The Cursed Silk Dress Balloons 32.078098° -81.082878°

JD Byous– –Books– –Shop

Hey, Everyone!

Today I’m going to tell you about a rather fashionable weapon of war…

I have a story about the Confederate Air Corps… and their airships made from silk dresses… Or so the legend goes.

It is a tragic and twisted story from the beginning all the way to the very sad end. These balloons seemed to be tinged by a curse.     

It was back in 1862 in a pre-dawn light when Savannah gas plant supervisor James Smedberg braced himself against the wall of a brick well to shut off… as he called it… an “intolerable gas flow” and found his hand resting on the still lifeless face of a man suspended on the side of the pit where the valve was located.

Smedberg said the man was hanging by the jaws, between a flange on one side and the brickwork on the other.

Two men were dead, another lay at the bottom of a twenty-four-foot dry well used for running gas and oil pipes for the facility.

Around the spot, other plant workers staggered and fell across the work yard like drunken chickens around a barnyard moonshine tank.

Nearby a short rope held the partially inflated Gazelle, an experimental Confederate observation balloon tied to a winch that was staked to the ground of the gasworks terrace.

The day was supposed to be a festive occasion with bleachers for military and city bigwigs, but then all hell broke loose.

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

Remember, the other GPS locations mentioned in this story can be found on HistoryByGPS.COM or on the show notes of your podcast provider… Apple, Google Podcast… and others.

This is part of three interesting historical events that happened years apart at this exact location… which is…

32.078098° -81.082878°.

The other two episodes were the Don’t Tax Me Bro story and the Yankee in the Garden episode. So, check them out if you haven’t. You’ll hear about this guy, Smedberg mentioned in one of them.

Okay, back to the balloon that had a gas problem…

And at my age… boy, I know the feeling.

Now, I will tell you that I had come across this story… about the Confederate balloon… in my studies about the American Civil War. And I will tell you that I am not a scholar of that war by any means. I am a scholar of the places I lived and how things like the Revolutionary and Civil War affected them.

But this incident came to my attention almost by accident. When I was going through old newspaper accounts of things that happened at the area in Savannah called Trustees’ Garden I came across a one or two sentence notice in a Richmond, Virginia newspaper that said that on May 29 1862 two men died in an accident at the Savannah gas works.

So I set it aside and pretty much forgot about it.

Later, I was researching the Savannah gas works and found an article written by James Smedberg about how it was necessary to use pine wood to make gas because of the scarcity of coal during the war. In it he talked about the deaths and that it happened when they were inflating a balloon for the military.

It became evident that the only balloon possible was the first gas balloon built by the Confederate Army to use to spy on Union forces.

Okay, back to business… I imagine that a gas leak was evident when Superintendent Smedberg arrived at the Savannah gasworks just before sunrise at 4 o’clock on that May 29 morning.

He must have smelled smell the fumes before he stepped onto the property.

See, coal and wood gas give off a putrid odor like the oil used in the cracks of sidewalks or creosote piers and telephone poles. It’s unlike today’s odorless natural gas, which needs the added chemical mercaptan to give a scent to escaping fumes.

Gas retort ovens for cooking coal or wood to manufacture gas.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Union blockade created a shortage of coal for the Confederacy. Residential and industrial products like coal supplies could not get into the city… or out of, for that matter.

So the buoyancy for lifting the Confederate Army balloon, Gazelle, required gas that was cooked from Southern yellow pine wood. Some reported that wood gas was thicker and burned better than standard coal, but both forms have a similar smell.

For the gasworks crew, it was time for the morning shift change when Smedberg circled the building to get onto the holding tank terrace where the fumes emanated.

The pungent, nauseating stench would have socked Smedberg in the nose like a punch during a Saturday night boozer.[1] He later wrote that Several plant workers “were badly asphyxiated.”

Two Irish immigrants, Martin Brannan, and William Harper were dead.

One had broken his neck in a fall down the maintenance well and could not be removed because of the heavy flow of gas from the pipe that was supposed to be filling the balloon.

  The stokers of the redoubt ovens, ordinarily tough and hard-as-nails men… were in a panic. Their eyes were blood red and burning from the fumes. Some lay on the coal-tar-stained ground with trance-like gazes staring into the sky; others stumbled dazed in the morning light.

They all feared that the gas would drift into the retort house and ignite at the fired ovens and blow them across the city’s eastern slope.

Another “big-hearted Irishman,” as Smedberg defined him, had been fired… by Smedberg… a couple of days before. Without hesitation, the man reached in, helped close the valve and dislodge the man who was hanging from the pipe and wall.

Making a rope sling, the Irishman slipped it under his arms and climbed down the pipes while his former boss fed the line. Then they hauled the other dead man to the surface.

Then the superintendent’s attention turned to the others. The members of the dazed and intoxicated crew were medicated… The medication… Whiskey, at that time in history, was the standard remedy for just about every ailment…

Ahhh, nineteenth-century medical science.

While the inflation of the balloon resumed, Smedberg’s anger fumed until he became furious. The shift foreman who had worked through the night had disobeyed him.

The gas works terrace where the Gazelle was tested in 1862. Ronnie Overstreet collection.

His orders were that the pressure of the gas was to stay constant and not be changed. But the foreman had made an uneducated adjustment, and the control valve had failed under the pressure.

When the deadly billowing gas started flooded the work yard, the foreman did not have the courage to shut it off, and the emergency erupted.

Smedberg claimed that the incident started in disobedience and ended, as he wrote, in “murder and almost suicide.” That was because there was another shutoff valve within two feet of the muzzle of the pipe.

So, the result… in concise twenty-first-century lingo – the foreman screwed up, and Smedberg fired him.

  Charles Cevor, the balloon’s pilot and builder, was devastated by the news. As in many Victorian narratives, Smedberg concluded his recount with moral and reason.

“The tragedy teaches the common mind that discipline is good but…” [the pilot, Mr. Cevor was], the last [I would have] suspected of superstition, “told me, that it happened at all because it happened on [a] Friday.”

Soon afterward, the heroic, Big-Hearted Irishman… the who climbed into the fume-filled pit… He was rehired by Smedberg’s boss, Francis Willis, the President of the Savannah Gaslight Company.

Smedberg speculated that Willis’ action came out of fear of a lawsuit from the wives of the deceased, who might. To quote him, “enforce exemplary pensions from the company.”  He figured, like today… somebody was going to sue someone over the incident, and good publicity could only help.

One can deduce that the two dead men were among the many Irish who had arrived in Savannah over the past two decades.

At the end of the gassing incident, the area was cleaned and cleared, the bodies were whisked away, and the unknowing public arrived, watched, and was awestruck by the show of the Confederate military aircraft. Enthralled by the spectacle, few knew of the deaths.

  Bleachers on the grounds nearby were full, dignitaries came, and anticipations of all onlookers were high. The balloon was a hit.[2]

The South, and especially Savannah, had built their first Confederate States, gas observation balloon that would help in the fight against the Northern aggressors. To the aeronauts Charles Cevor, and Confederate Captain Edward Lawton, their experience and view would have been remarkable.

Aeronaut, Captain Edward Lawton.

When the wench holding the balloon to the ground was released, the two men rose above the crowd. To the north was Willink’s Wharf on the water’s edge of Trustees’ Garden, where the CSS Georgia stood in the initial construction stages. The Ladies’ Gunboat Association had raised $115 thousand to aid in the war, an equivalent of almost $385 million in the year 2021.[3]

The history-making aircraft rose a few yards away from that spot in a tethered flight, and it floated above Alvin Miller’s iron foundry.

That’s where the iron for the CSS Georgia was forged and cast. With the feed of more line, they were over the rice fields near the city’s eastern boundary.

Willink’s Wharf site 32.079431° -81.082650°

Alvin Miller’s Foundry 32.077637° -81.078925°

  Theirs was a view taken in by few men, and it was usually Cevor tending the gas valve when they did. Toward the ocean, they could see the Savannah River as it twisted leftward, marking the bend at Four Fathom Hole and Fort Jackson and Fort Lee.

Four Fathom Hole 32.083290° -81.039669°

Fort Jackson 32.081901° -81.036431°

Fort Lee Site 32.082792° -81.033878°

Directly to the east, billow-like waves of trees outlined Whitemarsh and Wilmington Islands. The islands were just below Fort Pulaski’s outline, which overlapped the view of Tybee Island and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Fort Pulaski 32.027023° -80.890257°

Wilmington Island 32.008238° -80.977426°

Tybee Island 32.007773° -80.843548°

To the south, the rise of Trustees’ Garden Bluff was marked by a line of wood and brick buildings that housed the ironworking Kehoe, Monahan, and Rourke families along Broughton Street. All of which would own iron foundries in the near future. Below, the river shined, glinting flashes of light as the sun slowly rose near the mouth of the Savannah.

Iron working family homes site 32.076543° -81.083088°

Oh, by the way, check out the GPS coordinates on our website at You’ll find the show notes for this episode which include the spot where this event happened.

While you’re there check out or merchandise. We have Tee Shirts, cups, and other Savannah specific products that will make a great gift… to someone else… or to yourself. So check it out.

Now, back to the balloon and the aeronauts that were floating above the crowd.

Down below these guys they would have seen a glimmering ribbon of water igniting a show of line-streaked reflections… flanked by trees along the shore beside marsh grass and Savannah’s bustling wharves all surrounded by flat, fallow fields just outside the city’s eastern boundary.

Flying in a balloon, the sounds are muffled, there while they were in that silent space, they would have heard was occasional boat whistle, the calling of birds, and the droning murmur of the crowd below.

Cevor tested the lines and valves of the balloon while Lawton examined the fort, far in the distance.

The flight was short. With the Yankee troops surveyed and noted, the gas checks were opened after a few jerks on the control ropes, and the mission was over.

Superintendent Smedberg… unimpressed… concluded his balloon account by writing, “the balloon was filled, went up, and presently came comfortably down in the tender mud of a neighboring rice field.” That was it. To him, the test remained merely a test, nothing worthy of note.[4]

Hey… While I’m thinking about it, remember that you can find the GPS location of the spots mentioned in this episode on our website, HistoryByGPS.COM. While you’re there, check out our store, where you can find Savanah products and things that are highlighted in this and other stories we talk about on History By GPS.

Okay… Back to our cursed balloon…

  Earlier, the Confederacy tried to make hydrogen gas, which is a more efficient form of buoyancy, but blockade-induced shortages of materials dictated otherwise.

The chemicals for portable, wagon-hauled generation of hydrogen, as used by the Union balloonist, could not be imported, and the finances of the South prevented research investment.

So, the Gazelle’s virgin ascent was forced to utilize “streetlight” gas. The only location and source of the lighter-than-air property available in the southeast was at the Savannah Gaslight Company works next to the river in Trustees’ Garden.

Smedberg mentioned the flight and the deaths of Brannan and Harper in a recollection twenty or more years later. The Northerner gas-plant superintendent is described in a recollection by Union POW Frederick Schmitt as “…a born Scandinavian who was at heart… a Union man.”

Circa 1900 diagram of the process of manufacturing gas.

He had a kind personality but was direct in the description and operation of the plant.[5]  

Again… you’ll learn about Schmitt, the POW, in another episode on this GPS location.

The lighter-than-air, silk-enclosed bubble of streetlight gas would come to be referred to as the “Silk Dress Balloon.”

That was because the Yankee blockade, Lincoln’s Anaconda Plan… had created a shortage of fabric, so bundles of dress silk in various patterns was collected to fabricate the aircraft with whatever style or color it may be… stripes, plaids, florals, and all.

Then during the first flight of the balloon, Confederate General James Longstreet made a tongue-in-cheek comment to the press that created the nickname. He joked that the Confederacy had collected silk dresses from across the South for its fabrication. Many in the press took him seriously, and they printed it, and the name stuck.

The balloon’s pilot, professor Charles Cevor was an interesting guy. He was a tall and muscular risk-taker and had labored for weeks to sew and fabricate the gondola of the craft.

Edward Cheves, a teen-aged-civilian and Savannah boy helped him construct the craft under the direction of Edward’s uncle, South Carolina native Captain Langdon A. Cheves.[6]  

The Cheves family was from a powerful South Carolina family. Many of the men were serving in the Confederate Army.

Now, I’ll warn you… The ruling class of the South… and the North… was a mass of interconnected families who held the power positions. For better or worse, the American Civil War was a family squabble.

And from here on in this story, you’ll almost need a roster of the players.

That captain who was in charge of the balloon’s construction was the son of a lawyer named Langdon Cheves, who had died a few years earlier in 1857 after a successful pollical career.[7]

He had been the Attorney General of South Carolina, a US Congressman, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and the President of the Bank of the United States under US President James Madison.

See, a legacy of strength and leadership in the family was paramount in the southern states. Service was a family calling.

Young Edward Cheves would soon hold the Aide-de-camp Cadet’s title and serve as an aid to Savannah General Alexander R. Lawton.[8] Not “officially” military, Edward was the son of Langdon Cheve’s brother, Dr. John Richardson Cheves also of Savannah, who was spending the war in Charleston perfecting incendiary bombs to hurl on Union forces.

General Alexander R. Lawton

So the balloon project was most likely a concoction of the fire-bombing doctor, who then relayed the order to his brother and then to the 18-year-old. The craft was built in Savannah following the specifications dictated by Charles Cevor, the civilian aeronaut, who was ironically… a Pennsylvania boy.

Cevor was well known in Savannah and the Southeast. His flights had been popular attractions for spectators in the area for many years. He was also known to have crashed several balloons during the hazardous learning curve in the evolution of the infant transportation movement.

One instance was when he started a flight in his balloon, Forest City, outside of the Chatham Artillery Armory on Wright Square two years before the Gazelle flight. The Chatham Artillery building sat on the northeastern trust lot in Wright Square that is now part of the Tomochichi Federal Building.

The Chatham Artillery Armory on Wright Square.

Chatham Artillery Armory Site 32.078241° -81.092825°

As a tidbit of trivia… a few months earlier, the ballroom at that location where part of Silk Dress Balloon was constructed… was used by showman PT Barnum to house his menagerie in Savannah. Barnam, a New Yorker, pulled out when the war started.

After Cevor’s liftoff in the Forest City balloon, he quickly realized that the day was not ideal for a flight. A newspaper recorded, “Taking advantage of the slight lull in the wind, he ascended very rapidly… at three minutes after five o’clock, [he was] bearing away to the northeast, and gradually ascending, in the hope of meeting a current that would carry him more westward.”

Well, Cevor ascended several hundred feet and determined that his course, and all other air currents, would take him over the Atlantic. So, when he released gas to descend…

That is… gas from the balloon… We just want to be accurate here.

So, when he released the gas… At a lower altitude, he crossed another current that pulled him sharply toward the ocean.

He told his untested copilot, a guy named Dalton, that they were going into the water. Then Dalton’s response was, “For God’s sake land in the woods if you can.”

Well, Cevor was mildly amused since it was the first show of emotion by the trainee. Otherwise, Cevor said that Dalton had, quote, “preserved a coolness and exhibited a nerve that but few men can boast of possession.”

See… The pilot knew that such a tree landing would likely kill them. A water landing was the only choice. Fifteen air miles away, they came down in Hilton Head, South Carolina’s Calibogue Sound.

Calibogue Sound 32.109002° -80.836211°

The wind dragged them for about an hour, where Cevor, chest deep in water, fought to control the balloon-turned sail. Finally, the breeze pulled the men close to the shoreline at Hilton Head.

A planter named George Savage watched from shore. A newspaper reported, While the men were in the water, one of the valve-ropes became tangled, and the other one broken. This ment that Cevor had no means for controlling the balloon. With combined efforts of Mr. Savage, his slaves, and the aeronauts there was no way to hold “to hold the monster” of a balloon.

Professor Charles Cevor and his passenger jump from the Forest City balloon into the water near Hilton Head, South Carolina.

The craft was lost, breaking away from its crewmen, it “darted aloft, like a projectile, and in one moment more was hurtling away, and was carried off, over the sea.” Savage ushered the soaked and freezing, Cevor and his companion to his home to recuperate.[9]

  Now, a little about Cevor. When the war started, the Pennsylvania-born man offered his services to the Confederate Army who promptly rejected the proposal — newfangled gadgets were not welcome.

In 1862, after seeing the Union Army balloons flown by Thaddeus Lowe across the lines of battle, Brigadier General Thomas Drayton, Commander the 4th Military District of South Carolina, called for Cevor’s balloon skills to be utilized for the cause.

Well, we know that for the Southern Cause, Cevor’s balloon, Forest City, was no longer available… a casualty of experimentation lost in the aforementioned waters of Hilton Head. And by that time, it was probably somewhere over Siberia, half a world away. So Drayton ordered a new aircraft constructed.

Cevor and the young Cheves designed the aircraft while, over in South Carolina, Captain Langdon Cheves worked on the battlefield logistics.

In the Armory building on Wright Square and in the St. Andrew’s Building on Broughton and Jefferson Street, the duo stretched the bolts of random patterns and colors that made up the canopy.

St. Andrew’s Building 32.079739° -81.095557°

Seamstresses were hired to sew the material into the balloon envelope body working in two locations.[10] When complete, the fabric was coated with a varnish made from melted gutta-percha material from the rubber shock absorbers used on railroad cars. Today gutta-percha is used to fill teeth after root canals… so I’m told.[11]

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  Another Confederate balloon flew before the “Silk Dress” craft. A hot-air balloon was used during earlier observations. But with little success, it was dropped from service.

In Savannah, with the successful test of the Gazelle, Cevor received the brevet rank of Captain in the Confederate Army. He immediately collected the balloon and boarded the next train to Virginia. Among the wooded, rolling hills of Henrico County, during the Seven Days Battle at Richmond July 1, 1862, the Confederate balloon floated above the James River, riding on streetlight gas from Richmond’s Fulton Gasworks.

Tethered to a railroad car it rolled to the battle lines then back to the gasworks to replenish “fuel.” As the newly appointed commander the Army of Northern Virginia General Lee chose Major Edward Porter Alexander to oversee the flight and observe enemy positions.[12]

Alexander would later move to Savannah and become the president of the Central of Georgia Railway. He recalled the incident and the balloon ascent in his memoir, “I saw the battle of Gaines Mill from it and signaled information of the movement of [Henry W.] Slocum’s division across the Chickahominy to reinforce [General Fitz John] Porter.

General Edward Porter Alexander, CSA

Balloon flights went up daily, and when the enemy came too close, the inflated balloon would be carried down the river and flights made from the deck of a boat.”

Though other airmen shared ascents with Alexander, only he and Cevor were chosen for induction into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.[13]  

  Another crewman that should have been considered would relive the events almost fifty years after the forming and disbanding of the Confederate Air Force. That man was Adolphus Morse, another Pennsylvanian who had joined the Chatham Artillery.

He wrote of his experience as a lieutenant under Captain Charles Cevor, saying that Cevor was ordered to prepare the aircraft for Government use, “with sufficient lifting power to carry three men, besides ballast.”[14]

Morse remembered seeing Cevor in Savannah at the Artillery hall before he was assigned to help with the Gazelle. He said, “I remember to have seen him… but little did I think of going with [the balloon] to the field,” he wrote. It was months later when he was ordered to Charleston to assist in the Secessionville fight.

At nineteen-years-old, Morse was considered a reliable artilleryman and a good judge of distance. With that qualifications, he found himself assigned to assist Cevor in South Carolina.

“We had with us six young men as helpers.” The group included Savannahian, Pvt. Clement Saussey also of the Chatham Artillery. “We remained in Charleston for two or three weeks and was then ordered to Richmond and in a short time was ordered to the front. We secured board near the Gasworks and then our fun and frolic was over, for we began work in earnest.”

Major Alexander received orders from General Lee to command the balloon unit good reason. Alexander had graduated from West Point in 1857, was an artilleryman, and could judge distances.

But, also, he had served in the American West, where he worked in a unit under Major Albert J. Myer to create a “Morse code” system using flags. During that experiment, the Wig-Wag system was created. The code is used in military communication today.

Under Alexander’s direction, during the Seven Days Battle, the crew inflated the balloon in the dark of night, then tethered it to a railroad car and chugged to the front before dawn.

There in Richmond balloon was positioned on a hill, where they had a good view of Union General McClellan’s army.  Across the battlefield, about five miles away, the Yankees was flying, spying on the Confederate troops.

McClellan’s army had resisted all of Lee’s efforts up to that time, but on Friday, the balloonist could see from the movements of their enemies and knew that something was about about happen.

The Union balloonist signaled to someone to his right. So, Alexander sent the information to the ground below.

General Stonewall Jackson and his men made a forced march, and immediately attacked McClellan’s right, and in a short time. The Union General’s line was broken and began falling back.

That was the beginning of the terrible destruction of life that stopped the Union Army and ended the Sevan Days’ Fight in Front of Richmond.”

The Union Army retreated, continuing the fight over the hills and streams of twenty miles of countryside. McClellan lost the battle and would eventually be relieved of his command by President Lincoln.

Another side note… McClellan retaliated against Lincoln and ran against him in the 1864 election. McClellan Lost.

  Later the balloon crew moved down the James River to find the Union General’s army. One advantage the Confederate crew had lies in the positioning of the river, the railroad, and the gasworks.

The tracks run along the James River between the gasworks and the water, giving the crew options of two transport methods.

A Union Tug Boat pushes a barge with an observation balloon on the James River, Virginia.

At the plant a tugboat assumed the role of platform and carrier of the aircraft. Morse explains, “We took the balloon on board the tugboat ‘Teaser’ and started down the river, and when about twenty miles down made an ascension and found his army down between the Chickahominy and James Rivers.

But, owing to the obstinacy of the boats captain, he ran aground…” The Teaser, lying helplessly on a sand bar, took enemy fire. Shot and shell smashed the cabin. A death blow landed when a cannon ball pierce the boiler. A loud explosion ripped the deck off from the tug’s port side.

Then a Union gunboat crew boarded and captured the defenseless boat. “Ourselves and the crew escaped and returned to Richmond, where we were ordered to return to Savannah and build a new [balloon]. It was to be called, The Nimbus. It was thirty-six feet in diameter, raised forty-six feet above the valve board and fifty six feet overall and made of 980 yards of dress silk.

An 1862 Tug Teaser Port deck damage after boiler explosion after the boat’s capture by Union forces on the James River in Virginia. James Gibson photo Library of Congress.

The total weight was 888 pounds.[15] We bought every yard of silk we could find in Richmond, Savannah, and Charleston, which was over 1,000 yards. We remained with the second balloon in Charleston and made observations from decks of vessels to ascertain their positions on Morris Island and the location and number of their gunboats.”

After the battle, the balloon corps disbanded. Morse was reassigned, and reduced to the rank of private.

He said, “We were in the service eighteen months when I was ordered back to my company, which was at that time on James Island. After this I found it pretty rough to the end of the war, which for us occurred in North Carolina.”[16]

What had happened was the fateful end of the balloon corps. Secured at Fort Johnson at the mouth of Charleston Bay, foul weather tore the balloon loose. It drifted into the stratosphere and was gone.

Morse had been the last reconnaissance pilot to ascend in a Confederated balloon. It was during the first battle for Ft. Wagner.[17]

  The curse of the Silk Dress Balloons started with the deaths of gasworks workers Brannan and Harper. It continued through other participants. Captain Edward Payson Lawton, brother and aide to General Lawton, did not survive the war.

He flew in the Savannah gasworks test in May and then died in December at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

His death was seven months before the second, Savannah-built balloon, the Nimbus, flew over Fort Wagner outside of Charleston. Again, That’s where Morse was at the control.

The misfortune of the balloons would conclude with other deaths.

On July 10, 1863, there at Fort Wagner near Charleston, Captain Langdon A. Cheves, Sr, was described as being distraught… Remember, he was the military supervisor who oversaw both balloon construction operations.

Fort Wagner, SC 32.723433° -79.879338°

The war had weighed heavily on him and his cousins in the Cheves family. One-year prior, Langdon’s young nephew, Cadet Edward Cheves, who had helped Cevor during the construction of the first balloon…

Well, he was killed in the Battle of Gaines Mill, during the first days of the Gazelle’s use in battle. Early in the fight while riding by the side of General Lawton, his horse was shot from under him.

Lawton described the incident saying, “He promptly rose to his feet, announced to me his safety and his intention to keep up with the brigade on foot. He followed on toward the left, where the Thirty-first and Thirty-eighth were so hotly pressed, and while gallantly pursuing the line of his duty, he fell pierced through the heart by a rifle-ball.”[18]

Gaines Mill Battlefield 37.573549° -77.293109°

Mary Chestnut of South Carolina noted in her diary on July 1, 1882… If you’ve watched the Ken Burns series on the Civil War she was mentioned often.

She wrote,  “No more news. It has settled down into this. The general battle, the decisive battle, has to be fought yet. Edward Cheves, [the] only son of John Cheves, [was] killed.

According to Chestnut’s journal, John’s daughter… Edward’s sister… kept crying, ‘Oh, mother, what shall we do; Edward is killed,’ but the mother sat dead still, white as a sheet, never uttering a word or shedding a tear.”

Then Chestnut, who had seen so much of the effects of the war, questioned, “Are our women losing the capacity to weep? The father came to-day, Mr. John Cheves. He has been making infernal machines in Charleston to blow up Yankee ships.”[19]

The Second Battle of Fort Wagner.

  At Fort Wagner, Langdon Cheves received the news that his sister’s son, Captain William Thomson Haskell, had died on July 2 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. William was revered by his family and by his troops.

On the 10th, Langdon received news in the early morning that his other nephew, William’s brother, Captain Charles T. Haskell, Jr. had also been killed while helping to repel a Union amphibious attack.

Flanked by northern soldiers and his position was overrun, and he died a short distance from Langdon’s bunker.

The next day Langdon, was sitting in his quarters overwhelmed with grief at the news of his family tragedies, when he heard the battle restarting. He jumped up and ran to the ramparts of the battery…

Shrapnel from the very first shell fired from a Union gunboat exploded near him… killing him instantly.[20]

In the same time frame another family member, captain Joseph Cheves Haskell, who was the brother of Charles and Thomas… was wounded. He lost his arm and shoulder at Gaines’ Mill after ascending in the balloon.[21]

Now, that fighting where Captain Langdon Cheves died… It sits high at the top of historical battles.

There on July 18, another Union advance attempted to overrun Battery Wagner. In the attacking force was the famous Union 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up of black soldiers led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.

If you saw the movie Glory, THAT 54th Massachusetts… As you’ll remember, it failed to take the fortification that Langdon Cheves engineered and helped construct a few months earlier.[22]

That movie Glory, you’ll remember, starred Morgan Freeman and a young Denzel Washington.

The Cheves and Haskell families paid dearly during the short life of the Confederate Balloon Corps. After that time both the Union and Confederate balloon usage quickly disappeared, but their mark in history remains.

  The Confederate Air Force was born in 1862 and died the next year. But it holds a first in the records. Barges were the watercraft that held balloons used by the Union Army. They were pushed or pulled by steamboats.

The Confederate balloon, Gazelle’s carrier, was a tug boat named, Teaser, It had a short-lived career but gained the distinction of being the first motorized aircraft carrier in North America.

After the Teaser’s capture, the deflated Gazelle was taken to the Union Army’s chief aeronaut, Thaddeus Lowe, who chopped the canopy into small pieces and distributed it to friends as souvenirs.

Fragments of the silk envelope of the CSS Gazelle airship.

A few of the fragments eventually made it to the Smithsonian Museum. Today they are in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.[23]

Years later, Edward Porter Alexander, who ended his career with the ranke of General… He would puzzle over the events following the Battle at Charleston and the events of the Balloon Corps’. The Confederacy did not have the resources to continue, but the Union, too, dropped their use altogether.

Alexander wrote, “Even if the observers never saw anything, they would have been worth all the cost for the annoyances and delays they caused us in trying to keep our movements out of their sight.”[24]

  The concept of flying craft and boats found service before the American Civil War, so the Gazelle and other balloons were not first in battle. In 1806 the first ship to serve as a carrier for airborne warcraft was the British Royal Navy’s HMS Pallas.

The ship’screw flew kites over the French coast to drop propaganda leaflets on Napoleon’s army. Forty years later, in 1849, the Vulcano, an Austrian steam vessel, tethered a manned hot air balloon to its deck to bomb Venice. Unfortunately for the Austrians, but most fortunate for the Venetians, the attempt failed due to ill-directed winds.[25]

However, the Savannah-Trustees-Garden-tested Gazelle… which was first tethered to a railroad car, then tied to the steam-tug, CSS Teaser, was the first in America to fly from a motorized aircraft carrier. A different form than the aircraft that we think of today — but still an aircraft, and still… the first.

It is also the first to float on a bubble of wood gas, made by the retort house crew at Trustees’ Garden… You remember the stokers from the Yankee in the Garden… Episode nine? Those same stokers.

The Gazelle and the Nimbus… The Silk Dress Balloons… left a tragedy-strewn legacy that touched many families… from those of the Irish gas workers Martin Brannan, and William Harper to those in the Lawton and Cheves family of Georgia and South Carolina. But the aircraft in the Confederate air force goes down as a part of history few people remember… other than a few aircraft and history nerds like me.

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

Be sure to go to and check out or notes and merchandise… I will find it delightful and be eternally grateful if you do…

See you later.



GPS locations

Location of three episode stories, 32.078098° -81.082878°

Ya know… I guess we all know about spy balloons today after we find that the Chinese have been flying over us for several years.

[1] Daniel Tenkrat, Tomas Hlincik, Ondrej Prokes, Natural Gas Odorization, Ondrej Prokes Institute of Chemical Technology Prague Czech Republic, 2010; James R. Smedberg, Observations during Many Years’ Experience in the Gas Business, Report of Proceedings, American Gas Light Association, p 325, 1887.

[2] The Daily Dispatch, Richmond, “Martin Brannan and Wm. Harper two employees in the Savannah Gas Works, were killed by an accident on Friday morning”, June 5, 1862, Smedberg, p539; Smedberg’s note that the “big-hearted Irishman” was re-hired, helps with the assumption that the two were of Irish and not of African descent since men of both groups worked at the facility. First, the re-hire negated a lawsuit. Secondly, at that time in Savannah slaves could not sue whites in court, neither could free blacks nor nominal slaves. They would have required a sponsor to represent them who also suffered damages. Thirdly, it was unlikely that blacks would not have received a pension which was a “perk” that was generally reserved only for whites. Though the Irish were considered by other ethnic and social groups to be on a lower level, they did have white skin, thus the rights as such under the laws.

[3] Richard J Anuskiewicz and Ervan G. Garrison. (1992). “Underwater archaeology by braille: Survey methodology and site characterization modeling in a blackwater environment – A study of a scuttled confederate ironclad, CSS Georgia, PDF, p 4, 1992.

[4] James R. Smedberg, Observations During Many Years’ Experience in the Gas Business, Heat Light and Power, Proceedings of the American Gas Light Association, April 1889, p325.

[5] Frederick Emil Schmitt, Prisoner of War: Experiences in Southern Prisons, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Winter, 1958-1959.

[6] Find a Grave, Langdon Cheves; Langdon Cheves, Jr. was the son of Langdon Cheves, Sr, brother of John Cheves who was the father of Dr. Edward Cheves,

[7] Langdon Cheves (the elder,) 1814 – 1852, was considered as a replacement for aging US Vice President and Senator John C. Calhoun. Cheves opposed the state’s secession singularly in 1850 but suggested a cooperative move with other slave-holding states.

[8] Some records list Edward Cheves, a “captain,” however a notation in files later indicate that the rank was incorrect after consulting General Lawton’s records. The rank of Cadet was used for young, educated teenagers who volunteered during the Civil War and earlier. SEE: National Archives, Edward Cheves, NARA M331, 586957, Roll: 0053, Record Group 109, Compiled service records of Confederate officers

[9] Another Escape of a Balloon, Savannah Evening Express clipping, 1860, Georgia Historical Society Library.

[10] The building as of this writing was the office location of Lominac Koleman Smith Architects, a principal contributor in the Kehoe Iron Works complex renovation from 2013 to 2018: Different records report differing locations in the fabrication of the craft. One or both locations may have been used to make the two balloons.

[11] E.P. Alexander, Military Memoirs of a Confederate, A Critical Narrative, 1907, pp 172: Gutta percha is a latex material processed from the sap of the getah perca plant in Indonesia.

[12] E.P. Alexander, Military Memoirs, p 172: Major, later General, Edward Porter Alexander was brother in law to CSA General Alexander R. Lawton and to CSA General Jeremy Francis Gilmer. After the war Alexander became President of the Central of Georgia Railroad, Lawton became an ambassador to Austria-Hungry and Gilmer became president of the Savannah Gas Light Company and the Central of Georgia prior to Alexander: When Porter was 14 years old and his two oldest sisters married West Point graduates, Gilmer and Lawton; Mark C. Hagerman, Edward Porter Alexander, (1835-1910),

[13] Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, Captain Charles Cevor,

[14] Cevor and Morse were native Pennsylvanians. After the war, they both moved to Texas where they settled in different areas and lived out their lives.

[15] New Army Balloon, Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee,August 22, 1862. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress..

[16] Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray, 1861- 1865, compiled by Mamie Yeary, McGregor, Texas, 1912, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History pp 546: Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, TX May 30, 2010: Morse had been wounded in the battle of Olustee, FL. “… a slight wound…This was one of the hardest fights of the war and only lasted form 1 p.m. until dark, February 12, 1864. On our loss was 95 killed and 800 wounded, while the enemy had 203 killed and 1,152 wounded.”

[17] Rebel aeronauts, including a Central Texan, took their fight to the skies, by Terri Jo Ryan, Waco Tribune Herald, January 1, 2012.

[18] Reports of Brig. General Alexander R. Lawton, C.S. Army, commanding forth Brigade, Second division (Jackson’s), of the battles of Gaines’ Mill and Malvern Hill, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861-1865, Report No. 246, Serial No 013, Vol II pg 2.

[19] Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut, A Diary From Dixie. Electronic Edition.1997, pp 199: “Mr.” John Cheves of her writing refers to Dr. John Cheves.

[20] Charleston Mercury, July 13, 1863.

[21] Gary W. Gallagher, Fighting for the Confederacy, The Personal Recollections of General E.P. Alexander, 1989; John Haskell survived and was mentioned by Mary Chestnut’s June 12 entry in her diary, “Two weddings – in Camden, Ellen Douglas Ancrum to Mr. Lee, engineer, and architect, a clever man, which is the best investment now. In Columbia, Sally Hampton and John Cheves Haskell, the bridegroom, a brave, one-armed soldier.”

[22] Dean Stevens, South Carolina Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, January 10, 2014. In 1876, Langdon Cheve’s son, Dr. Langdon A. Cheves, Jr., helped battle Yellow Fever in Savannah. Three years later, fifteen years after his father’s death, he died fighting the disease in Memphis, Tennessee.

[23] National Air and Space Museum collection, fabric samples, Washington, DC.

[24] Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Vol. CI, June 1900 to November 1900. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1900.

[25] Justin D. Murphy, Military Aircraft, Origins to 1918, p 10, ABC-CLIO, 2005.

© JD Byous, All rights reserved, 2023

Yankee in the Garden 32.078098° -81.082878° E-9

Hey, everyone!

Did you hear that?

Somebody said, “The Yankees are coming!”

Actually, we hear that all the time here in Savannah, Georgia.

Today it would mean they were coming down for a few days of vacation… But back in 1864, it didn’t mean they were stopping in town to catch dinner at Sweet Potatoes Kitchen and buy a couple of tee shirts down on River Street.

It would have been a little more distressing when those words were spoken around South Georgia.

And so… to go with that… here’s a great story about a Union Prisoner of war in Savannah at the end of the American Civil War who heard those words and was very relieved…

His story… gives you a perspective that you don’t often hear.

Because in 1864, Union soldier Frederick Emil Schmitt and others endured the stench of filth and death in the infamous Confederate Civil War Prison camp near Andersonville, Georgia.

Andersonville_Prison by John L Ransom former prisoner.

But out of a stroke of genius and luck, he ended up in Savannah, hiding from the Rebels and waiting for the arrival of the army of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

Union Major General, William T. Sherman.

He has a great story that almost fell into obscurity. Sick 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 click on your favorite map app and follow along.

The coordinates for the location talked about in the podcast

32.078098° -81.082878°

Now… on to our story… which, by the way… is one of three interesting historical events that happened years apart at this same location… we’re talking physically on the same spot of ground within a ten-yard circle.

You’ll find those stories noted at the website too.

For this episode the spot plays an important role in the life of Frederick Schmitt because he ended up hiding within this small tiny circle on the globe.

If you recall the story of Andersonville, almost 13,000 of 43,000 Union prisoners died from hunger and disease during the years the prison was operating… 1861 to 1865…

Now… I might add that similar conditions were experienced in Northern prisoner-of-war camps. There were no picnic either… but you don’t hear as much about them.

The South lost the war in case you haven’t heard

And… as is always espoused… The victor writes the history.

What made things worse in the South was that the population was low on food and provisions, which made prison life a living hell.

By the way, JD Huitt over at The History Underground on YouTube has a great episode about the conditions at Andersonville. I’ll put the link in the show notes. It’s well worth a look.

Okay… There at Andersonville… One day Frederick Schmitt’s luck changed in October 1864 when he noticed a group of prisoners by the main gate being placed in rank and file as if they were getting ready to march outside. It was drizzling rain when he saw his chance for a difference in scenery.

But who was Frederick Schmitt?

Great question! I’m glad you asked. It fits right in with the next part of the story.

Schmitt came to America from Bavaria in 1859, settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and enlisted in the Union Army on February 10, 1864. He held the rank of private in Company D, of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry regiment under Colonel Andrew J. Morrison.

By June 1864, he was in the Union Calvary under Major-General James H. Wilson and found himself captured after the rebels raided his position outside of Richmond, Virginia. His friends and officers couldn’t find him and thought he was dead and they listed him as being killed in action.

So, most of his military life… military experience… was in Prison.

In 1919 he wrote his memoir of being a POW when he was 77 years old, fifty-five years after his experience in the South.

But… ironically… his story wasn’t published until 1958, when his daughter gave it to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

So, I guess there’s hope for some of the articles I wrote back in my newspaper days…

Not much is known about Schmitt. I do know that he was an engineer, and I did find a master’s thesis written at the University of Wisconsin in 1904 by a Frederick Schmitt.

It was on mass transit, you know, street trolleys, and things like that, and as far as I can tell, he was in that field… being an engineer, so he could have written it, I suppose.

However, I suspect it may have been a son or someone else since he… Frederick… would have been 62 years old by that time.

Then again… I got my history degree at the ripe old age of 53, so who knows.

His recollection of the prison is an intriguing story in that it… bends, the typical narrative about Andersonville with an interesting perspective. It tells of his kindness toward his captors in a way that other prisoners did not record nor recollect afterward. At least as far as I’ve seen.

Schmitt said… and I quote…, “Personally, I witnessed no cruelties to individuals, except such as resulted from general conditions.” 

He goes on, “The Southern States in 1864, being themselves short of foodstuffs, could give prisoners only such food as they themselves had… and the Rebel soldiers about the camp had no better food than the prisoners.” 

Quite magnanimous, I would say.

Interesting, indeed.

So, on one cold morning, Schmitt’s odyssey to freedom began after a night of discomfort made him get up and start moving around… work the kinks out after sleeping on the ground.

He wrote, “Being stiff and cold I got up, slung my haversack over my shoulders, and began to walk down toward the driveway where I hoped to get a chance to warm myself near one of the bake ovens.” 

If you’ve ever seen a map or drawing of the prison, there were a couple of ovens in the bakery that were fairly large… a good place to get warm.

Well, the sound of drums beating caught his attention. Over near the gate, a detachment was ordered to fall in to be taken to the train.

He said the column was already marching, and the first row was already outside of the large stockade gates. Schmitt slipped into the lines but was seen by one man in the line who recognized him as not one of the chosen group.

He immediately pounced upon him and tried to push him out of the marching column but only succeeded in pushing him back to the next row. Then Schmitt was jostled further back in the line, where he finally ended up in a group of men who didn’t care… or… thought he was one of those selected.

As they marched out of the compound, two Rebel officers stood on each side, counting the men who passed.

Schmitt’s line was in the last row to be allowed out of the gate. Just as his line was counted, the men behind him were stopped. Schmitt did not know where he was going, but anywhere was better than Andersonville.

Andersonville Prison 32.194906° -84.130172°

Andersonville Station 32.194878° -84.139204°

A Google Earth view of Andersonville, Georgia, the prison site and the National Cemetery.
Union prisoner and artist, Robert Knox Sneden’s map of Andersonville, the train station and the prison site. Library of Congress.

By the way… Remember that the show notes and GPS locations for all of the spots mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes or at History By GPS dot com. While you’re there check out our books and merchandise. I think you’ll like our line of products from Savannah and its history… including some that highlight this episode.

And leave a comment. I’d love to hear your opinion or information that other listeners would like to hear.

Meanwwhile… Back at Andersonville Station… Schmitt and the other men were loaded into railroad boxcars and told their destination was the Savannah POW camp that covered the 700 block along Whitaker between West Hall and West Gwinnett Streets across from Forsyth Park.

I’ve looked in my notes but can’t find the name of that prison.

I think it may have been Camp Mercer or Camp McLaws, but my notes… and my memory… have slipped away somewhere.

However, if you know the name of the Savannah camp, please let me know in the comments or on the website,

Now, by chance, POW artist Robert Knox Sneden was in the Andersonville and Savannah prisons with Schmitt and was in that same group of men who were transferred to Savannah. Sneden captured the compound on paper and ink, and many other war-time details that were… and still are… available in books. I’ll have a couple of his drawings I found in the Library of Congress archives in the show notes.

Savannah POW Prison 32.068114° -81.097359°

Savannah’s Historic District with POW camp and Trustees’ Garden.

            Now, Schmitt… after a few weeks in the new prison yard that he describes as “utter misery,” …another stroke of luck came his way. One morning a commission led by a Union officer, a Captain named Gottheil came to the gate to recruit men to work in a local machine shop.

The Prison camp at Savannah, Georgia by Robert Knox Sneden, 1864.

Hearing that Gottheil was looking for workers who were machinists, again, Schmitt’s grit placed him in an advantageous position, so he made a rapid jump toward the gate. But as soon as he made a step or two, one of the self-appointed guards saw him and ran at him, ready to strike.

See, a set of POW rowdies had taken over the internal government of the camp. Each of them carried a huge hickory stick, Buford Pusser style if you are old enough to remember that story…

The ruffians only let men who had paid them approach the gate.

But when Schmitt ran for the gate, Captain Gottheil warned the henchman off and let Schmitt approach and talk to him. So, he was able to tell him about his engineering experience.

He was chosen… so he and a small group of POWs were marched across town to Alvin Miller’s Iron Foundry on the on the bank of the Savannah River, about 300 yards east of Trustees’ Garden and the Savannah gas works.

It was located on the spot where, today, the Thompson Hotel stands.

Alvin Miller’s Foundry 32° 4’38.67 “N 81° 4’43.97 “W

Trustees’ Garden and the gas works are show on upper right with smoke from Miller’s foundry site shown at the lower (extreme) left side of this 1871 birdseye view of Savannah.

There, Schmitt and his fellow prisoners were turned over to the manager of the foundry and told to wait. Later, Schmitt was shown a small horizontal stationary engine and asked to overhaul it so it could be installed in a boat.

I talk about Alvin Miller’s foundry in another episode about survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade… So, that’s another story.

With Schmitt’s new job came a near unlimited freedom to roam around the city. Often, on his off time, he often visited the gas works, where he met the superintendent, James Smedberg, as Schmitt described, a Scandinavian and a Union sympathizer.

If you may noticed, Schmitt’s recollection has almost everyone he met as being a Union sympathizer… then again… who knows… I was out of town that day.

But then, again, when folks found out that General Sherman was on his way to town… I can imagine that many people were choosing a different side of the political conflict.

Now, Smedberg… The superintendent… he pops up in another episode about the Confederacy’s Silk Dress Balloon… so stay tuned.

When Smedberg wasn’t around, Schmitt sneaked into the retort house and got to know the stokers, many of whom were black locals and Irish immigrants.

The Gasworks buildings, now the Charles H. Morris Center, with locations of the coal (wood) shed, the worker’s hut, and the meter house sites.

Now, to explain, a retort… is an oven where coal was cooked to make gas for streetlights, stoves, and other industrial and residential uses. It was similar to the natural gas that we use today.

The retort operation was a hot and dirty job where coal was heated over coke fires… not Coca-Cola, coke, the charcoal-like stuff, except it burns much hotter.

The gases from the hot coal were refined into residential gas but also into benzyne, ammonia, acetate, and other by-products. Now, don’t ask me how… It’s a bit like magic or alchemy to me… I definitely wasn’t a chemistry major in school.

Well, with the swirl of rumors saying General Sherman was marching to the sea at Savannah… according to Schmitt… many workers were eagerly awaiting his arrival.

So…  many befriended the near-celebrity POW.

Over at Miller’s foundry, the man he worked under was a German named “Mr. Weber,” who took Schmitt to his home and introduced him to his wife and children as well as other German inhabitants of who, mostly, were Jews. According to Schmitt, it seems that all of Savannah eagerly awaited Sherman’s arrival…….

Now… I tend to have reservations about his conclusion.

But, do you know what I don’t have reservations about.. it’s that you should go to our website at and check out our merchandise. Just thought I’d throw that in again in case you’re at work and the boss was talking to you the first time…

So… In anticipation of Sherman’s army, restrictions on the POW became even more relaxed. It was then that a prison friend joined Schmitt, a guy he called, a little German Jew named Loewenstein. The small-statured man became his constant companion on his trips to the gasworks and around town. So, Lowenstein, too, became friends with the gasworks workers.

 I should mention that there is and was a substantial population of Jewish folks in Savannah. And that Schmitt mentions going to dinner at their homes in his story.

It’s highly believable since Savannah has our country’s third oldest congregation here. And the community is known for its Southern hospitality.

Around that time, Captain Gottheil … the officer that recruited Schmitt at the prison… Well, he walked up to Schmitt and told him that the Union Army was only two days away, so he… Gottheil … and the others in charge of the prisoners getting the heck out of town. And, as far as he was concerned, Schmitt and Loewenstein were on their own.

Now, remember, the Confederate Army was still in Savannah. A few days later, they built a pontoon bridge across the river and escaped into South Carolina.

If the two prisoners were found by the rebels, they would be taken into custody and marched away from General Sherman and freedom.

In fact, weeks earlier, before they suspected that Sherman’s Army was coming to Savannah, the POW camp prisoners across town, including artist Robert Knox Sneden, were shipped to another location… they went to the newly built Camp Lawton near Millen, Georgia.

The Union prisoners at Camp Lawton near Millen, Georgia were loaded into boxcars when General William T. Sherman’s cavalry came near, by Alfred R. Waud, Library of Congress.

Ironically, it was directly in the path of the Union army. When Sherman’s cavalry approached, the prisoners were put back on a train and shipped out again. Some went to South Carolina, and others to Blackshear, Georgia, southwest of Savannah.

As a side note… I’ve heard Lawton Prison called the world’s largest… I guess, prisoner of war enclosure… I really have no idea if that’s true. If you happen to know let me know in the notes.

So, with things getting hot in town, one evening, Schmitt and Loewenstein slipped out of their quarters at the foundry, walked to the gas works, and contacted the workers. Some of the employees took them and hid them in the meter house that was located at the back of the Pirates’ House building.

The next day Superintendent Smedberg discovered the stowaways and was livid with the stokers, scolding them and demanding that the POWs leave.

Another little side note here… A few years ago, I walked past that spot where the old meter house would have stood. Plumbers were laying pipe for the extension on the Pirates’ House restaurant and were working inside an old brick foundation about the same size as the meter house was described. I’ll put that location in the notes.

Meter House 32.078244° -81.083667°

Now, Smedberg had a good reason for being angry. If the rebels found the prisoners in their hiding spot, he and the gas works men could have been shot for aiding the enemy.

Schmitt and Lowenstein begged to be allowed to stay in hiding until dark but the Superintendent would not listen, so there was nothing left for them to do but leave.

However, one of the workers whispered to the two that he would leave the back gate unlocked. So later that night, the two men returned.

The back gate was next to the bluff where Wright and Reynolds Streets met. Today, the fence of Morris Park and the Morris Center terrace meet on the northeast end of the parking lot.

The POWs were ushered into a large coal shed that, at that time, held split-pine firewood and crawled to the top of the pile.

Now that’s where today’s GPS location will take you. It was on top of that spot where our story intersects with other episodes within a fifteen foot radius or so.

Location of three stories, Magazine, Balloon, and Prisoners

32.078103° -81.082939°

Schmitt noted that their bed on split logs had few smooth surfaces and was in reality a bed full of splinters and sap.

He wrote that the resting place was the worst one he’d ever found… and that, to quote,  “Smedberg’s findings for the perfect size pieces was great for making gas, but poor for hours of sitting and sleeping.”

After dark, a stoker who lived a few yards away came to their hiding place, whistled to the men, and told them that supper had arrived. They were given cornbread and they ate it on top of the rough cordwood.

The next evening another whistle was heard… but that time they were invited to join the stoker at his home. A crude map drawn by Schmitt indicates that it stood next to the spot where, today, the two fences meet, next to the brick wall and the parking lot. I’ll put Schmitt’s map in the notes as well.

Well, the two Yankee POWs were invited to stay and eat dinner. After a day and a night on their pinewood bed, the invitation was welcomed without any hesitancy, as Schmitt said, “for we had by this time not a painless spot in our bodies, and the expectation of getting a seat on a chair overcame every scruple.”

Worker’s hut (#11 on map) 32.078045° -81.083195°

He described the home as being typical of shanties in Trustees’ Garden and that the tiny house was, to quote, “no better than an Irish or Negro house” and was sparsely furnished. The room was illuminated by pitch-pine sticks that filled the area with a cloud of soot.

Those pitch-pine sticks, to those of you from the South, were what we call fat Lighter… great sap-filled kindling wood.

The Schmitt was thankful for the hospitality but said communication was difficult. He explained… “The good people gave us food and entertained us, although we hardly understood their jargon.”

They were probably speaking Gullah or English with a Gullah bent. It’s the language of many of the families who had been brought over as slaves from the Sierra Leon region in Africa.

As the visitors talked, rumbling noises came from the commercial section of the city. The last of the Rebel forces were destroying property to prevent it from getting into the hands of the Union soldiers.

 Unfortunately, in the chaos, others looted empty buildings as the Rebel army gathered on the river to exit across the pontoon bridge near the foot of West Broad Street. That road is now renamed Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard.

After the evening was spent, the two soldiers returned to the woodpile and spent another sleepless night.

Schmitt described that the Rebel soldiers ruined the food supplies of the homes, making them inedible so the Union forces could not use them. Some days afterward, he said he saw some of this work which he described as a savage and gruesome aspect. Rice, molasses, kerosene oil, vegetables, and dry goods were all in a heap on the floor to the depth of a foot or two, and of course, everything was spoiled.

He didn’t know that Sherman’s men did the same thing to homes along the route from Atlanta as it swarmed the Georgia landscape as he marched to Savannah. Many families in Georgia, including my wife’s, tell how Sherman’s Bummers destroyed their food supplies similarly and left them in their homes with nothing to eat.

General Sherman’s army in a victory parade along Bay street in front of the Exchange Building at the intersection of Bull Street. Library of Congress.

Well, the next morning, a call came from below the woodpile telling them “the Yanks are here.”  The two men quickly crawled down and made their way to the main gate.

Main Gate to Gas Works 32.078406° -81.084128°

Schmitt said… In less time than ever before, they were on the ground and out of the iron gate on East Broad Street. There they found the street full of Union soldiers. But being clad in surplus Rebel uniforms, they became objects of suspicion, so there was nothing to do but surrender and be asked to be taken to the provost marshal’s office.

In their interrogation, they explained their status, they received an identification mark, an order for a day’s rations, and orders to report back every morning. 

On of the first things they did was to repay the kindness of the Savannah residents who had welcomed them into their homes. They took their rations to the families and invited their hosts to share the food and eat with them, which they repeated every day for about a week or ten days. 

Then one day the men were given orders and required to leave quickly by way of an ocean steamer that was bound for New York.

They never saw their unfortunate-found friends in Savannah again.[1]

According to the Wisconsin Magazine of History, when Frederick Schmitt died, he requested to be cremated. Then to be buried under a rose bush in his daughter’s backyard… at 821 Cherry Street in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

So if you’re in the neighborhood, leave a flower on the sidewalk out in front of his resting place and remember an old veteran… who was as much a veteran of a prison camp than a veteran of battle.

Schmitt’s daughter’s home 44.512042° -88.006193°

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

Please remember to click the button and follow, then go to our website to find more info on this episode. And others

See you next time



The History Underground, JD Huitt,

GPS Coordinates:

Woodpile and stories on same spot, 32.078103° -81.082939°

Andersonville Prison 32.194906° -84.130172°

Andersonville Station 32.194878° -84.139204°

Savannah POW Prison 32.068114° -81.097359°

Alvin Miller’s Foundry 32° 4’38.67 “N 81° 4’43.97 “W

Meter House 32.078244° -81.083667°

Worker (Stoker) hut 32.078045° -81.083195°

Schmitt’s daughter’s home 44.512042° -88.006193°


[1] Prisoner of War: Experiences in Southern Prisons by Frederick Emil Schmitt, Wisconsin Magazine of History, pp 83 – 84, 1958: Andersonville National Historic Site,

© History By GPS, JD Byous, all rights reserved, 2023

DON’T TAX ME BRO!  32.078098° -81.082878° E-8

Hey, everyone.

We’ve got a great story for this episode.

Today we’re going to talk about two historical events that were separated by 100 yards but were a decade apart in history.

They also tie in geographically with two other historical events that took place on the same GPS location that we are looking at today.

Those are in different episodes.

Well, back in 1765, things were getting hot here in Savannah, Georgia. And we’re not talking weather kind of hot. We’re talkin’… if things had gotten out of hand, the American Revolution could have started a decade earlier… kind of hot.

So… why all the fuss?

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

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

You can find transcripts of the show at or on the show notes for Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and other podcast platforms for the coordinates of where these events happened.

As for the main location…

Here are the coordinates… 32.078098° -81.082878°

Okay, back to a hot time in Savannah.

The first incident in 1766 was over a little paper stamp.

People got really riled up over this little stamp.

So why get aflutter about a small piece of paper… it only cost a few pennies?

Here’s why… It incident took place on the northeastern corner of Savannah’s Historic District in what locals call the Old Fort District.

Today the Charles H. Morris Center at Trustees’ Garden is on top of the bluff where Colonial Era Fort Halifax once stood.

Now, this spot is just a few feet away from Savannah’s world-famous Pirates’ House Restaurant, which is in a building that sits on the location of the old fort headquarters… and may, in fact… after pouring through old records and studying the construction of the facility… I suspect a section of the structure is the same building used by the British before and during the Revolution.

See, right outside of that building is where things got heated… nine years before the start of the American Revolution. Georgia and the other colonies were political tender spots that were growing into tinderboxes and were ready to blow.

The Pirates’ House in 1939.

The area outside… it was open land stretching to the gates of the town one-quarter mile to the west. The Sons of Liberty – Liberty Boys – had gathered around the fort’s walls, screaming and demanding they be let in.

Captain John Milledge and his British Royal Rangers were on the parapets and were determined keeping them out.

The uproar was over the British Parliament’s passing of The Stamp Tax of 1765, which put a levy on several paper items. In addition to that law, the American Revenue Tax of 1764, a Sugar Tax, had already inflamed the residents the year before. Like other imposed taxes, the paper tax mandated payment in British Pounds, not in colonial currency.

See, each colony had its own monetary system with different values based on the English pounds, shillings, and pence. However, ALL colonial currencies were worth LESS than the British equivalents.

On top of that, Much of the commercial currency was in barter. Barter being the practice of trading product for product. People paid with rum, or tobacco, or some other commodity.

Which is one reason the tax man wanted to be paid in British pound sterling. Barter is difficult to access and tax for many reasons. And it’s difficult for those paying taxes because they have to exchange their goods for currency… first to Colonial script… which was hindered by a chronic shortage of paper or coin specie… then it was exchanged for British currency.

And the total per stamp cost was around 2 shillings, 6 pence, which equalled 54 pence… pennies.

During the days leading up to the American Revolution, the “obnoxious” stamps represented taxation by the Crown. The levy covered things like playing cards, magazines, newspapers, and legal documents.

Now, the stamps that were to be distributed in Georgia were stored at Fort Halifax. That’s where the hubbub came up.

 Royal Governor James Wright placed them there for protection against the local Sons of Liberty, who vowed to burn them.

After the Liberty Boys marched on the fort. Governor Wright wrote in a report, “And on the 1st appearance of Faction & Sedition I ordered in Some of the Rangers from each Post & made up the Number here at Savannah 56 Privates & 8 officers and with which & the assistance of Such Gents as were of a Right Way of thinking I have been able in a great Measure to Support His Majesties Authority.”

This guy writes crazily. This guy didn’t know what a period or a comma was.

…So in other words he brought in 64 soldiers who thought the way he did and had them armed and ready to defend the stamps and the king’s authority to issue them.

James Wright held the Sons of Liberty in absolute disdain. In another report, he complained that “the Liberty Boys, as they call themselves, had assembled together to the Number of about 200 & were gathering fast and Some of them had declared they were determined to go to the Fort & break open the Store & take out & destroy the Stamp’t Papers…”

The fort was the stronghold of the city and the safest location for the stamps.

The “obnoxious” stamp.

Wright’s report somewhat reduced the actual number of protestors that day. Some accounts claim six hundred Liberty Boys, many of whom had gathered in front of Wright’s home on St. James Square (or Telfair Square) decreased in number after Wright implored them to have cooler heads. It is said that half left, but three hundred remained. I’ve read that over 800 were waiting in a city common… so we’re talking a lot of men in a town of about thirty-five hundred people. That’s about 22 percent of the population and a much larger percentage of the men in town even allowing for guys from out of town.[i]

So Wright had the stamps loaded onto a boat and carried to Cockspur Island at the mouth of the Savannah River.

By the way… Remember that the show notes and GPS locations for all of the spots mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes or at History By GPS dot com. While you’re there check out our books and merchandise. I think you’ll like our line of products from Savannah and its history… including some that highlight this episode.

And leave a comment. I’d love to hear your opinion or information that other listeners would like to hear.

Now… in 1776 the cry, “No taxation without representation,” spread through the colonies like a chill up King George’s spine. See, Americans were already paying other taxes, but they paid in currency from their own colony. So, having to convert the script into British pounds, was an excessive burden.

The whole uproar was initiated and fueled by the actions of British elites who wouldn’t give Parliamentary representation to the Colonies and did not care if the Americans were upset. After all.. they were the British and they were in charge. The Americans, they thought, were merely peasants working for the homeland.

See, the whole taxation hubbub back then was over the financing of the French and Indian War in America a few years earlier. It was an extension of Britain’s Seven Years War with France.

England said that it was by their grace that they saved the Colonies during the conflict. But Americans believed and knew they could take care of themselves. They had done so for generations and believed that there had been no need for British troops.

For the time, foreign enemies were elsewhere, and Americans had always protected themselves from local threats.

An irony was that American colonists considered themselves British citizens, but Parliament would not give them representation. America’s natural resources made the colonies a far more prosperous land than all of the British Isles, and everyone on both sides of the Atlantic knew it.

So, Savannah… Trustees’ Garden… and Fort Halifax were swept up in the conflict.

Now, where this uproar happened, the fort is gone today, but others replaced it… Fort Savannah, Fort Prevost, and Fort Wayne, Wayne being the last one.

Drawing of Fort Wayne looking southwest. The bombproof well, lower left, is still part of the gas works terrace that is not part of the Morris Center.

And here’s a little side note for your trivia collection… Savannahians usually call the current brick wall the Fort Wayne Wall. Is it Fort Wayne?

 In actuality… it is… and it isn’t. And the confusion is justified. The building of the current brick wall in 1853 destroyed the older earthen fort named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. After the bricks were laid, the dirt ramparts of the real Fort Wayne were shoveled into the wall’s interior to create a terrace for gasholders.

The gas works wall in 1939. Cannon muzzles can be seen along the right fence line.

During that work, laborers unearthed three old cannons. Gas workers later placed the big guns along the wall, making it look like an old fort. Everyone in town knew the fort was located on that spot, so generations later concluded that the brick wall must be the fort. After all, the cannons were there to prove it. The legend continues.[ii]

But… the wall’s purpose was to create a terrace to support gas holders and other manufactured coal-gas equipment at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and was built by the Savannah Gaslight Company.

Now, to confuse the issue, even more, the area just inside the wall arch really was part of old Fort Wayne. … If you want to see other photos go to the History By GPS website and it out.

The Fort Wayne footprint with the bombproof location.

 That part is the sunken well-section that served as a bombproof… a reinforced area where soldiers would go to escape enemy artillery. So that’s why this area is Fort Wayne and not Fort Wayne.

When they filled in the interior of the terrace, they covered up remnants of the old powder magazine that is the location of our GPS coordinates for this episode.

The powder stronghold at Fort Hallifax was the site where in May of 1775, American patriots formed a night raid to capture Governor Wright’s munitions after a clandestine meeting at Dr. Noble W. Jones’s home. Word of the hostilities at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, had reached Savannah.

Fort Halifax footprint c. 1766.

Wright had confidence in the brick structure’s security and thought it was safe from vandalism. After all… it was situated twelve feet under the ground, closed with iron doors and locks. He incorrectly deduced that it was impregnable. Georgia historian Hugh McCall wrote that the magazine held a considerable supply of ammunition.

But so substantial was the structure of the magazine, Governor Wright decided it useless and unnecessary to post a guard for its protection.

McCall wrote, “The excited Revolutionists all over the land cried aloud for powder. Impressed with the necessity of securing the contents of this magazine for future operations, [they] quietly assembling and hastily arranged a plan for operations.”

Liberty Boys who were in on the raid included Dr. Noble Wimberly Jones, Joseph Habersham, Edward Telfair, William Gibbons, Joseph Clay, Peter Tondee, John Milledge, Jr, Andrew Elton Wells, along with “some other gentlemen, most of them members of the council of safety and all zealous in the cause of American Liberty.”[iii] 

Georgia Governor John Milledge, Jr.

According to Governor Wright, the total was about 300 pounds of powder, but others reported upwards of 600 pounds were stolen. A portion of the powder made its way to Beaufort, South Carolina. The remainder was reported as having been sent to Boston and used in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Now, did you notice the name of one of the Liberty Boys? It’s the same name as the Ranger Captain who guarded the stamps a decade earlier… John Milledge… Junior was the son of the Ranger Captain, John Milledge. He had been a boy when the stamp protest took place, but as the call for war increased, he sided with the American Rebels.

His family is like many in Georgia. We always hear stories about the American Civil War in the 1860s as being a fought brother against brother.

In Georgia, in the 1700s, the Revolution was fought… father against son.

John Milledge, Junior,  would go on to become the 26th Governor of the new State of Georgia, as well a US Congressman and a US Senator.

Now… another rabbit trail.

I find it interesting that Savannah and Boston have had some serious ties over the years. Savannahians sent food to Boston after a 1790s earthquake, and Boston sent food to Savannah at the end of the Civil War.

Woodcut of a Boston Earthquake.

Over the years, the people of the two cities often rendered aid to each other. The reason was because of trade and shipping routes, the cities had close commercial ties, and the well-being of one would impact the commerce of the other.

In fact the last Liberty Boy that I mentione in the list, Andrew Elton Wells, was brother-in-law to Patriot and Liberty Boy Samuel Adams of Boston-Tea-Party fame.

I talk about that in the History By GPS episode Tea Party, Shmee Party which is about the Savannah Sugar Party of 1775. That event happened a few weeks earlier than the powder magazine raid.

The Savannah Sons of Liberty and their adverse view of taxation by the Brits provided the spark and fire that propelled the American Revolution into existence.

Parliament and the Royal Governor’s enforcement of import duty on sugar, molasses, and other commodities enflamed the unrepresented citizens. Until then, taxes and duties were the exceptions rather than the rule.

Listen to this… here’s what Samuel Adams wrote, “For if our Trade may be taxed, why not our Lands? Why not the Produce of our Lands & everything we possess or make use of?” Also, he emphasized the colonists’ belief that they were British citizens when he wrote, “This we apprehend annihilates our Charter Right to govern & tax ourselves – It strikes our British Privileges, which as we have never forfeited them. We hold in common with our fellow subjects who are natives of Britain… If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation … are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves?” 

Things have changed.

But the tax itself wasn’t the main complaint. The main issue was the absence of representation in Parliament.

England would pass laws on the colonies without Colonial input and did not care about their reactions.

It was the proverbial slap in the face for the Americans who considered themselves Englishmen and freemen rather than people of another station. But sentiments were changing, and the American Revolution was on the horizon.

Now, as far as that tax of two shillings and six pence… 54 pence… 54 cents… that was equivalent to a week’s wages for the average worker.

And that’s a lot. It could make a person fight.

Unless you live in 21st-century America… Today we pay more than that in federal, state, and sales tax.

Makes you think… Doesn’t it.

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

So… Don’t Tax Me Bro! We need a tee shirt that says that… Oh, yeah… we have one in our store at Go get yourself one and join the cause of liberty.

Remember to hit the like button and subscribe. Also, follow so you will be notified when new episodes come out.

See you next time.



GPS Coordinates

Powder Magazine 32.078567° -81.083578°

Liberty Boys protest spot 32.078406° -81.084128°

James Wright’s House 32.078810° -81.094893°

Photo credits

Library of Congress


JD Byous Collection


[i] Barratt Wilkins, A View of Savannah on the Eve of the Revolution, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol 54, No.4, p 587.

[ii] Edward A. Vincent, Vincent’s Subdivision map of the City of Savannah, Chatham County, State of Georgia: shewing all the public and private buildings, lots, wards, etc., together with all the latest improvements, from surveys and authentic records, 1853.

[iii] Hugh McCall, The History of Georgia containing Brief Sketches of the Most Remarkable Events Up and to the Present Day (1784), Caldwell Publishers, 1909, pp 286: Illustrated History of south Boston, by C. Bancroft Gillespie, 1901, pp132

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.


I forgot to tell everyone about our books and merchandise!

The products that help support this channel.

You can find them at

And on Amazon by typing in J-D-BYOUS in the book category.

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

History By GPS Main Page –

JD Byous– –Books– –Shop

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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