Savannah is beautiful. Grand.
They say it’s the most haunted city in the country. I have to say, standing in the cemetery, with the wind swirling the dead magnolia leaves around me as I took the picture of the headstones Union soldiers kicked over? It felt haunted.
The city looks like a picture book. Not a house, or a street doesn’t call to be photographed. The trees are full of Spanish Moss, and light dances through the branches.
Old and new are blended together not in layers but in unison. New houses are built in strict adherence with the historic commission, and only a careful eye can tell them apart.
Ben is in love with the city. It is the most amazing place, he said. He does not use the word amazing very lightly. Last time I heard it was about Camp Out.
He loves the drama of the city. The style. The grace. We went and had Coca-Cola in the bar before dinner. Because in Savannah? You have the time to say Coca-Cola.
It is just so cool, he said, lounging back in the leather couch.
We talked about what we had seen that day. The ironwork on the buildings. The codes that said no elevators. The webkins in the storefront window on River Street.
At least they were paying attention.
The boys practiced dueling on the public dueling grounds.
Why did people do that? Jake asked. It seems a little silly to him to take ten steps and shoot someone over an argument.
Because it was the 1800’s and everyone was stupid, Ben said.
People still shoot each other today, I reminded him.
Why did that General guy burn everything? Jake asked. Did he burn Savannah?
Sherman. General Sherman won the Civil war by marching to the ocean and burning everything in his path. Savannah surrendered. He didn’t burn it. Atlanta didn’t. He burned that to the ground.
Because he wanted to win the war.
What I didn't say was he wanted to humiliate the enemy. He was the first in modern warfare to appreciate it as a tactic. He had his soldiers camp in a cemetary. It was the ultimate insult. Our level of horror is different now. Today, soldiers rape women and children for the same purpose.
I could hear my great aunts voices. Daughters of the Confederacy, their stories rang through my head. My ghosts. Friendly and full of patience for my Yankee naïveté. Sherman was an evil man. You could not mention his name without real disgust coming from them.
I had grits for breakfast. And ham. I may not be southern but I was raised by southerners. I would never want to live in Savannah but I loved drinking in all of it.
Savannah is gracious and dramatic. Warm and full of ghosts.