Each year Savannah attracts millions of visitors to its cobblestone streets, parks, and notable historic buildings: the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA), the Georgia Historical Society (the oldest continually operating historical society in the South), the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the South's first public museums), the First African Baptist Church (one of the oldest African-American Baptist congregations in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third oldest synagogue in America), and the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in America).
Savannah's downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District, the Savannah Victorian Historic District, and 22 parklike squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States (designated by the U.S. government in 1966). Downtown Savannah largely retains the original town plan prescribed by founder James Oglethorpe (a design now known as the Oglethorpe Plan). Savannah was the host city for the sailing competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.
On February 12, 1733, General James Oglethorpe and settlers from the ship Anne landed at Yamacraw Bluff and were greeted by Tomochichi, the Yamacraws, and Indian traders John and Mary Musgrove. Mary Musgrove often served as an interpreter. The city of Savannah was founded on that date, along with the colony of Georgia. In 1751, Savannah and the rest of Georgia became a Royal Colony and Savannah was made the colonial capital of Georgia.
By the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Savannah had become the southernmost commercial port in the Thirteen Colonies. British troops took the city in 1778, and the following year a combined force of American and French soldiers, including Haitians, failed to rout the British at the Siege of Savannah. The British did not leave the city until July 1782. In December 1804 the state legislature declared Milledgeville the new capital of Georgia.
Savannah, a prosperous seaport throughout the nineteenth century, was the Confederacy's sixth most populous city and the prime objective of General William T. Sherman's March to the Sea. Early on December 21, 1864, local authorities negotiated a peaceful surrender to save Savannah from destruction, and Union troops marched into the city at dawn.