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The Grand Tour – Day 9 – Ocmulgee National Monument

Our last day in Georgia, we slept in and got ready to go at a leisurely pace. We didn’t have much in the way of a “must-do” itinerary, so we decided we would visit the Ocmulgee National Monument, which is a site that preserves another group of Indian Mounds. In addition, there is evidence of over 17,000 years of human habitation at the Ocmulgee site.   The Visitor’s Center there was started in the 1930s, in the Art Deco style, but due to World War II it wasn’t completed until 1952. Inside there is an exhibit featuring artifacts that have been found on the site and displays about the tribes who once inhabited the land.

We walked outside from the Visitor’s Center and first we came upon an Earth Lodge in a mound; it is at the site of the oldest Ceremonial Lodge in the Americas. The Earth Lodge was found in ruins  and reconstructed on the same site, using evidence they found from the ruins.  The floor is the original floor, constructed by the Ocmulgee people in 1015 A.D.  You enter through a tunnel the way the Native Americans did.  I had to stoop to go through the tunnel and they have even raised the height of the tunnel during the excavation and preservation of the lodge!  For reference, I’m 5’3″ tall, so these must have been some very short people!  Inside, the Earth Lodge would have seated about 50 people and there were seats molded into a platform for the leaders to sit.

Me In Front of the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge

Further on you come to 3 more mounds; 2 are ceremonial mounds and a third is a burial mound.  The walk isn’t that far, but you can drive to all 3 mounds if you aren’t inclined to walk.  The tallest ceremonial mound on the site is 55 feet tall.  Scans of the tallest mounds have revealed that this one had a spiraling staircase leading to the top.  The site is also unique because the mounds were built a bit further away from each other than other mound sites – scholars believe that this was to provide additional space for public space and residences around the mounds.

Two Ocmulgee Temple Mounds

Sadly, one of the ceremonial mounds was sheared in half in 1843 when the railroad came through.  Further damage was done in 1874 when the railroad cut was widened substantially, destroying a large portion of the funeral mound. The railroad line still runs through the site today, and when you are walking, you actually cross over the cut on a pedestrian bridge. It makes me wonder how many historical artifacts were carted off by railroad employees and construction workers of the day. I’m glad that there is a bit more awareness of the need for historic preservation today.

If mounds aren’t quite your speed, archaeologists have also found Clovis Points on the site, which date back about 13,500 years.  Clovis people used the points to hunt for game, and they have been found at sites all around North America.  It is pretty neat to think that this site has supported human life for so long.

Also on the site of Ocmulgee National Monument is a plantation house, which used to be the house for the Dunlap Plantation. The Civil War battle of Walnut Creek was fought near here, and the Confederates built an earthworks in the yard of the Dunlap house that remains today. We walked to see the earthworks, which are entirely unexciting, but you have to imagine what it was like 150 years ago. Given the heavy cannon firing during the battle of Walnut Creek, it is hard to believe there weren’t more casualties. The Confederates had 1 killed and 2 wounded, while the Union had 9 wounded.

If Case You Couldn’t Tell, This is a Civil War Earthworks

This was a lovely stop to explore a part of US history that I didn’t know much about, plus I got some more stamps for my National Park Passport!

After Ocmulgee, we made the drive back to Atlanta, and Jon found an independent record store he wanted to visit. He would have to tell you about his experience himself (he was like a kid in a candy store!), because I find it difficult to entertain myself in indie record stores. 99% of the music they carry is stuff I have never heard of. Let’s just say I like more “commercial” music. But Jon was happy, so it was a nice ending to a great trip!

We headed to the airport, got checked in, went through a terribly long, slow line at security, and finally got settled in for the long flight home. Although I had a fantastic time the whole trip (well, except for that one fight during the traffic jam…), I was ready to sleep in my own comfy bed.  Of course, after a couple days back at home, I was ready to travel again!  Now we just need to save up for the next trip!

The Grand Tour – Day 8 – Andersonville National Cemetery

After we visited the Andersonville Prison, we drove over to the other side of the Andersonville National Historic Site property, which is home to Andersonville National Cemetery.  The cemetery was born in February 1864 with the first graves of 12,920 Union soldiers who would eventually die at Andersonville Prison, and it continues to accept new burials of service members today.

In the cemetery, the graves of the Andersonville prisoners are much more tightly packed together than in a typical cemetery. The deaths were occurring with such frequency (close to 100 prisoners per day during the summer of 1864) that they buried the dead in trenches, shoulder to shoulder, instead of in individual graves.  Each grave was marked with a simple wooden marker and a number.  Dorance Atwater, a Union POW at Andersonville, was responsible for keeping the list for the prison matching the grave numbers with the names of the dead.  He sat next to the camp commander, Henry Wirz.  He took a risk and kept a separate list of the dead and their grave numbers, because he was concerned that the official list he kept for the Confederates would not be turned over at the end of the war.   As it turned out, his concern had some merit.

After the war, Dorance Atwater smuggled his list out of the prison and took it to the U.S. Government, which shockingly, didn’t pay much attention.  So, he went to the press and his list was published by Horace Greeley, who had founded the New York Tribune.  The attention the story received put Atwater in touch with Clara Barton, who ran the Office of Missing Soldiers in Washington, D.C., and later founded the Red Cross.

Clara Barton organized a detail to match the grave numbers with the names of soldiers who had died, and Dorance Atwater went back to Andersonville in the summer of 1865 to help. Thanks to his list, only about 400 of the Andersonville prisoner graves are unidentified soldiers.  The detail that summer marked all of the graves that they could with a wooden marker containing the names and states of the soldiers who occupied them, and marked ‘Unknown Soldier’ on those few that they could not identify.

A Few of the Unknown U.S. Soldiers at Andersonville National Cemetery

All of the graves are now simple marble, carved to replace the original wooden markers and placed in 1898 and 1899. All of the markers are the same, except one. The grave of Lewis Tuttle, a Sergeant from Maine, is adorned with a stone dove. Nobody knows who placed it there, or when. It is one of the enduring mysteries of the cemetery.  But clearly, Sergeant Tuttle was loved by someone.

Grave Number 12196 – Sergeant Tuttle of Maine

A Line of Andersonville Graves – With Sergeant Tuttle

The cemetery today is peaceful, like the prison site, and has many beautiful shade trees and low brick walls.  The day we were there, there was a service, but the cemetery is large enough to walk around and not feel like you are disturbing the service.  The audio tour we got back at the Visitor’s Center offers a great history of the cemetery and who is buried there, with stories of brothers and heroes, both during and after the Civil War.

Andersonville Prison Graves – With Later Graves Behind – Notice the Much Wider Spacing on the Later Burials

Andersonville was our one activity for the day, and you can read about our visit to the Andersonville Prison site here.  After our visit, we headed out on the way to our stop for the night, Macon, Georgia. We stayed at the LaQuinta there, which had a pool! And a million high school baseball players. We got there at about 3:30, so we had some time to lounge by the pool for awhile before we needed to go find dinner. For dinner, we went downtown and stumbled upon a café, La Dolce Vita, which had a great tomato and red pepper bisque and a decent Calzone. Jon had a turkey wrap and an Avocado Salad topped with crab. Delicious!

While in downtown Macon, we saw signs everywhere saying that “businesses are still open during filming.” And there were a lot of parked cars downtown – way more than seemed right for a business district in the evening. We asked our waitress and found out why – they were filming the movie 42, starring Harrison Ford. It is a movie about the life story of Jackie Robinson – sounds kind of interesting, even though I’m not that into sports movies. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Harrison Ford or anybody else that looked remotely famous. But I can at least say, “I was there when they were filming that!”

After dinner, we headed back to the pool for a bit more pool time on our last night in the South.

The Grand Tour – Day 8 – Andersonville Prison

We got up and while I got ready to go, Jon enjoyed some time down at the exercise room at the Windsor Hotel (he did say it was too hot though).  Then we checked out of the hotel and since the hotel restaurant was almost done with their breakfast period, we asked where else there was to get breakfast in the area. The manager recommended Carter’s, which he said served an authentic southern breakfast. We checked it out. It turned out to be Carter’s Fried Chicken, and they did have a breakfast menu. I’m not exactly sure I would describe it as authentic though – or at least authentic southern breakfast isn’t much different than all the authentic northern breakfasts I’ve had. Scrambled eggs, sausage, Wonderbread, and substitute grits for hashbrowns. Carter’s breakfast was decent but nothing fancy, cafeteria style, served up on a Styrofoam plate with plastic utensils. But it filled us up and we were on our way.

Like I said before, our destination for the day was Andersonville, the confederate Civil War prisoner of war camp. It was called Fort Sumter during the war, but in the later years it became known as Andersonville, named after the closest community. It was located there because it was sufficiently remote as to prevent much chance of a Union raid on the camp, and the community of Andersonville only had about 20 residents during the Civil War, so there wasn’t much chance that their complaining too loudly about having a POW camp in their backyard.

We got to Andersonville close to 10:30 in the morning, and went to the Visitor’s Center. The Visitor’s Center has a museum honoring Prisoners of War from all conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in, from the Revolutionary War to the present. We started out by watching their half hour film from the perspective of POWs. It was a very powerful collection of interviews with people who were POWs going back to World War II, detailing their experiences, both the horrors they lived through and the joy they experienced upon their release.  The museum there is well done and offers a lot of information on the POW experience throughout the ages.  It is a National Historic Site (and I got a stamp!), and it is all free of charge!  They do welcome donations, for the fantastic work they do to preserve this history for future generations.

Andersonville National Historic Site Visitor’s Center

After the film and our visit to the Museum, we checked out the free audio tour from the Visitor’s Center and headed out to see the prison site (just ask for the audio tour at the front desk). The audio tour has a tour of the prison and the cemetery, so you can head over to the cemetery after you are done with the prison and get some good information there too. I’ll talk about the cemetery in my next post.

Fort Sumter was located in this remote area of Georgia to prevent Union troops from being able to easily mount an assault on the prison to free the POWs. The site was originally 16.5 acres, with a boggy creek running through it to provide a water source for prisoners. The camp was designed for about 6,000 people. A few months after the prison opened in February 1864, officials realized that the original 16.5 acre site was not large enough, and the camp was hastily expanded to 26.5 acres. Unfortunately, there was no new source of water in the expanded area.  The expanded prison was intended for about 10,000 prisoners, but by June 1864, there were about 26,000 prisoners housed there.  At the height of overcrowding, the population was 32,000 prisoners.  In all, 45,000 prisoners passed through its gates in the 14 months that it was open.

During construction of the prison, officials reasoned that prisoners could access the upstream area of the creek for drinking water, and use the downstream portion for their latrine. What the officials didn’t count on, however, was that the water had already been tainted by kitchen facilities upstream, so the water was polluted by the time it ran into the camp.  So much for that idea…  The camp was constructed with a stockade wall and guard towers built along the wall for guards to monitor the prison population.  19 feet within the stockade wall was a light fence that became known as the ‘deadline’, because if you were seen on the other side of that fence, you would be shot on sight.  Therefore, of the 26.5 acres of the camp, a significant section of the real estate was not even available to the prisoners.

This picture shows the entire 26.5 acre prison camp – Camp Sumter – Home to 45,000 Union soldiers over a period of 14 months

When the Confederates were building the camp, they cut down all the trees that were on the site, both to use for the stockade walls, and to prevent the prisoners from being able to use the trees as cover for an escape. The unfortunate consequence was that there was absolutely no shelter from the elements on the camp grounds. Prisoners could use whatever they could get a hold of to build a shelter for themselves, but there were not a lot of available resources. As we drove around the site and got out of the car to explore more, it was apparent that this camp would have been unbearable in the hot summer sun. And it would only get worse as the summer got hotter. And the Georgia winter would not have been pleasant either, dressed in rags with no shelter and inadequate food.

A Reconstruction of the Stockade Wall – Jon is Reading the Sign

Re-Creations of Prisoner Shelters – They Called the SheBangs

Due to a combination of polluted water, inadequate food and nutrition and lack of shelter from the elements, prisoners began to die in large numbers shortly after the camp was opened. In all, almost 13,000 of the 45,000 prisoners at Camp Sumter died during the 14 months that the camp was operating. If you were lucky enough to be healthy for awhile, you still had to contend with the Andersonville Raiders, a gang of immoral prisoners who weren’t above using theft and violence to obtain additional resources for themselves.  They were armed mostly with clubs, and would steal food and valuables in order to survive – killing the weakened soldiers who tried to resist.

Eventually in July 1864, the Andersonville Raiders were captured by their fellow prisoners, and the camp commander Henry Wirz allowed the prisoners to arrest and try the Raiders, sentence them and carry out their sentences. Sentences ranged from minor punishments like being put in stocks, to more severe punishments such as running the gauntlet – I had to look this up – it is where you have to run back and forth between two rows of soldiers while they strike you with clubs or sticks as you run by.

Apparently some of the Raiders who were made to run the gauntlet got off with only a few blows to the head, but a couple of them were beaten so badly that they later died of their injuries. Six of the Andersonville Raiders were hanged.  The prisoners refused to allow the Raiders to be buried with the rest of the prisoners who died honorably, so the Raiders’ graves are separated in the cemetery from the rest.  At least after the trials and punishments, prisoners didn’t have to worry about being victimized by their own fellow prisoners.  I’m sure it was small comfort.

As the situation with the water got worse, prisoners prayed to God and were blessed with a natural spring that was unearthed in August 1964 by a lightning strike during a torrential thunderstorm. Providence Spring, as it came to be called, had cool, clean water that flowed at the rate of about 10 gallons per minute, enough to provide enough clean water for everyone in the camp. It continues to flow today, and it is now enshrined in a granite building. Ironically, park rangers have marked the spring as having unpotable water – I’m not sure if that is just to limit liability, or because the structure contains lead pipes, or because the spring has been polluted now too. I didn’t test the waters, so to speak.

The Building Erected Around the Providence Spring by Veteran's Groups in 1901

The Building Erected Around the Providence Spring by Veteran’s Groups in 1901

A View of Providence Spring From the Stockade Wall

Sadly, although Sherman’s troops were within about 20 miles of Camp Sumter during their March to the Sea, the prisoners were not liberated at that time. In fact, they had to endure another miserable winter (1864) and were not released until April 1865 when the war ended. Although conditions had improved somewhat, it was still considered a horrific experience.

Henry Wirz, the camp commander, was the only ranking officer who was executed for war crimes after the Civil War. People were outraged when word reached the north at the end of the war about the conditions the prisoners were subjected to. Lincoln had just been assassinated, and there was not a lot of sympathy for Wirz’s claims that he had done the best he could with the resources he had available. To Wirz’ credit, he had sent a letter signed by many of the prisoners requesting that the North re-establish prisoner exchanges, but the Union would not.  At one point, the Confederates even offered to release the prisoners, if only the Union would send ships to the Georgia coast to pick them up.

Ironically, New York’s Elmyra prison had a similar death rate among the Confederate soldiers who were imprisoned there, but the South was in no position to punish the North, having lost the war. I also learned that many of Andersonville’s prison guards suffered the same malnutrition and exposure to the elements as the prisoners, and many of the guards died too. You can draw your own conclusions about whether you believe that the Confederates intentionally starved the soldiers, or if was a cruel result of the circumstances of the time, with even Confederate soldiers and citizens going hungry.

Andersonville prison and cemetery is now a very peaceful place. I wrote about the cemetery in a separate post; you can find it here.  While we were there, we saw only about a half dozen others touring the grounds.  Actually, I was surprised that there were so few people there. On the grounds – it is very quiet; you can only hear the sounds of nature – there are no sounds of traffic, industry or city life. If you didn’t know what happened here, you would never be able to guess that a place that seems so serene now could have been the site of so much pain and suffering. It was a humbling place to visit.

The Grand Tour – Day 7 – Americus, Georgia!

After Fort Pulaski, we got on the road to our next destination – Americus, Georgia. Americus is a small town of about 17,000, which is only about 10 miles from Andersonville National Historic Site. Yes, the Andersonville of Civil War Prisoner of War camp fame, which was to be our destination the next morning. The long drive was a collection of boring freeways and picturesque back roads. We passed lots of cute brick homes with front porches, lots of singlewide trailers, a Mennonite Church, and one house that appeared to have been struck by a tornado. The entire front half of the home was sheared away, and there was furniture and debris all over. It made me glad we don’t have very many tornados in the Northwest (although we do have a few).

Once we got to Americus, we checked into our home for the night, the Best Western Windsor Hotel. The Windsor is a historic hotel, built in 1892 to attract folks from the north who wanted to winter where it was warm. It originally had 100 rooms, but after the renovation, it has 53 guest rooms, none of which are alike. The hotel has a grand 3 story lobby, and you can walk around the landing on the upper floors and look down at the lobby. Lots of famous people have stayed there over the years, including former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eugene Debs (the labor leader), Jessica Tandy and former President Jimmy Carter and his wife.  The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places too.

Windsor Hotel – Built 1892 – Victorian (Queen Anne) Architectural Style With Moorish Elements

The Lobby of the Windsor Hotel

Rumor has it that Al Capone also stayed there, and had an armed guard posted at the base of the turret suite where he stayed. And it has some ghosts. Floyd Lowery was a doorman who worked at the hotel for over 40 years and is still around. Apparently he is a friendly ghost, still wanting to serve the guests who see him.  Although Floyd didn’t drink, the pub at the hotel is now named for him.  And a woman and her daughter were murdered in the early 1900s, pushed down the elevator shaft from the third floor. It is said that the woman’s reflection can be seen in the mirror in the hallway of the third floor, and the little girl can be heard running up and down the hallways playing. We didn’t see or hear anything in our third floor room, although it was on the opposite side of the hotel from the elevator.

The Windsor Hotel Still Has its Original Phone Booth!

The hotel is gorgeous – the renovation did a good job of preserving the historic features of the hotel, and was nicely appointed with a down duvet (actually a bit hot for the weather though!). We enjoyed our stay, having dinner in the pub restaurant, where I had the best fish burger I’ve ever eaten! The patty was made from lobster, crab and fish, and was just full of big chunks of seafood! Jon had the salmon satay with apple slaw, which was also delicious. We sat out on the pub’s second floor veranda and watched the thunderstorm from beneath the veranda roof.  The lightning was incredible – it was so close and we had an excellent vantage point!  It was a nice end to a great day.

The Grand Tour – Day 7 – Fort Pulaski

We woke up to our last morning at the Marshall House and Savannah, Georgia. We got moving and went downstairs to have another fantastic breakfast with quiche and fruit. Awesome! (Yes, I’m frequently guided by my stomach. So what?) Then we headed out for one last morning wander around town before we had to check out, say goodbye and head on our way. We paid another visit to Colonial Cemetery (I can never get enough of this place!) and we wandered down to get a good photo of the Lucas Theatre.

The Lucas Theatre opened as a movie theatre in December 1921 and at the time, was the largest movie screen in Savannah.  It holds a special place in my heart though, because the first movie shown there, at the Grand Opening, was the silent film Camille, starring Rudolph Valentino!  My namesake!  No, not really, as the movie is about a courtesan, but it is a really good film.  And the 1936 version starring Greta Garbo is awesome too.  Camille is based on the 19th century book La Dame aux camélias by French author Alexandre Dumas’, and the book is also the basis for the more recent film Moulin Rouge (although it diverges quite a bit from the original story).  And in case you are wondering why the film is called Camille, when the main character is named Marguerite, Camille was the American name given to the movie, presumably to give a nod to The Lady of Camellias book title.

The Lucas Theatre, Built 1921, Greek Revival Architectural Style

On our way out of town, we decided to see Fort Pulaski, which is a fort outside of Savannah that was built in beginning in 1829 (it was finally finished in 1847). Although it was begun under the direction of another officer, Robert E. Lee was the second officer in charge of construction, and the one who oversaw the completion of the fort. He was a Second Lieutenant at that time in the U.S. Army.  It was built from bricks, both from a nearby Savannah plantation, and from as far away as Baltimore, Maryland.  Fort Pulaski is named for Kazimierz Pulaski (known in the U.S. as Casimir Pulaski), who was a Polish cavalry soldier who fought for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  He was a genius at military strategy, learning his trade fighting in battles all across Europe.  He trained U.S. troops fighting the British and participated in the sieges of Charleston and Savannah (shout out to my Polish heritage!).

Jon Posing on the Walk Up to Fort Pulaski

The Arched Entrance to Fort Pulaski

The fort was occupied at the beginning of the Civil War by Georgia troops, but Union troops assaulted Fort Pulaski with rifled cannon (a new innovation that scored the inside of the cannon with grooves to allow heavier cannonballs to travel further and with more accuracy).  Union troops spent a period of time constructing sand batteries on distant Tybee Island, where they then placed 36 guns.  The Confederates knew they were there, but were feeling secure inside the fort.  In fact, Robert E. Lee said, “Colonel, they will make it pretty warm for you here with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at that distance.”  The 11 foot thick walls of Fort Pulaski were considered to be impenetrable, but after 30 hours of bombardment, the Union cannons had breached one wall of the fort and were shelling dangerously close to the fort’s powder magazine.

A View of the Inside of Fort Pulaski From the Upper Wall

The Confederates surrendered the fort and it was occupied and repaired by Union troops for the remainder of the war, successfully blockading the Savannah River and shutting down commerce in and out of Savannah.  At one point, over 500 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned at the fort, in response to the Confederates placing 600 Union soldiers in the direct line of Union fire in the city of Charleston.  These Confederate soldiers became known as the Immortal 600 – and 13 of them died of starvation and dysentery while imprisoned there.  They are buried outside the fort.

Grave Marker for the Immortal Six Hundred – 13 Confederate POWs Who Died at Fort Pulaski

The fort is now operated by the National Park Service as a National Monument, so I was able to get another stamp for my National Parks Passport!  It was an awesome place to spend a couple of hours, checking out the history and enjoying the Southern sunshine.  While we were there we got to see a musket firing demonstration (see the smoke in the photo!), and see what it would have been like to live at the fort (I would rather live at Fort Pulaski than Fort Sumter, hands down). I tried to find alligators too, because I saw on the brochure that they live on Cockspur Island around the fort, but I was thwarted again – no alligators were to be seen.  Jon and I did take a walk on some of the nature trails, but we headed back when we started getting eaten by mosquitoes!

A Musket Firing Demo at Fort Pulaski

After Fort Pulaski, we headed over to Tybee Island to see what it was like. Tybee Island is a resort island with lots of beach access and seaside fun for the kids. We cruised through and took a look, but since neither Jon nor I are real beach vacation folks, it probably won’t be next on our vacation agenda.

Then, we got back on the road for another long drive to our next destination – Americus, Georgia!

Savannah and the Chatham Artillery Punch

So, I promised I would tell you how much Southerners loved George Washington back in the day.  And here’s how the story goes.

The Chatham Artillery was a local militia that was formed in 1786.  Militia members participated in the Oconee Wars between 1789 and 1793, and George Washington wanted to thank them for that service.  He came to Savannah in May of 1791, and during his visit, presented the Chatham Artillery with 2 cannon, one that was captured at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, and one that was presented as a gift to the young country by France.

The Chatham Artillery held a ball in his honor, and what’s a ball without punch?  So they made a special punch to celebrate George’s visit.  Here’s the recipe…

Chatham Artillery Punch – For 100 People (Or Ten Admirals)
1 ½ gal. Catawba Wine
½ gal. Rum (probably Jamaican)
1 qt. Gin
1 qt. Brandy
½ pt. Benedictine
2 qt. Maraschino Cherries
1 ½ qt. Rye Whiskey
1 ½ gal. Strong Tea (probably black)
2 ½ lbs. brown sugar
1 ½ qts. Orange juice
1 ½ qts. Lemon Juice

Mix from thirty-six to forty-eight hours before serving.  Add one case of champagne when ready to serve!  This punch recipe makes 5 gallons!

Some sources on the internet say that this punch was dreamed up sometime in the 1850s.  Others say this was the punch served during George Washington’s visit.  You’ll have to decide.  Whatever the answer is – wow!  That’s some punch!

The Grand Tour – Day 6 – A Ghostly Tour

After our day walking around Savannah, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R and I took a nap for an hour while Jon recharged by reading sports websites on my Kindle. After my nap, which was glorious, by the way (I’m a big fan of naps!), we got up and had some wine and cheese for a snack at the Marshall House’ wine and cheese social hour (I’m also a big fan of wine and cheese!). We were heading out on our ghost tour at 7:30, so we wanted a snack to hold us over until we found a late dinner. We relaxed and hung out, and then when it got closer to the time, we headed out to find Reynolds Square, where the ghost tour departed.

There were Girl Scouts Galore in the Square – kind of a flash mob of girl scouts, only with flirting and giggling instead of singing and dancing (there was a bit of singing and dancing too though!). I’m not really sure why they chose Reynolds Square as their gathering spot, as most of them were not going on the ghost tour, but there they were. An enormous swarming gaggle of hormones. They were only slightly drowned out by the sax player who was playing for tourists in the square, but they kept asking him to play “Star Wars”, so let’s just say it was not romantic.

Shortly, our tour headed out (it was a walking tour in case you were wondering) and we were entertained with stories of first cemeteries, Indian burials, hangings and yellow fever outbreaks. It was still light out, and the ghost tour wasn’t scary, but was an interesting overview of the history of the City and what has gone on there since Savannah’s founding in 1733.  The house on Oglethorpe Street that my mom and I visited on our last ghost tour there in 2004 is still there, still vacant, and sadly, more vandalized.  I’m rooting for that home to find an owner – it’s an awesome turn-of-the-last-century townhouse – and the doctor who haunts it can’t be all that bad of a ghostly resident.

As the story goes, Dr. Brown lived in a former version of this home at 12 W. Oglethorpe (the current home was built about 1900).  He moved to Savannah to treat patients of the periodic yellow fever outbreaks, and he set up a hospital in the back of the home.  Yellow fever struck Savannah again in 1820, and Dr. Brown tended to the sick in his home – lots of them.  Sadly, his wife and child were both sickened by yellow fever too, and both died.  He was so filled with grief that he bricked himself in an upstairs room and slowly starved to death.  If you go up to the door and knock and look through the windows, people have seen his ghostly form coming down the stairs.  Mysterious orbs have also shown up in photos of the porch and through the windows.

Sadly, the home was heavily damaged by fire in 2009, and apparently the upper floors collapsed on top of themselves, so bringing this stately home back from ruin may not be in the cards…  I wonder what Dr. Brown would think about that.

The House at 12 W. Oglethorpe

The House at 12 W. Oglethorpe

We also heard about one of the resident ghosts at the Olde Pink House Restaurant, James Habersham Jr.  Mr. Habersham had the house built in 1771, but delays occurred and the house wasn’t finished until 1789 – darn that Revolutionary War!  It seems that long period of construction allowed the architect and Habersham’s wife to get a little too acquainted, and it is said that their affair was the catalyst for Habersham’s suicide in the basement in 1799.  He is said to be a friendly ghost, walking around the house greeting patrons and sometimes sitting at the bar downstairs.  We didn’t make it to the restaurant on our visit, but this is on my list of places to go one day, and not just because of the ghost – the food is supposed to be amazing!

Olde Pink House Restaurant

So, I know it’s not a great photo of the Olde Pink House Restaurant (those live oaks were a bit of a drawback here), but you can clearly see the house is pink.  Well, James Habersham had the home built of brick, with white plaster on top.  Due to some flaw in the way the plaster was applied, the red brick kept bleeding through the plaster, making the house look – PINK!  Habersham was a manly man, and wasn’t all that excited about living in a pink house, so he kept painting the house again each time the brick would bleed through.  And subsequent owners did too.  What an undertaking!  Finally a woman purchased the house in the 1920s and adopted an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em mentality” and had the house officially painted cotton candy pink.  It was going to be pink anyway…

After the ghost tour, Jon and I headed down to the River House restaurant on the riverfront to have a late dinner. I had the lobster crab bisque (which was excellent) and a Regency salad – basically a Caesar salad. It was good and since we were eating so late (it was about 9:30) we didn’t want anything heavy.  Jon had the peel and eat shrimp (also very good!) and the same Regency salad. On the placemat, the River House includes some information about George Washington’s visit to Savannah in 1791, and the Chatham Artillery Punch that Savannahians have served for occasions since the 1850s.  Boy it would pack a punch (pun intended)!  I’ll detail it in an upcoming post, I promise!

The River House Restaurant

After dinner, we wandered around a bit more before heading back to the hotel to turn in for the night.  So remember in my previous Marshall House post I told you it is haunted?  If not, here it is…  We went to sleep just fine, and then I woke up having a strange and terrifying experience.  I was awake, but felt that I could not move.  I couldn’t sit up or move my arms or legs… I tried to call out to Jon to wake him up, because I was really scared, but could not make a sound.  After a few moments of being completely paralyzed, I was able to move again, and the feeling of terror went away.  Ghost?  I can’t say if it was or wasn’t, but it sure was weird…