“Light on the Past”

with Sarah Pearson Jones

Sarah Jones

FORT SCREVEN – Tybee Island, GA

Few visitors to Tybee Island ever realize that there was once a military base on our small island.

The history of Fort Screven, Georgia is a short one; but one that has left its mark on Tybee with the concrete batteries that remain a permanent fixture on the north end of the island.

Here’s the scoop:

1872 It was announced by the United States government that a new fortification would be built on Tybee Island.

1875 The United States government acquired 205 acres on the north end of Tybee Island for the purpose of protecting Tybee Roads, Calibogue Sound, and the city of Savannah.

1897 The first phase of Fort Screven was begun. Originally called Fort Tybee, the name was changed to Fort Graham in honor of Brigadier General Montrose Graham, Commander of the Atlantic coast defenses. Thomas Lynch was transferred from New Jersey to oversee the repair of Fort Pulaski. Before the job was completed he was transferred to Fort Screven to supervise the building of the new fort.

1898 Six weeks before the United States declared war on Spain Fort Graham was officially named for Brigadier General James Screven, a Revolutionary War hero.

1904 By the early 20th century Fort Screven was in full operation and included six Endicott Period Fourth System batteries, an officers row of housing, headquarters buildings, a fort village which included additional housing and post service buildings, quartermasters area, post hospital, and a regimental parade ground.

1921 It was decided that many of the United States military bases should be closed in an attempt to downsize.  Fort Screven was one of many that was chosen to be deactivated. Shortly after the decision was made all but two officers and thirty men were transferred from Fort Screven and all but three of the big guns were dismantled and sent to other fortifications.

1923 With much fanfare, the 8th Infantry arrived in Savannah. They were the last troops to arrive home from Germany. The Washington Guns were fired; the city’s bells rang; and receptions, parades, and speeches were held all over the city to welcome them home. William Randolph Hearst provided his own private train to transport the men to Fort Screven. The 8th Infantry would stay at Fort Screven until the outbreak of World War II.

1932 Lieutenant George C. Marshall became the commanding officer of Fort Screven. Marshall’s first step as commander of Fort Screven was to build up a relationship between Fort Screven’s soldiers and the citizens of Savannah.  The Mayor of Savannah during this time sent Marshall some crepe myrtles to be planted around the fort.  Some of these can still be seen today around Jaycee Park

1933 The Civilian Conservation Corps  (CCC) came to Fort Screven. Fort Screven was chosen by the government to be the primary location for the CCCs’ training, and used as an administration center for a diving and salvage school. The purpose of the diving and salvage school was to train the Port Repair soldiers on how to make repairs to bridges and structures, and clear sunken ships and ordinances from under the water. Most times this was a very dangerous job with little to no visibility.

1944 In August the United States War Department announced that Fort Screven would be closing. On October 21, 1944, Fort Screven’s deactivation took place. The state of Georgia declined purchasing the fort’s property and on November 27, 1945, the federal government sold Fort Screven to the town of Savannah Beach (now named Tybee Island) for $200,000.

Until next month,


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2 Responses to “FORT SCREVEN”
  1. Robert Hatcher says:

    Thank You for all th cool things you guys are doing. My main focus has been Fort Screven. I am fascinated with Tybee History. One thing I never see or hear about is the Battery directly across from the police station. It seems oddly out of place and some what different than other Batteries. Does it have a name? Are there any early photo’s of it available. What was it’s function? Thanks and keep up the good work !!!

  2. Editor says:

    Thanks for the comment, Bob! You are so right about Tybee’s rich history. I would refer you to Sarah Jones at the Tybee Light Station concerning the history and function of that particular battery off Van Horn. She often writes for this publication about such fascinating subjects – her articles may be found under the heading “Light on the Past.” Her e-mail address is

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