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A Small Collection of Interesting Historical Facts

“Close your eyes. Do you feel their presence? The people who walked in this place so many years ago?” Art knew the effect Savannah had on his Janie. He would tell her stories as they wandered its tree-lined streets and passageways. For fun they picked up attractive brochures about the city’s history from tourist racks. Then on the drive home, father and daughter would conduct animated debates on what was true, based on hard fact and logic, or false, as time has a way of altering truths and fabricating lies.  — The Lincoln Penny

Although The Lincoln Penny and The Lover’s Eye are works of fiction, many facts about the American Civil War, historic places like Savannah, Darien, and Fort Pulaski, and vibrant people who played a significant role in U.S. history are contained in this series. Here are some truths you may find interesting.

  • Like other masonry fortifications of its kind, nineteenth century Fort Pulaski was a main United States defense against overseas enemies and for Savannah’s vital port. The Port of Savannah, Georgia played a major role in the growth and economic stability of the pre-Civil War South and its booming city of Savannah. During this prosperous time in history, the city was built around slavery, agriculture and shipping. Suitable for mild climates, rice and cotton grown in the area became dominant commodities. The Atlantic slave trade flourished and many Savannahians increased their wealth. The people of Savannah, who were known for their Southern charm and hospitality, also enjoyed some of the world’s finest goods, which were imported by foreign merchants. Once Union strategy was centered on Savannah — Fort Pulaski was taken and the Union naval blockade took effect — Savannah’s port was sealed and its bustling trade was all but snuffed out.
  • Fort Pulaski proudly stands on a barrier island near the mouth of the Savannah River as a mighty monument to American history. Fort Pulaski National Park is twenty minutes (by car) east of historic Savannah, Georgia and open to the public. It offers a great historic experience in a beautiful setting and is well worth a visit. Civil War reenactors generously volunteer their time to hold living history events at the fort throughout the year, and tours and demonstrations are conducted daily. From April 10 through 15, 2012, Fort Pulaski celebrated its 150th anniversary of the siege and reduction.
  • Brigadier General Quincy Adams Gillmore, in his official report of the siege and reduction of Fort Pulaski, Georgia, described the fort as brickwork with five sides and walls seven and a half feet high above high water. “By one o’clock in the afternoon it became evident that the work would be breached . . . penetration was deep and effective and the wall where the breach was ordered, was becoming rapidly honey-combed.”
  • On April 10, 1862, a brutal 30-hour bombardment began and quickly won Fort Pulaski a permanent niche in military chronicles. In fearless disregard of opinion, then Captain Gillmore spent two months before the siege moving heavy artillery into place. Large smoothbore cannons and the Union’s new rifled guns located at land batteries on Tybee Island a mile south of Pulaski, and onboard Union gunboat Norwich, were made ready to fire on the unsuspecting fortification across the Savannah River. Although the Confederate-held garrison made a valiant effort to guard their coastal defense, it was no match for Gillmore’s plan of attack. With his belief in the test records of his new and more accurate weaponry and unquestionable success of the siege and reduction, Fort Pulaski and other masonry fortifications like it were instantly rendered powerless and obsolete. Union troops occupied Fort Pulaski for the remainder of the Civil War.
  • “I yield my sword, but I trust I have not disgraced it.” Born April 2, 1837, Colonel Charles Hart Olmstead, Commander of Fort Pulaski, was forced to surrender his 385-men Confederate garrison, including a full compliment of officers, on Friday, April 11, 1862. Olmstead would eventually write his Memoirs, which would give a charming account of antebellum Savannah and described poignant scenes from Civil War history and the Battle of Fort Pulaski. Throughout his lifetime, he voiced strong opinion the special provisions for the sick and wounded in the agreed terms of surrender had been flagrantly violated by Federal Authorities. Olmstead discovered much too late that the ill treated men were held prisoners of war against his wishes and as a result some of them died unnecessarily. Olmstead passed away in 1926 and is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia.
  • Lieutenant Matthew Henry Hopkins, born on April 20, 1837, was appointed to the adjutancy of the 1st Volunteer Regiment of Georgia whose regimental headquarters was located at Fort Pulaski. Civil War history notes Hopkins was present at the defense and fall of the fort, and received a painful wound to his eye. In the broken terms of surrender, Hopkins was supposed to be among those wounded soldiers freed and sent up to Savannah, but he gallantly gave up his place to another. He was held as a prisoner of war until his garrison was exchanged during the autumn of 1862. In addition to his loyalty and service under Olmstead, Hopkins was a life-long and well-respected friend of the Colonel’s.
  • During the Civil War, General Robert Edward Lee was appointed by the South’s President Jefferson Davis to reorganize Confederate coastal defenses. Lee, having surveyed Fort Pulaski’s defenses with Colonel Olmstead, determined “they will make it pretty warm for you here with shells, but they cannot breach your walls at this distance.” Lee was well versed on the history of Fort Pulaski as he helped with its construction early in his U.S. career and was instrumental in the engineering connected with channeling tidewaters around the fort.
  • Making a significant contribution to Savannah’s incredible history, the name Mary Magdalen Leaver Marshall is well known to those knowledgeable in the architectural and family histories of Savannah, Georgia. Without books, journals or diaries on this unique and noble lady, sources on Marshall’s history and life that spanned from 1783 to 1877, can be found in newspaper articles, public documents and records. On July 4, 1807 a young Mrs. Marshall delivered a patriotic speech and presented a hand-made banner from the second story porch of her home before an assembly of Corps of Volunteer Guards in the street below. In 1841, Mary, then age 58, and her beloved husband Colonel James Marshall, age 60, adopted a daughter they called Margaret. Stories about Margaret, their only child, are vague and mysterious. The Marshall home was often the center of parties and social gatherings, as well as a dwelling prepared to receive sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
  • Businesswoman Mary Marshall opened Savannah’s The Marshall House on Broughton Street in 1851. It served as a hospital for Confederate soldiers towards the end of the Civil War and history documents amputations were performed on the second and fourth floors. Today, The Marshall House is beautifully restored with original features and is among the oldest and best-loved hotels in the heart of Savannah’s historic district.
  • Savannah’s First African Baptist Church was purchased in 1832 and claims to have one of the oldest black Baptist congregations in the United States. It also played an important roll in secretly moving slaves north to freedom. During the Civil War, the church gave sanctuary to runaway slaves. To this day, the church preserves its rich history and proud heritage. Visitors who tour the church and museum, will learn about holes in the auditorium flooring that form a design meant to look like an African prayer or tribal symbol. These holes also helped supply fresh air to escaped slaves who were hidden away in a 4-feet-high tunnel beneath. The ceiling has sections of a nine-patch pattern that resembles a quilt. The “railroad” used quilts with codes to signify a safe house. The original impressive bell tower of the church that extended 100 feet up was destroyed by a hurricane in 1892. The entrance to the “railroad” tunnel remains unknown and there is no record on who or how many passed through.
  • The Lover’s Eye is a miniature, painted on ivory often worn as rings, bracelets, brooches, and pendants set in richly decorated frames. The miniatures were believed to have originated in the 1700s when the Prince of Wales (later George IV) expressed his love to the widow Maria Fitzherbert. This gesture was frowned upon by the court, so a miniaturist was employed to paint only the eye and thereby preserve anonymity and decorum. Reportedly Maria’s eye miniature was worn by George IV, hidden under his lapel. This is regarded as the event which led to lovers' eyes becoming fashionable and appearing between 1790 and the 1820s in the courts and affluent families of England, Russia, France and more rarely, America.
  • The burning of Darien, Georgia was one of the more controversial and heinous acts of the American Civil War. On June 11, 1863, Union troops bombarded coastal homes and raided the defenseless southern city in a frenzy of cannon fire, looting and torching. There were only civilians in the area; no Confederate troops were sighted. One shell was reported to have passed through the dress of a woman, but miraculously did not injure her. A regiment of black Union soldiers were among the units that took part in the destruction of Darien. Their commander Colonel Robert Gould Shaw called the burning of Darien "a barbarous sort of warfare" and railed against the merciless attack to his superiors.



THE LINCOLN PENNY:  A Time Travel Series, Book 1

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THE LOVER'S EYE: A Time Travel Series, Book 2

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