On Jekyll Island, a jewel of the Georgia Golden isles, walking through the sand of the famed Glory Beach…
You think, It’s just a beach. The sun’s in your face, the easy sea breeze ruffles your hair.
Seabirds sound a plaintive cry in the fading evening. It’s hard to imagine that in 1989 they filmed a major Academy Award winning motion picture.
Glory (about the Federal 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry composed of black soldiers who fought and died in an attempt to take the Confederate Fort Wagner) was shot among these dunes and on the hard packed beach flat.
It’s harder still to imagine the real battle of Fort Wagner (which actually took place on Morris Island in South Carolina).
Impossible to correlate the peace and serenity of this beautiful Georgia Golden Isles setting with the pain, terror and blood of that day in history, when the courageous Negro soldiers of the 54th infantry attacked head-on and fought valiantly against a well-entrenched Confederate foe.
Approach to Glory Beach
Glory Beach may well be a local name given to this section of Georgia Golden isles beach. It comprises parts of what’s known as South Dunes beach and St. Andrews beach (in reality, the entire ocean front of Jekyll Island is one continuous beach, characteristic of a barrier island).
Get to Glory Beach by parking in the Soccer Complex parking lot. There’s a boardwalk here that was actually built by the film producers to access the movie location. It’s now a prime wildlife viewing walk.
The boardwalk will take you thorough several dune zones. The first is a shrub forest thick with oaks, buckthorn and willow.
Keep walking. The shrub forest gives way to a lower shrub zone. Southern wax myrtle and groundsel merge with the forest zone and spread out before grading into the beach meadow zone. Here you’ll find Yucca filamentosa, camphorwood, and Russian thistle living in harmony with various wild grass species.
Between the dunes lie the sloughs. They’re important to area wildlife because they collect and trap water flow, providing oasis way-stations for deer, raccoon, marsh hare, birds, and more dune denizens.
Beyond the dunes proper is the intertidal area, and maybe zones of marsh transition.
Encounter Georgia Golden Isles Wildlife
Take time to enjoy your walk. Mornings are good for the fantastic Jekyll Island sunrise. The cool of evening is an invitation for wildlife to browse. We’ve seen deer and raccoon in plenty, and enough wild birds to stock an aviary.
A good tip: bring binoculars or a spotting scope, and several field guides – one for birds, one for wild flowers or maritime natives. And, of course, a camera.
The beach itself is wide and flat, like the entire length of the southern portion of Jekyll Island’s coast. You can’t ask for a better place to relax. Send the kids to romp in the surf while you and your spouse walk hand in hand down the beach, bare feet sliding through the sand.
St. Andrews beach is just around the corner to the south, and the southern tip of Jekyll is one of the prime bird watching sites on the island.
The producers of Glory were faced with a difficult task. Although this Georgia golden isles beach was the perfect setting to replicate the Fort Wagner battle, the dunes are protected. The producers had the Herculean task of managing a cast and crew in the hundreds, with support equipment, cameras, dollies, lighting – the whole shebang. They pulled it off admirably.
Not only did the movie folks have to stage a raging battle scene, they had to build a fort. The Fort Wagner replica was constructed on the south end of the island, directly on the beach.
It was vital that the beach habitat and ecology not be damaged, so the film crew had to go about construction with care and consideration for the ecology of this dynamic area.
After the filming was complete, the fort was taken down. There’s no trace (other than the Glory boardwalk) of the movie location today.
During filming, the crew stayed at the famed Jekyll Island Club hotel. You’ll learn more about the making of Glory, and several other Jekyll Island movies, in another portion of this site.
Come enjoy the the Georgia golden isles – and the golden beaches – of Jekyll Island. Walk in the footsteps of history, and of the stars of the movie Glory. And take a moment to give thanks to the real soldiers of the 54th who, though sometimes reviled, hated and looked down on, through courage, passion, and devotion to duty, won the respect of their white soldier brethren – and won Glory.