When President Chester Alan Arthur’s health took a turn for the worse in early 1883, he decided to take a vacation to Florida. He took the Fast Mail train to Jacksonville, arriving on April 6, 1883.
Learning President Arthur was headed back to Washington on the steamer Tallapoosa, a committee of citizens onboard the steamer Republic intercepted Arthur's party onboard the Tallapoosa off of Tybee Island.
When acting mayor J.J. Wilder and Gen. L. McLaws arrived alongside the Tallapoosa, President Arthur and Secretary of the Navy William Chandler were convinced to visit the home of Capt. Henry T. Botts, a relative of President Arthur, on Bull and Gordon Streets in Savannah.
After Arthur practiced his marksmanship alongside the members of the Savannah Rifle Association at their annual target practice, he first went to a public reception at Thunderbolt and then traveled to the City Exchange, where another reception in his honor was held.
Unfortunately, the president was taken ill, as something he had eaten strongly disagreed with him. Hearing of his condition, some of the more hostile Northern papers began alleging that his illness was Savannah's fault.
His aids, however, claimed it was nothing but “a congestive chill.” After another day or two of rest, Arthur proceeded back to Washington by train from Savannah, as the idea of a sea voyage did not sit well with him at that moment.
President Grover Cleveland stopped off in Savannah in September 1888 for the dedication of the Jasper Monument. His family was heading to Florida for vacation. Arriving at Savannah's Union Station, which served the Plant, Seaboard and Southern railroads, he was met by the famed Georgia Hussars.
As Cleveland's party boarded carriages for a ride about the city, every train, factory engine and shop whistle let loose the loudest noise Savannah ever heard. President Cleveland remarked jovially that everyone should remember there was only one hour allotted for their visit.
After visiting the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, Mrs. Cleveland assisted with the unveiling of the statue of Revolutionary War hero Sergeant William Jasper on Madison Square. Back at the train station, newspapers reported the gathered Savannahians all gave a “rebel yell” to see President Cleveland and his wife on their way.
President Ulysses S. Grant accepted the invitation of the Savannah City Council to visit, arriving in Savannah on Jan. 2, 1880. Actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant, he had been incorrectly identified by the Congressman who nominated him for West Point as Ulysses Simpson.
After spending the day in Savannah, Grant and his party boarded a steamer (most likely the Tallapoosa) for Fernandina and then Amelia Island in Florida on Jan. 3, 1880.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at email@example.com.