historical views of savannah georgia

Historical Facts About Savannah

Savannah was a Christmas gift to President Lincoln during the Civil War.

As Union General William T. Sherman cut through Georgia on his “March to the Sea,” his troops were destroying military targets and burning Atlanta to the ground. When the Union Army reached Savannah, the city’s mayor, Richard Arnold, implored the general to spare the city. Sherman agreed, perhaps because he had other plans for the captured city. On December 22, 1864, an auspicious day in Savannah’s history, the city was presented by General Sherman to President Lincoln as a gift with this message: “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” This Civil War Christmas gift to the president is one of the many interesting facts about Georgia.

Union General David Hunter ordered the first wartime emancipation of slaves near Savannah.

During the American Civil War, Union General David Hunter led his troops on a successful mission to retake Savannah’s Fort Pulaski. General Hunter was a longtime proponent of arming black people as soldiers to fight for the Union cause, and worked closely with runaway slaves at Fort Pulaski. On May 9, 1862, he issued the first emancipation order for all slaves in the Southern states of Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. Lincoln rescinded Hunter’s order but later issued his much more famous and permanent emancipation proclamation. Enthusiasts of Savannah history can visit Fort Pulaski National Monument and see the original fort.

Savannah’s First African Baptist Church was the first black church in the country.

In 1773, Reverend George Liele established the First African Baptist Church, where he was pastor until 1782. The church sanctuary was completed in 1859 on the same site where the building still sits today. The church’s role in the Underground Railroad is a cherished part of Savannah’s history. The church was an integral stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. You can still see holes in the floorboards that allowed ventilation for those men and women who were hidden there as they traveled via the Underground Railroad.

Additional Fun Facts About Savannah

  • The beautiful Forsyth Park fountain came from a catalog, but not the Sears Roebuck catalog. City planners ordered the fountain from the Janes, Beebe & Co. catalog and installed the fountain in 1858. Janes, Beebe & Co. were well-known for their expertise in ornamental ironwork.
  • Savannah is home to the only museum dedicated to the history of Prohibition. The American Prohibition Museum tells the story of gangsters, flapper girls, speakeasies, moonshine, rumrunners, and more. You’ll see exhibits from the 1920s through 1933, including an original Model T beer truck at the museum entrance.
  • The oldest building in Savannah is the Pirates’ House tavern. Established in 1753, this tavern was a favorite watering hole for sailors and pirates. Today, the Pirates’ House is a restaurant that still maintains a historical theme.
  • According to the original charter, Catholicism was against the law in Savannah, but not for religious reasons. The Spanish colony of Florida came from a predominantly Catholic country. Savannah’s founders feared Catholic residents in Savannah would side with the Spaniards if a conflict broke out.
  • Alchohol, slavery, and lawyers were also outlawed in Savannah’s first city charter.
  • The oldest city in Georgia is Savannah. Originally called the British Colonial Capital of the Province of Georgia, the town was first founded by General James Oglethorpe in 1733, when his ship and 120 passengers landed on a bluff along the Savannah River.
  • Savannah’s oldest standing structure is the Wormsloe Historic Site. Wormsloe was the home of one of Georgia’s first founders, Noble Jones, in 1733. There are over two miles of hiking trails at Wormsloe, and visitors can still see the ruins of his original tabby house, which was completed in 1745.
  • One of the oldest Jewish congregations in the US is in Savannah. Mickve Israel began in 1733, and their first synagogue was built in 1820. The current synagogue, where services are still held, was constructed between 1876 and 1878.
  • All that iconic Spanish moss you see on the trees around Savannah isn’t actually moss. It’s a member of the bromeliad plant species.
  • One of Savannah’s most haunted sites is the Moon River Brewing Company. The first business to occupy the building was the City Hotel. The location also served as a hospital and nursed people during the many yellow fever outbreaks in Savannah. Many people died there, especially children, and child spirit sightings have been reported.
  • Savannah is the inspiration for the song “Moon River.” Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics as he was inspired by the view of the Back River outside his window. The name of the river was eventually changed to Moon River in honor of the song.
  • The popular movie Forrest Gump was filmed in many areas of Savannah. The bench where Tom Hanks sat during the movie was a movie prop located at Chippewa Square. The bench is now on display at the Savannah History Museum.
  • The Georgia Historical Society began in Savannah, and it’s now the oldest operating historical society in the south. The organization began in 1839 to learn, chronicle, and teach interesting facts about Georgia.
  • Georgia’s first state capital was established in Savannah. In 1777, after the US declared independence from Great Britain, Savannah was officially declared the capital of Georgia.
  • In March of 1912, the Girl Scouts organization was founded in Savannah. Juliette Gordon Low established the organization right here in her own hometown.
  • As one of Savannah’s most beloved citizens, a district of the city was named after Juliette Gordon Low. The district is in downtown Savannah and includes her original birthplace. Her birthplace is now a gathering place for the Girl Scouts.
  • In some areas of Savannah, you can take cocktails outside in a to-go cup. Partygoers can walk outside in Savannah’s Historic District with an open container.
  • One of Savannah’s most haunted sites is, unsurprisingly, a cemetery. The Colonial Park Cemetery has more than 9,000 graves, and paranormal investigators report frequent activity from spirits at the site.

tybee island lighthouse in savannah georgia

  • Savannah’s Tybee Island has a nuclear bomb off its coast. The Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb was lost in Tybee Island’s Wassaw Sound in 1958 and is still there today.
  • Savannah has one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the United States. The Savannah Historic District has over 20 city squares of museums, historic churches, antebellum mansions, and monuments from the Revolutionary War and the US Civil War.

What Else is There to Do Near City Market?

City Market is an excellent area for shopping, visiting art galleries, and wine tasting. For a unique thing to do in Savannah, visit the American Prohibition Museum near City Market. This popular one-of-a-kind attraction tells the story of Prohibition with costumed guides, a fully stocked speakeasy, a Model T beer truck, several vintage cars, antique stills, a theater, and much more.

What Are the Most Popular Things to Do Near City Market?

The trendy City Market area in Savannah is home to some of the city’s best bars, wine-tasting rooms, art galleries, and boutique shops. Visitors can try unique craft cocktails and outstanding wines and enjoy some of Savannah’s famous Southern hospitality. One of the best fun facts about Savannah is that the American Prohibition Museum, located in the City Market area, is the only museum of its kind. Even visitors who don’t usually like museums enjoy a visit to this unique attraction!