Colonial Georgia – Beautiful Savannah and Brunswick

Our nation’s third largest shipping port – Savannah Georgia as seen from the river walk. That’s the back of Karen’s head on the bottom left 🙂 That’s yet another US Highway 17 bridge in the distance along the coastline – tall for sure.

Between Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL, is the city of Brunswick with four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Spanish explorers were seeking gold more than 400 years ago only to find golden marsh land rather than gold.

Back in 2016 I added a line to the spreadsheet of places we might want to visit, noting a stay between Brunswick and Savannah Georgia could be a place from which to explore both Georgia colonial ports. These cities are a common stop for travelers heading up or down Interstate 95 on the way to or from Florida. And for sure, a place of vacation for others. Perhaps second only to the countryside of any Hawaiian Island, I found the historic district in Savannah to be the most beautiful city I have ever visited.

Locations mentioned in this blog post

The Next Chapter Blog mentioned McIntosh Lake RV Park in Townsend Georgia as being a reasonably priced stop between Savannah and Brunswick. Frankly, I had never heard of Brunswick Georgia and until visiting the location never had an appreciation for what it might offer. I’m glad we stopped in between and took day trips to both places rather than skipping over either location. We paid $252 with the weekly campground rate but ended up staying 14 nights which averaged $37.80 a night on full hookups parked on a grassy pad off gravel campground roads. This was the first time in a long time our RV park had a recreation hall with a comfortable sofa, TV and pool table. Atlantic beach areas and plenty to see is within 40 miles. We had a surprise earlier when our dear friends Ray and Charlotte called. They were delaying their return home to Traverse City Michigan due to winter weather and would be moving their motorhome more than 160 miles in the opposite direction to spend the week with us at McIntosh Lake RV Park.

Our spot McIntosh Lake RV Park – Townsend GA dead center between Savannah and Brunswick off I-95.
It’s not a real lake. More like a larger spring feed pond. Fished one day with no license required. I could see the big bass but caught none.
Local foods from “the famous” Georgia Peach World just off the I-95 exit on the way to the RV Park. The real attraction is the kids play area and petting zoo behind the business. There is no parking for larger RVs at the small store, but you might be able to park at an empty motel nearby and walk over.

St Simons Island – Near Brunswick Georgia

St Simons Island and Jekyll Island are the two popular sandy beach areas to enjoy the Atlantic. Jekyll, having been a playground for the rich and famous long ago, is more rustic and you can camp on it. Folks live all year long on St Simons and this is where we found Georgia colonial history. We spent little time in the town of Brunswick which was one of the original port cities during colonial times and later a major exporter of lumber. Timber from its strong oaks were used to build our nations war ships in the 1700’s.

East Beach St Simons Island- Go Here. Good parking, sandy wide beach, excellent parking with restrooms.
During our visit on East Beach dogs were allowed to run on the beach – off leash. Wyatt’s and his best friend Dixie had a wonderful time. Later in the season the city does not allow dogs to do this.
East Beach on St Simons Island is located next to the old Coast Guard Station which is the white Building and now houses the WW 2 Coastal Defense Museum. A German U-Boat had been sunk just miles off the coast of Brunswick. You can walk over to the museum from the East Beach parking lot.
Plenty of shopping and Georgia style restaurants to select from. We changed our minds and decided not to rent a golf cart to tour the town which has busy single lane, but well managed, roads. The north side of St Simons Island is quite and full of history. Speaking of food – thank you again Charlotte for the biscuits and gravy! I’m guessing Ray cooked the sausage so thank you as well.

Colonial Fort Frederica Settlement, On St Simons Island, Brunswick Georgia

I’ll explain shortly about British General Oglethorpe’s involvement in settling the Georgia Colony, the last of the empire’s colonies in North America and one of the original 13 with the establishment of Savannah. Fort Frederica was built in 1732 as a buffer between the Spanish of Florida and British Georgia. This area has strong religious ties. Accompanying General Oglethorpe were John and Charles Wesley, leaders of the evangelical movement and founders of the Methodist Church.

Visting the sites of these settlements, reading published original documents and witnessing the ruins, is a very good way to confirm what we learn from history books. I was completely caught off guard at Fort Frederica, thinking it would be just another pile of rocks (tabby actually). This was an archeological dig site. Uncovered are the foundation ruins of each building of the small settlement set among the backdrop of what remains of the fort’s powder magazine. Modern historians have a road map of what the place originally looked like. Each street is now grass and at the end are signs with the street names. As you walk along there are stops at each ruin to explain what the building was used for with small artifacts on display. This was a remarkable experience.

The Christ Episcopal Church congregation was established as a mission of the Church of England in 1736. The Rev. Charles Wesley conducted the first services in the chapel within the walls of Fort Frederica. After the Revolution, this and other churches of England formed the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.

These are the street signs, marking the names of the old settlement’s streets
Down each street are the ruins of its buildings with details.

Located alongside the road to the Frederica settlement and Fort is the current Christ Episcopal Church built at the site in 1884. The grounds are magnificently landscaped. Unfortunately, the grounds were closed on Mondays when Karen and I visited it with our friends Ray and Charlotte. Well, there is a cemetery attached and it seemed legal to walk over the church grounds to pay respects, especially as there were no funerals being held that day. Outside the gated entrance was a tree and placard marking the area Rev. Wesley first preached at the location. I had been reading about the history of St. Simon and Georgia colony and over time got to recognizing names of noteworthy folks that lived in the area. Such as a minister’s wife who dedicated her life to a boy’s home and now, buried around her, are the same boys who grew and lived a productive life. A revolutionary war soldier, another who died in captivity during the civil war who had been an immigrant and more. I’m humbled by their achievements.

Anna Dodge – Gave her life’s work to raising orphaned boys.

Fort King George National Historical Site

Fort King George was built in 1721 by the British to watch over the inland waterway at St Simons Island. The fort is located on the mainland north of Brunswick. It was occupied for six years during which time 140 officers and soldiers lost their lives here and are buried on the adjacent bluff. The fort was placed to counteract French expansion and the area was first visited by the Spanish. After the fort was abandoned, British General James Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736 to setup a lookout post and lumber production.

Rebuilt block house on the right which solders fought from.
Recreated barracks
Fort King George was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America and reconstructed using old records and drawings.
What is left to a lumber mill that operated for 200 years. In 1736 indentured servants of the Scottish Highlanders set up pit saws here and sawed lumber for houses in Savannah and Frederica. Fort George was the location of the first commercial manufacture of lumber in Coastal Georgia.

And Without Further Ado – Savannah Georgia

Near the end of the American Civil War, General Sherman of the Union Army took Savannah for his headquarters. In the south Sherman is most likely known as being the first asshole in a complete human form. At least he got one thing right which was believing Savannah is the most beautiful city he had ever seen and decided not to burn it to the ground. But that is just a glimmer of the city’s history…

Savannah is located 75 miles north of Brunswick off I-95. Established in 1733 it was Georgia’s first settlement and state capital. It was a planned city or in other words the town was designed with purpose and to be something different. From a drawing to a city. It was laid out to consist of wards seperated by common green spaces which are now parks every few blocks or so. It was designed to be a walkable city as well. Houses were close together because they needed no personal green space as the community used a common area. These square parks located throughout the historic district are beautifully landscaped.

In this plot plan you can see the 15 parks strategically placed in the center of wards.

Savannah was to be a utopia. Designed and settled under the leadership of British General Ogelthorpe, who was a Member of Parliament, and a person who sought to promote the welfare of others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. Slavery was outlawed in the beginning as was drinking rum. Savannah was first settled by 113 colonists and flourished. It became, and still is, a major shipping port in the south. The current river walk is below a main road and along the Savannah River. Shops are built into the old basement areas with other facilities above. The current city has a fun vibe about it in my opinion. This is a don’t miss stop.

Having only one day to spend in Savannah. Ray, Charlotte, Karen and I – along with the dogs, took the Old Savannah Trolly Tour. We paid to get on and off as we wanted to visit places along the route which was well worth it. Uniquely, at some stops characters in costume would step on the trolley. These were the famous people of Savannah, speaking in character about their life.
Typical shared garden space which shows up every few blocks in the historic district.
General Oglethorpe monument in a town square.
Savannah is home to a large art college
Savannah is well known for haunted buildings. This paint color on the shutters and door kept spirits out.
Portion of river walk.
Lunch on the river walk. Through the windows is a passing container ship, having just finished at the docks.
I had a good time walking next to a young police officer. I had asked why so many Sergeants on foot patrol. He said everyone is working 12 hour shifts with no days off because of St. Patrick’s celebrations. He wanted to work for the Sheriff but did not want to spend time working the jail. Made me think back a few years when I was that age and just getting started.
1700/1800’s bell which was rung when it was time to shut down at work.
Savannah is host to the countries 2nd largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The day after, the Navy brass band was still hard at it. They had energy and rocking songs.

We are leaving the Charlston South Carolina area on 4/3/22 taking a turn to the north towards Bristol Virginia and a couple stops in between. Trying to decide if I can handle the mountain grades on I-26 north of Ashville South Carolina into Johnson City Tennesse or if it is worth it to go 100 miles out the way and take the easier grade on I-77 through the Fancy Gap. Our diesel truck can handle it easy as we have 30% more truck than the trailer requires. My nerves will be the challenge:)

Two Weeks in Georgia

On March 15, 2021 we moved form Florida to Georgia which became our 17th state to visit in an RV. We are following the spring weather north as well as the pollen. Boy can tall pine trees put off clouds of pollen when the wind blows! Our first of two stops was Wanee Lake Golf and RV Park in Ashburn Georgia. Never stayed on a golf course before. Unfortunately neither of us play golf but we do love the spring colors spread out over the wonderful landscape. The neighbor was catching bass out of the parks large pond (no fishing license required) but we never had the time to try our luck as we had other places to tour. Management is low key and fun to be around at this park. There was no problem walking the dog anywhere along the nine hole golf course.

View of the first tee about 35 yards behind our parking spot. Green fees with a cart seemed to me to be reasonable. The park is remodeling their common areas to include the bar. Pool was open but the water was cold and in need of cleaning.

We were close to Plains Georgia but decided not to make the day trip to town and see if President Jimmy Carter was handy for a visit. Along with just enjoying the weather outside the RV we made the trip to explore a couple Civil War areas. Number one on our list would be the most deadliest ground in the Civil War. The ground was not Gettysburg with its combined death total of 7,863 nor Spotsylvania with its 4,192 solders killed in battle. The deadly ground we walked had been home to 45,000 union soldiers of which more than 13,000 lost their lives within an area 1,620 feet long and 779 feet wide, or about 26.5 acres in total ground. This is the prisoner of war camp known as Andersonville.

Andersonville Georgia National Historic Site is also the home of the National POW Museum. The visitors center, designed to look like guard towers, was closed inside due to the virus thing but a ranger came out to greet us.

The most famous execution following the Civil War was the hanging of Confederate Major Henry Wirz, Commander at the prison in Andersonville (a.k.a Camp Sumter). Sentenced to death for inhuman treatment to include intentionally withholding food from the prisoners. Although reportedly 15% of confederate prisoners died in union camps while up to 20% of union solders passed away from various things such as disease, Andersonville was the worst of the worst during its 13 months of operation. You can do the math – that’s about 1,000 prisoners dieing every month.

I have two other stops to report regarding our time in Georgia but believe it worth most of this blog post in an attempt to describe the emotional experience at Andersonville. As a visual aid I will include current photos of the prison grounds against historic photos.

A walk behind the current POW Museum reveals the grounds of the old prison. Scattered in a small area are monuments buildt by individual states and associations memorializing soldiers from their states that died. This includes loyal union soldiers from the once confederate State of Tennessee. Of special note, please notice how the ground slopes down into a creek valley and then back up the other side.
Here is one monument that shows 104 union soldiers from my home state of Missouri are buried at Andersonville. More about one of those soldiers later in this post.
This is a view down and up the hill towards the monuments behind the museum building. I have drawn a red line around what was once the outline of the 15′ wood stockade walls. The white posts outline the wall. In clear view is a ditch or marshy area which consisted of creek water trickling though the camp from which prisoners were expected to drink, wash and defecate nearby. Also shown in the photo is a small building just below the recreated stockade wall. This building is the Providence Spring memorial.
Historic photo of prisoners living uphill from the creek that ran through the center of the camp.
One day a miracle occurred at the camp. Water shot up from the ground in the form of a fresh water spring. Before, prisoners were having to wait for rain in order to trap drinking water as the small creek that ran through the camp was contaminated. Years later surviving prisoners met at the spot of the spring.

Just inside the main walls of the camp was a no-mans area marked by a small wood fence known as the kill line. Confederate guards manned towers overlooking the prison from what they called a pigeon-roost. Some of those towers were manned by young boys who were given time off for every prisoner they shot who happened to hang a body part past the line.

In red ink is the kill line. Drift here and be instantly shot.
I make a habit of asking park rangers or museum guides what is the most unique thing to see. In this case the ranger said most miss the single white marker near the center of the camp. This is where the ‘raiders’ where hung. The raiders where a group of union soldiers that took advantage of new arrivals to the prison. Watch the movie Andersonville which I found to be accurate based on what I learned.

Early during the Civil War it was common to have a prisoner exchange after a battle. Later, the exchange policy ended to include all negotiations whereby Andersonville prisoners expected to be traded for confederate prisoners. Towards the end of the war union troops were in the area, to include Atlanta to the northeast. Andersonville was vacated but later prisoners were moved back in once the union army did not show up to take the camp. The prison had been constructed in February of 1864 and would have been empty after General Lee surrendered in May of 1865.

On the worst days over 100 prisoners died within the camp. If you follow a narrow road away from camp it leads to a cemetery. Fortunately a list of names for those that died was kept. Can you imagine what it would have been like to see those 100 plus dead removed from the camp each day. At first they buried them somewhat spread apart but later they were placed shoulder to shoulder in a trench. Here is what that looked like in the next historic photo.

Here are a few of the graves. I have marked 100 graves in my photo with a yellow dot to signify one days worth of burials.

As Karen and I walked among the dead there was no way of not recognizing that beneath every single step we took, buried shoulder to shoulder were the victims of this prison. I thought how dare anyone in this nation today think a state should secede from the union. These soldiers had names and a family.

Above is death #4169. I stopped and returned to the truck at grave 12,000 something, having just walked down a single row. All I knew about death #4169 was a name JNO. Nelson of Missouri. I put on my detectives hat, having decided to spend no more than two hours finding out about JNO. This is Private John Nelson of Company A, 29th Infantry Regiment of Missouri. He died from “diarrhea” on 7-28-64 in Andersonville. His company originally formed in or near St. Louis Missouri (maybe in Cape Girardeau MO August 9, or September 5 1862). By December 1863 his company would have been fighting under General Sherman’s army around Atlanta Georgia located 150 miles to the north of the prison. John was 19 years of age when he died. I have called my sister Deanna to see if she can help find more information as she has a Acensistry.com account. I’d like to know about John’s family.

Just a sample of the Andersonville graves that line both sides of the road. Located in another section of the area is a modern national grave yard.

Our next day trip was to the Jefferson Davis Historic Site which is run by the Georgia State Parks. The visitors center was open. Davis was the president of the Confederate States and fled Richmond later to be captured at this location. He was held for two years and released. The park grounds were in full spring bloom.

I asked the museum director what was the most unique artifact to which he pointed to a uniform jacket saying there were only 10 of them in existence. This is a small site with a walking trail and marker of where Jefferson was captured.

From Wanee Lake Golf and RV Park we moved 180 miles north to the area of West Point Georgia, located south of Lagrange. We camped for a week backed up to a Corp. of Engineer Lake at R. Shaefer Heard Campground. We booked a wonderful spot where we were able to get the kayak out and our dog Wyatt took his first lesson learning to ride without jumping overboard. A friend asked how we were able to find spots in Corp of Engineer parks as they had trouble finding any with empty spaces. We are willing to divert off our original route for miles if necessary, especially if the park is not close to any large metropolitan areas or within access off a nearby US highway. I suppose that often our route planning has a lot to do with driving between parks rather than just sticking to whatever highway is shortest between our ultimate destinations. Spring moves about 100 miles a week. So yet again we find ourselves experiencing the changing colors and climate.

Getting close to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains
R. Shaefer Heard COE Spot 113

We were in northwest Alabama during the start of the pandemic last year where we met a guy we called Slim. He was constructing a solar energy site at the time and Karen watched his dog during the day. What a small world this trip became. As we were approaching the Lagrange Georgia area Karen’s phone rang. We had not talked to Slim for a long, long time. He asked how we were doing and what part of the country we were in. Little did we know we were now 30 miles from his house. We enjoyed the day at Slim’s where he offered a full hookup RV spot on his property for the next time we are in the area.

Unfortunately the multi-million dollar US Infantry Museum outside Columbus Georgia was closed. It’s federally operated and yet again we found a federal site not open due to the virus thing. We also passed on a visit to the Tuskegee Airfield (home of WW2 Tuskegee Airmen) as the main museum was closed because of the virus. Yep, the airfield museum is run by the National Park Service.

We have made our way to a wonderful national forest in Alabama and will be moving to Tennessee on April 14. You can follow us on RVillage.com

P.S. – I have scheduled my Covid vaccine through Walgreens in Alabama. Nothing on theirs or state website says I can’t get it in Alabama if I live in Texas. Last week I could find no place close with the one shot version. Checking again this week I found a next day appointment.