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Oglethorpe Square

Written by Sudhir Kumar

Upper New Square was laid out in 1742 and was later renamed in honor of Georgia founder General James Oglethorpe. The modest home of Georgia’s first Royal Governor, John Reynolds, was located on the southeast Trust Lot (now a parking lot of The Presidents’ Quarters Inn) overlooking Oglethorpe Square. Reynolds arrived in Savannah October 29, 1754. The residences of the Royal Surveyors of Georgia and South Carolina were located on the northeast Trust Lots, the site of today’s Owens-Thomas House. The Presidents’ Quarters Inn, a 16-room historic bed and breakfast, is located on the southeast Trust Lots USA cultural tours. The square contains a pedestal honoring Moravianmissionaries who arrived at the same time as John Wesley and settled in Savannah from 1735 to 1740, before resettling in Pennsylvania. A Savannah veterans’ group had unsuccessfully proposed erecting a memorial to veterans of World War II in Oglethorpe Square. (which was installed on River Street). Oglethorpe Square is located on Abercorn, between State and York Streets; President Street intersects east and west. After the American Revolutionary War, the British name of “Prince Street” was official renamed “State Street”. “King Street” was renamed “President Street”.

History of Oglethorpe Square

In 1733, General James Oglethorpe, and 114 men women and children aboard the two hundred-ton galley ship “Anne” landed on a high bluff along the Savannah River called Yamacraw Bluff by the local Creek Indians. Chief Tomo-chi-chi, a tall, ageless Indian, and his wife Senauki were there to greet the settlers on their arrival. The gentle and civilized Indians, with painted faces, sliced ears and tattooed skin, pledged their friendship and granted the colonists permission to settle on the bluff. Oglethorpe and the chief became lifelong friends. The Yamacraw Indians would prove instrumental to the success of Savannah, and the town flourished without the warfare and hardship suffered by so many of the other colonies.Oglethorpe named the thirteenth colony Georgia after King George II, and Savannah became the first city. Under the charter, the colony was to benefit the poor, increase trade, and to provide a protective buffer between the northern English colonies and the Spanish in Florida. The last and poorest of the colonies would serve as a religious haven for all but Catholics who were originally banned from the new colony.The Trustees selected only those were not able to support themselves in England. The colonists had to agree to stay for three years, spending the first year on public works. They had to plant 100 mulberry trees on every ten acres of their land to feed silkworms, an industry that never materialized. They could claim no more than 50 acres of land and it could not be sold or mortgaged and only inherited by a son.

Revolutionary War

Oglethorpe Square is a Adventure Place For Vacations. Most of the Georgia colonists embraced the revolution and colonial insurgents took the city at the outset of the war. However, British forces easily recaptured Savannah in 1778 with the help of a slave who reportedly showed the troops a secret passage behind the American lines. In October 1779, American Patriots, assisted by their French allies, tried to recapture Savannah with a French fleet of 22 vessels and 4000 soldiers. After a four day bombardment and a furious direct assault, the allies were forced to abandon the siege. The battle was the second bloodiest of the war with 264 British losses, 600 French losses, and 600 American losses. American forces included Count Casimir Pulaski, the Polish adventurer who was Washington’s first cavalry commander, and Sergeant William Jasper, a hero of 1776 battle of Charleston. Jasper was wounded in the fighting and would die here with hundreds of others. Mortally wounded while leading a desperate charge, Count Pulaksi died several days later aboard a ship and was buried at sea. Both have been memorialized with their own beautiful monuments on Monterey and Madison squares.Finally liberated in 1782 by forces under the command of Rhode Islander Nathanael Greene, Lieutenant Colonel James Jackson and his Georgia Legion were given the honor of entering the deserted streets of Savannah to receive the keys to the city on July 11, 1782.

Civil War of Oglethorpe Square

In January 1861, Georgia became the fifth state to secede from the United States, and in March, a convention at Savannah ratified the constitution of the new Confederate States of America. Local militia units, including the Chatham Artillery, Georgia Hussars, Jasper Greens, Phoenix Riflemen and Oglethorpe Light Infantry, were now joined by colorful new outfits like the Rattle Snakes and Hyenas. Young boys enlisted in the Savannah Cadets.After the state of New York refused to release a shipment of guns to the South, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown ordered all New York vessels in the port of Savannah seized. Oglethorpe Square is Beautiful Place for Holidays. In retaliation, a Federal fleet of 41 vessels sailed to South Carolina and landed just 25 miles from Savannah in October 1861. Federal cannons breached the walls of Fort Pulaski after only a few hours of bombardment, and the Confederate forces surrendered. That would be the last of the fighting in the area around Savannah.On Dec. 21, 1864 Federal troops marched unopposed into the City of Savannah. A prison camp was set up on Bay Street and temporary quarters were erected in the squares. Charles Green, a wealthy English cotton merchant, hoping to buy Sherman’s good will and keep his inventory of cotton safe from confiscation, offered his mansion on Madison Square for military headquarters. It was here that Sherman penned his famous message to President Lincoln…“I beg to present to you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,0000 bales of cotton.” Sherman occupied Green’s home, now known as the Green-Meldrim House, until February 1, 1865.By the 1920s King Cotton was dead. Then came the Depression, which followed the stock market crash of 1929. WWII helped end the Depression, and the military buildup saved the economy, but the growth came to a halt with the war’s end. Property values plummeted and stately homes degraded into slums.

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Sudhir Kumar

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