Savannah Survives the Civil War

By the 1850s Savannah was no longer shabby. In fact, it had become a city of remarkable beauty as local architecture flowered in the years before the Civil War. Most of the public buildings admired today rose in this period, and the handsome row houses that add immeasurably to the city’s character were built.

At the same time, war was brewing to the north, and General Sherman and his troops were about to march through Georgia. After burning Atlanta they moved on to Savannah and encamped in the city’s squares. But the city was spared – perhaps, one would like to think, because its glories touched even the enemy. Sherman, in a telegram to President Lincoln dated December 22, 1864, wrote, “Dear Sir: I beg to present to you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah …” This rare Southern jewel was saved for future generations. And the Pink House, which had played a role in the Revolutionary War as a meeting place, now served as headquarters for a Union brigadier general after the South’s defeat.

Savannah quickly recovered from the war, and by the turn of the century had become the largest exporter of naval stores and the second largest cotton port in the United States. The construction of new houses and public buildings slowed, however, and the city was left to age as if encased in amber. It grew even lovelier as its Spanish moss-laden oaks grew more gnarled and the dusky stucco of its houses took on the patina of age. A visiting English clergyman wrote, “There are far vaster and wealthier cities with much more commerce and culture than this city, but for architectural simplicity and natural beauty, for the indescribable charm about its streets and buildings, its parks and squares … there is but one Savannah. Without a rival, without an equal, it stands unique.” And the venerable Pink House on Reynolds Square remained untouched, by the early twentieth century recognized as an irreplaceable landmark.

— Pages 16–17, Recipes from the Olde Pink House (DuBose Publishing,1981)