In the early years of the 19th century, theUnited States
was a fledgling nation witha population of 7,700,000, a standing armyof 6,700, and a navy of only 12 ships. TheAmericans were vastly outnumbered bythe major powers of the time, France withan army of well over 600,000 and GreatBritain with a navy of nearly 600 ships.
Presidents Washington, Adams, andJefferson had pursued neutral policiesmaking every effort to avoid becomingembroiled in the world wide conflictbetween Great Britain and France.Following several events which threatened to bring the United States into this war,President Jefferson authorized the construction of forts and ships in 1807.One spot selected to be fortified waslot 12 at Five Fathom Hole on theSavannah River. This fortification wasto become Fort James Jackson.
Captain William McRee:
In the spring of 1808, Captain WilliamMcRee, a member of the United StatesArmy Engineer Department begansupervising the construction of FortJackson. The work force consisted ofhired laborers and leased slaves.McRee was born in 1787, in WilmingtonNorth Carolina. At the age of 15, McReedecided on a military career and enrolled at West Point. After two years, he graduatedsecond in his class of three cadets and wascommissioned a second lieutenant in theArmy Engineer Department.McRee was only 21 years old when hestarted construction of Fort Jackson.Except for a brief absence in 1811, hecontinued this work until his transferin October of 1812. After his reassignment,he was still consulted by his successorregarding the Fort's construction.McRee served with distinction during theWar of 1812 on the Canadian border. Afterthe war, he resigned his commission in1819 and spent the rest of his life as agovernment surveyor. William McRee diedon May 15, 1833.
War With Britain is Declared
At the request of President Jefferson, theUnited States Congress voted on the issueof the war with Britain. The results were close, with the house voting 79 to 49 and the Senate voting 19 to 13 in favor of war.Sentiments for going to war were strongerin the south as the city of Savannah indicatedwhen the city council unanimously votedon a resolution which referred to war withBritain as "...just, necessary, and righteous..."
In responce to hostilities, Captain McRee atFort Jackson recieved the following letterfrom General Thomas Pinckney:
You will proceed with all possible dispatch to complete thefortifications of Fort Jackson and Wayne according to the planswhich I have this day examined and approved, and it being indispensably necessary that these posts should when completed be furnished with garrisons for their defense, but no troops of the old army of theUnited States having been assigned to that duty / you are herebyauthorized and directed to make application to the Governor of Georgiafor as many officers and men of Militia of this State as may be necessary for their immediate protection and defense not exceeding in the whole three hundred rank and file.
P.S. I have just recieved official notification of the declaration of warwhich had taken place on June 18 and took nearly six days for the news to reach Savannah.