The first president to visit southeast Georgia was none other than George Washington, who was in Savannah from May 12-15, 1791.
“After a 1,887-mile journey,” according to the Georgia Gazette, “The president and his party embarked at Purysburg (30 miles up the Savannah River) between 10 and 11 o’clock and were rowed down the river by nine American captains."
The Gazette continued "(they were) dressed in light blue silk jackets, black satin breeches, white silk stockings, and round hats with black ribbons having the words ‘Long Live The President’ in letters of gold.” Ten miles upriver from Savannah the presidential party was met by an escort of gaily-outfitted boats, which proceeded to escort Washington's party into the city.
The mayor and aldermen of Savannah welcomed Washington while the Chatham Artillery saluted him with 26 cannon volleys. He was then taken to his quarters in Saint James Square. On Friday, the president at Brown's Coffee House dined with local members of the Society of the Cincinnati (America’s first patriotic organization, founded by Continental and French military officers in 1783).
The numerous toasts offered were accompanied by even more salutes from the Chatham Artillery. In the evening the president attended a ball at Savannah's new Silk Filature, where silk growers processed their silk. Washington danced until 11 p.m., when he retired, but the other guests continued to celebrate until
On Saturday afternoon, there was another dinner in Washington's honor attended by some 200 of Savannah’s most prominent citizens. Afterwards, there was an outdoor concert followed by a fireworks show. Sunday morning, after he attended church services at Savannah's historic Christ Church, Washington’s party set off for Mulberry Groves and then Augusta.
The first vice-president to visit Savannah was Aaron Burr (Thomas Jefferson's vice president) on May 20, 1802.
According to the newspaper the Columbian Museum and Savannah Advertiser, “The vice-president of the United States was received six miles from the city …(by) the Chatham Rangers and the Savannah Volunteer Guards … and escorted into the city.”
The next day, Burr was the guest of honor at a banquet, of which the paper said, “The brilliancy of the entertainment, the number and respectability of the company, and the harmony which universally prevailed have never been exceeded.” Aaron Burr returned to Savannah again on August 29, 1804.
This time he was traveling incognito, under the alias of Mr. King, as he had intended to quietly visit the Butler family at their St. Simons Island plantation.
However, he arrived to discover the entire region being battered by a strong hurricane. He therefore, came to Savannah, where he was recognized immediately and given a warm southern welcome.
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.