Open main menu

SAVAN′NAH. The second largest city of Georgia and the county-seat of Chatham County, situated on the west bank of the Savannah River, 18 miles from the Atlantic Ocean (Map: Georgia, E 3). Geographically and commercially it enjoys a position of unusual advantage; historically, it is one of the most interesting cities of the South. The climate, greatly influenced by the Gulf stream, is mild and pleasant. Though it is hot in summer, cool breezes prevail at night. The average temperature is 66 degrees.

Savannah is situated on a plateau 50 feet above sea level. The plan of the city, in all its extensions, has followed that originally projected by Oglethorpe. The streets, broad and straight and luxuriantly shaded, cross each other at right angles. The number of trees and their beauty have given Savannah the name of ‘Forest City.’ Among them are magnolias, japonicas, and catalpas. The squares of the city, which, in the original design, were intended as rallying places for the colonists, are especially noteworthy. Forsyth Park is the largest of these places of resort. A handsome monument to the Confederate dead stands in the Parade Ground, the southern extension of the park. In other squares are monuments in honor of Gen. Nathanael Greene, William Washington Gordon, builder of the Central of Georgia Railway, Sergeant William Jasper, the Revolutionary patriot, and Count Casimir Pulaski.

Among the more imposing public buildings are the Post-Office, the Custom-House, the County Court-House, the City Exchange, the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Public Library. The church edifices are numerous and handsome, the style of architecture representing in large measure old colonial ideals. There are a number of good private schools, besides an efficient public school system. Telfair Hospital for Women, Savannah Hospital, Saint Joseph's Hospital, and the Georgia Infirmary for Colored People are prominent institutions. Near the city are several salt water resorts, which are largely frequented during the summer.

Savannah is surrounded by a fertile territory, especially adapted to the cultivation of rice, cotton, sugar-cane, vegetables, and fruits. Four great railway lines enter the city: the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Air Line, the Southern, and the Central of Georgia. Its facilities for the expeditious handling of ocean and coastwise freights in large quantities have made it the most prosperous of South Atlantic ports. The broad channel is 26 feet in depth, and is being improved by the Government to afford a greater depth. The terminals of the railroads occupy in the aggregate three miles of wharves. Savannah is the first cotton port on the South Atlantic coast and the first naval stores port in the world. Its exports of lumber are large and are rapidly increasing. The annual export of phosphate rock exceeds that of any other South Atlantic port. The total foreign commerce for the year 1901 amounted to $47,384,000, mostly exports, making it rank fifth among Atlantic ports. Though Savannah is preëminently a shipping centre, considerable manufacturing is carried on, but chiefly for local markets. There are, however, large railroad car and repair shops, fertilizer manufactories, foundries and machine shops, cottonseed oil mills, lumber mills, patent medicine factories, etc. In the census year 1900 the various industries had $5,716,000 capital and an output valued at $6,462,000.

The government is vested in a mayor and a board of aldermen, elected every two years. Most of the administrative officers are chosen by the city council, the park and tree commissioners, however, being nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the council. The board of education is, in a large degree, a self-perpetuating body, entirely removed from partisan politics.

Population, in 1800, 5146; in 1850, 15,312; in 1860, 22,292; in 1870, 28,235; in 1880, 30,709; in 1890, 43,189; in 1900, 54,244. The total in 1900 included 28,090 persons of negro descent. The foreign-born population was small, only 3434.

Savannah was settled in 1733 by a small com- pany under the leadership of Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe. (See Georgia.) During the next few years a considerable number of German, English, and Scotch immigrants arrived, among them (in 1735) being Charles and John Wesley. During the Revolutionary War Savannah was fortified by the Americans, and in December, 1778, when occupied by a force of less than 1000, under Howe, it was attacked and captured, December 29th, by 3000 British under Colonel Campbell. In the fall of 1779 an allied army of French and American troops, under D'Estaing and Lincoln, attempted to recapture it, but were repeatedly repulsed, and in the disastrous attack of October 9th the allies lost more than 800 men. Count Pulaski and Sergeant Jasper being mortally wounded. Savannah was incorporated as a city in 1789. In 1796, and again in 1820, it was ravaged by fire, the loss being more than $1,000,000 in the first case and more than $4,000,000 in the second. The first steamship to cross the Atlantic was owned and projected in Savannah, was named after the city, and sailed from this port (in 1819) on its voyage to Liverpool. December 10, 1864, General Sherman reached Savannah, thus completing his famous march to the sea. The city, then having a population of about 25,000, was defended by General Hardee with a Confederate force of 18,000; but Sherman captured Fort McAllister (q.v.) on the 13th, and on the 20th, while the Federal army was preparing to open siege operations on all sides, Hardee hurriedly withdrew by means of a pontoon bridge, destroying the navy yard with the ironclad ram Savannah, but leaving 150 heavy guns, large quantities of ammunition, and some 30,000 bales of cotton. Sherman left late in January on his march through the Carolinas, but Savannah was held by a Federal garrison until the close of the war. Consult: C. C. Jones, Jr., and others, History of Savannah to the Close of the Eighteenth Century (Syracuse, 1890); Lee and Agnew, Historical Record of Savannah (Savannah, 1869); and Siege of Savannah in 1779 (Albany, 1866).