Goodreads: Civil War Walking Tour of Savannah
Words by David D’Arcy, Photographs by Ben Mammina
Includes two walking tours and two driving tours of downtown Savannah and the battle lines. Ninety-eight photographs, historical sketches, and maps accompany the text.
When I read this book, I was not in Savannah and, in fact, had never been in the city at all. I therefore relied on the book to guide me through an unknown space and to make it come alive. I hoped, even if I could not situate myself visually (no modern map is included), that I would learn more about Savannah and its Civil War history and that I could use that knowledge as a base for later reading. Being able to view photographs of the places mentioned, after all, helps me feel closer to the events and the people described.
However, while reading, I wondered if even being in Savannah could make this book truly useful. The majority of the entries are only a few sentence long. Some are merely one sentence–a statement, for instance, that a building functioned as a hospital at a certain date. No personal stories made the stories come alive. Even the brief biographies sometimes provided, such as one for the father of Juliette Gordon Low, often proved too cut-and-dried to arouse my interest. I had never heard about many of these figures before and so did not care much about where they were at specific times–and the book did not make me care.
A few quotes intersperse the work, giving the book its one glimmer of humanity, but often the text fails to situate these quotes. One from Juliette Gordon Low as a four-year-old meeting Sherman and Howard, for example, raised questions for me about the nature of the encounter. But the book says nothing of it–only that it happened. The quotes function the same way, piquing interesting but failing to deliver anything really juicy and human.
I understand that a walking tour book necessarily must confine its entries to a brief space. Most tourist presumably do not intend to become experts on the town or to spend literally their entire day on just one tour–there is obviously quite a lot of history cram in during a stay in Savannah! Still, a few short stories could not hurt, could they?
The presence of numerous grammatical errors and run-on sentences also marred the work. One page even has a cut-off sentence with the last word tantalizingly hyphenated–only for the book to start a completely new section on the next page. Now I’ll never know what happened after Joseph E Johnston caught “pneu-“. And then there’s the section that refers to a gravestone with “147 years” scratched on by Union soldiers–except the picture of the stone shows that the actual number is “146.” With so many errors, one’s trust in the rest of the information begins to waver.
This book did not really make history come alive for me, nor did it seem particularly informative–I doubt I will remember most of the names and dates presented. Still, it shows that there is an awful lot to see and do in Savannah and it made me want to visit the city. I just won’t be bringing this book along as my guide.
Fun Facts from the Book
- Glory was shot in Savannah, as was Forrest Gump.
- Francis S. Bartow was born in Savannah and chose grey as the color of the Confederate uniforms.
- Savannah is home to America’s longest running theatre. John Wilkes Booth performed there.