Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Fort Tyler - West Point, Georgia
Often overlooked by those who spend time visiting sites associated with Georgia's Civil War history, Fort Tyler in West Point preserves a fascinating Confederate fort that was a key objective during one of the last battles of the war.
Commanded by Brigadier General R.C. Tyler, a wounded veteran with a reputation for courage, and manned by a force variously estimated at from 12o to 265 Confederate regulars, militia, volunteers and wounded soldiers from local hospitals, the little fort held out against 3,750 Union soldiers for the better part of a day.
The Battle of West Point took place on April 16, 1865, an Easter Sunday. General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his forces in Virginia seven days earlier, but Tyler was not so inclined. When the ladies of the area presented him a flag on the eve of the battle, he swore that he would prevail or die in the effort. He kept his word.
As Fort Tyler came under fire from all directions, the Confederate troops within its walls fought bravely. A Union cannon shot cut the flag halyard, but a 17-year-old volunteer climbed the pole and put the flag back in place. In the end, though, General Tyler knew that the fall of the fort was inevitable. His cannon had been dismounted by Union shelling and his men were falling around him. In a final show of defiance, he exposed himself to the fire of the attacking Federals, walking in clear view until he was shot down.
Tyler was the last general on either side killed during the War Between the States. Fort Tyler surrendered not long after his death, its defenders sustained a loss of 19 killed and 28 wounded.
The earthworks of the fort were eventually destroyed to make way for a city reservoir, but in a remarkable restoration project the underground remains of Fort Tyler were discovered by archaeologists, who provided the information necessary to rebuilt the fort on its original site.
Today Fort Tyler stands again in a beautifully maintained park in West Point. To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/forttyler.