Saving Savannah

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-11-03
  • Publisher: Vintage

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In this masterful portrait of life in Savannah before, during, and after the Civil War, prizewinning historian Jacqueline Jones transports readers to the balmy, raucous streets of that fabled Southern port city. This is a subtle and rich social history that weaves together stories of the everyday lives of blacks and whites, rich and poor, men and women from all walks of life confronting the transformations that would alter their city forever. Deeply researched and vividly written,Saving Savannahis an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the Civil War years.

Author Biography

The author of seven previous books, Jacqueline Jones teaches American history at the University of Texas–Austin. Among her numerous awards are the Taft Prize, the Brown Memorial Prize, the Spruill Prize, the Bancroft Prize (for Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow), and, in l999, a MacArthur Fellowship. Saving Savannah won the Georgia Historical Society’s 2009 Malcolm Bell, Jr. and Muriel Barrow Bell Award.

Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. ix
Map of Savannah, Civil War Erap. x
Prologue: I Am in the Hands of Kidnappersp. 3
Sell and Buy and Sell and Buyp. 25
Our Common Master in Heavenp. 51
A Demon Ready with Knife and Torchp. 71
Let's See Her Facep. 97
In Bello
An Abiding Hope in Every Breastp. 117
As Traitors, They Go Over to the Enemyp. 140
Are We Free?p. 164
We Have Dyed the Ground with Bloodp. 186
The Way We Can Best Take Care of Ourselvesp. 213
Fori Have a Great Deal to Dop. 233
A Dream of the Pastp. 259
To Have a Big Meeting, a Big Shooting,or Big Bloodp. 282
The Present Deranged System of Laborp. 302
You Will See Them Studyingp. 327
I Came to Do My Own Workp. 346
When You Leave Set Fire to All the Housesp. 369
epilogue:Those Peaceful, Powerful Weaponsp. 387
Appendicesp. 411
Acknowledgmentsp. 417
Notesp. 419
Selected Bibliographyp. 471
Indexp. 495
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Sell and Buy and Sell and Buy

In early September 1854, Savannah was diseased, dying. At dusk, tar fires kindled in the public squares threw a plume of acrid smoke into the air, an immense black shroud that settled over the desolate, oppressively hot and humid city. The lush, tree- lined thoroughfares were nearly deserted, the hush broken only by the muffled sounds of a horsedrawn hearse plodding through the sandy streets. The usually raucous marketplace was empty, stately homes were abandoned, schools and hotels shuttered. Many people had fled, most to the interior of Georgia or
to the North. Behind closed doors, the ill, unattended, lay side by side with the dead, and in poorer areas of the city, human corpses mingled with refuse piled in back alleyways. Deprived of supplies from either the surrounding countryside or from arriving ships, the river port risked slow starvation. “How changed is our beautiful, growing, healthy city, lately full of enterprise, noise, and business,” despaired one of the city’s clergymen, exhausted from ministering to the ill. Racked with fever, chills, and convulsions, hundreds of all ages were succumbing to the “black vomit,” more commonly known as yellow fever.

Savannah was dying, and Richard Arnold, M.D., could do nothing to stem the plague. The stricken city was in fact playing unwilling and unwitting host toAedes aegypti, the carrier mosquito for yellow fever. Breeding most freely in manmade receptacles such as barrels and culverts, the insect proved the bane of commercial ports from the West African coast to New Orleans. The illness spread rapidly, not because it was contagious but because infected mosquitoes carried it from victim to victim. When the epidemic hit, Arnold was still mourning the death of his thirty-five- year- old wife, Margaret, from tuberculosis four years earlier. Nevertheless, beginning in August 1854, the doctor spent his every waking hour with patients, crisscrossing the city in his carriage and losing all sense of time. Trying not to panic in the midst of so much misery, he wrote on September 2, “my mind is calm, for I have a duty to perform in staying here.” Under these conditions, he believed, the physician was akin to a soldier, albeit one denied the requisite glory: the doctor “goes into the very dens of infection, he inhales the reeking effluvia of filth & disease,he is most exposed to catch disease himself in those very cases which will bring him neither money nor credit.”

For forty-six- year- old Richard Arnold, the yellow-fever epidemic of 1854 represented a crisis of multiple dimensions— a crisis destructive not only of the physical and fiscal health of the city he loved, but also of his own good name as a man of science and as an exemplar of civic virtue. Born in Savannah, the son of a Rhode Island merchant, Arnold had graduated from the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton University) and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Settling in the place of his birth, he served in a variety of elected and appointed posts related to municipal governance and education. Like other elite Savannahians, Arnold well understood that the river port thrived to the extent it could attract not only investors and merchants, but also hundreds of seasonal, unskilled northern workers annually. Yet the city suffered from a stubborn reputation as an unhealthy place plagued by fevers bred in rotting vegetation and polluted water, and by a vaguely defined but lethal form of “miasma,” or poisonous air. Savannah’s booster were always on the defensive; some blamed the high mortality rate on large numbers of northern invalids dying an untimely death in the city en route to their final destination in Florida. Now the “yellow jack” epidemic of 1854 threatened not only Savannah’s good name, but also its very survi

Excerpted from Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War by Jacqueline Jones
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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