Posts Tagged ‘Savannah’

‘Secession Winter’ & the Seizure of Ft. Pulaski

January 3, 2013

The quick takeover of Ft. Pulaski outside of Savannah by Union forces in 1862 was the first-ever surrender of a fort due to the use of rifled cannon. The new technology greatly enhanced the muzzle velocity, and hence the penetrating power, of artillery, and literally overnight made classic masonry fortresses like Ft. Pulaski — once considered the most advanced fortress in the world — instantly obsolete.

Ft. Pulaski, Cockspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island

Ft. Pulaski, Cockspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island

(Sophisticated earthworks, however, would prove much more resilient to artillery and later to aircraft-delivered bombs, and remained a major feature of warfare through World War II. You can see examples of earthworks added to Ft. Pulaski between the old brick fort and the Visitors Center.)

Much less known than the Confederate surrender of Ft. Pulaski is the earlier Federal surrender of the fort on Jan. 3, 1861, to 134 troops of the Georgia militia. While the Civil War itself wouldn’t start until April of that year with the firing on Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, that so-called “Secession Winter” was full of activity — not only by Southern states responding to the previous November’s election of Abraham Lincoln by formally leaving the union, but, as in the case of Ft. Pulaski, seizing Federal military facilities when they could.

National Park Service pic of a replica Secession Banner being raised over Ft. Pulaski during a recent reenactment

National Park Service pic of a replica Secession Banner being raised over Ft. Pulaski during a recent reenactment

Contrary to popular opinion, the familiar Confederate battle flag, often incorrectly called the “Stars and Bars,” was far from the first Confederate banner. In fact, during that Secession Winter the most prevalent flags were the various Secession banners of the states, usually incorporating a single red star.

As I write in my recently updated guidebook Moon South Carolina, you can find an excellent collection of Secession banners and other Confederate unit flags at the little South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, right next to the enormous and comprehensive South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, S.C.

An example of the Secession banners & regimental flags at the SC Confederate Museum & Relic Room in Columbia SC

An example of the Secession banners & regimental flags at the SC Confederate Museum & Relic Room in Columbia SC


Notes from the Seed Underground

October 17, 2012

One of the overarching themes involved in trying to write an intelligent travel book for intelligent travelers is the new focus on food: Good food, of course, but more and more “good food” means locally/regionally sourced cuisine.

The food experience has become an ever more important component of tourism, and the Georgia/South Carolina Lowcountry (especially the Charleston area) is in many ways on the leading edge of this trend. The obvious irony is that this “new” trend is really a throwback to the most tried-and-tested, old-fashioned ways of growing and preparing food, yet more proof that there’s nothing new under the sun. In this case, literally under the sun…

In this week’s Connect Savannah, the newspaper that serves as my regular job, we have an excellent piece by our Community Editor Jessica Leigh Lebos on the “new” revolution in food, with a particular focus on seed/crop conservation. Jessica interviews the great Janisse Ray, one of the most beloved authors and activists in Georgia. Janisse’s work combines a profound love and respect for the indigenous ecosystems of Georgia’s wide coastal plain with a refreshingly non-wonky approach that is at once accessible and deeply affecting.

Here’s a pic of Janisse on her farm. (Of course there’s a cow in the photo so I couldn’t resist.) This is actually how she lives, she’s not just playing a character:


Janisse’s travels and research involve not only the vast network of marshes on the Georgia coast — estuaries of mighty rivers such as the Altamaha — but on the legacy of the ancient longleaf pine forest ecosystem that once dominated the entire southeast.

In her new book The Seed Undergroundhere’s a nifty public radio piece on it — Janisse approaches seed conservation more from the family farm angle, the concept also has a huge proponent in Charleston uber-chef Sean Brock, who runs a couple of high-profile restaurants (McCrady’s, Husk) featured in my new edition of Moon Charleston & Savannah.

The key for farm-to-table to be more than a passing fad is of course the “table” part. There has to be an immediate payoff, and in this case the payoff is the simple fact that farm-fresh, locally-sourced food simply tastes better!

Victory Feed & Seed: Local and long-lived

May 18, 2011

I want to give a shout-out to a wonderful local business in Savannah which is continuing the tradition of family ownership through good times and bad.

Victory Feed & Seed is at the intersection of Victory Drive and Bull Street — which is actually more of a five-points style intersection because of the railroad tracks which cut diagonally through it. It’s a picturesque, red-brick Main Street sort of setting for this Main Street sort of business, which has been in the local Royal family for decades.

Victory Feed & Seed at Bull & Victory in Savannah

My wife Sonja and I were there the other day, as is our occasional habit, picking up some plants for our planters at the house. (Victory Feed & Seed also sells all kinds of pet supplies, from food to flea treatments. For those plagued with less desirable critters they also have a much better selection of mouse/rat control products than Home Depot.)

Plants arrayed on the sidewalk out front

While Sonja looked around, I spoke briefly with Twyla Royal, current owner. She said the key to their success in a bad economy seemingly designed for only the largest multinational corporations to survive is to “make just enough to get by. We don’t overextend ourselves and try to get bigger and bigger. We make do with what we have and make just enough to keep it all going.”

Twyla Royal, background, watering the inventory

As testament to the long history and tight-knit family ownership of Victory Feed & Seed, there’s an impromptu memorial in concrete out front in honor of Twyla’s father William Royal, who in his elder years would while away the days at the shop seated just outside the front door, shaded by the store awning, greeting customers and passersby.

Mr. Royal passed away in October 2010 aged 81. The railroad tracks next to his store are symbolic in a way; before opening the store he worked for years as a car inspector for Seaboard Coastline.

Imprompu memorial to where Mr. Royal sat for years greeting customers

Oh, and the plants we got at Victory Feed & Seed worked out great too. While our pansies survived the harsh winter in excellent fashion — whoever decided to equate “pansy” with “weak” obviously didn’t know much about pansies — they started looking a little worse for wear with the onset of springtime heat. We decided to change them out for some new plants. Here’s the new look:

Radical radishes

May 1, 2011

Radishes from the garden

We recently harvested our dynamic crop of radishes from the garden. I will say that they benefited enormously from the application of organic fertilizer from Victory Feed & Seed. My wife Sonja insists, however, that the fertilizer may have made the radishes a little too spicy for her taste.

Here they are with a little salt and butter. Personally I like ’em with Ricotta cheese.

Radishes with a little salt and butter, yum

‘Meaningful Milk’ for Earth Day

April 26, 2011

Nice screen capture from the CNN 'Meaningful Milk' Earth Day segment

This past Earth Day, CNN ran a shortish but very well-done segment on Country Gardens Farm and Nursery in Newnan, GA. They do organic milk and totally free range chickens — about 200 of them to be exact, which are a real hoot to watch as they peck around the place.

The takeaway here for me was the reliance on Jerseys for the delicious high butterfat content of their milk. Most dairy farms rely on the much larger Holsteins (the “Chik-Fil-A” black and white cows) because A) each Holstein cow can make an incredibly huge boatload of milk; and B) the style now is for a lower fat product.

Still, there is nothin’ like the creamy taste of good old-fashioned Jersey milk, which was the type of milk we dealt in at the old Morekis Dairy back in the day.

(Another plus for the Jerseys is they do well in the Southern heat…)

The Roberds Dairy

April 1, 2010

On the eastside of Savannah, adjacent to Bonaventure Cemetery, is the site of one of Savannah’s great old dairies, situated on what I’m told is the largest privately-owned tract of land remaining in Chatham County.

The Roberds Dairy was actually in operation until the 1980s, most unusual for local dairies. (Our own Morekis Dairy on the southside, for instance, ceased operation in the mid-1960s).

The land remains in the family and they have generously granted a sort of informal easement for local dog owners to walk their pets. There’s even a Facebook site dedicated to it, here.

As you can see in these pics, there is still a lot of dairy equipment on site:

And of course there are some gorgeous Live Oaks as well. This parcel of land has seen a lot of flood control development in the past, which has altered its natural habitat, but thankfully there has been none of the rampant residential development we’ve seen in much of Chatham County. Let’s hope it can stay that way.

The mythical Morekis Dairy bottle, discovered

April 1, 2010

A comment a couple of posts below about someone finding an old Starland Dairy bottle prompts this post today. For years we have talked about the old Morekis Dairy bottles. Unfortunately there seem to be very, very few of them around.

However, the other day poking around my mom’s house we actually found one. I took a couple of photos of it. It’s really quite striking.

One thing we noticed that was somewhat unexpected, if kind of wonky: The label doesn’t say “Morekis Dairy,” but rather “Morekis’ Dairy” with the possessive.

Rare snow on the farm

March 19, 2010

Man! I just found out something crazy.

If you aren’t familiar with weather patterns in Savannah and the Lowcountry coast, let’s just say that snow is usually something we see on TV. This year we had the first measurable snowfall in Savannah — a mushy affair that most midwesterners would barely recognize as such — in 21 years.

It happened the night of Feb. 12-13, 2010.

Here are a couple of shots of what the old photos say is the “first snow” on the Morekis dairy farm on White Bluff Road. It happened in 1958 on…. you guessed it,  February 12-13.

Here is a shot at my house in Savannah from the much more recent snowfall this year:

For the record, after 1958 there were several more snowfalls in Savannah: 1968 (3.5 inches, huge for this area), 1973 (3.2 inches), 1977, 1986, 1989 (Feb. and Dec.), and of course this one in 2010.

Savannah dairy vehicles

June 9, 2009

Here are a few vintage shots of local milk delivery trucks. First, an awesome photo of one of our farm’s trucks in the mid-1920s:

Dairy Truck 1926

Note the dairy’s permit number, in our case 26, clearly posted on the side.

Here’s another shot of a different, apparently larger, Morekis Dairy vehicle, year unknown (permit is also 26):

Morekis Dairy Truck

For an interesting change of pace, here’s an image of an old Starland Dairy horse-drawn delivery wagon, circa 1945:

Milk Delivery Wagon,1945,Savannah, GA