The Hurricane that Broke Savannah E-7

32.079849° -81.091614° Season 1, Episode 7

Hey, everyone!

Is this a great day for a podcast, or what?

No storms… no bad weather… at least not for me where I am.

Sorry if you are. You know the old saying… If you don’t like the weather stick around… It’ll change.

So stick around I’m going to tell you a story about a bad day… weather wise

See, in Savannah and South Georgia, back in 1881, they had a really bad day.

A devil of a hurricane…

The carnage started several miles south of the city where at the sportsman’s club on Wolf Island, the home of the club’s caretaker, Mr. Stokes, was ripped from the foundation and pushed into the river. Floodwaters crashed in the doors and windows and swept his wife and children into the river. His entire family drowned. Only Stokes survived and walked over sixty miles to Savannah to report the event.

I’m JD Byous. Welcome to History by GPS, where we travel through history and culture GPS location by GPS location. So, click on your favorite map app and follow along. Today I’m going to give you a general GPS location which right in the main square of the city, Johnson Square, then, you can find the other places mentioned on our website,

Now…  that location in Johnson Square is where the weather station kiosk used to sit… before the storm… and the coordinates are

32.079861° -81.091488°


From East Broad Street to West Broad Street few buildings escaped the fury and damage of the storm. As you may know, West Broad is now MLK Blvd should you be visiting Savannah…

This hurricane predated the naming of storms by almost seventy years. In 1881 it was called simply “Hurricane Five” and was only a class 2 hurricane, but Seven hundred people died in the area around the city, with 355 of that total within the city limits. It was one of the deadliest hurricanes in American history.[1]

The Mayor’s Report for the year reported that “A hurricane of unparalleled violence occurred on the 27th of August last, doing great damage to property in the city and vicinity. … and all of the buildings belonging to the city were more or less injured… The fire alarm telegraph wires were broken in many places and leveled to the ground, and a great number of shade trees blown down. The fences and railings enclosing the parks and squares and at Laurel Grove Cemetery were partially blown down and crushed by falling trees.”

As one newspaper described, the Class 2 hurricane that hit Savannah in August 1881 was one of “unparalleled violence… all of the buildings belonging to the city were more or less injured.” And almost all of the buildings in the city had wind or rain damage. 

In the Atlantic, it started as a tropical storm and rolled to the northeast through the Lesser Antilles Island on August 22, and then it bounced up… off of Florida and headed to Savannah. By August 24, it reached hurricane strength. On August 27, it hit land directly at the mouth of the Ogeechee River at high tide, pushing a fifteen-foot storm surge.

In Savannah, wind gusts blew the city wind gauge away after recording a wind speed of 80 miles per hour. The intense damage resulted because Hurricane Five, though it was only estimated to be class two in strength, well, it came to Savannah… and it stayed for two days.

Hmmmm… that’s about the same length of time the tourists hang around here.


Small but slow storms can do as much or more damage as larger storms.

After wreaking havoc on the area, the hurricane beelined due west.

At the old savannah Morning News building on the corner of Bay and Whitfield Streets, the squall peeled the roof like a key-rolled tin top on a sardine can. The damage was severe because the water came through the ceiling into the editorial and make-up departments, then into the press and paper storage rooms. As one Alabama newspaper described, “The compositors finished their work ankle-deep in water.”[2] 

The news must get out you know…

At City Market, the buildings sustained damage many of those structures are still there Also damaged was the old Exchange buildings that stood where the gold-domed City Hall stands today. The trees around the area fell and smashed fences, business signs, and lampposts, strewing trash debris across the streets and intersections.  

Johnson Square in Savannah where the weather kiosk was located.

The black communities along the waterways were hardest hit. David Bowens, his wife, and his children were washed into the river, — all of them drowned. South of Savannah, on Shad Island, just downstream from Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River, Henry Douglas’ wife and four children were lost when the surge rose and swept them into the marsh. Other huts on the waterways suffered the same fate. All of the residents of Douglas’ small fishing settlement died in the storm, with the exception of Douglas.

The plantation of former Fort McAllister commander Major George W. Anderson on the Ogeechee Road was hit with winds strong enough to blow down his barn, killing two of his horses that were inside. Some of you history buffs may remember that that plantation was where Union General William Tecumseh Sherman made his headquarters when he surrounded Savannah in 1864. I’ll talk about that incident and the capture of Fort McAllister in another episode.

Oh, I forgot. Remember to follow the podcast that way you’ll be notified when new episodes come out. If you’re watching on YouTube, subscribe. You know how to do it… click the button.

Also go to where you’ll find other GPS locations mentioned on this episode. You’ll also find our merchandise and books. We have tee-shirts, cups… other things… as well as products mentioned on this episode and others that highlight Savannah, Georgia.

Oh, if you have any information you want to give, or state your opinion on this topic, please go to the comments and write it… it’s on the website.

I’d love to hear from you.

Overview of damaged area around Savanah.

Now back to newspaper articles.

The Round House plantation that Joseph Clay owned was totally demolished.

All of the buildings and many of the animals were blown into the river and washed away.[1]  

One article on the storm claimed that on August 26th, the Savannah Morning News had an article about the storm, but the U.S. Signal Corps issued no official warning.

August 27 was a Saturday, and despite some squally weather in the morning, many people went to Tybee Island to the beach, and to escape the heat. The fresh northeasterly wind may have seemed welcome after a long summer of steamy heat in the city.

The early morning ferries had brought hundreds to the Tybee wharf, where a mule-drawn streetcar drove people to the beach and the Ocean House, a 40-room hotel with a large, popular restaurant.

But by lunchtime, it was too late. The water was too rough for the ferries to run… and, at that time, there was no road from Tybee Island to the mainland.

Another article said, In Savannah itself, the damage was horrific. Almost all buildings lost their roofs. Including major buildings like the Savannah Cotton Exchange, the office of the Savannah Morning News, and the U.S. Signal Corps. When the U.S. Signal Corps building was destroyed, along with the weather instruments, the barometer was 29.08”, and the wind was 85 mph, but the storm continued to worsen.

All of the accounts of the 1881 hurricane stress the extreme “violence” of the wind in the city.

Savannah proper was out of reach of the tides because it sits around forty feet about the river, so the tidal surge couldn’t reach it on the high bluff. But the winds were enough to cause terrible damage on their own. The death toll in Savannah itself was 335 from collapsing buildings, flying tin roofs, collapsing chimneys, flying glass, and falling trees.

As accounts from outlying communities came in, and from the poor black housing, the low marshes and riverbanks, and from Tybee, the death toll on land surpassed 700.

Experience has shown us that deaths from hurricanes, especially in poor, outlying black communities, were poorly documented. This has as has a similar study of the 1893 Sea Islands hurricane.

Tybee Island beach and the Lazaretto Creek Station to the west.

The Station at Lazaretto Creek on Tybee Island became a ruin of tangled lumber, sails, lines, and palm limbs.

The wreckage included the wharf, the boats, the houses, the furniture, and all of the medical supplies.

The crew of the Spanish bark, Marietta, abandoned ship earlier in the night and rode out the storm hanging from the rafters hospital. Later, the men found that their ship was still afloat, but the mast and all of the rigging had been blown away.

Residents in Savannah weathered the storm in darkness because, as I mentioned earlier, the gas streetlight globes were smashed by the debris that found them in the path. The damage was the worst that any of the oldest city residents could remember. Even the devastating storm of 1854 brought less damage than the long-duration winds of that 1881 tempest.[3]  

Leaving Savannah, the devil storm moved westward, damaging forest and property only to fizzle out in Mississippi, two states to the west.

And things changed at over at Trustees’ Garden, though it was unchronicled in newspapers.  In the wake of the destruction, the renovation of the gasworks’ retort building changed it into the style we see today, holding the same five-bay footprint. A stone plaque on the northwest corner of the Morris Center across from the Pirates’ House Restaurant, commemorates the event, suggests a near-total rebuild. That old building dates from about 1853… at least in part… and was the retort building where they cooked coal to make streetlight gas for about one hundred years. After the hurricane, a more substantial structure wrapped around the columns to form a shell-like cover making the lighter-colored brick columns of the building seen today, should you visit there.

Across Morris Park to the southeast, on the west end of the old Kehoe Iron Works main foundry, the pillars for the enclosure hid evidence of the same catastrophic damage…for over a century.

A few years ago, I was a history consultant for the renovation project at Trustees’ Garden. I found that a lot of hurricane damage from 1881 was hidden under façades of bricks and mortar.

The hurricane’s damage was finally revealed in the archaeological record 134 years later while… very talented… artisans repaired and renewed the structure. You could see the old, shattered wall and pillar sections under the newer brickwork that stands today.

Mother Nature and old buildings are a lot like people… I suppose.

Time tends to cover and plaster over old damage… and usually, that damage is still buried under layers of tears and patches and Band-aids. For buildings physical and structural. For people, it’s physical and psychological.

As for the devil storm… it left Savannah, it moved westward, damaging forest and property to finally fizzle out over in Mississippi on August 29.

Sooo… if you didn’t know already know this story….. now you know.

Don’t forget to check out our books and merch at and leave a comment… I’d love to hear from you.

See you next time.



Johnson Square weather kiosk 32.079849° -81.091614°

Wolf Island GA 31.348359° -81.304902°

Shad Island 31.886639° -81.163969°

Savannah Morning News Building GPS 32.081118°  -81.092423°

Round House Plantation 31.925800° -81.276473° Later the land was owned by automobile tycoon, Henry Ford.

Station at Lazaretto Creek 32.014094° -80.882525°

Trustees’ Garden 32.078480° -81.083407°


[1] The National Hurricane Center began giving them names like Irma and Andrew in 1950.

[2] Swept to Death By the Gale, Great Destruction and Loss of Live in Savannah, Birmingham Iron Age, Birmingham, Alabama, Sept 8, 1881.

[3] Mayors Report, City of Savannah, Edward C. Anderson, 1855: The Storm at Savannah, Further Particulars, Southern Weekly Banner, Athens, Georgia, Tue Sept 6, 1881, p 1: Wikipedia, 1881 Atlantic Hurricane Season, season: Donna R Causey, The 1881 hurricane of Savannah, Georgia nearly wiped out the town, Days Gone By,, August 27, 2016.

One Duel. One Died. One Didn’t – E-6

32.077938° -81.082580° Season 1, Episode 6

Hey, everyone!

What a great day for a podcast!

Do we have a great country or what?

Yes… our country has problems… all countries have problems.

But at the time of the forming of our nation during the American Revolution, things got pretty bad, not just in the way the war was going, but in the political landscape of the founding fathers. Tensions were high between the early patriots.

Some said that in 1777, at the early phases of the fighting, Georgia’s war-time President was murdered by poisoning.

Yes or no, his death definitely had suspicious circumstances surrounding it… but no one could prove foul play. When Archibald Bulloch died… some people suspected that a man named Button Gwinnett had something to do with it.

 The wake of that incident washed over emotions, heated tempers, and created mistrust among Georgia’s founding fathers.

As a result, two American patriots fought a duel in Savannah, and one of them died. But today, we’ll look into WHERE the duel took place.

By the way, you’ve heard of six degrees of separation? President Theodore Roosevelt, who was born 81 years later, has a link to these events and this duel.

 I’m JD Byous. Welcome to History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture, GPS location by GPS location. So, click on your favorite map app and follow along.

Ready?… Here are the coordinates for today’s spot.

It is 32.077938° -81.082580°

Now, you’re going to find that this location is in the middle of a grassy park on the east side of town. But it is an important spot, and here’s the story behind it.

The President was a guy named Archibald Bulloch, a member of the Continental Congress and a veteran of the fight for freedom.

As an interesting note… Bulloch had to leave the meetings of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and make a hasty trip to Georgia to help defend Savannah from an imminent British attack. If he had stayed in Pennsylvania, he would have been Georgia’s fourth signer of the Declaration of Independence.

You remember the others… Lyman Hall, George Walton, and Button Gwinnett.

Archibald Bulloch

Also… if Bulloch had not died when he did, one signer of the Declaration of Independence might have lived a little longer.

So, to clarify… Bulloch was the first President and Commander in Chief of Georgia… in the temporary government… in the soon to be new State while the war with England was still going on. After his death, he was replaced by the ambitious and recent English immigranta guy named, Button Gwinnett.

The President’s death and the suspicions surrounding it… illuminate the power struggle that was taking place among the American Rebel leadership.

Factional game-playing was debilitating the security of the Revolution, the state, and especially the city of Savannah.

Gwinnett is often remembered as a mystery man with a cloudy past. A decade earlier, when he immigrated from England, he purchased St. Catherines Island off of the South Georgia coast.

His investment failed, leaving him up to his eyeballs in debt. So, he was forced to sell his property in 1773. He turned to politics three years later, and the political winds pushed him into public office and a position in the newly formed Georgia Assembly.

Okay, where the GPS coordinates will take you are to a recently elevated section of lawn that is within a few feet of the spot where in 1777, Button Gwinnett fought a duel with a guy named Lachlan McIntosh.

Trustees’ Garden in Savannah, Georgia and the location of the duel.

The rift between the patriots was due to differing political opinions and the resultant insults that went with them. Gwinnett, a member of the Continental Congress, was a candidate for a position as brigadier general in the 1st Regiment of the Continental Army… But Georgia’s one-house General Assembly gave the position to McIntosh. That decision made Gwinnett furious.

See, Gwinnett rose to the office of Speaker of the Georgia Assembly… the \top /dog position So after Bulloch’s death, HE, Gwinnett, became the President.

In taking office, he carried with him the belief that he was a wronged man… so Gwinnett started getting even with the people who opposed him.

In his power quest, Gwinnett began purging his opponents’ from their positions in the assembly and in the military. He ordered McIntosh to march on an ill-conceived and ill-planned campaign to seal off the border from British Florida. I said, “ill-conceived.” The expedition was a disaster.

The debacle created shouts of accusation from both sides, both pointing blame at each other.

And Gwinnett was set on using the failure to take over command of the military and oust McIntosh. But the stubborn Scotsman McIntosh refused to be blamed and refused to give up his position.

In the political chess game, Gwinnett attacked Lachlan’s brother, George McIntosh, and called him a traitor. Gwinnett charged that George had sold provisions to British ships then promptly relieved Lachlan of his command. Gwinnett did not know, nor did he look into, the fact that the traitor was a business partner who had detoured a cargo of rice and other provisions to the British… all without George McIntosh’s knowledge. Gwinnett had George hauled off to jail.

Lachlan was furious, he knew his brother’s loyalty to the American cause and called Gwinnett “a scoundrel and a lying rascal.”

Back then, those terms were a bit more incendiary than they are today. However, today we do still have a few scoundrels and lying rascals in Washington, DC… so I’m told.

By the way, as I always say, I’ve researched this stuff for thirty years. This is my understanding and interpretation on what happened.. and I hear there are several other interpretations.

If you have an opinion, or if you just want to comment, please leave a note in the comment section below the transcription. Or, if you’re listening on a platform that doesn’t have them… check out the show notes and other information on our website… There are also photos and illustrations that go along with the story.

So…….. Gwinnett, in his hot-headed way, challenged Lachlan McIntosh to a duel. That action scored points for Gwinnett in the Georgia Congress, but though others tried to talk him out of it, he was determined to go on with the duel.

Which, when you look at the facts… was a very dumb thing to do… Lachlan McIntosh was a Scottish Highlander who was a child when the founder of Georgia, James Oglethorpe, recruited his clan to settle Georgia’s southeastern coast to protect against the Spanish.

In fact, the Spanish captured his father, and Oglethorpe arranged for Lachlan and George to be put under the care of Reverend George Whitfield at his Bethesda orphanage.

But the independent Scottish boys didn’t do well at the orphanage. I mean, they were Scottish. Now, I can say that because my name Byous is a VERY Scottish name. Other Scots will understand.

As I was saying, the brothers didn’t get along with things at the orphanage.

So, they decided they would return to Scotland to fight with the Jacobites in what is called the 1715 uprising that tried to overthrow the English protestant monarchs, William and Mary. I’ll talk about Jacobites in another episode.

Fortunately for them, Oglethorpe convinced them to stay in Georgia because the whole war was a fiasco for the Jacobite cause.

To emphasize why a duel with McIntosh was a bad idea for Gwinnett…The McIntosh boys had warrior training from their youth and were excellent marksmen. That fighting ability, along with Lachlan’s quick wit, helped him advance through the ranks of local military units.

His Scottish Highland honor would not allow him to be insulted by the English-born newcomer-to-the-cause, Button Gwinnett, nor any other man. As a result, the men would duel to settle the argument and restore their honor.

Hmmmm. What kind of guy has the name Button anyway… sounds like something you’d find in the lint trap of a clothes dryer.

Okay, so now you’re asking me, where does Teddy Roosevelt come into the story?

That’s coming up. You’ll see how he is “very” connected to this occasion.

I promise.

Okay… continuing… Several locations have been suggested as to where the fight took place. However, combining all the accounts by participants, historians, and recorded evidence, one place comes out as the spot where the clash happened… Trustees’ Garden here on the edge of Savannah’s eastern bluff, where the GPS coordinates will take you.

Here’s the evidence…

That site, as described by historian and Savannah Mayor Thomas Gamble, has been long known as a favorite dueling ground for Savannahians as well as for those across the river who wanted to avoid South Carolina, law officials. It was located “ below the fort” at Trustees’ Garden.

Now, the location of the Gwinnett/McIntosh duel has been in dispute for over a century.

But records indicate that the duel happened in a field owned by Royal Governor James Wright east of the city. According to a map in the Georgia Historical Society Library, Wright owned many of the lots at Trustees’ Garden that were along what is now named Randolph Street and… ironically… MacIntosh Boulevard.  

And we have the testimony of Gwinnett’s second, you know… the guy who hands them the guns and then backs out of the line of fire… On that day, the guy was Charles Wells, the brother of the Sugar Party Liberty Boy, Andrew Elton Wells, that we talk about in another History by GPS episode.

Charles stated that a crowd was gathering, so Gwinnett and McIntosh moved “a little lower down the hill.” That means it was close enough to town for a crowd of onlookers to gather and that it took place in a field with a slope. There are few slopes in or near Savannah that were owned by James Wright.

As I said… according to the old map in the Georgia Historical Society, at the time of the duel, Royal Governor James Wright owned the residential parcel that has the coordinates that I gave you. Other accounts of the event say it was below the old fort…

If you look on the map, the eastern wall of the fort that was \there in 1777 was about where the current wall stands today. And, in combining the records and reports from historians Thomas Gamble, Hugh McCall, and Charles C. Jones, along with Wells’ testimony, the location notes point to Trustees’ Garden.

McCall wrote that it was on Governor Wright’s land east of the city — that checks out. Jones said it was within the city limit, which ran across the marsh next to this location – another check. Wells said it was on a hillside…

By the way, Hugh McCall was about ten years old at the time of the duel, and his father fought in Savannah. So, he may have had first-hand information.

There is only one place where all of those things match up… the grassy knoll in Morris Park at Trustees’ Garden.

Now, that’s interesting… gunfire around grassy knolls in the South always seems to be shrouded in mystery… and they tend to change history.

But anyway…

Here’s an interesting tidbit of history about THIS duel.

The distance between participants in most duels of that time would typically be ten paces or more, which separates the combatants by about thirty feet.

McIntosh insisted that eight or ten feet would be sufficient. The seconds, Joseph Habersham and George Wells stepped and marked the distance. Habersham then told the men to stand back-to-back as was traditional. But McIntosh refused, saying, “By no means… let us see what we are about.” And Gwinnett agreed.

So the men stood about ten… feet… apart……

Ten feet apart! That… is… insane!

At ten feet… with the pistols of that day… the muzzles of their guns were only about three and one-half feet apart. Like I said… That’s insane.

The two men fired at almost the same time.

Gwinnett fell to the ground with a wound above the knee and a broken thigh bone.

McIntosh, though shot through his thigh muscle, stood still. He was thinking that Gwinnett’s wound was no worse off than his, so he asked Gwinnett if had had enough or if he wanted to try another round. Gwinnett said… now, this is not a quote, but today it would be something like… Yeah, dude… let’s get it on!

Well… the seconds demanded that one round was enough. Then after the seconds helped Gwinnett to his feet, the two combatants shook hands.

Wells later testified that both men behaved like gentlemen and men of honor.

Now here’s a question… If they were only ten feet apart, why weren’t they both killed?

They must have been very bad shots on that day… Right?

Well… one answer is that it was a common practice in those days… to attempt to wound your opponent rather than kill them. It was an act of bravery and honor… a macho show of manhood,some would say.

The fact that both men were struck in the thigh at ten feet indicates that they attempted to regain honor without killing each other.

Heck. If these guys wanted to kill each other, they’d both be dead.

The protocol in dueling was to stand with the pistol pointing upward. It would be hard for both men to lower their weapons and miss the intended target if it was the upper chest or upper body… so it was gentlemanly to wound your opponent.

Now, here’s my theory of how it may have happened. The seconds said the two men fired almost simultaneously. I suspect that Gwinnett fired first, hitting McIntosh in the thigh, which made him flinch and miss his mark… the flesh on the side of Gwinnett’s leg… and instead… in flinching… the ball was fired directly into the center of his leg, breaking his thigh.

McIntosh healed in a few weeks. But Gwinnett didn’t fare so well. His… death was unintentional. See, the weather was hot and muggy, and things were not very sanitary back then…, especially musket balls. It was gangrene that did him in.

As a political result, McIntosh was ostracized by many in Georgia’s Revolutionary leadership, and he was sent up north to let things cool off. They did… He was ordered to serve under General George Washington just in time for the deadly winter camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

I’ll bet that cooled him down a bit.

Ironically, today the two men are buried just a few yards apart in Colonial Park Cemetery in the Historic District.

So… did people still duel after that?

Yes… similarly for the next century.

Now, an other irony, George Wells, you remember… Gwinnett’s second at the duel… he died a few days after Gwinnett… killed in a duel with McIntosh’s good friend, Major James Jackson… who was known to be one of the greatest duelists and marksmen of the time… and didn’t aim for the thigh. Fort Jackson, just outside of Savannah… it’s named for him.

Another tragedy of the infighting of the patriots was that the defenses around Savannah were incomplete and inadequate because of that factional friction. But we’ll look at that timeframe in another episode.

I almost forgot.

Okay, so what about Teddy Roosevelt?

 Teddy… had a son that he named Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt.

You remember Archibald Bulloch, the former commander in chief of Georgia who died under suspicious circumstances…

 …he was Theodore Roosevelt’s great-great-grandfather.

President Theodore Roosevelt with family. Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt is boy on right.

Cool trivia, huh?

Cool indeed.

So… if you didn’t already know this story… now… you know/.

Please remember to click the like button and then to go to our website to find more… and our store where you can buy something… help support the program.

See you next time.



Gwinnett grave, 32.075561° -81.089862° 

Monument to Button Gwinnett, Colonial Park Cemetery.


McIntosh grave, 32.075323° -81.090607°

Home of Lachlan McIntosh, 32.076679° -81.091240°

Valley Forge, PA site, 40.099543° -75.424750°


Historic Duel Recalled; Affidavit Recounts the McIntosh-Gwinnett Encounter in 1777, The New York Times. 1914-04-10, via Wikipedia; The History of Georgia, C.C. Jones, Vol. II, pp 270: Other sources indicate “east” of town which was outside the city limit at that time. The area below the “Old Fort” was a known dueling ground as recorded by Thomas Gamble in his book, Savannah’s Duels and Duelists, 1923: The statement of “within the city” corresponds with Savannah, Ga. Sewerage Map. From Report on the Social Statistics of Cities, compiled by George E. Waring, Jr., United States, Census Office, Part II, 1886 as well as and the 1868 Map of the City of Savanah by John B. Hogg, showing the city limit ran one-quarter mile to the east of Trustees’ Garden. Wells mentions that a crowd was gathering, so Gwinnett and McIntosh moved “a little lower down the hill,” indicating a field with a slope. At the time of the duel, Governor James Wright owned the land below the fort site. Combining the records and reports from

Gamble, Jones, and Wells, the location notes point to Trustees’ Garden.  

George Wells Affidavit, copy, Georgia Historical Society, Lachlan McIntosh papers, June 1777, Some accounts state that upon McIntosh’s question to fire again, Gwinnett agreed but was overruled by the Seconds.

Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, Vol. 11, No. 11 March 2016 noting, Lyman Hall to Roger Sherman, 1 June 1777, reprinted in; Button Gwinnett, Charles Francis Jenkins, 1926, pp 229.

Wade Elliott, The Death of Dueling, 1997, pp 66,

He Slept on a Grave E-2

JD Byous– –Books– –Shop

32.042645° -81.046146° Season 1, Episode 2

Other coordinates listed are at the end of the page.

Listen to this episode here

Hey, everyone!

Okay… okay… A while back, I heard a story of a famous person doing something that I would never do. I doubt that any of you would either, but, hey, what do I know. Anyway…

I ask myself this question…

Why would a young man… an intelligent and educated young man… hike 700 miles, walk into a strange cemetery where he had never been and knew no one buried there… then unknowingly lie down on an important grave and go to sleep?

You may know the guy.


It was John Muir, who was a naturalist and a conservationist and is remembered as one of the fathers of the US National Park system.

Today there are mountains, forests, parks, and two John Muir Trails, one in California in the Sierra Nevada and one in Tennessee in the Cumberland Mountains.

So, why did he come to the cemetery and which grave did he sleep on?

Stick around, we’ll look at the clues, and I’ll tell you my take on it.

I’m JD Byous… Welcome to History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture, GPS location by GPS location.

You can find transcripts of the show and all of the coordinates of where these events happened at our website,

Okay, get your pencil and paper and I’ll give you the first location and you can follow us on your favorite map app.

Okay, this one is in the back end of Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia

It’s at the coordinates … 32.042645° -81.046146°.

 Now, this location marks the grave where I suspect Muir slept. And it is an important grave.

But first, a little background on the grave-sleeping guy.

John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838 and his family emigrated to the United States where he grew up in Wisconsin.

He was hard-working and inventive. Loved botany and geology and traveled and studied his scientific passions around Wisconsin, and the states around it, and up into Meaford, Ontario, Canada.

When he was in his twenties, he left the farm and attended college, and became an excellent woodworker, ending up in a carriage factory in Indiana.

A freak accident left him blind for a short time, and when he regained his sight decided that working in a factory wasn’t for him… he wanted to see the world.

When he through to Savannah, Georgia, he was on his famous 1000-mile walk to the gulf, which started in Louisville, Kentucky, and ended in Cedar Key, Florida. From there, he ended up in Yosemite Valley, where he changed history.

As for his stay in Bonaventure… he was there for about five nights.

That was in October, 1867.

So, what are the differences in Bonaventure today you ask?

Well… I’m glad you did.

The birds still chirp and gather seeds. The squirrels still scamper through the oaks, and today, Spanish moss waves in the wind just as it did when Muir visited.

I guess you could say that life among the dead at Bonaventure Cemetery is just… life… a lot like Muir described it back then. He wrote quite a bit about the plants and animals he found.

But, today, there are more graves… there are a lot more graves. 

So, why Bonaventure? It was several miles outside of the main city back then.

Muir wrote that on October 8, 1867, he was waiting for a package… a parcel of cash that was supposed to be mailed by his brother. But IT had not reached Savannah.

So… low on money… he searched for a place to spend the night. The first night he said he went to the meanest looking lodging house that he could find, as he said, “on account of its cheapness.”

It was probably on Bay Street at that time because it was a rough waterfront range filled with cheap bars and lodging houses.

[Bay Street and the Customs House,

After a night’s sleep in a cot, he only had enough money to buy a few days’ worth of food. Again, he went to the post office –

which by the way, for you who have visited Savannah – was in the basement of the old Customs House on Bay Street.

Well, the package still had not arrived.

So he wandered around the streets, sightseeing, and studying plants in the gardens of the large homes, of which Savannah had many. There still are.

Then after a while, he found the road to Bonaventure, which was at that time called the old Thunderbolt Road.

Today, the route is divided into three sections – Wheaton Street, Skidaway Road, and Bonaventure Road.

He said… that on the route to the cemetery, he wandered along Savannah’s sandy eastern bluff, looking for a safe place to rest under the stars.

I’ve looked for the dunes as he described and it is hard to tell that they ever existed… They’re buried under warehouses, parking lots and apartment buildings.

He wrote that he was very thirsty after walking so long in the muggy heat… a dull, sluggish, coffee-colored stream flows under the road just outside the graveyard… from which he managed to get a drink after breaking a way down to the water through a dense fringe of bushes.

He emphasized that he was wary of the snakes and alligators in the dark. Later, when he was in Florida, he mentions his fear of reptiles.

After getting a drink, he said that he “…enter the weird and beautiful abode of the dead.”

Today that creek is the Placentia Canal that drains storm waters from the town of Thunderbolt and the campus of Savannah State University.

So I suppose his exhaustion, hunger, and fatigue led him to his star and oak-limbed canopy bed. You have to take into account that this guy was a brilliant botanist…

BUT… on his route through Georgia, this guy was clipping off 40 miles a day on some of the sections of his trip.

Now, how did he know about Bonaventure?

Well, It’s famous now, but it was famous back then, too. Today most writers and visitors make the assumption that the cemetery’s popularity is due to The Midnight Book, John Berendt’s 1994 story, Midnight in the Garden of Good or Evil.  

In reality, Bonaventure was popular more than a century before the Midnight book came on the scene.

So… Muir had probably heard about the famous cemetery long before he walked into town.

He’d likely read about it in travel books or possibly saw pictures on postcards of that time.

At one time in history, the graveyard was a weekend destination spot for Victorian family picnics. However, it reverted to a weedy, brushy patch of woods during the American Civil War. So, it may have been a little rough and brushy when Muir visited.

The cemetery’s popularity in Victorian times can be observed out front, near the entrance, where a short section of trolley tracks can still be found.

They are memorials to times when their steel rails experienced heavy traffic from city families carrying picnic baskets and checked-tablecloth ground covers.

When YOU visit Bonaventure, you’ll like the monuments and sculptures in stone and bronze. Two of my favorite bronze examples are the bust of General Robert H. Anderson and the flowers on the Garland Rayls monument.

I talk about the Anderson family in my book, History’s Way: Along Savannah’s Riverfront should you want to learn more.

          You can find that and our other books on Amazon. Just type in JD Byous Books and they should magically appear.

I’ll put a link in the transcript.

Also, please click the “FOLLOW” button so you will be notified about other episodes of History By GPS… that or just go to the website.

Now, before we investigate Muir’s visit, we need to look into the cemetery’s background…. That ties into which grave he likely slept on.   

The cemetery is located on the site of the Bonaventure Plantation, which was originally founded in 1762 by British import, Colonel John Mullryne.

Later, in 1846, Commodore Josiah Tattnall III, Mullryne’s grandson, sold the 600-acre plantation to become a cemetery.

The sale did not include the Tattnall family burial area, but the buyer, Peter Wiltberger, agreed to maintain it. The first burials took place in 1850 though it was not officially opened. Wiltberger himself was entombed in a family vault three years later.

Fortunately for him.. he was already dead…  having died in 1853.

Developing the grounds were put on hold until after the American Civil war.

So, his son, Major William H. Wiltberger, formed the Evergreen Cemetery Company in 1868 and Savannah’s finest families started laying their family members to rest there… assumably they had all too were already dead.

I mean… why would you bury them if they weren’t?

Then… on July 7, 1907, the City of Savannah purchased the Evergreen Cemetery Company, making the cemetery public and changing the name back to Bonaventure Cemetery.

So… as for John Muir’s first night there… after he entered the gate he walked through Bonaventure’s oak grove for about one-quarter of a mile until he reached the ruins of the Tattnall plantation house.

The area would have looked a bit different than today. Now there are fewer oaks. From what I’ve seen in pictures, I would estimate that at least 50% have died with some having been blown down during storms and hurricanes since that time. Many, however, are still here.

One old oak is near the entrance. I’ll put the coordinates in the show notes on the website. It was a seedling in 1754 before Mullryne started the plantation and is now around 260 years old.

Muir would have walked past and under its branches on his way along the oak-arched lane, as he walked to his sleeping spot each night.

From along the lane, he would have seen an occasional glint of moonlight bouncing from the headstones in the small burial ground. He said the sparkleberry thickets shined like “heaps of crystals.” But today you can’t see what he saw because the cemetery closes a 5 in the afternoon.

The plant life has changed a bit since he was here. Many new species of flowers have been introduced as decoration for family graves.

As I mentioned, the graveyard was much smaller then, being only a few of the small blocks

The current cemetery is divided  into dozens if not hundreds of sections today.

The second night, Muir went into the brush at the edge of the graveyard and created a “house” out of bushes.

I suspect it was in the area that is now the military burial section because that was one of the only flat sections that were undeveloped and brush-covered at that time.

He built a small sleeping shelter using four bushes as corner posts covering an area of about four feet by five feet… just enough for him to lie down.

He tied branches across the tops and placed marsh rush stalks for a roof. On the ground, he used Spanish moss as a mattress cushion on the ground.

He said he always entered his little hut after dark so no one would see him.

On one night, he said, “as I lay down in my moss nest, I felt some cold-blooded creature in it; whether a snake or simply a frog or toad I do not know, but instinctively, instead of drawing back my hand, I grasped the poor creature and threw it over the tops of the bushes. That was the only significant disturbance or fright that I got.”

I’ll tell you what, when I’m camping… a snake in my bed would end my night’s sleep.  

Okay, unlike Muir… I don’t want to get into the weeds here, but I’m going to do a little deeper dive into the history of the place.

That will give us an idea where Muir’s pillow grave was located on the first night.

AS I said, the original area was the Tattnall burial section, has the graves of Commodore Josiah Tattnall Jr. and his father, the Revolutionary War veteran who was also an early Governor of Georgia.

But the Bonaventure Plantation, proper, was originally six hundred acres of high ground on the Wilmington River and several miles from Colonial Savannah.

The plantation house had a panoramic view of the river along a center garden walkway dropping in terraces down to the water’s edge.

As you walk through the graves, you can see where the old roadway used to run.

And the historic family name most often associated with the plantation is the Tattnall family.

Josiah Tattnall (the First,) who was born in England in 1740 came to Savannah and married Mary Mullryne, the youngest daughter of John and Claudia Mullryne and the couple had several children, including Josiah Tattnall II (Junior), who later owned the property and was instrumental in the early development of the State of Georgia.

If I recall correctly, Mullryne planted oak trees here that spelled out the letters, M and T, to commemorate the union of the two families.

Most of them are gone now and it would be difficult to find which trees were in the layout after all this time.

As mention in another podcast, when Sons-of-Liberty Georgians ousted Royal Governor James Wright in February 1776, both Mullryne and Tattnall (the First) helped him escape from their property by boarding a British boat on the river where he then sailed out to the waiting warship, HMS Scarborough.

This act got both of the plantation owners kicked out of Georgia after the Revvolution. Mullryne ended up in Nassau in the Bahamas, and Tattnall and his young family sailed to London, England.

Like most property of Loyalists after the Revolution, the plantation was confiscated by the new State of Georgia government and sold after the fighting ended.

Later, Bonaventure was sold to Josiah Tattnall Junior’s family friend, Patriot John Habersham.

He was the brother of James Habersham, who owned the building that is now The Olde Pink House Restaurant on Reynolds Square.

Later, the young Josiah Tattnall (Junior) came back from England and joined the Continental Army under Brigadier General Anthony Wayne and helped push the British out of Savannah.

Eventually, he bought back his birthplace back from Habersham and went on to serve in the Georgia Assembly and the United States Senate, and was the first native-born Georgian to be Governor of Georgia.

Following his death in 1803 and his wife’s passing the year before, Junior’s three children were sent to London to be raised by their paternal grandfather, Josiah (the First)… the loyalist and son-in-law of Mullryne.

Tell you what… there are almost too many Josiah Tattnalls to keep up. It’s a bit like trying to follow the British Royal family’s succession.

Get passed William and Harry and you start getting lost.

So, Josiah Junior’s two children grew up, returned to America, and reclaimed their shared ownership in the plantation.

Eventually Josiah Tattnall III, who lived from 1795 to 1871, became the sole heir when his older siblings, Edward and Harriet, died.

Josiah the third went on to attend the US Naval Academy and was involved in several skirmishes with the British during the war of 1812, followed by action during the Mexican War-American War.

That Tattnall was the person who was famous for popularizing a famous adage in America.

While serving in the far east, he held the rank of Commodore. During a notable incident around 1859, just before the American Civil War, Tattnall violated American neutrality in a war concerning the allied British and French navies and their enemies, the Chinese, during the Second Opium War.

See, they were fighting over the rights to import opium.. the drug… to Britain and France. Now, both countries have more of the drug than they can handle… and people sneak it over their borders so the governments won’t find them.

But back then the British and French naval squadrons came under fire from Chinese Forts at the mouth of the Pei-Ho River.

So Tattnall… (the Third)… came to their assistance and opened fire on the Chinese as well.

When Naval Command called him on the carpet for his actions, his famous excuse was, “Blood is thicker than water”

After that, the term became a well-known and often-used saying.

Now, Blood is thicker than water is an English saying that means family bonds are stronger than any other relationship.

I suppose he considered the British to be closer relatives than the Chinese.

For all I know, he may have had family and friends on the British Boats since he had lived in the UK.

A phrase similar to the blood-water axiom is known to have been used as far back as the 12th century in Germany.

And the first note of it in the United States is in a Journal from 1821. But it was Tattnall’s comment that made it famous.

Okay, I digress.

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Tattnall opposed session, but loyal to his state and family, he resigned from his Navy commission in February 1861.

One month later, he received a commission as Captain of the Confederate Navy.

In 1864 he was in charge of the shore defenses around Savannah, so and when General William T. Sherman captured Savannah, the commodore became a prisoner of war.

He was paroled in 1865 and moved to Nova Scotia, Canada,

Later he returned to his home in Savannah.

Now, going back to Muir’s FIRST night in the cemetery, he searched for a place to sleep.

And he said that he found a little mound that could serve as a pillow.

The Telfair graves, which are just a few yards from the Tattnall plots, also have an important part of our story.

In August 1867, a few weeks before John Muir’s visit, Revolutionary War Patriot Edward Telfair’s daughters, Mary and Margaret had their father’s bones and the bones of their brothers reinterred to Bonaventure from the Gibbons plantation along the Ogeechee Road south of town.

If you’ve been to Savannah you may recognize the name because of the Telfair Academy… Telfair Museum on Telfair Square, downtown Savannah. There is also Telfair County, west of the city, named after that important man in Georgia history.

According to cemetery record for The City of Savannah, the Telfair sisters were the only people to have a grave excavated at Bonaventure in over two years… just a few weeks before John Muir visited the area.

Muir wrote that he laid down on the grave under one of the great oaks to sleep.

The oak above the Telfair plot was planted around 1800…

…it was definitely here when Muir visited.

So, back in 1807, sixty years before Muir slept his first night in Bonaventure, Edward Telfair died, was buried at the Gibbons Plantation, and later reinterred at this spot.

Dirt mounds over graves do not last long in Coastal Georgia’s torrential, rainy weather.

Therefore, it is quite likely that John Muir’s mound-of-dirt pillow was Telfair’s second grave… which was still waiting for workers to place this large monument that we see today.

If this is correct… Muir did not know that his pillow was provided by a three-time Georgia Governor and American Founding Father who was a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Articles of Confederation….   the precursor to the Constitution of the United States.

And Telfair was one of only 12 men who received electoral votes during the first election for President of the United States.

You remember, George Washington won that election.

As for Muir… five days after his grave sleeping night, his money packet arrived, and he continued his journey to Cedar Key, Florida.

From there he traveled on to Yosemite in California, and his place in history.

One last thing. I love this. Muir would write years later, “If that burying-ground across the Sea of Galilee, mentioned in Scripture, was half as beautiful as Bonaventure, I do not wonder that a man should dwell among the tombs.”

He was referring, of course, to the story of Christ casting the demons out of a man who lived among the tombs in a cemetery.

It seems that Bonaventure, too, helped soothe Muir’s spirit as it does for many folks visiting there today.

Few visitors know of Muir’s time in Savannah; some have never heard of the wandering “tramp” that changed America.

As for Savannah’s most popular necropolis… today, there are more visitors to the city of the dead than ever before.

A book about a midnight garden helped add to that around twenty-five years ago>.

Now instead of trolley tracks, they roll in on rubber-tired cars and busses.

So…….   if you didn’t know already… now… you know.

Remember to follow the show so you will be notified when new episodes come out.

And go to our website and buy something to help support the program.



JD Byous book, History’s Way: Along Savannah’s Riverfront (Click here)


Bonaventure Cemetery Front Gate, 32.045322° -81.050467°

Edward Telfair family crypt32.042645° -81.046146°

Josiah Tattnall Grave, 32.043088° -81.045724°

American Legion military section, 32.042286° -81.046042°

Placentia Canal, 32.045422° -81.051310° The location where Muir worked his way past the brush to drink out of the “coffee colored” stream.

Old oak that Muir walked under 32.04442° -81.04919°
White Oak
53” diameter
Planted Near Kirkland plot on [Mullryne] N side of road
~267 years old
Trunk diameter @ 4.5’ = ~53 ”
Symmetric canopy? N >\ 1/4se to 3/4sw
Description: Large oak gall near Rogers plot, Mullryne.
Tree factor = 5

Yosemite Valley, California 37.745946° -119.593629°, Near this site, was John Muir’s loft above a saw mill when he first stayed in the valley.

Cedar Key, FL 29.138189° -83.037678°


City of Savannah burial records for Bonaventure Cemetery, Edward Telfair, Bonaventure D-0-19=X591 [(re)interred] 07/17/1867 –

Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials and Legends, Vol II, Byrd Printing Company, Atlanta, 1914, p 291.

Journal of the Senate; Vol. 1; 1789; p8.

Major William H. Wiltberger, the son of Peter, formed the Evergreen Cemetery Company on June 12, 1868. Wikipedia

Copyright JD Byous, 2023, All rights reserved.

PHOTOS: Library of Congress, New York Public Library, JD Byous.

Savannah’s First Partier E-3

JD Byous– –Books– –Shop

 32.081360° -81.092032° Season 1, Episode 3

Other coordinates listed are at the end of the page.

Hey, everyone!

What a great day for a podcast!

I don’t know if you know, but Savannah, Georgia, where this podcast… is based… is known for being a bit of a party town.

If you’ve never been here, this is a place where you can walk around downtown with a plastic cup of your favorite beverage… of any kind… in your hand… legally.

Also, our city has… as claimed by some people… the second-largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the country. That, of course, is in the springtime.

But it also has a large and popular Octoberfest in the fall.

And… during the rest of the year, there are parties going on just about every weekend.

Now, as for St. Patrick’s Day… as for the claim as being the second largest… I don’t know… but on some years when St. Patrick’s is on a weekend… I can tell you that they have been crowds numbering in the millions.

It’s a big deal here… lots… of… parties.

So, if Savannah… or even the State of Georgia, ever elects a patron saint of /partiers, I nominate a guy named George Symes because he was and should be remembered as Savannah… and Georgia’s first recorded party \boy.

That was back in 1733 when he, his wife Sarah, and all of Georgia’s first settlers followed Colonel James Oglethorpe to the New World. By the time they arrived… they had been through a lot on their grueling sea voyage of two long months.

Now, they were stressed and tired when… at last… they were within view of the coast of the Carolinas. There near Edisto Island is when pirates challenged, and they had to fight them off.

Finally, they landed Charles Town, South Carolina. But after a a short stay in that town it was back on the boat and down the coast to the fairly new settlement of Beaufort.

Symes was ready to let off some steam. But he had to hold on and wait for the right time. His group still had one last canoe trip before their journey was finally over.

I’m JD Byous and welcome to History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture GPS location by GPS location. You can find transcripts of this episode along with the coordinates of where all these events happened at

Now, the main coordinates for this episode show the location of James Oglethorpe’s tent. That’s where the party started.

And those coordinates are…

 32.081360° -81.092032°

So, follow along on your favorite map app… or later… when you’re not… at… work. We always want keep the boss happy.

Okay, back to the story.

George Symes had some pent-up tension as he and others waited to be transported to their new homes in the brand-spanking-new Colony of Georgia. That soon-to-be colony would be destined to become the thirteenth English colony along America’s eastern coast that would join to become the United States of America.

Now, George Symes was a pharmacist. I say, “pharmacist.”

His actual title was apothecary, which is an older term that means he does the same type of thing pharmacists do today… prepare and distribute medications… Of course, Symes and the other colonist didn’t have the opportunity to oxcart down to the local Walmart and stock up on Tylenol and Preparation-H… Symes had to make all of his medications up from scratch.

So… we can safely assume that he was an educated guy. But education does not trump logistics. They had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and finally made it to within thirty-five crow-flight miles of where their new homes would be. But things had to be prepared for_ \him and the others before they could continue. So, they hung around the little town of Beaufort, South Carolina, learning how to drill like the military and honing up on the new skills they would need to survive.

While he and the other settlers waited, their leader, Colonel James Oglethorpe, and South Carolina Colonel William Bull paddled ahead of them to find the spot that had been chosen for their new city. So, Symes had to wait for a while.

Things had to be done before other things could happen. Syme’s new home was different… very different from what he had always known.

Forty-five canoe miles away, Oglethorpe and Bull scrambled up a steep sandy slope to take a look at the place that would be called Savannah. Others had wanted to settle on the site, but it had specifically been set aside for Oglethorpe and his colonists by Governor Robert Johnson of the South Carolina Colony.

As they dug and grappled their way upward, loose granules seeped and rolled into their boots and sleeves and down their sweat-stained shirts.[1] 

Below on the river, beached on a narrow strip of sand, their shallow-draught periagua canoes rested at the bottom of the forty-foot-high, three-quarter mile-long mass of silicon-dioxide grit. Along the base, freshwater seeped from springs every few yards. Here, the two men reasoned, was a very good site for the new town, the capital of the Colony of Georgia.[2] At the right time, workers would begin clearing trees… but not yet.

Atop the hill, a mild breeze encircled the two men. The weather was mild, as winters in the region can be. It was cool but refreshing after their long trip along the inland waterways and upriver.

In their view to the south, down through the forest, the men found an open canopy of tall, straight green pines that were accented with the bluish hue of ancient gnarled live oaks in an open, nearly brush-free landscape.

The area had been cleared by the native people in the area, who regularly burned the undergrowth to improve hunting and wild food supplies.[3] Behind and below to the north, the Savannah River sparkled around a large, flat, green island… perfect for pasturage.

The water surrounding it was superb for fish and seafood, both fresh and salt water. There, hidden beneath the river’s surface, the waters of the Savannah divide horizontally into three tiers. The upper, tinged with tannin from inland trees and swamps, contains fish that prefer fresh water. The mid-level… brackish water is created where the lighter fresh Lowcountry runoff slides up and over the heavy sea-salt-laden tidewater that flows inland at high tide as it hugs the lower tier along the river bottom.

In South Carolina, on the north bank of the river, growers were using the aqueous phenomenon to flood and water their rice fields. It was taught to the plantation owners by the enslaved folks from Africa’s west coast. A technique that their people had used for centuries by making flood gates from toppled, fire-hollowed tree stumps and burying them horizontally in the levies. This allowed fresh water to run into the fields when the tide was high, then they blocked the trunks to hold the waters in the flooded checks when the tide dropped. Today, they still call the water gates trunks even though they are made of concrete and steel.

Commercial crabbers in the area still exploit the river tiers by dropping their pots into the deepest channels to catch the crustaceans miles inland along the waterways.

The early settlers were able to do the same, supplementing their food supplies with seafood.

As Oglethorpe and Bull walked around the flat of the bluff, they knew it was not only a good spot for settlement and a good spot for commerce.

The river had been a long-used trading route for upland Indian groups who bartered with the English at a place called Savannah Town 120 miles upriver on the South Carolina side of the waterway. That site lay near the end of navigable waters… and had served as home for the Westo people, a band of northern invaders who traded with the English in deerskins and native slaves from rival tribes.

They, the Westo, were pushed out of that site during the Yemassee War in 1715. Now the Savannah people, a subgroup of the Shawnee, held that trade spot and continued less-offensive enterprises.[4] It was for their group that the river was named.

Colonel Bull knew the area well. A politician, surveyor, and Indian Commissioner for South Carolina, he had followed the meandering waterway many times in the past when he served as a Captain during fighting against the Yamasee and the Tuscarora.

He had dealt with the long-established white traders, though generally, he did not like them, and he had negotiated with the Cherokee, the Yuchi, the Westo, the Savannahs, and other tribes over the years.

The landscape of the proposed site was intimately recorded in Bull’s mind and in the minds of those who carried trade goods to Charles Town over the past decades.[5]

To Oglethorpe… a military man… Yamacraw Bluff seemed perfect. It was good defensive ground that was surrounded by marshes and water. It also had miles of land extending to the south that would be useful for farming and development. Defense-wise, a settlement on that spot made it perfect should Spanish or hostile Indians attack. See, the main purpose of the colony was to claim the land and keep the Spanish at bay.

Within the span of 150 years, British Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell and, later, Union General William T. Sherman would be forced to develop strategies to overcome Savannah’s natural topographic protection that was sculpted eons in the past.

However, there was still one obstacle for Oglethorpe. Creating a townsite for George Symes and the others would depend on an agreement with the Yamacraw mico-chief, Tomochichi.

In the 1800s, historian Charles C. Jones, Jr wrote, “There were no Indians near the Georgians, except Tomochichi, and a small tribe consisting of about thirty or forty men who accompanied him.”[6] So… we’re looking at about 200 or so native people in the area.

See, the Yamacraw had settled there after a tribal family squabble and broke away from Creek and Yamasee groups around 1728 and they moved down the river to the bluff. Other than them, the low country around the lower Savannah River was no a man’s land to indigenous people. The reason was because of the years-long Indian slave trading that was centered at Charleston.

At first, the meeting between Tomochichi and Oglethorpe met resistance. Some in the council did not agree about giving up the spot. But concessions made by the English appeased the dissent, and an agreement was established.

It may have been that Oglethorpe liked Tomochichi and that he, in turn, liked the Englishman.[7] The two men were later known for being respected friends.

Or it may have been that the wise, extremely tall, ninety-year-old Indian chief saw the proverbial writing on the wall. People like George Symes and other Europeans were coming, and Tomochichi’s small band could do nothing to stop them.

Whichever… the treaty was completed, so Bull and Oglethorpe made a preliminary survey of the townsite, then paddled back to Beaufort, leaving others to continue preparatory work.[8]

When Oglethorpe arrived back in Beaufort, he organized Symes and the other settlers into small boats. The Anne, the ship that they had crossed the Atlantic in, was a two-hundred-ton vessel with a deep draught.

It was too big… the Anne could not sail over the bars along the Savannah, so it could not reach Yamacraw Bluff, so the people had to divide their supplies. A larger part was loaded onto a seventy-ton sloop, with the remainder stacked into several periaguas.

The vessels zig-zagged their way southward and along the shallow inland tidal creeks that today connect along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.[9] Passing the northwestern shore of Hilton Head, a gale began to blow. Headwinds buffeted the boats halting their headway and their goal of spending the night on Jones Island at the mouth of the Savannah. At Look Out Island, across a narrow waterway from Hilton Head, they anchored in a creek and waited for the storm to pass.[10]

Still today, squalls in the area come up quickly. Black clouds can slip in from the south, the west, or the east, carrying wind, rain, and lightning at any time. The sky looks fine, then unexpectedly, a storm is boiling across the marsh. It’s like the sudden change in Southern weather was a planned initiation for the group.

Real quickly here… Remember that you can find our books on Amazon. Just type in JD Byous, and they’ll pop up. I’ll put a link in the information below and on

Also, please click the follow button so you’ll be notified when other episodes of History By GPS are posted… and to remind you to tell a friend about the podcast. We history nerds need to stick together.

Now, we were talking about what George Symes and the other colonist were learning. They were learning that… contrary to Oglethorpe’s recruitment brochure that promised a temperate climate in the utopian destination, the area’s climate and weather was unpredictable and extreme. Temperatures in the winter can be cool and fresh on one day, then warm and muggy the next, and then freezing cold on another. Summer days were marked by high humidity and boiling heat, cloudy or clear, or in tandem with an occasional sky patched with clouds that stratified the landscape with tepid, muggy rain.

After the rain leaves, thick, sauna-like humidity hangs in the air… Today, locals joke that they need to chew and wring the oxygen out of the air before swallowing it to fill their lungs.

Now, in 1733, our settlers… when the storm eased, Symes and the pioneers sailed on to Jones Island near the mouth of the Savannah. A feast waited there… Indian hunters had carried thirteen venison quarters in for them. During the evening, One of their English guides gave all of the travelers hats to protect their pale skin from the subtropical sun. I suspect they were made from woven palm leaves. You can still see a few of those around the area today.

The next morning, February 1, 1733, they sailed upriver and landed at the bluff. As they grounded, soldiers saluted the travelers with a volley from their small arms. Workers had not yet erected a crane for offloading supplies but were able to build stairs up the forty-foot sand slope. The steps helped the new arrivals pack their provisions before pitching their temporary lodging tents.

A quick sidebar… That date I gave you, February 1, 1733… that’s from the Old System… the Julian Calendar. Today we’re in the New System… and use the Gregorian Calendar. See, eleven days were lost when the switch was made in England in 1750. It was done to catch up with other European nations that changed over two hundred years earlier. That’s why today, school kids in Georgia celebrate “Georgia Day” on February 12th.  

…and our British friends make fun of us for not changing to the metric system…

So… as for the colonist… who arrived on February 1st… or the 12th… or however you look at it… One hour after they climbed up Yamacraw Bluff… Tomochichi sauntered up the western incline with his welcoming group.

Remember… I mentioned a party… this is when the official ceremony started. It was kind of like a wedding… the ceremony is for doing the business of connecting the principal participants, then afterward, everybody goes to a party.

Peter Gordon, a soon-to-be bailiff, and the resident persnickety colonist… wrote that “The Indians came, With Their King, Queen, and Mr. Musgrove the Indian Trader and Interpreter along with Them, to pay Their Complements to Mr. Oglethorpe, And to welcome us to Yamacraw. The manner of their approach was Thus, at a little distance They Saluted us with a Voly of Their Small Arms, which was returned by our Guard And then the King Queen, Chiefs and other Indians advanced…”

Oglethorpe stood outside his tent, waiting. “In front advanced the “Medicine Man,” bearing in each hand a fan of white feathers—the symbols of peace and friendship.”

Historian C.C. Jones wrote, “Then came Tomo-chi-chi and Scenauki, his wife, attended by a retinue of some twenty members of the tribe filling the air with shouts.”

Oglethorpe advanced a few paces to meet them. Jones said that the medicine man, or priest, or whatever he was… proclaimed all of the brave deeds of his own ancestors as he stroked Oglethorpe front, back, and sides with a feather fan… which were symbols of friendship.

Ya know… I’m old enough to remember that a lady named Sally Rand did similar things with feathers as a sign of… friendship.

Anyway… CC Jones continued… “This done, the king and queen drew near and bade him and his followers… him, being Oglethorpe… welcome.

After an interchange of compliments, the party began. First, the colonists gave a party for the Indians… as much as the colonists’ supplies could manage. That’s when Peter Gordon decided the Indians were showing their obedience to young Colonel Oglethorpe.

The pretentious young bailiff was wrong. Never did the Yamacraw agree or feel that they were subjects of an English king, nor of Oglethorpe. They were equals. Their leader was Tomochichi. They were coming in friendship, not in subjugation.

With the party started… we now enter the saga of pharmacist George Symes… Savannah’s first recorded person to party hearty. See, the group left Oglethorpe’s tent and headed down the bluff toward the Indian village… which was appropriately located near the west end of today’s Indian Street on Historic Savannah’s western edge. From there, the Yamacraw had prepared a dinner in honor of the newcomers at Musgrove’s trading post, about five miles upriver. But when they came back to the Indian village, that’s where the party for George Symes really began. Dancing in a circle around a fire, the Indians followed each other in a rhythmic step, yelling and hooping, celebrating the evening.

George Symes, the colony’s pharmacist, was, to quote Peter Gordon… “one of the oldest” of the English. To Symes, their arrival at their new home… and the party atmosphere… said it was time to let off steam, so he disappeared from the campfire and the dancing… walked up the hill, and into his tent, where he drank a good portion of his personal liquor stash. The more he drank, the more the sound of drums and shouting grew more inviting. Symes staggered back down the low bluff slope to the party and joined the Yamacraw in their dance.

It was reported that his arms flailed and his feet stamped in time to the drumbeat, mimicking the natives and shouting to the moon. Up the hill at the English camp, our pretentious note taker, Peter Gordon, was embarrassed and incensed at Symes’ actions… so he sent men to retrieve said Symes with the caveat, “Otherwise I would acquaint Mr. Oglethorpe with his Folly.”

And that’s a stinging rebuke. I personally remember my mother warning me… when I had done something wrong… “I will acquaint your father with your folly when he gets home.” Stinging is a very good description for what I experienced later.

The aforementioned Symes grumpily complied and returned to the camp. Then he went back into his tent, drank a bit more, then promptly staggered back down the hill to party with his new-found friends.

Woefully, Peter Gordon could only shake his head and complain… to quote him… “That the Indians Should see any Follies, or indiscretions in our old men, by which They Judge that our Young Men must be still guilty of Greater,… for They measure man’s understanding and Judgement, according to Their Years.”

The “old man” Symes was 55 years old.

More than likely, the next day George Symes regretted his actions as his head pounded in rhythm of the hammering of tent stakes and while he hauled supplies up the bluff to the new English encampment.[11]

While we give Symes a break to get over his headache, I’ll remind you to go to where you can find the GPS locations for these places. While you’re there, please check out our merchandise and books. You can find a George Symes tee shirt to wear on your next trip to Georgia… or to Savannah, where you can stand on the spots where these things happened.

Now, back at the colony… the settler’s new home was proving to be other than what had been promised. If the sweet land of Utopia was the promised icing on the cake of life, then Georgia’s early colonists were finding theirs to be a crusted, bitter crumb. By the end of summer that first year, Sarah Symes, George’s wife, was dead.

The colony would grow to over six hundred settlers within that first year, but twenty-six more of the original group… also… died.

After six years, a total of sixty percent of the Anne’s passengers had passed on to the eternities …including George Symes… It was due to the harsh environmental beating delivered by the endless work, heat, insects, and diseases on the Georgia frontier.

Even among historians and history buffs… few people remember George Symes, nor do they acknowledge the record of his history-making party night.

But that event led the way to a tradition of friends gathering in Savannah to raise their street-legal-plastic-traveler cups on St. Patrick’s Day and Octoberfest… or, to be accurate… just about any other random /day.

So… the next time you have a street-legal cup of your favorite brew… beer… wine… or if you’re Baptist… sweet tea… drink a toast to George Symes and the others who took a chance at a better life in the New World to a place that 43 years later would the new State of Georgia in The United States of America.

And so…

 If you didn’t know already this story… Now you know!

Remember to check out

See you next time.




George Symes’ Tent Location [32.079623° -81.091860°]

Beaufort, South Carolina [32.430733° -80.670526°]

Yamacraw Indian village site [32.085104° -81.100448°]

Oglethorpe Climbs Bluff 1733 [32.081552° -81.092136°]

Intracoastal Waterway [32.261239° -80.743127°]

Lookout Island (Pinckney Island) [32.241110° -80.757231°]

Jones Island Savannah River SC, 32.085938°° -80.930934°

Oglethorpe’s Tent, 32.081360° -81.092032°



[1] Old Style, Julian calendar. The New Style, the Gregorian, was implemented in the 1750s in Great Britain and America: Letter from Govr. Johnson to Mr. Oglethorpe 28th Septr, rec. in December, Charles Town, Egmont 14200, pp. 1-3, You are too good in the Sentiments You have conceived of me; neither my Capacity or Ability enables me to be very usefull to the Publick, but my Endeavours Shall never be wanting, in being observant & usefull to those of more extensive Knowledge and Abilitys to do good. It was with that view that I prevented the Lands in that part of the Province that the Trustees have obtained from being Surveyed and purchased till I knew the Success of the Corporation’s Applications, which although I had no advice of I flatter’d my self would Succeed, from the Nobleness of the Intention and Ability of the Undertakers. Some few People had Surveyed small Quantitys of Land on the South Side of Savannah River before my Proclamation issued, but I have granted them no Titles, but tell them I suppose upon Application to the Trustees, when Affairs are Settled they may obtain Grants from them and probably may have a Preference in Consideration of the Charge they have been at in the Survey they have made;

[2] Periaguas and pettiguas are shallow draught boats believed to be of Native American and African origin used in shallow marsh and sand bar waterways. It is similar to the pirogue of Louisiana, and a precursor of the 19th and 20th-century bateau styled rowboat of the Atlantic southeast that sometimes is fitted with a mast.

[3] Marc D. Abrams, Gregory J. Nowacki. Global change impacts on forest and fire dynamics using paleoecology and tree census data for eastern North AmericaAnnals of Forest Science, 2019, noted by Jeff Mulhollem, Science Daily,

[4] The site was originally inhabited by the Westo people but later taken over by the Savannah group of Shawnee. It was later called New Windsor.

[5] The Bull Family of South Carolina, The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp 76-90, 1900: Robert Edward Paulett, Trading lives: Mapping the pathways and peoples of the southeastern deerskin trade, 1732-1775, p 53, dissertation, College of William and Mary, 2007.

[6] Charles C. Jones, Jr., Historical Sketch of Tomo-Chi-Chi, Mico of the Yamacraws, p 18.

[7] Chester B. DePratter, Yamasee Indian Towns in the South Carolina Lowcountry, 1684-1715, United States Department of the Interior National Park Service, NPS Form 10-900-b, National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, 1992.

[8] Charles C. Jones, Jr. History of Savannah, GA. From Its Settlement To The Close Of The Eighteenth Century, Chapter III, p 31, D. Mason & Co, 1890.

[9] Some references indicate four periaguas and one sloop. Others refer to eight small vessels.

[10] Larry E. Ivers, This Torrent of Indians: War on the Southern Frontier, 1715-1728, University of South Carolina Press, 2016; Lookout Island is also known as Pinckney Island and was formerly known as MacKay’s, Espalmaga, and Watch Island.

[11] Gordon’s Journal, pp 28-29.

Pirate bootie sacked E-4

JD Byous– –Books– –Shop

32.081384° -81.089784° Season 1, Episode 4

Other coordinates listed are at the end of the page.

Hey, everyone!

Another fine day for a podcast.

And it is a fine day… because today we’re going to talk about pirates.

And I’m not talkin’ the AAAARRRGGG, me hearty kind of pirates.

Okay, you ask, where did it happen?

So, you wanna know where they hung out? Listen up!

Well, it happened in Savannah, Georgia, when Savannahians had had enough of the things that pirates do… and they ended up in a donnybrook.

Ah… and your next question is….. Did the Americans lose the fight, or did French pirates get their booties swashed and buckled by some ticked-off Southern boys?

Stick around, and I’ll give you my take on it.

I’m JD Byous. Welcome to History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture, GPS location by GPS location.

So follow us on your favorite map app.

You can find transcripts of the show and the coordinates of where these events happened at our website That way, you can follow the story as it goes along.

If you have ever visited Savannah, Georgia, and walked along the tee-shirt and trinket-laden thoroughfare called River Street… the way many, if not most, folks who visit the city do… then you have stepped across some very historic ground that few people know about.

In this episode, we travel to an incident where during a week in mid-November 1811, the entire city of Savannah, Georgia, was… enraged and in chaos.

That was when American sailors and the citizens of the town grabbed any weapon they could find and marched down to the waterfront to kick some French pirate bootie… and I don’t mean the gold doubloon kind of bootie.

The location is where Savannah’s Drayton Street ramp runs under the old Cotton Exchange Building and intersects with the city’s famous River Street.

Grab your pencil and paper… or… if you’re driving in your car… never mind. Just listen.

Okay… the decimal coordinates are…

32.081384° by -81.089784°

Remember, if you can’t write this down, don’t worry. You can find the information on the website,

As I mentioned, the events we are looking at today happened in November 1811. It’s when French pirates decided to hide and wait for the group of locals who were coming to haul them off to jail.

But, to explain, these were not the first pirates that sailed in and around southeast Georgia; this incident was almost two centuries after the Golden Age of Piracy,… back in the 1600s… back when Black Beard and Captain Kid haunted the waters of the Atlantic, a dozen miles down river.

The generation who did navigate these waters on the Eastern Seaboard and of the Caribbean had always threatened the young colony after it was established in 1733. Piracy was always always a problem.

So much so that in the colony’s early days, the Lord Governor of Georgia pleaded with the king for protection from pirates and privateers who stalked the cargo ships coming to and going from Savannah…

What he asked was for a 40-foot square fort to be built on Cockspur Island. And the money was supplied. The stronghold was named for King George the second. It stood near the little lighthouse that divides the north and south channels of the river at Fort Pulaski National Monument at the mouth of the Savannah.

Now, back to 1811 and the Drayton Street Ramp… at that time wooden two-story buildings stood on each side of the roadway. Those old buildings burned in the mid-1800s and were replaced with those that are standing now. If you happen to visit Wet Willies Bar you’ll be on the spot where pirates once hid in wait.

Today the site is almost cavernous because the street has been covered by the old Cotton Exchange building and the walkway that connects it to the top of the bluff. But back then, it was a simple narrow thoroughfare.

After arming themselves they slithered into the rooms that overlooked the street and waited. As the armed mob entered the passageway, they sprang from their hiding spots and started firing, catching the Americans off guard.

The fighting spread from between the buildings down onto the flat, wood-planked area that made up Anciaux’s Wharf at the water’s edge.

That’s when things really got rough. The battle took place on the ground that today is River Street and across the flat of the plaza over to the waterline.

But before I go on, I have to explain… as I said, these were pirates. But they were, technically, French privateers… but pirates nonetheless.

See, they were in cahoots with the French government with an agreement to go to sea and attack France’s enemies. They would bring the king whatever they captured and….. split their booty.

(I might add that splitting your booty… sounds a bit painful to me.)

…..Oh……  remember to follow the podcast. That way, you’ll be notified when a new episode comes out. And if you’re watching on YouTube, subscribe… you know how to do it.

Also… go to where you’ll find the other GPS locations mentioned in this episode. You’ll also find our merchandise and books. We have cups, tee shirts, and other items that feature this episode as well as products that highlight Historic Savannah.

Okay, back to the booty boys… What was a privateer?

As I said, a privateer was a pirate ship that was contracted with A government to harass enemy merchant vessels… and warships if they were brave enough.

We, the Americans, and the British had them too… in fact, just about all the powerful nations.

Now, what complicatedthe situation in Savannah was diplomacy. See, the French had helped us… we the United States, in our Revolution against Great Britain a few years before.

Then, to further complicate the issue, the French and the new United States had recently fought the “Quasi-War,” in which

the very powerful French Navy, who felt that we owed them… had a habit of boarding American vessels and forcing the crew member to serve on French ships.

US President John Adams felt that we did owe them… but we didn’t owe them our sailors.

As a result, fighting between the US and the French navies escalated into an undeclared war… a quasi war.

You have to understand that the Brits were still our enemies at that time. In fact, the following year, the British attacked the United States and started the conflict that we appropriately called the War of 1812.

You remember.. the British Army marched into Washington, DC, and burned the White House just after Dolly Madison grabbed a painting of George Washington, threw it in a carriage, and got out of Dodge…

or so we have been told.

Oh, by the way, If you have any information or want to give your opinion on this topic, please put it in the comments on the website. I’d love to hear from you.

And, YES, I know that Dolly probably didn’t personally grab the painting and throw it in her buggy… but it’s a good story, and that’s why it’s still around.

So, back in Savannah… at that same time as the aforementioned fight, the French were at war and fighting with the British…

as they were for most of history…

Therefore, French ships were allowed into American ports for repairs and supplies.

There at Anceaux’s Wharf… which was later called Wood’s Wharf… two French boats, the La Franchise, and the La Vengeance…

Now… I missed school the day we studied French, so I don’t know if I pronounced those correctly.

But, close enough, I guess.

…Anyway, the French ships were in port to load supplies, get repairs, and let the French crewmen blow off a little steam… But these guys blew off a little too much steam.

They did not have the most honest of officers leading them either. The ship captain of the La Franchise was rumored to have connections to the famous pirate brothers, Jean and Pierre Lafitte, who, by the way, helped Andrew Jackson win the Battle of New Orleans a few years later.

Now, again some explanation is needed. I called them “the French crewmen.” See, some of the officers were French, but the crew members were a blend of Italian, Venetian, Sicilian, and Portuguese sailors. There may have been a couple of French citizens in the mix.

Whatever they were, they went way too far.

The beginning blows of the fight started near the western edge of town.

Several armed pirates attacked three or four unarmed American

sailors who were… shall we say… visiting ladies who lived in a rougher part of town along Indian Street.

…People from Savannah generally know what that area of town was.

Later, the same night, the pirate crewmen returned to… visit the ladies and another scuffle ensued, whereupon they killed a young American sailor… Jacob Taylor.

They viciously beat him with clubs and slashed him to death with their sabers.

Other American sailors were attacked in similar manners… According to one report, the pirates took Taylor’s body and dumped it in a nearby square… that was probably Franklin Square which is on the edge of City Market.

Today, you can visit Jacob Taylor’s headstone on the back wall of the Colonial Park Cemetery a few blocks away.

Now, his father laid out the details of his death when he had the following chiseled into the monument… I quote…

“In Memory of JACOB R. TAYLOR, Son of John P. Taylor of Philadelphia. A youth of exemplary department conciliating manners and promise,”

Yeah, right…

The kid was killed in a brawl in a wh…….… in a house of ill repute…    

Anyway…continuing on…

conciliating manners and promise, who in the 19th year of his age, when unarmed and peaceably walking the streets of Savannah,…

Okay… oookay… I’m a father and understand.

Where was I?

…was on the evening of the 11th of November, 1811, attacked and inhumanly decimated by an armed band belonging to the crews of the French Privateers La Vengeance and La Franchise.

Rest infinite youth far from thy friends… injured by strangers… honored and by strangers mourned.

Though thy lone turf no kindred drops can, Yet virtue hallows with her tears thy grave.”


 As result of the assault and murder, city police officers walked down to the wharf, boarded the two French ships, arrested the crew members, and hauled them off to jail to sort out the details.

The next day most of the crew members were allowed to return to their ships. However, seven privateers were held for further questioning.

Later there was even more bloodshed. On the morning of November 15th, one observer wrote that the incident threw the entire city into “ferment.”

Which is not good unless you’re making wine, beer, or sauerkraut.

But I digress…

The entire city was enraged. A large group of American sailors and city residents picked up any weapons they could find–clubs, hatchets, axes, meat cleavers, muskets, and pistols, along with a few swords. Then they unfurled their American flag and marched en masse to the wharf carrying two hogsheads of whoop-ass. When they arrived… that’s when the pirates were waiting in ambush.

As the group advanced down the steep, sandy slope, the pirates fired their muskets from the windows and lofts, catching the Americans off guard.

During the fighting, several men on both sides died. An American ship’s captain named Miller was blinded after being shot from the side when a musket ball took out his eyes and the bridge of his nose.

Interestingly, he survived, though… a bit the worse for wear. After the initial ruckus, the Savannah group, in unison, screamed what we in the South now call a “rebel yell” and stormed the Franchise and Vengeance, then tore down the French banner and replaced it with the American flag.

While that was happening, the stabbing and slashing blades of the Americans forced many of the privateers overboard into the Savannah River. Then the Americans cut the anchor lines holding the boats and began destroying the rigging of the ships as the two boats drifted with the tide.


By this time, the alarm in the city was ringing. Other men from town scurried, as drums pounded the alert. City Mayor, William Bullock, arrived shortly after that with Savannah’s militia units in tow, the Volunteer Guard and the Republican Blues.

Complicating it more, other pirates who happened to be in other parts of town ran back to the wharf to see what was going on… and found themselves in another wasp-nest of angry citizens.

Eventually, the mayor and his troopers gained enough control to protected the French crewmen on board… as well as the other wet, cold, and shaking pirates who had crawled stumbled out of the Savannah River.

He marched the entire group to the city jail.

The Savannah Volunteer Guard boarded the ships to protect them from the Americans… often with the points of their bayonets.

But, about eight hours later a group of Americans went upstream, set fire to a flat boat, and released it to drift down the tide and into the French two ships.

By this time the soldiers were worn out from repelling previous attempts at boarding. So they decided enough was enough and abandoned the ship.

But I suspect that they didn’t really give a rip if the boats were destroyed or not. After all, the crew had killed Americans. 

With that… the Vengeance and the Franchise were torched and burned down to the water line.

In doing so, the fire and subsequent sinking ruined and scattered the French vessels’ rich cargos that included gold coins, expensive dye, dry goods, and a few other things.

Makes me want to buy some scuba gear…

As for the pirates, a couple of days later, it was summed up by one American

newspaper editor when he published an editorial, and I quote… “We have never witnessed more un-animity of feeling than on this occasion…

They talked funny back then, didn’t they?

But I digress.

To continue… “We sincerely hope that the peace of the city will not again be disturbed and that such wretches as composed the crews of the pirates will not be allowed an opportunity of again shedding the blood of our citizens and drawing down American vengeance on their heads.”

So the Americans brought vengeance on the La Vengeance,

and the La Franchise was no longer a franchise.

And both boats went to the bottom of the river.

In other words … that editor was saying, “We are delighted that we kicked French pirate bootie.” And he wasn’t talking “buried treasure.”

Sooo… if you didn’t know already know this story, now you know.

Don’t forget to check out our books and merch at

And we will see you next time.



Anciaux/Wood’s 32.081384° -81.089784°, Wharf, 81 East River Street, 1811 Battle with Fench pirates.

Indian Street Red Light District, 32.084744° -81.099733°

Jacob Taylor headstone32.074984° -81.089204°

Franklin Square32.081177° -81.095837°, where Jacob Taylor’s body was dumped.

Fort King George Site, 32.022934° -80.883060°, the area has washed away over the years.



The Savannah Riots: A Burning Issue in Franco-American Hostility, 1811-1812, Peter P. Hill, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. 88, No. 4 (WINTER 2004), pp. 499-510.

Destruction of Two French Privateers in America,The Naval Chronicle, for 1812: containing General and Biographical History of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, Vol. XXVII (January to June) Pp 10-11.

Image credits

River Street at Drayton Street Ramp (2) Frances Benjamin Johnston

Ships at battle, Encyclopedia Britannica

Savannah Harbor, New York Public Library

Tea Party, Shmee Party E-5

JD Byous– –Books– –Shop

32.079459° -81.083386° Season 1, Episode 5

Other coordinates listed are at the end of the page.

Boston Tea party, Boston shmee party.

Hey, Everyone     

What a fantastic day for a podcast.

Sometimes I have favorite stories about history.

In this one….. I start out by saying…

Boston Tea party, Boston shmee party.

Because here in Savannah, Georgia, in 1775, Andrew Elton Wells led a group of Liberty Boys, and they had a sweeter party…

The Savannah Sugar Party.

This guy, Wells, followed the lead of his brother-in-law, who had thrown his own party two years earlier – That was, of course, Samuel Adams, who… hosted, … the famous Boston Tea Party.

What… a… great legacy. A family that likes to party, especially at the expense of the British King!

But first!

I’m JD Byous.

Welcome to History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture, GPS location by GPS location.

You can find today’s position, along with the other sites mentioned in this episode at That way, you can follow along on your favorite map app.

Today we travel to the edge of Savannah’s Trustees’ Garden, near the end of East River Street, where the GPS coordinates are

32.079459° -81.083386°.

As I said, Liberty Boy, Andrew Elton Wells, was the brother-in-law of a Boston Liberty Boy and malthouse owner, Samuel Adams.

Samuel Adams

Wells was also good friends with a guy named John Hancock, who, as you’ll remember, was the notable signer of the Declaration of Independence. If you’ve seen a copy of the paper, his name is the largest, right up there at the top, and in the center of the document’s list of those who supported the American cause… and his rather large signature was a cursive thumb on the nose at King George the Third.

Wells, Adams, and Handcock were all members of the Revolutionary organization, The Sons of Liberty, which was a clandestine political society before the American RevolutionIt dedicated itself to upholding the rights of American Colonists… who, by the way… at that time, were British citizens.

Wells’ family was in the thick of things.

His father, Francis, gave shelter to Adams and Hancock when the politically heated climate in Boston forced the two men to hot-foot it out of town at the same time, other patriots fired the first shots of the Revolution on the green at Lexington and on the old North Bridge at Concord, Massachusetts.

Now, Andrew Wells was a former sea captain who had settled in Savannah and had become a prosperous merchant who owned the only rum distillery in town. It was the base of the river bluff next to the East Broad Street Ramp. Those are the coordinates I just gave you.

See, sugar was a necessity and an absolute for making spirited beverages. Well’s problem was that he refused to pay what he called… an “illegal” customs tax, and in doing so, he directly defied the orders of Georgia’s Royal Governor James Wright.

Royal Governor Sir James Wright

The result… the Governor seized the “contraband” sugar and molasses. Part of the sweet stash had been loaded onto a British ship at the Dock, while more was impounded inside Wells’ warehouse that was connected to it.

Over the years, the area where the dock stood was filled in with dirt, so today’s water’s edge is about forty yards to the north.

When you go to the spot, you’ll be standing on dry land.. and you’ll have to watch out for traffic because River Street runs directly over the spot.

Now, as I said… the saccharine cargo in question was destined for Well’s distiller pot. But British lieutenant William Grant, the commanding officer of the schooner HMS St. John ordered two sailors to confiscate and guard the supplies.

With that, Wells’ booze business was doomed to – drip – to a halt.

His protest wasn’t just for the cause of liberty; it was also for the freedom to do business without harassment by the government. Something that today we find… not that unusual.

What the Governor’s order did, was inspired angry, thirsty Liberty Boys to liberate the barrels of euphoria-inducing granules and haul them away.

And what Liberty Boy didn’t like to drink? Remember, these guys used to hang out in taverns as they plotted a new nation.

Well… after dark, the Liberty Boys darkened their faces with soot, marched to the wharf, and on to the schooner St. John, which had eight cannons and only two men…

Who probably didn’t know how to fire cannons anyway.

A London paper later reported that on the night of February 15, 1775, a disguised and armed party attacked the wharf, threw the guards into the river, then tarred and feathered the customs official who was in charge of the barrels…

Giving him a painful and tickly suit to wear home…

…and then the group carried off the hogsheads of sugar.”

Okay, a hogshead is a liquid measurement equal to 63 gallons. That would be… let’s see…carry the 1…

238 liters to those who don’t speak imperial measurement lingo.

However, I always love to mention a much larger measurement… which is the buttload… as in, “I drank a buttload of beer last night.”

See, a buttload is a barrel that contains 126 to 130 gallons of beer or wine, depending on whom you’re talking to.

Whichever you use… it’s twice the amount of liquid that makes up a hogshead.

It comes from the Italian word, botte, that means barrel. I guess… like, bottle.  And I can tell you. Not even Liberty Boys, who were always tired and thirsty from throwing things and people in the water, could drink a whole buttload of beer.

If you find that interesting, you’ll love to hear that two buttloads make a tun, T-U-N, and that’s even more beer.

Root beer, of course… this is a family show.

One report said eight hogsheads of molasses and six filled with French sugar disappeared in the night.

So, in reality, they took a buttload… and a lot more?

One report claims that one of the guards who was thrown off the boat… drowned. I’m not sure if that was true.

Governor Wright was enraged and offered a fifty-pound reward for the names of the culprits as well as a pardon to anyone who would turn state’s evidence.

 There were… no… takers, and the contraband’s location was never revealed. Most citizens probably didn’t know when it was happening.

Only one hundred yards away, the soldiers in the fort at the top of the bluff did not hear the attack, so they could not deter the stealthy rebels.

To explain… the political beliefs of the Sons of Liberty were not held by the majority of citizens in Georgia. But, the dogged, unrelenting determination of the group would bind those of like mind into a major force against British rule.


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Buy one for yourself and one for a friend. Don’t worry… we’ll make more.

So, back to our story,

the Savannah Sugar Party wasn’t unique. Several cities had “Tea Parties” including Charleston, Philadelphia, and New York.

People from all of the American Colonies were ticked off over taxation because they had no representative voice to oppose the laws… there was no one in British Parliament to speak for them.

As a result… in combination with other British practices…. and British military leaders…….. the American Revolution started. And we all know the final result.

Through the actions taken by Wells and other Liberty Boys along the Eastern Seaboard, we now live in a nation where people from around the world risk their lives just for a chance to join us. This might not be a perfect place to be, but it’s a heck of a lot better than anyplace else on the globe… just ask the people clambering to get in.

As for Well’s sugar party… that was many years ago.

Today, the closest thing we have to Andrew Well’s sugar party are sweet drinks at the bar at the hotel that now occupies the site of the old Artillery Wharf…

I think it’s time to have a party. So, raise your glass and toast the guys who changed the world and gave the little guy a chance to succeed. I think they had a good idea.

So… if you didn’t already know this story… now… you know.

Remember to follow the podcast so you will be notified when new episodes come out.

And go to the website for more information!

See you next time.


See you next time.


Artillery Wharf, 32.079459° -81.083386°

Boston Tea Party, 42.3536 -71.0524

Lexington Battle Green, 42.449444, -71.231389

North Bridge at Concord, Massachusetts, 42.469028° -71.350671°


William V. Wells, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams, Being a Narrative of his acts and opinions, and of his agency in Producing and Forwarding the American Revolution Vol II, 1865.
Paul M. Pressly, On the Rim of the Caribbean: Colonial Georgia and the British Atlantic World,
Walter J. Fraser, Savannah and the Old South, University of Georgia Press, 2003.
F.D. Lee and J.L. Agnew, Historical Record of Savannah.

Trailer E-1

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Hey, Everyone!

What a great day for a podcast!

This is JD Byous.  Welcome to History by GPS, where you travel through history and culture GPS location by GPS location.

For season one, there is a debut date of February 14th, 2023…

don’t you just love it?…

In that season we’ll be focusing on the history in and around Savannah, Georgia USA… There,,, is…a lot of history here.

Then… occasionally we’ll venture out to other areas across America, and sometimes we’ll tell the connections of those events to the Hostess City of the South just to illustrate how our nation is interconnected and interdependent.

For instance… We all know that in 1773, Boston, Massachusetts had a tea party… but did you know that Savannah had its own party… a sugar party.

And the Savannah guy who instigated it was nonother than the brother-in-law of Bostonian and Tea Party aficionado, Samuel Adam.

Never thought about it… but maybe that’s why we like sweet tea down here in the South.

Anyway, that event happened two hundred years before\ but only a few blocks away from a site where a captured German submarine was docked at the end of World War Two. 

And that sub was at the same site where in 1811, American sailors and Savannah citizens fought a battle against heavily armed French pirates.

Now, for the main locations that we talk about, I’ll read the GPS coordinates. and for other spots mentioned on the show, I’ll include those in our show notes and at

That way you can look up the locations on your favorite map app… or if you’re really hardcore… on a map… then follow the story and see the spots where history happened so you can visit them later.

So… how about a road trip?

Tune in, and we’ll talk about these events and many more…

When you, follow the stories of the past, on History… By GPS… See you soon.


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