Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

When you head to Georgia’s Coast this Independence Day holiday, there’s much more to do than just see fireworks. The state’s coastal towns have their own annual Fourth of July celebrations in addition to other family-friendly festivals and events planned.

Independence Day on the Georgia Coast

Photo Credit: Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations, Inc.

Summer Classic Movies at the Ritz (July 2, 2015) – Get into the patriotic spirit by stopping by The Ritz Theatre to see a showing of the classic James Cagney movie Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Brunswick’s Old Fashioned 4th of July (July 4, 2015) – Mary Ross Waterfront Park is home to an evening filled with family-friendly fun. There will be free watermelon slices, live musical entertainment, games and a fireworks display set to patriotic music to wrap up the evening.

Red, White & Blues on the Bluff (July 3, 2015) – Hosted by the Darien-McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce, this festival invites residents and visitors to the shores of the river to listen to live bands and chow down on food from vendors while they wait for the fireworks display to start.

Canons Across the Marsh at Fort King George Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Artillery drills, musket firing and activities to get you better acquainted with a soldier’s life are on the schedule for this Independence Day at the Site. Also, free watermelon and lemonade will be served.

Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island Independence Day Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Jekyll Island will be celebrating the holiday all day on July 4th with beaches open and historical grounds begging for exploration. In the evening, gather near the Jekyll Island Convention Center to see the fireworks display.

Sunday Funday on Jekyll Island (July 5, 2015) – Bring a picnic from a local restaurant or snack shop and spend the afternoon on the Village Green where there will be a magician and face painter ready to entertain the kids.

Independence Day Colonial Faire at For Morris Historic Site (July 4, 2015) – Offering period appropriate games of skill, colonial music, musket firings, cannon firings and the usual park recreation opportunities, you family’s day at the park also comes with free admission in honor of the holiday.

Richmond Hill
Independence Day Celebration at Fort McAllister State Park (July 4, 2015) – Bring your family to the park to celebrate Independence Day like it’s 1864. There will be games, food, living history demonstrations, canon firing and musket demonstrations throughout the day in addition to the park’s other recreational activities.

River Street Fourth of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Starting at 4 p.m. town visitors and residents are invited to River Street to celebrate Independence Day, Savannah style. Fireworks are scheduled to begin at dark.

Starland District’s First Friday Art March (July 3, 2015) – Explore local art and culture by experiencing the monthly art walk. July’s March will include an indie market, kids art activities and free trolley service.

Sea Island
The resort community has family-friendly fun planned from July 1-5, 2015 including the Family Olympics, the Ice Cream Sundae Challenge, a fun run, barbecue, luau, parade, fireworks and much more! The entire schedule of events is available as a PDF here.

St. Marys
4th of July Celebration (July 4, 2015) – Family-friendly fun lasts all day long on Independence Day in the quaint Georgia town of St. Marys. From a parade to arts and crafts to food vendors to rides for kids to a street dance, there’s something for everyone. At night, there will be one of the largest fireworks displays in the Southeastern United States lighting up the sky.

St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island Sunshine Festival (July 3-5, 2015) – Pier Village is home to the festival that highlights the region’s best art including painting, pottery, jewelry, woodcraft, photography and garden art in addition to the annual 1 mile fun run, 5K race and July 4th fireworks display.

A Little Light Music Concert featuring Mason Waters and the Groove Allstars (July 5, 2015) – Locals and visitors are invited to gather on the grounds of the historic St. Simons Lighthouse for an evening concert before heading to face the workweek.

Tybee Island
Fourth of July Fireworks on the Pier (July 3, 2015) – You can spend your day on the beach, visiting friends, and taking advantage of local dining but be sure to leave enough time to head to the Pier on Tybee Island where they’ll shoot off fireworks around 9:00 p.m. on Independence Day.

Market at the Light House (July 5, 2015) – Shake off the Saturday revelry for a relaxing morning browsing the food, goods and more at the market.

Eileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Civil War Wednesday: The Burning of Darien

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw

The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect January 1, 1863, and afforded African-Americans in the North the opportunity to volunteer for active service in the Federal army, and Governor Andrew of Massachusetts wasted little time in calling the men to arms. During February 1863, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw took charge of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry – by month’s end, 1,007 soldiers and 37 officers drilled in Boston.[1]

Colonel James Montgomery

In late May 1863, the regiment boarded ships and headed to Hilton Head, South Carolina, with the knowledge the Confederate Congress recently authorized the return to slavery of captured African-American soldiers. White officers leading black troops faced death or punishment as determined through the courts. Soon after their arrival at Hilton Head, Shaw and the 54th joined forces with Colonel James Montgomery and his Second South Carolina Volunteers, another African-American regiment. Montgomery, supposedly operating under direct orders from the department commander – Major General David Hunter – ordered Shaw to take their combined forces up Altamaha River toward the port town of Darien, Georgia.

Lithograph showing the 54th Massachusetts attacking Battery Wagner

Once the troops neared Darien on June 11, Montgomery, who believed the port operated as a safe haven for Confederate blockade-runners, and served as the hometown of some of the South’s wealthiest slave owners, began shelling the vacated town. Local residents, fearful of the Federal blockade ships of the nearby coast, fled from Darien weeks earlier. Once the soldiers entered the town, Montgomery ordered his troops to begin looting and burning the various buildings. Shaw protested against assisting, but when Montgomery pressured with threats of a court-martial, the young colonel of the 54th relented and ordered some of his men to apply the torch. In a letter to his wife, written the day after the action at Darien, Shaw lamented, “Besides my own distaste for this barbarous sort of warfare, I am not sure that it will not harm very much the reputation of black troops and of those connected with them. For myself, I have gone through the war so far without dishonor, and I do not like to degenerate into a plunderer…there was not a deed performed, from beginning to end, which required any pluck or courage.”[2] President Abraham Lincoln, fearing repercussions from Hunter’s activity along the coast, relocated the officer to another theater. Just over one month after the shame of their involvement in the destruction of Darien, the men of the 54th would prove their mettle in leading the assault on Battery Wagner.

[1] “The 54th Massachusetts Infantry,” History, (accessed May 20, 2013).

[2] Russell Duncan, ed., Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999), 343.

ms2Michael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center. He is a Civil War historian, author, and newspaper columnist, and a member of the Society of Civil War Historians. He serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and assists the Friends of Camp McDonald as a Civil War consultant.

The Civil War Center