The Visual Archaeology Tour takes into account civilian and military aspects of the northeastern section of Savannah’s Historic District. It contains some of the oldest homes in the the city as well as a visual record of how several of the structures and streets were built. You will see how civilian and military overlap in the records and archaeological features that are here to read. We’ll teach you how to read those features so that when you return home you can pick out the hidden archaeological treasures around your own city or neighborhood. It's not a "talkie" GPS tour, so you'll have to use your own Magellen or Garmin to get around. It's a bit like Geocache without the cache. It you decide not to use the GPS you can simply follow the directions. If you do, set your unit to decimal degrees and walk carefully and be cautious in traffic. After all it's Savannah and pedestrians are in season. Whatever you do, don't jay-walk. It's a $200 fine.
The tour starts in Reynolds Square, number 15 on the tour route map. If you are into Geocache styled touring, we have included the decimal coordinates for you to follow. Walk west from the square along the left (south) side of St. Julian Street to Site A (32.079478° -81.090333°). This is located in the parking area behind the Oliver Sturgis house (click to see photo) built in 1813. As you look south you will see the northern brick wall of the Planter’s Inn Hotel. Here are several archaeological features known as “ghosts”. Nearer the house, to the left, in the brickwork you can see that the original garden wall is still visible. Some time after the building of the wall, another building was built using the garden wall as part of its foundation. This building, about seven stories tall was later built upon a one storey building. The entire structure at this point, rests on the original, 1813 garden wall.
To the right of the garden wall is several door openings are visible, one actually cutting through the wall, then later bricked closed. Farther down the wall you can see a wider, warehouse-type door that seems to have been closed up at the same time since the bricks are of the same style.
At the back of the lot next to Drayton Street the gable outline of the carriage house can be seen. Here, if one looks closely, you can see that a smaller carriage house -- about one story – had served the owner for a time. Later, as can be seen in differing styled bricks, the carriage house was extended to add more room in the loft. Later still, the second building and then the hotel were extended upward to the present height.
Go to back (east) toward Reynolds Square to the front of The Olde Pink House, Site B (32.079530° -81.089853°) on your map. On the north corner of the sidewalk (St. Julian and Bull) where you just walked you will see two storm drains. One is inset in the sidewalk and bears the date 1872. The other drain was added, probably prior to the 1940s, when the sidewalk area was widened. Running both directions, west and also north, the edge of the old sidewalk can be seen in the “seam” between the two sections. These features can be seen all around the Historic District and served to narrow the streets just at a time when auto would start needing more room.
Walk north and then turn left (west) at the corner of the Pink House on Bryan Street. Go one block and turn right (north) and walk one block, across Bay Street along the “Strand” and turn right along the sidewalk on Bay Street. Proceed past the Abercorn Ramp to Site C (32.080457° -81.089118°), the old cannon on the concrete pillar.
In the 1960s teenager and Savannah resident James Beckworth used to meet his friends at the CVS drug store on Wright Square. At this writing (2009) it still is the CVS Pharmacy on the northwest corner of Bull and State Streets. He would stand in the entrance to Congress Lane (an alley to those not from Savannah) and prop his foot on an iron guard post that was used to keep vehicles from hitting the building.
Several years later he found that the iron post was removed. The cylinder turned out to be this cannon. The barrel is pitted from years in the soil and weather, the portion that was under the ground more pitted and decayed than the above ground section. The knob on its breech and the trunnions, the iron knobs on which the barrel swiveled to elevate and lower the canon’s muzzle, have been broken off. The cannon has also been “spiked”. Look closely and you will see that the hole for the fuse used to ignite the powder has a metal spike driven to prevent its use.
This type of disabling of a cannon was done to prevent an enemy’s use of the weapon when the defending army was forced to make a hasty retreat. American troops were over-run by British forces in December, 1778 during the American Revolution and could have disabled the cannon at that time. British soldiers could also have disabled the cannon in July, 1782 at the end of the war when the Brits evacuated Savannah. What actually happened is unknown. We can only speculate since no known record of the cannon exists.
The approximate age of the cannon can be estimated from the location of the trunnion scars. According to some resources, trunnions on these types of cannon were implemented in 1705 to aid in preventing cannons from shifting from side to side while firing. These resources state that before 1725 trunnions were low on the barrel of the cannon. After that date they were located at the same level as the chamber – in the center of the barrel top to bottom. Therefore the trunnion scars on this cannon dates it possibly between 1705 and 1725. Cannons were used for years; older cannons were common among new armaments. In many cases a ship’s cannon could outlast the life of the ship and transferred to another vessel.
Speculatively, this piece could have been here when Oglethorpe founded the colony or on the bastioned walls of Savannah in 1757. However, it could also have, as was common in the era, simply come here as ballast in a ship. Whichever way it came here, it was made several years before Georgia became a colony.
Walk east down Bay Street past the Lincoln Street Ramp to Site D (32.080247° -81.087687°). In the park on the far (east) side of the ramp was once located the northeast end of the fortress wall that surrounded Savannah in 1757. Here the wall terminated with “small wooden citadels, each with their own bastions.” The main wall was made of soil, much of which would have been taken from a dry moat on the outside, and reinforced with sapling poles to hold the sand. “Tours Bastionees” as are illustrated on map were small towers that gave the advantage of elevation to the defenders. When the wall was razed the pile of soil was leveled as well as period technology could.
If you notice, the elevation of the soil at this point in the park is slightly higher than that at the other end. This slight mound is probably the ghost of the wall. In following the outline of the old wall you can see a slight elevation in the earth along the route, south, to Oglethorpe Street and the Colonial Park Cemetery. In the cemetery, just inside the Lincoln Street entrance, you can see the remnant mound from another wall built in 1782. The high ground is circular turning through the cemetery and going westward – but then, that’s another tour.
Proceed to the Celtic cross in the center of Emmet Park.
In Emmet Park the Irish Monument now stands in one possible location of an ancient Indian Mound according to early old map, Site E (32.080086° -81.087073°). Sir Walter Raleigh is said, according to Oglethorpe’s accounting Raleigh’s journal, to have come ashore at this location. In an 1867 biography of Oglethorpe a referenced book states that Tomochichi told of an ancestor having met a man with a red beard who anchored a large vessel in the bay. The ancestral mico referred to the meeting with the “great” man asking to be buried on the spot where they met. Oglethorpe, in referring to Raleigh’s log, wrote the Trustees saying this was the coordinates of a landfall by Raleigh in 1585. A map from 1757 put the long gone Indian mound somewhere along what is now known as Emmet Park
So, the account falls to speculation and legend.
Emmet Park is named in honor of Irish patriot Robert Emmet who died at the age of 25 fighting for Irish independence. While leading a 1798 uprising on Dublin Castle, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden was killed.
When Emmet attempted to contact his love interest, Sara Curran, the authorities captured him. According to records in the Princess Grace Irish Library in Monaco, “On September 19th 1803 a jury, at the Sessions House Dublin, tried Emmet for high treason. That evening the verdict was returned. Emmet was found guilty and sentenced to death by execution. Upon being asked by the clerk of the Court what he had to say, Emmet gave a spontaneous speech which is universally regarded as one the greatest patriotic speeches. It is truly remarkable stuff from a man who has just been sentenced to his death. The following day Emmet was publicly beheaded on Thomas Street in Dublin.”
One of the first known arrivals of a person of Irish descent was James Oglethorpe. His father was English. However, he married Eleanor, daughter of Richard Wall, Esq., of the county Tipperary, and Katherine de la Roche, of the Lord Roche's family in Ireland, which was connected by intermarriage with the Scottish house of Argyle”. James Oglethorpe had close ties to Ireland throughout his life. La Roche avenue in Savannah is believed to be named after a family member who was a trustee of the colony.
Other Irish came to the new colony early on. In December, 1733, a boat of Irish indentured servants shipwrecked near Savannah. Oglethorpe bought their contracts and assigned the forty survivors to various tasks around the city. These servants were, to quote Oglethorpe, “given” to the widows of the city to help work their land and make ends meet.
The Scots, too, have been in Savannah since the beginning. James Oglethorpe planned the village of Joseph’s Town, located a few miles upriver from Savannah, in 1733 as a defensive position. By 1735 the Scots were active in civic life when the “Scotch Club” celebrated St. Andrew’s Day. In 1736 three Scottish Highlander officers, John Cuthbert, Patrick MacKay and George Dunbar made their homes there. Later Joseph’s Town became Mulberry Grove Plantation where Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. .
In the same year other Scottish Highlanders came to Georgia to protect the southern coastline. Scots, whose descendents still live in the area, settled New Inverness, now called Darien.
By 1782 more than half of the legislators in the State of Georgia were from Scotland or of Scottish descent. Ironically in that year they voted to prohibit all Scottish immigrants from settling in the new state. At that time the Highland Clearances, with repercussions much like the Irish potato famine, were beginning in Scotland. Poor Scots were landing in the new United States and bringing their apparent “ticked off” attitude with them. The Scots, like their cousins the Irish, have been known throughout history as people who were adept at and willing to fight. Their tenacity helped drive the Spanish out of Georgia and were instrumental in winning the American Revolution.
German emigrants, Salzburgers, arrived in Georgia in 1734 not long after the original colonists and are now recognized by a stone marker near here in Salzburger Park. The Salzburgers settled at Ebenezer upriver from Savannah. Their contributions are many including establishing the first Sunday school and orphanage in the state. Saltzburger, John Truman was elected the first Governor of Georgia.
Near Ebenezer, across the river in South Carolina was the Swiss settlement of Purrysburg. Swiss to were among early residents of Savannah. The original supervisor of the Filature House erected for the processing of silk was Italian Paul Amatis. Within ten years of the establishment of the Colony of Georgia approximately 45 percent of the population was non-British. Today Savannah’s population is quite diverse including people from most cultures around the world.
The Old Harbor Light, Savannah’s unofficial US Government monument to bureaucracy, Site F (32.079532° -81.084716°), was erected in 1858 to mark hulks scuttled by the British in 1779. The French war ship Truite, unable to sail closer to the city during the Siege of Savannah because of the obstructions in the river, shelled the city from the opposite side of Hutchinson Island. The blocked section of the harbor became known as the Wrecks Bank.