. It wanders for just over a mile through pristine coastal hardwood forest. Even this time of year the place hums with life of all manner.
And there is a black-smith shop. There were no demonstrations today, but there are people who come in and show how metal was worked and formed back in that time period.
And for today's parting shot - the Grand Finale. After the dinner and entertainment, they took all the guests outside, loaded and fired one of the cannon. The only did it ONE TIME. I was sure I would miss the shot, because it takes time for the powder to burn down to the hole and you can't really predict exactly when the weapon will fire.
But, as the old saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and than. What a neat display at night - and as you can see by the spark trails, the concussion of the cannon even jolted the camera.
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