Georgia - The City Of Savannah
( Originally Published 1900 )
The seacoast of South Carolina and Georgia is composed largely of deeply indented bays, with many islands, tortuous bayous, and a labyrinth of water ways bordered by dense vegetation. Southward from Charleston harbor to the Savannah River many creeks provide a system of inland navigation and form fertile islands. There are two capacious Sounds, St. Helena and Port Royal, the latter being one of the finest harbors in the world, and the rendezvous of the American North Atlantic naval squadron when in these waters. This was the place of first landing of the original South Carolina colonists before they went to the Ashley River, and its chief town now is Beaufort, on St. Helena Island. These coast islands raise the famous " sea-island cotton," and the whole lowland region produces prolific crops of rice. The adjacent land is generally swampy, and its chief industry, outside of cultivating the fields, is the working of the extensive phosphate deposits, which are manufactured into fertilizers. The railway, largely constructed on piles, passes through much marsh and morass, crosses swift-running dirty streams, and over the swamps and among the pine timber, varied by the oak, bay tree and laurel, which the humid atmosphere has hung with garlands of sombre gray moss and clusters of ivy and other creeping plants. The festooned moss, overrunning and often destroying the foliage of the trees, gives the scene a weird and ghostly appearance. The railway route is bordered by an apparently almost impenetrable jungle, the few settlements are widely separated, and population is sparse, seeming to be chiefly negroes dressed in ancient-looking clothing ornamented with patches. The few whites who appear are bilious and yellowish, their complexions and garb being alike of the butternut hue, while both races seem to talk the same dialect. Thus moving farther southward, the Carolina "tar-heels " are replaced by the " crackers " and " butter-nuts," looking as if they had been rolled for a generation in the clayey soils drained by the Edisto, Coosawhatchie and Savannah Rivers and their neigh-boring streams, and who, farther inland, are the "clay-eaters" of Georgia. Then crossing the Savannah River, the route is upon the level Iowlands down its Georgia bank, and into the city of Savannah, arriving amid a vast collection of rosin and pitch barrels, cotton bales and timber.
Savannah—derived from the Spanish word sabana, a " meadow or plain "—is known popularly as the "Forest City," and is built upon a bluff along the river shore, eighteen miles from the sea. It has fifty thousand people and a large export trade in naval stores, rice, timber and cotton, in the latter ex-port being second only to New Orleans. It received great impetus after the Civil War, owing to its excellent railway connections with the interior, and is now the chief port of the Southern Atlantic coast. The city extends upon a level sandy plain, stretching back from the bluff shore along the river, has broad streets crossing at right angles, with small parks at the intersections, and many trees border the streets and fill the parks, so that it is fairly embowered in foliage, thus presenting an attractive and novel appearance. This adornment makes Savannah the most beautiful city of the coast—the oak, palmetto and magnolia, with the holly, orange, creeping ivy and clustering vines, setting the buildings in a framework of delicious green. The business quarter is along the bluff, where the ships moor alongside the storehouses, which have their upper stories on a level with the busy Bay Street at its top. Much of the present beauty of the city is due to the foresight of its founder who laid out the plan—General Oglethorpe, who selected this place in 1733 for the capital of his Province of Georgia, the youngest of the original thirteen colonies.
General James Edward Oglethorpe was a native of London and an officer in the British army, who, being of philanthropic tendencies, obtained a grant of the Province from King George for the purpose of providing an asylum for the poor debtors of England and a home for the Protestants of all nations. After founding the city and receiving a colony of Protestants from Salzburg, he visited England and brought out John and Charles Wesley in 1735, and got George Whitefield to come and preach to the colonists in 1737. War breaking out with Spain, he attacked Florida, carrying his invasion to the gates of St. Augustine, but was repulsed. He returned to England in 1743, but though he lived until 1785 as a retired general upon half-pay, he never revisited America. The British captured Savannah in the Revolution, and repulsed a combined French and American attempt to recapture it in 1779. In this attack Count Pulaski fell, and the spot, now Monterey Square, near the centre of the city, is marked y the Pulaski Monument, one of the noblest shafts in America. Count Pulaski is the patron saint of Savannah, and Fort Pulaski, named in his honor, guards the Savannah River entrance from the sea. During the Civil War, however, this fort was practically use-less, as it was captured by the Unionists in 1862, and Tybee Roads, the harbor at the entrance, was hermetically sealed throughout the war by the blockading fleet. General Sherman's triumphant march through Georgia ended in' December, 1864, at Savannah, and his headquarters are still pointed out, opposite Madison Square. Savannah has a fine pleasure-ground in Forsyth Park, with its wealth of trees and ornamental shrubbery, and the adjoining Parade Ground containing the Confederate Soldiers' Monument. The favorite route to the southern suburbs is the famous Thunderbolt Shell Road leading to Thunderbolt River, and noted for its avenues of live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Here is also the favorite burial-place, the Bonaventure Cemetery, where the graves and tombstones are laid out along-side passages embowered by live oaks, their wide-stretching, gaunt and angular limbs being richly gar-landed with the gray moss and encircled by creeping ivy. The long vista views under these sombre arch-ways have an elfish look, peculiarly appropriate for a city of the dead, and it would take little imagination to conjure up the spirits of the departed and see them wandering beneath these canopies of shrouds.