For most of the American Revolution, Savannah was under British and Loyalist control, starting in 1778. At the Siege of Savannah in 1779, American and French troops fought unsuccessfully to retake the city. After the Revolutionary War, in 1785, members of the State Assembly gathered in Savannah to found the nation's first state-chartered, public university, the University of Georgia. Savannah also featured the first known American golf club in the United States, which opened in 1792 on what is now President Street. Candler Hospital, which opened in 1804, is the second-oldest hospital in continuous operation. On January 11, 1820, a fire broke out and burned a large section of the city, bringing national attention to Savannah. 19th-century development in Savannah was dominated by the emergence of cotton as a widespread cash crop. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 by Eli Whitney made cotton easier to produce. Whitney developed the gin at Mulberry Grove Plantation outside Savannah while he was a tutor to the children of Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene. Cotton became very profitable in the years immediately following the Revolutionary War, and this led to large scale development of the interior of the state of Georgia. The development of Georgia's interior had a tremendous impact on Savannah. Planters on both the Georgia and South Carolina sides of the river shipped their cotton downriver to market and export at Savannah. This increase in trade corresponds to the increase in population, as Savannah was the eighteenth-largest urban area in the United States by 1820. Savannah amassed an enormous amount of wealth as the city was exporting $18 million worth of goods by 1820 as well.
In November 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his army of 62,000 men began the march south to Savannah. This was after capturing the city of Atlanta two months earlier. They lived off the land and, by Sherman's own estimate, caused more than $100 million in property damage in Georgia alone. Sherman called this harsh tactic "hard war" (in modern times this is known as total war and was seen in many other wars (including World War II). Sherman and his troops captured Savannah on December 22, 1864. Sherman then telegraphed his commander-in-chief, President Abraham Lincoln, and offered the city as a Christmas present Below is a portion of the message:
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