Tag Archives: The Civil War in Coastal Georgia

Colonel Edward Payson Miller House, Circa 1845, Walthourville

I identified this as the Miller House, using a photograph in Virginia Fraser Evans’s Liberty County: A Pictorial History. Colonel Miller was a Confederate veteran associated with the Liberty Independent Troop and one of the most prominent members of the community, serving as a leader in the Walthourville Presbyterian Church. It is also known as the Miller-Dryden House.

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Walthourville GA

Isle of Hope United Methodist Church, Circa 1859

The marker placed by the Georgia Historical Society in 1962 notes, in part:  The Isle of Hope Methodist Church was organized in 1851. The first Trustees were George W. Wylly, Simeon F. Murphy, John B. Hogg, William Waite, Theodore Goodwin, Thomas J. Barnsley and the Rev. William S. Baker. The church building that stands here was erected in 1859 on land given by Dr. Stephen Dupon. Its architecture is similar to that of the early churches at Midway and Ebenezer. The gallery at the rear of the church was built primarily for accommodations of slaves…During the War Between the States a Confederate battery stood on the church lot, mounting two 8-inch columbiads and two 32-pounder cannon. The church was used as a hospital for Confederates stationed in the area, the pews (still in existence) serving as beds. Thirty-three Effingham County soldiers sleep in the adjoining churchyard.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Isle of Hope GA, Savannah GA

Sarah Glen Bayard House, Circa 1855, Isle of Hope

The architecture suggests that this house was built in a simpler style, with the veranda porches and other ornamental amendments made later. One source dates it as early as 1847. Local tradition (not confirmed by me) indicates it briefly served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. It was also used as a set location in the 1974 movie The Last of the Belles.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Isle of Hope GA, Savannah GA

Tybee Lighthouse, 1773, 1867 &c.

Georgia’s oldest and tallest [145 feet] lighthouse is the symbol of Tybee Island and one of the most fascinating places to visit on the coast. Climbing the 178 steps to the top is an effort but one which pays off with wonderful views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean.

There are landings every 25 steps in case you need to rest or if you just want to see the island from different perspectives.

Because its complex of supporting structures remain intact, the property around the Tybee Lighthouse is officially referred to as the Tybee Island Light Station.

The lower sixty feet of the iconic structure date to John Mulryne’s construction of 1773, which was a replacement for two previous lighthouses (the first of which was built for James Oglethorpe in 1736). So strategic and important to the future growth of Georgia was the placement of a lighthouse at the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Savannah River that General Oglethorpe threatened to hang the incompetent builder of the first beacon. Numerous modifications and additions have been made over the ensuing two centuries. Notably, Confederates burned the lighthouse in 1861 to prevent its use by Union troops; in 1867, 85 feet were added to the 1773 base to bring the lighthouse to its present height.

The Stick Style Head Keeper’s Cottage was built in 1881.

The house was built with an attached kitchen, known as a “summer kitchen”. Its location at the rear of the dwelling helped keep heat out of the house during the summer.

The master bedroom is located downstairs.

Guest and children’s bedrooms are located upstairs.

The 2nd Assistant Keeper’s Cottage (below) was built circa 1861 from remains of the old Confederate barracks. The 2nd Assistant Keeper first occupied the cottagee in 1867.

The oldest structure on the property is the original summer kitchen, dating to 1812. It was used until 1910 and now houses archaeological treasures found on site over the years.

The fuel storage shed was built in 1890.

Fort Screven Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Fort Screven GA, Tybee Island GA

Andrew Low House, 1849, Savannah

Built between 1848-1849 on a trust lot facing LaFayette Square by architect John Norris, the Andrew Low House is one of Savannah’s most iconic residences and its most popular house museum. Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray described it as the “most comfortable accommodations in America”. Low was self-made, with early  success in retail and shipping. He eventually became Savannah’s premier cotton factor and wealthiest man.

Andrew Low persevered through numerous personal losses and a Union blockade and was even captured and briefly imprisoned for his part in procuring the largest successful shipment of guns and munitions to reach the Confederacy. Losses brought on by the war and the instability of the cotton market led Low and his remaining family to relocate to Leamington, England in 1867. Andrew Low, who always maintained ties with Savannah, died at Leamington in 1886. He was buried alongside his wives and son at Laurel Grove.

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was married to Low’s son William Mackay Low. They planned to divorce but before it was final, Low died in 1905. Juliette, known to friends as Daisy, inherited the house and lived here until her death in 1927.

Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Landing of the Wanderer, 1858, Jekyll Island

The Wanderer was built as a pleasure yacht in 1857 for New Orleans sugar merchant John D. Johnson and quickly gained a reputation as one of the fastest and most luxurious private crafts in America. In the spring of 1858 Colonel Johnson sold the ship to Captain William C. Corrie of Charleston. Corrie was hopeful it would gain him entrance into the prestigious New York Yacht Club, which it apparently did. Soon after the purchase, Corrie was approached by Savannah businessman Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar for the purpose of refitting the Wanderer and transforming it into an illegal* slave ship. The two entered into partnership for this purpose.

On 18 October 1858 the Wanderer departed Angola with a cargo 0f 487 human souls and arrived 42 days later, on 28 November, off the coast of Jekyll Island. Assistant Cumberland Island lightkeeper Horatio Harris procured James Clubb to help the Wanderer maneuver the treacherous sandbars of St. Andrews Sound. Through an arrangement Lamar had made with Jekyll’s owner, Henry DuBignon, Jr., the ship made landfall on the southern shore of the island. According to the Wanderer’s log, 409 Africans survived the voyage. They were attended by Dr. Robert Hazelhurst of Brunswick before being taken to markets in Savannah and Augusta to be dispersed throughout the region. News of their arrival spread quickly via newspapers in New York, Washington, and London and outrage followed. This led President Buchanan to call for further scrutiny of Southern ports. The Wanderer slaves became celebrities of a sort and their fates were followed as closely as possible. They were among the only Africans to be closely identified with the ship upon which they were spirited to servitude.

By the end of the year Assistant U. S. Attorney Joseph Ganahl had the Wanderer impounded and crewmen Nicholas Brown, Juan Rajestam, and Michael Arguirir were arrested. (They were, unsurprisingly, found not guilty in November 1859). Charles Lamar bought back his boat at a government auction in Savannah in May 1859 and sold it to Captain Martin, who stole it before completing payment.

A federal court in Savannah brought three counts of piracy against Lamar, Corrie, DuBignon, and other conspirators, but all were found not guilty in May 1860.

In the meantime, Captain Martin had taken the Wanderer back to West Africa to retrieve more slaves, but the crew mutinied and left him stranded. The ship arrived in Boston on Christmas Eve 1860. Gazaway Bugg Lamar, father of Charles Lamar, took possession of the ship to satisfy Martin’s outstanding debt. On 5 April 1861 it was seized by the U. S. Navy at Key West to prevent its further involvement in the slave trade and served the Union in various capacities throughout the Civil War. After being decommissioned the Wanderer was purchased by a private citizen and sailed commercially until sinking off Cuba on 28 December 1870.

In 2008, an interpretive monument to the African survivors of the Wanderer was erected at St. Andrews Beach Park, consisting of three 12-foot sail-shaped signs. The Jekyll Island Museum features an exhibit, as well, and actively seeks information on the families of the survivors.

Some Survivors of the Wanderer

Clockwise from top left: Zow Uncola [Slave name Tom Johnson]; Manchuella [Slave name Katie Noble]; Lucy Lanham [she was too young to remember her African name]; Mabiala [Slave name Uster Williams]. From Charles J. Montgomery, “Survivors from the Cargo of the Negro Slave Yacht Wanderer”, American Anthropologist, 1908.

(Below) Left to right: Cilucangy [Slave name Ward Lee]; Pucka Geata [Slave name Tucker Henderson]; Tahro [Slave name Romeo Thomas]

From US Slave: Survivors of the Slave Ship Wanderer: Cilucangy grew up in the village of Cowany. He was 12 or 13 when he was transported to America, sold to Sophia Tillman, and renamed Ward Tillman. In 1866, Ward married Rosa Tillman. Rosa was probably African also. If she was aboard the Wanderer, she would have been around 13 during the Wanderer’s crossing. By 1880, Ward and Rosa rejected the name Tillman, adopting the surname Lee. They worked as field hands in Meriwether, Edgefield County, SC, moving to Shaws, Aiken County, SC as their family grew. Ward and Rosa had four children; Andrew, Sam, Amelia, and Dempsey. Rosa passed away sometime after 1900. Losing his wife after around 35 years of marriage, Ward became homesick. He wrote a letter expressing his longing to return to Africa. He lived until 1914, but he never saw Africa again.

*- Congress outlawed the importation of slaves in 1807, but such activity continued clandestinely in the South; it had become much more difficult by the 1850s, with the Royal Navy patrolling the coast of West Africa. Though the Wanderer was long considered the last American slave ship, recent scholarship has discovered that another slave ship, the Clotilda, landed in Mobile a little over a year later, in 1860. 

 

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, Jekyll Island GA

Glen Echo, Circa 1773, Bryan County

glen-echo-plantation-bryan-county-ga-colonial-and-antebellum-eras-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-coastal-georgia-usa-2018

Also known as the Bird-Everett-Morgan House, Glen Echo is the oldest house in Bryan County, and among the oldest in Georgia. The land on which it stands was part of a 400-acre king’s grant made to Abraham & Israel Bird and Hugh Bryan on 1 January 1771. Family lore suggests that construction on the house began in 1773. [While it’s unclear who built the house, an article by descendant and historian Kenneth Dillon Dixon in a 2014 issue of Richmond Hill Reflections notes: …it was likely built by Burgund Bird, as it descended to his son Sylvanus Bird’s family and it was built on land granted to his other son, Abraham Bird]. The Birds were millers and may have selected the land due to its proximity to two creeks. One of the creeks came to be known as Birds Mill Creek (now Mill Creek) and the other was Black Creek. By 1802, Andrew Bird, Sr., was in possession of the house. He had three sons, Andrew, Jackson, and Cyrus, and a daughter, Isabel. Isabel married a Salzburger descendant  named Joshua Smith in 1824.

Captain Albert Glenn Smith – Bryan Independent Riflemen, Tintype, 1861-3. Courtesy Kenneth Dillon Dixon

It was their son, Albert Glenn Smith, who eventually received the house and property from his mother’s bachelor uncles in the 1850s. At the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Van Brackle in 1858, Smith moved into the house and the moniker “Glen Echo” came into use. Twin sons were born to the couple around this time. At the outset of the Civil War, Smith owned 17 slaves and his estate was valued at nearly $10,000. A. G. Smith was a captain of the Bryan Independent Riflemen, 1st Company, 25th Georgia Volunteer Infantry and trained soldiers at nearby Fort McAllister. When Sherman’s troops made their approach to Savannah, breastworks were constructed on the property and though the house was spared, all of the outbuildings were burned and livestock set free. To a student of the Civil War, the survival of the house might seem quite extraordinary, but actually, orders mandated that only unoccupied houses be burned. At any rate, Captain Bird’s military prominence should have made his property a prime target. A. G. & Elizabeth Bird had ten children, the last of whom was born in 1876. Their heirs still own the property and maintain the historic family cemetery adjacent to the house.

THE HOUSE IS LOCATED ON PRIVATE PROPERTY & TRESPASSING IS FORBIDDEN.

The Plantation Plain appearance of the Glen Echo is generally advanced as evidence of the house being later than 1773, but 18th-century examples of this style do exist in the Carolinas. Numerous changes have been made to the house in its nearly 250-year history and most of the original structure has been obscured by additions and alterations. This is often the case with properties of such an age and it doesn’t deter from their historical significance and local importance. Interior details on the first floor are said to confirm the 18th-century construction date, especially the presence of iron HL hinges on some doors. “Shed rooms” were located at the rear of the house in its early incarnation, but as seen in the image above, an elongated attached kitchen replaced them at some point.

The boxed cornice and returns, seen above, likely date to the early 19th century, and the brick chimney, replacing a stick-and-mud example, is thought to have been added around the turn of the last century. Outlines of earlier shutters indicate that different windows were in use, and the front porch is definitely a later addition.

Today, this property is endangered by neglect and isolation. After speaking with the legal representative for the property owner, I’m confident that restoration is in its future. Theft and vandalism have plagued the house in recent years, I’m told, and this is a real tragedy. To say that a house connected to one family in Georgia for nearly 250 years is of utmost importance is an understatement. The subjects of the following photos, also shared by Kenneth Dillon Dixon, are unidentified descendants of the Bird family, probably made between 1910-1930; he notes they’re definitely Mingledorfs, Morgans, or Smiths.

Bird Descendants at Glen Echo, 1920s-30s? – Courtesty Kenneth Dillon Dixon

Old Oak at Glen Echo, 1930s? – Courtesty Kenneth Dillon Dixon

National Register of Historic Places

 

 

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY