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the Readings


Inquiry Question

Historical Context


Reading 1
Reading 3



Table of

Determining the Facts

Reading 2: The City Plan and How It Was Built.

Having found an ideal place to settle and having established good relations with the local Indian population, Oglethorpe set upon designing the city he would call Savannah. Taking into account the Trustees desire for a city promoting equality as well as protection, Oglethorpe came up with a simple, yet sophisticated, design that reflected both egalitarian principles and classical standards of fortress construction.

His basic module of design was a square-shaped unit called a "Ward." At the center of each ward was a large, open space called a "Square." The four corners of each ward contained a "Tything." A tything consisted of ten house lots each. These ten house lots were reserved for the private homes of the settlers. Each house lot measured the same, 60 feet in width and 90 feet in depth. The relationship between the position of the house lots and square insured that the residents of each ward had a natural meeting location. The squares drew both local inhabitants and visitors to the city and gave all a place to mingle. On the east and west flank of the square were positioned four larger lots called the "Trustees Lots." They were reserved for public structures, such as churches, banks, or government buildings. Little did Oglethorpe know that this design lavished more open space on Savannah than probably any town in American history.

Peter Gordon, who traveled with the original settlers to Georgia along with Oglethorpe on the Anne, described the effort required and the length of time needed to construct the first four wards of James Oglethorpe's design.

We arrived the 1st of February at Yamacraw Bluff, the place Mr. Oglethorpe had pitched upon for our settlement. As soon as we landed, we set about getting our tents fixed and our goods brought ashore and carried up the bluff, which is forty feet perpendicular in height. This, by reason of the loose sand and great height, would have been extremely troublesome had not Captain Scott and his party built stairs for us.

About an hour after our landing, the Indians came with their king, queen, and Mr. Musgrove, the Indian trader and interpreter, to pay their compliments to Mr. Oglethorpe and to welcome us to Yamacraw. The king, queen and chiefs and other Indians advanced and before them walked one of their generals with his head adorned with white feathers with rattles in his hands, to which he danced, singing and, throwing his body into a thousand different and antic postures....

Friday the 2nd, we finished our tents and got some of our stores on shore. The 3rd we got the periaquas unloaded and all the goods brought up to the bluff. Sunday the 4th, we had divine service performed in Mr. Oglethorpe's tent.

Wednesday the 7th, we began to dig trenches for fixing palisades 'round the place of our intended settlement as a fence in case we should be attacked by the Indians, while others of us were employed in clearing the lines and cutting trees to the proper length for the palisades.

Thursday the 8th, each family had given out of the stores an iron pot, frying pan, and three wooden bowls, a bible, a common prayer book. this day we were taken off from the palisades and set about sawing and splitting boards eight feet long.

Friday our arms were delivered to us from the store, viz., a musket and bayonet, cartridge, box, and belt, to each person able to carry arms. Sunday, we were drawn up under our arms for the first time, being divided into four tythings, each tything consisting of ten men. I mounted the first guard at 8 o'clock at night, received orders from Mr. Oglethorpe to fix two sentinels at the extreme parts of the town to be relieved every two hours.

March, 1st, the first house in the square was framed and raised, Mr. Oglethorpe driving the first pin. Before this we had proceeded in a very unsettled manner, having been employed in several different things such as cutting down trees and cross-cutting them into proper lengths for clapboards and afterwards splitting them in order to build clapboard houses. That not answering the expectations we were now divided into different gangs and each gang had their proper labor assigned to them under the direction of one person. so we proceeded in our labor much more regular than before, there being four sets of carpenters who had each of them a quarter of the first ward allotted to them to build, a set of shingle-makers with proper people to cross-cut and split and a sufficient number of Negro sawyers hired from Carolina to be assisting us.

April, 6th, Mr. Oglethorpe ordered that Dr. Cox, the first that died, should be buried in a military manner. All our tythings were ordered to march under arms to the grave with the corpse. We gave the general discharges of our small arms, guns were fired from the guard house and the bell constantly tolling. This manner of burying was observed till the people began to die so fast, three or four in one day, that the frequent firing of the cannon and our small arms struck such terror in our sick people (who, knowing the cause, concluded they should be the next) that Mr. Oglethorpe ordered it should be discontinued.¹

In 1736, James Oglethorpe's attention was redirected to St. Simons Island, about 80 miles south of Savannah. He had found there a much stronger defensive position against possible Spanish attack from St. Augustine. On the island's western edge, he designed and built Fort Frederica. In July 1742, the anticipated Spanish attack was launched on Georgia. Spanish troops landing on St. Simons Island met Oglethorpe's defenders near Fort Frederica. The resulting Battle of Bloody Marsh, won by the British, led to the elimination of the Spanish threat from Florida. Having secured the British land claim down to the southern Georgia border, James Oglethorpe soon returned to England, satisfied that he had succeeded in creating two towns (Savannah and Augusta) based on egalitarian principles in a safe place where future immigrants could also seek a better life.

Questions for Reading 2

1. Savannah is divided into a series of design units, or modules. What term did Oglethorpe use for his basic module (unit) of planning? List the divisions within the module.

2. What did the colonists live in before they built their houses?

3. What is a palisade and why would the colonists need to build one? Can you use the reading context to figure out what a periaqua is?

4. What supplies and arms were issued to each colonial family?

5. Describe the materials the first settlers used to build their houses and fences. How did they acquire this material?

6. How did the Spanish and British colonists resolve their dispute over the boundaries of Florida?

Reading 2 was compiled from Mills Lane, Savannah Revisited: History and Architecture, 4th ed. (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1994); Preston Russell and Barbara Hines, Savannah: A History of Her People Since 1733 (Savannah: Frederic C. Beil, 1993); and Phinizy Spalding and Edwin Jackson, James Edward Oglethorpe: A New Look at Georgia's Founder (Athens, Ga.: The University of Georgia Press, 1998).

¹From the diary of Peter Gordon in the collection of the University of Georgia.


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