FORT STEWART

History

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Hinesville

Established in 1777, Liberty County changed its seat twice in 50 years, first moving it from Sunbury to Riceboro in 1797. After a majority of voters supported moving the county seat from Riceboro in 1836, Liberty County’s state senator, Charlton Hines, introduced legislation to establish a new seat within 1 mile of a place known as the General Parade Ground. In 1837, the new county seat was named Hinesville in honor of Hines.

Hinesville’s history during the Civil War includes a series of skirmishes in and around the town. Liberty County was left devastated and in a state of chaos after the war. Most plantations and farms in the county were destroyed, and citizens were hungry and destitute. Many people left, afraid that displaced Confederate soldiers and freed slaves would loot and rob the area.

The town steadily recovered from the devastation of the war and even promoted its natural mineral springs to become a health retreat at the turn of the century. Despite these small advances, hurricanes in 1928 and 1929 gave Liberty County a head start on the Great Depression, and its population in 1920 was just 315.

Hinesville’s economy improved in the 1930s, so there was much to celebrate at the town’s centennial in 1937. But nothing could prepare Hinesville, which had just hired its first policemen, for the events of 1940. That year, a huge tract of land (280,000 acres) adjacent to Hinesville was selected to be an anti-aircraft training site for the U.S. military. The new base was named Camp Stewart in honor of Liberty County’s Daniel Stewart, the great-great-grandfather of Eleanor Roosevelt.

People began flocking to Hinesville to help build the base and to make their fortune from the influx of soldiers. Many businesses were temporary, makeshift constructions along two roads that led from Camp Stewart to Hinesville. The roads were filled with juke joints, gambling houses, fast-food stores, bars, novelty stores and two segregated USOs.

By 1944, Camp Stewart teemed with 55,000 soldiers in the buildup of troops before the D-Day invasion. The city rushed to improve water, sewerage, garbage disposal and streets. A movie theater was built, and the Methodist church was converted into a grocery store. Hinesville had no traffic lights, so military police had to direct traffic.

After World War II ended in 1945, Camp Stewart was deactivated, and Hinesville deflated. However, subsequent international conflicts made the base indispensable. In 1956, the base was designated a fort, and in 1974 Fort Stewart’s permanence was solidified by the arrival of the 24th Infantry Division (inactivated in 1996) and the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger). Since the 1970s, Hinesville has grown from a town of about 4,000 to a city of nearly 33,000, according to the 2015 U.S. Census.

Savannah

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and is the county seat of Chatham County. Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia.

Antebellum Savannah was built around slavery and agriculture, primarily the chief money crops of cotton and rice, and was one of the leading cotton-shipping ports in the world. By 1820, Savannah was the 18th largest city in the United States and had established its pre-eminence as an international shipping center, with exports exceeding $14 million. Cotton remained the principal export until the Civil War, when it made up 80 percent of the agricultural products shipped from Savannah.

Savannah, like many coastal cities in the 19th century, suffered its share of cataclysmic disasters associated with fire, water and disease. Destructive fires in 1796 and 1820, both particularly damaging to the commercial districts, left about half the city in ruins. A major hurricane in September 1854 flooded the local rice and cotton plantations and greatly injured the port and shipping in the area.

By the early 1870s, Savannah once again achieved commercial prosperity through its export of inland-grown Georgia cotton. From the 1880s until the 1920s, Savannah was the world’s leading exporter of naval stores products, including pine timber, rosin and distilled turpentine. By 1905, Savannah’s exports, chiefly cotton and naval stores, were greater than the combined exports of all other south Atlantic seaports.

In the 1920s, the cotton industry was devastated by the boll weevil, and Savannah port activities turned to new industries to fill the void. Savannah became a national leader in the paper-pulp and food-processing industries with the opening of large-scale operations at Union Bag (which merged with Camp Paper in 1956) and the Savannah Sugar Refinery (Dixie Crystals) in the 1930s. Savannah’s port facilities also played a prominent role in World War II. It was one of the nation’s most active Atlantic shipyards for the construction of Liberty Ship transports for the U.S. war effort.

The development of Hunter Army Airfield within the city, along with the sprawling training base at nearby Fort Stewart, enhanced Savannah’s growing reputation as a military town. These bases, with the shipping facilities of the port, enabled Savannah to play an important logistical role in the successful projection of U.S. military power during Operation Desert Storm.

A strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the Civil War, Savannah is today an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport.

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