Savannah's Early History

Founding of Georgia's First City

Savannah-Georgia's First City

Sailing up the Savannah River, James Oglethorpe began his plan of settling the area for the English know now as Savannah, Georgia. Savannah was the first planned city based on a grid system int he newly established colony of Georgia. Savannah was founded off what is now the Savannah River on Yamacraw Bluff inn 1733 by General James Oglethorpe as a debtors colony and buffer colony between South Carolina and Florida. Savannah quickly grew and became a major port for the selling of cotton. It also played a role in the Revolutionary War and again in the Civil War.

Primary Source for Picture of Early Savannah: by Pierre Fourdrinier retrieved from;_ylu=X3oDMTBxNG1oMmE2BHNlYwNmcC1hdHRyaWIEc2xrA3J1cmwEaXQD/RV=2/RE=1430122890/RO=11/

James Oglethorpe

James Edward Oglethorpe (22 December 1696 – 30 June 1785) was a British general, Member of Parliament, philanthropist, and founder of the colony of Georgia. As a social reformer, he hoped to resettle Britain's poor, especially those in debtor's prisons, in the New World. ("James Edward Oglethorpe," Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed 13 December 2010.)

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Oglethorpe's Plan

Oglethorpe had worked tirelessly with England's poor, and quickly came up with a plan to settle debtors in the New World and work off their prison sentence by working on land for a certain amount of time. Once this time was up, the land would become their rightful property. Oglethorpe made two trips; the first to the South Carolina Area in the Ann in 1732 then another next to Savannah in 1733. Here he befriended the Yamacraw Indians and their chief Tomochichi and negotiated land from them to create the new city of Savannah on Yamacraw Bluff.

British Charter for the Colony of Georgia

Primary Source: The Royal Charter of 1732 (Georgia Archives)
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Yamacraw and British Working Together

Tomochichi and the Yamacraw

Tomochichi was a Creek Indian and leader of the Yamacraw tribe located where Savannah is currently. He worked with James Oglethorpe to establish the city of Savannah and peaceful relations with the colonists.

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Battles of Savannah

Seige of Savannah

Savannah played a huge role during the Revolutionary War in the battle called the "Seige of Savannah". Due to its Port and strategic location, the British had quickly taken Savannah. This was a join Franco-American endeavor led by the Polish Casmir Pulaski. However, the British held strong and ended winning the day is this pivotal second battle for Savannah.

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Savannah and the Civil War

The following is a telegram sent by General Sherman to President Lincoln concerning the progress of Sherman's 'March to the Sea.' The success of this campaign helped clinch the 1864 election for Lincoln.

SAVANNAH, GA., December 22, 1864

(Via Fort Monroe 6.45 p.m. 25th)

His Excellency President LINCOLN:

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.

W.T. Sherman,
Major General.

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William Sherman's March to the Sea and Presentation of Savannah to Lincoln

As the Civil War raged, Sherman marched through Georgia, laying a path of waste from Atlanta winding to the Sea. As Savannah saw the destruction Sherman was bound to inflict on her, she decided to welcome General Sherman with open arms. Due to this, Sherman decided to spare Savannah, and he gave it to Lincoln as a Christmas Present.

Primary Source: General Sherman in 1865. (Library of Congress)

The Yellow Fever Epidemic

Due to the location of Savannah near marshes, Yellow Fever has been a plague on Savannah since her founding. The first major outbreak was in 1820 and then again in 1876. During these outbreaks, a huge amount of the population passed. Below is a letter from the mother of Juliette Gordon Low, the Girl Scout's Founder, concerning the outbreak.

Primary Source: 1876 – “Yellow Fever” – Nelly K. Gordon. From the Gordon Family Papers, MS 318

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