Saturday, June 27, 2009

Book Review--Civil War Walking Tour of Savannah

D'Arcy, David and Ben Mammina. Civil War Walking Tour of Savannah. Schiffer Publishing Ltd, Atglen, PA. 2006. 159 pages, end notes, bibliography, color photos, b/w photos.

As a major part of Sherman's "March to the Sea" Savannah, GA holds a special place for those studying the end of the war. D'Arcy and Mammina have put together a book that anybody visiting Savannah who has an interest in the Civil War should consider purchasing. Despite the title the book actually contains two walking and two driving tours. Unfortunately I did not find this book until the last day of our trip so I don't have estimates on how long these tours take.

The first walking tour is titled Savannah Early in the War and includes 18 stops ranging from the Customs House and Union General John Geary's Headquarters (now a Tony Roma's Restaurant) both on Bay Street to various churches, homes, and squares. This tour is quite a long one and is probably not recommended for the hot summer months. Trust me, I just got back and it is scorching hot in June.

The second walking tour is a bit shorter at 14 stops and is titled Savannah Late in the War and After. Stops include churchs, homes, and the Colonial Cemetery where many of Sherman's trooops stayed during the occupation. Be sure to see the wall of headstones that came about due to damage caused by the troops.

The first driving tour is called Savannah's Eastern Defenses and includes 10 stops. This looks like it would be a long tour especially having to hit both Old Fort Jackson and Fort Pulaski on the same day. Also included are Bonaventure Cemetery ( Civil War Generals Paul Harrison, Robert Anderson, and Alexander Lawton are buried here)and Laurel Grove Cemetery (Civil War Generals Gilbert Moxley Sorrel, Lafayette Mclaws, Francis Bartow, Henry Rootes Jackson, Jeremy Gilmer, and over 600 other confederate dead are buried here) amongst other locations. Plan a couple days for this tour!

The second tour is titled Siege of Savannah December 1864 and includes just 7 stops but appears to have more driving time. Stops include Fort McAllister State Historic Site and the tour concludes at the Savannah Visitor Center and History Museum.

This is a very nice book to look at with excellent photos and no doubt a great set of tours to take. I do have a few issues with it however. The first has nothing to do with the book but my suggestion would not be to buy the book and try to head off on the tours. I highly suggest taking a bus/tram tour of the city first in order to get oriented. There are many choices ranging from about $10 and up depending on what you want. I think that will make things much easier as you get going. I would like to have had an essay of some kind discussing the role Savannah played in the war and what happened when Sherman arrived. As it is the stops are just that-stops. They don't seem to have much in the way of historical context. There is a brief description of each stop but I think a way to tie the whole city together would be a great addition to future editions. A better map would also be of value. There is one map included at the front of the book that outlines the two walking tours. One tour is in red and is somewhat easy to follow; the second however is done in purple can hardly be seen. Putting a map in for each walking tour and making them a bit more legible would be a great addition and not expensive to add to the book. Maps for the driving tour would not be easy to include and would prove most difficult to read on the scale that would be required to put in a book. These issues aside I still feel this is a great item for anybody with an interest in the Civil War who is visiting Savannah. Without it there are many places you'll not see or hear about. Well worth checking out.

Just as a note...I am including the Amazon link but please be aware that cover price on the book is only $19.95 so as of this writing the prices listed there are very high. It may pay to shop around.

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