On June 11, 1863 the seaport of Darien was vandalized and burned by Federal forces stationed on nearby St. Simons Island. The town was largely deserted, most of its 500 residents having sought refuge inland. Lost were public buildings, churches, businesses and most private residences. Conducting the raid were units comprised of among the first African-American troops to serve the Union cause, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers under Col. Robert G. Shaw, and the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers under Col. James Montgomery. The burning of Darien, undefended and of little strategic importance, was one of the most controversial events of the Civil War. (Text of historic marker placed by the Lower Altamaha Historical Society and the Georgia Historical Society in 2001). The movie Glory was based loosely on the story of the 54th Massachusetts.
Large crowds were on hand to see reenactors demonstrating all aspects of Civil War camp life and techniques at the Darien Riverfront Park.
The reenactors had as much fun as the visitors and it was a perfect day for such a commemoration.
I suspect that some of the Union reenactors were actually from Georgia, but I can’t be sure.
A canon crew from nearby Fort McAllister State Park was on hand, with hourly firings. This was certainly one of the more popular attractions of the day.
Missy Brandt and Will Wilson pose in front of the Adam Strain Building, which survived (with damage) the Burning of Darien and stands today as the oldest relic of the town’s early history.
Ladies in period dress provided a civilian aspect to the reenactment.
Celebrations of Union victories in the South are still quite uncommon, so it was a fascinating day.
At noon, uniformed reenactors paraded down Broad Street among enthusiastic crowds to the Adam Strain Building for a ceremonial torch lighting. It was nice to see such a huge turnout for this event.
The new Darien Civil War Museum represents wonderful work by members of the McIntosh County Historic Preservation Commission and numerous volunteers. Harriet Langford reports that over 200 people visited the museum during the commemoration. The museum is located on 1st Street, just off U. S. Highway 17 and houses artifacts, including a recreation of the Garey family’s parlor, as it appeared before being sacked by Union troops in 1863.
Reenactors of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Encampment getting ready for the parade.