I had already written the blog post when I came across this quote about the city of Savannah from the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. A perfect description!
“In the minds of most Americans, Savannah and Charleston were sister cities. If so, the sisters were barely on speaking terms. Savannahians rarely went to Charleston, even though it was less than two hours away by car. But then Savannahians rarely went anywhere at all. They could not be bothered. They were content to remain in their isolated city under self-imposed house arrest.”
The past two weeks have been a sort of “compare and contrast” situation. Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA, are fairly close to each other — only about 2 hours apart by car. They are similar, the history of both deeply rooted in both the Revolution and Civil War, but their responses to the conflicts and recovery were vastly different. We’ve spoken to a few people who have visited both, and it’s interesting to learn which city they liked better. It was also fun for us to visit both and compare.
During the Revolution, there were more battles fought in South Carolina than any other state. Both Charleston and Savannah lost thousands of Patriots in battle and were held by the British who hoped to squeeze General Washington’s army from the south. British General Clinton seemed to have made some blunders, however, including overestimating the number of Loyalists in the south, first promising parole to captured Patriots and then attempting to force them to fight for the British. The Patriot parolees were not interested in taking a bullet for the British, especially since the commanding British officer seemed to have a habit of burning down the homes of already surrendered Patriots’ families. The fire under the southern Patriots was rekindled and the British strategy failed.
Almost 100 years later, Charleston was a constant source of battle during the Civil War. The first shots of the war were fired upon Fort Sumter in Charleston’s harbor, and assaults by Union troops continued throughout the war. In 1864, Union General Sherman’s troops burned Atlanta to the ground and marched on to Savannah. Upon entering Savannah, the general was so impressed by its beauty that instead of destroying it like Atlanta, he sent a telegram to President Lincoln offering the city as a Christmas present! By 1865, General Sherman headed to Columbia, SC, because he thought beleaguered Charleston was already a “desolated wreck…hardly worth the time to starve it out.” We drove over to Tybee Island and visited Fort Pulaski, which sat quietly on the Georgia shore until Union soldiers breached it’s walls in 1862. It’s beautifully preserved.
Today, the differences are noticeable. While both cities are similar in population size (between 130,000 and 140,000 people), Savannah feels like the larger city —- traffic is plentiful, although not oppressive, and there are multiple highways to get you where you want to go. Although Charleston is 48 square miles larger than Savannah, it feels like the smaller and quieter cousin to Savannah. Much of the restoration of Charleston leans toward the Colonial era and into Victorian whereas Savannah looks more Victorian than Colonial. Maybe this is because the Preservation Society of Charleston was formed in 1920 whereas the similarly-named organization in Savannah was not formed until the 1950’s. Or, maybe it’s because Savannah was spared the bombardment that Charleston suffered, so the architecture was preserved rather than restored. Whatever the reason, they are two very different cities. Bob and Janlyn said they liked Savannah a little better, but I lean more toward Charleston. In any event, both are great cities worth visiting!
While visiting this area, I looked up a former colleague from Aetna. Linda’s desk was directly above mine at work and I could often hear her infectious laughter through the ceiling. Sometimes I would send her an instant message asking what was so funny. She retired about the same time as me and recently relocated to this area. It was awesome to meet up with Linda and Russ for a bite to eat. Gosh, did we do a lot of catching up, and even more laughing! We had a great time and look forward to getting together again.
We always enjoy listening to live music, so we searched the local newspaper and were surprised to find guitarist Anne Allman playing at a quiet little club called Jazz’d. Anne is a second cousin to Gregg and Duane. She owned a guitar shop in Savannah before retiring and now plays occasional gigs around the city area. She’s a quiet, unassuming woman who downplays her talent and doesn’t seem to say much, if anything, about her talented family. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to her play, and she stopped at our table to thank us for coming out. If you’re ever in Savannah, check to see if she’s playing somewhere.
Before leaving Savannah, we did a little tour that’s out of the ordinary … a cemetery tour. Bonaventure cemetery became famous when used as a location by Clint Eastwood in the film “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” But even before that, it was considered a destination for family picnics and outings around the turn of the century, when cemeteries in general were treated like parks worth visiting. People of high social status commissioned great statues and obelisks as homage to their deceased relatives and it was common to spend the afternoon picnicking at the family plot and admiring the statues. It was a very interesting tour.
The campground at Skidaway Island State Park was beautiful. It was like camping in a jungle with lots of live oaks, Spanish moss and palmettos. We’d love to return here.
We’re thoroughly enjoying this leisurely exploration of the south. Until our next post, y’all have a blessed day!
One thought on “Savannah, GA”
Nice to hear from you. So agree that slow exploration is the best. We are still in Utah. It’s been a month now. Moving on to Boulder City Nevada tomorrow. But we covered lots of Utah and loved it especially the red rock mountains. Lots of hiking and mountain biking and some road riding. Happy travels.
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