The Fort Hawkins Commission’s most commendable attribute has been their dedication in postponing any development of the site until professional archaeological research could be done to determine how to accomplish this overdue need.Despite years of setbacks in the fort property ownership plus hollow or thwarted promises of funding, the Commission’s perseverance paid off with the nearly entire fort block being successfully purchased in 2002 with thecollaboration of Mayor C. Jack Ellis, NewTown Macon, and the Peyton Anderson Foundation.This provided the opportunity to conduct the much need archaeology, and this research has been critical and crucial in the understanding of the real Fort Hawkins and the preparing of this site development plan.
The Edward Douglass Irvine illustration of Fort Hawkins that appeared in the 1879 Butler’s History had for some time been the only “evidence” of the fort’s original construction save for two confusing 19th century photos of the fort. Most future Fort Hawkins renderings would be based on Irvine’s with only minor differences, but some show only one blockhouse standing alone, based no doubt on the 1937 replica.Sadly the original plans to Fort Hawkins were destroyed when the British burned Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812.This truly horrific event in American history has been often overlooked at best and forgotten at worse. This time period in general is treated in such a way despite it being a dramatic and crucial turning point in U.S. history.Fort Hawkins was an important part of this national history, but its chronicles for the most part were lost to time – until now.
The Fort Hawkins Commission’s due diligence is further reflected by their refusal to believe completely in Butler’s description or the 1936 and 1971 digs and preventing the premature rebuilding the fort.All of these works, although commendable, have been held suspect with more questions than answers provided.Furthermore, both investigations seem to imply that the Fort Hawkins School damaged most of the site’s architectural and artifact resources, which is far from the truth, as the recent research has dramatically uncovered.The evidence in the ground has conclusively contradicted almost all previous data.
As the archaeological research began at the Ocmulgee National Monument in 1933, archaeology as a real science was only beginning to emerge.Some credit this local dig, done in conjunction with the National Park Service and the Works Progress Administration, as being the beginning of modern archaeology.In fact, the Society of Georgia Archaeology was created here at this same time. In 1936 one of the Ocmulgee archaeologists, Gordon R. Willey, was sent to oversee a cursory dig at the Fort Hawkins site.Although no formal report concerning the fort was ever produced, his twelve pages of field notes are available in the Fort Hawkins Commission Archives at the Washington Memorial Library in Macon.Willey’s greatest accomplishment was to document the southeast blockhouse footprint allowing the blockhouse replica to be erected on its exact location.
In 1971 the Fort Hawkins Commission hired Richard Carrillo to conduct a two-week dig to investigate the site further.With this limiting time and still evolving archaeological practices, little substantial data on the fort was discovered despite finding portions of the palisade wall and brick remnants.Carrillo’s greatest contribution was in deducing that the fort was not nearly as large as Butler had claimed.Carrillo’s 45 page formal report is also available in the Fort Hawkins Commission Archives at Washington Memorial.Opening these Archives in 2006 was the first major Bicentennial project of the current Commission.This Archives is accessible to the general public and documents and protects the complete history of the Fort Hawkins Commission and Fort Hawkins.
The current Fort Hawkins Commission’s patience paid off tremendously when in 2005 the LAMAR Institute was contracted to begin a third phase of archaeological research.Led by President Daniel T. Elliott, this five-week dig gave us an accurate outline of the fort for the very first time.The contributions of this dig are too numerous to mention, but in this short amount of time nearly 40,000 artifacts were found, with several brick buildings and only one of wood uncovered, and the clear evidence of two fort configurations realized.The stunning 260-page report, Fort Hawkins – History & Archaeology authored by Mr. Elliott, is also available in the Fort Hawkins Commission Archives and at the Blockhouse Replica.A future full printing is planned as a Fort Hawkins Commission fund-raiser, as authorized presently by the LAMAR Institute, once new information can be incorporated into this wonderful work – the real history of Fort Hawkins.
This new and revealing research has helped in reinvigorating the public’s interest in Fort Hawkins as much as it has helped in redefining the real Fort Hawkins.This is due in no small part to the dedication, enthusiasm, and credentials of Dan Elliott himself.He co-authored a major work of our own prehistoric native culture, A World Engraved – Archaeology of the Swift CreekCulture, University of Alabama Press, 1998.He was featured in Smithsonian Magazine and Georgia Public Television for his breakthrough African American archaeological research on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island.He was instrumental in redefining the real revolutionary Fort Morris at Sunbury on the Georgia coast and admits a passion for forts.In 2006 he was recognized as the “Archaeologist of the Year” by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for his outstanding work.
Furthermore, Dan Elliott believes in researching as much as in digging and that has led to even more amazing and documented Fort Hawkins facts.His masterpiece of a Fort Hawkins report is full of color photos, maps, documents, tables, charts, dig profiles, and detailed archaeological techniques and historical deductions.There are over 200 soldiers listed from various official U.S. Army records including some from the 1000 strong Creek Warrior Regiment of U.S. soldiers that served under Col. Hawkins. There are nearly 100 biographies of some of the real people who lived, worked, and died at Fort Hawkins. The
abundance of artifacts revealed what the soldiers and their families ate, wore, played, and worked with 200 years ago.The direct comparisons to other forts further increases the importance and significance of Fort Hawkins and places it into a clearer historical context.
Dan Elliott has brought Fort Hawkins to life again thankfully due to his diligent and exhaustive work, and no doubt due to modern archaeology’s great public allure and professional acceptance.However, one of the most important chapters in the 260-page report is the final one – “Results And Recommendations” which includes seven corrected fort misconceptions:
1) Fort Hawkins was a primitive frontier fort.
2) Fort Hawkins was a single entity.
3) Long buildings were built along the center of the four walls.
4) The reconstructed blockhouse was done by National Parks.
5) The archaeological remains are largely destroyed.
6) Fort Hawkins played a modest role in American history.
7) Fort Hawkins contained only a small garrison of troops.
After exposing these long held fort myths, a professional approach to rebuilding and public programming is offered by Elliott and once again the Fort Hawkins Commission vision was proven worthy and definitely on track according to these recommendations.His beginning and closing remarks from his Keynote Address at the Fort Hawkins State Historic Marker Dedication can perhaps summarize Dan’s enthusiasm for Fort Hawkins:
“Fort Hawkins is a classic American history book waiting to be read.It contains many pages, and many more waiting to be written.Its story is significant to all Americans. . . . It is a 200 year old site sizzling with tantalizing stories of intrigue, exotic cultures, soldiers and officers, loose women, court-martials, trade among foreign nations, and the gateway to a new frontier.Fort Hawkins is an American story that belongs to all of us.We are excited to help bring this story to life through historical archaeology.”