Our vacation to Savannah and Charleston

A few weeks ago we went on a week-long vacation to Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.

For the last ten years, give or take, I have had a carefully curated travel bucket list. This trip was exciting for me, because this is one of the original trips that went on that list.

This week was all about Civil War history for me. It was amazing to finally be in places that I have read about for years.

Our first three and a half days were in Savannah. Some of the things we did there included exploring all of the squares, Bonaventure Cemetery, Wormsloe Historic Site, a riverboat cruise on the Georgia Queen, and General Sherman’s headquarters.

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Bonaventure Cemetery was beautifully eerie. The Spanish moss was a lovely backdrop.
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Savannah has 22 squares, each a few blocks apart. The squares were designed to give residents a green space to enjoy. Some squares are smaller, but some feature fountains or monuments.
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The Georgia Queen docked on the Savannah River.
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The Green-Meldrim House, General Sherman’s headquarters while the Union Army was in Savannah. This was the end location of Sherman’s March to the Sea.
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The Savannah River is a major waterway. We saw a lot of large container ships.
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At the fountain at Forsyth Park, the largest of Savannah’s squares.
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The 1.5 mile long Avenue of Oaks at Wormsloe Historic Site.

My favorite thing we did in the Savannah area was Fort McAllister. On Dec. 13, 1864, General William B. Hazen (no relation, we think, but still neat) led an attack on Fort McAllister, on the Ogeechee River, south of Savannah. This was vital, in order to gain Union control of the waterway. Hazen’s division had the element of surprise, and the battle lasted 15 minutes. With the fort in union control, the union army was able to march into Savannah, and have the supplies that they needed.

We were able to visit Fort McAllister on Dec. 13, to the day, which was a nice touch. We were the only two people at the fort! We couldn’t believe that.

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With a sign explaining Hazen’s attack on Fort McAllister.

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A Hazen points to Hazen on the sign.
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Enjoying Fort McAllister all to ourselves.

A lot of this trip, in both cities, was devoted to walking the different streets, and taking in the old, historical buildings.

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We spent one half day exploring Tybee Island, which is known as Savannah’s beach. We both enjoyed Tybee Island, and said we would enjoy a full beach vacation here. We spent some time on the beach, and enjoyed watching a group of surfers.

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After the first half of our trip in Savannah, we drove two hours to Charleston.

Some of what we did in Charleston included shopping at the historic City Market, seeing the Pineapple Fountain, Rainbow Row, Boone Hall Plantation, and the Angel Oak tree.

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Charleston City Market, established in the 1790s.
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At the Pineapple Fountain, located at the waterfront.
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The Angel Oak tree is estimated to be 400 years old!
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Rainbow Row.
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Boone Hall Plantation.

The highlight in Charleston for me was visiting Fort Sumter. The first shots of the Civil War were fired upon Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. I am a Civil War history buff, so it felt good to finally get there!

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Approaching Fort Sumter on the ferry.
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An artillery shell embedded in the wall.
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The view from on top the fort, with our ferry in the background.
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Cannons on display at the fort.
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The first flag that the Confederates raised after Fort Sumter fell.
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Another view inside the fort.
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I was a Civil War reenactor for eight years, trained on artillery. I often was in charge of placing the primer, in which part of my job was to “tend the vent.” This is what I am doing in this picture, putting my thumb over the vent to seal off air. Whenever we come across a cannon, I have to take a picture like this!

Another thing we really enjoyed in the Charleston area was visiting the Charleston Tea Garden, which is the only place in North America were tea is grown. We took a trolley tour, and we learned a lot of facts about tea, such as the growing season is from April to October. Tea grows in bushes, and during harvest time, a special cutting machine trims off the tops of the bushes to get the leaves.

The gift shop was a tea lover’s paradise, with many free samples of tea to taste. We bought loose leaf tea both for ourselves, and for my parents as Christmas gifts.

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In addition, like in Savannah, we enjoyed seeing all of the historic homes.

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Our favorite thing about Charleston was something that we stumbled upon, something that we had never planned to do. Our hotel was across the harbor in Mount Pleasant. We were back at the hotel just before dinner, and we were looking for something to do that evening. Thanks to a Google Maps search, we found Shem Creek, just a few miles south.

We walked along the Shem Creek Boardwalk, a series of paths that went over the marsh and followed the waterway. There, we watched all kinds of birds, fishing boats going in and out, kayakers, and even a few dolphins! We watched the sunset. We enjoyed this so much that we came back the for a second night.

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We spent our last afternoon at Sullivan’s Island Beach. We had the perfect weather on our trip with temperatures in the 60s-70s, so a beach afternoon in December wasn’t too crazy!

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While at Sullivan’s Island, we explored Fort Moulrie. This was another unexpected bonus, as we did not plan to do this.

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An unexpected highlight for Derek was getting to lock up the powder magazine at Fort Moultrie with the original key!

On our way home, we broke up the drive by stopping to see a few things in Atlanta. We visited the MLK Jr. National Historical Park, which included Ebenezer Church, where he was co-pastor, his birth site, and the graves of himself and Coretta Scott King. Everything was closed because of COVID-19, but at least we got to see the outside of these historic places.

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The grave sites.
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The birth site.

We had a great time on this vacation. We did everything that we wanted to do and then some. Now we are back home with all of the pictures, video and memories, and we’re looking forward to the next trip!

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