150th Anniversary of the Burning of Darien

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.

14 thoughts on “150th Anniversary of the Burning of Darien

  1. Pingback: 10 Places: Black History in Coastal Georgia | Vanishing Georgia: Photographs by Brian Brown

  2. thesparklingseahorse

    Great photos, Brian. We live in Michigan, and we love coastal Georgia. We really enjoyed walking around Darien a few years ago. We were staying on St. Simons Island, and took day trips to Brunswick, Darien & Jekyll–need to get back to Jekyll!

  3. Tammy Johnson

    I live in Alabama and here we have they Mill that was not destroyed by the troops that made the rifles used in the war and there is also one In DC in the museum. This is also the home to Camp 1921 I believe. I really don’t know that much about it but know a lot of people in it.
    I love your pictures and the info I just found this site recently. I would love to visit when some of the venues when they have things going on. Where can I find out about the things in Ga?

  4. Gail Williams

    Thanks for the photos of Darien. I love reading about History, mostly of American history. Thanks for all the photos you take about Ga. Again when I look through your photo’s I like to imagine my family walking and living there.

  5. grover chester

    thank you very much for the pictures. i appreciate them more than you know. again, thank you. grover

    On Sun, Jun 16, 2013 at 9:09 AM, Vanishing Coastal Georgia Photographs by

  6. Peter Winn Martin

    Good story about a tragic unnecessary event. You may know that this event was successfully used in defense of Confederate troops who raided a bank in New England late in the war asan example of similar union acts during the war. I’d say the burning was much worse.

  7. Pingback: 150th Anniversary Commemoration of the Burning of Darien | Vanishing South Georgia Photographs by Brian Brown

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