[UPDATE: This company closed and is no longer offering tours.]
Did you know Savannah was once a hub for privateers and legalized acts of piracy took place on the seemingly civil streets along the Savannah River? Have you heard the stories about the riots, daring escapades, war crimes or first-hand accounts of patriotic privateers and soulless scoundrels who shuffled and sailed around Savannah?
That’s the question that prompted Carrie Truluck, a longtime tour guide who talked or touched on just about everything Savannah in various walking, trolley and hearse tours, and Megan Jerome to start Black Betty’s Tours.
“All the tour companies talk about pirates. But we wanted to branch away from that and talk about the real pirate history and everything going on here,” Truluck, a.k.a. Black Betty, revealed.
Their private, two-hour “Piracy and Privateers” walking tour is led by a well versed tour guide and the boisterous Black Betty, a sassy 18th century Scotswoman pirate who just can’t help but tell the how everything “actually happened.”
“It’s the back-and-fourth between the pirate and the tour guide that makes this tour so interesting,” Truluck explained. “The tour guide wants to tell the official truth about Savannah and the pirate’s not giving her the chance to do it; it just creates some crazy shenanigans along the way.”
The tour begins at Bay and Jefferson Streets and goes along River Street, where Black Betty joins the group to reveal a little about local revolts against pirates. Throughout the tour she uncovers some of the escapades and war crimes that occurred from the Golden Age of Piracy to the War of 1812. While sauntering through squares and creeping through cemeteries, the tour guide not only teaches guests about the lawless and lawful pirates who have stopped in Savannah, but also touches on some of Savannah’s famous duels.
The tour also stops at the Olde Pink House, Oglethorpe Square and Colonial Park Cemetery, where a duel might just take place, and travels through Columbia and Warren Squares before ending at Georgia Hussar’s Cannon on Bay Street. Because of the excess coverage about The Pirates’ House, their tour does not make a stop there.
“There’s no lack in learning about The Pirates’ House so we wanted to talk about something that not everybody is talking about,” Jerome revealed. “We really wanted to do something different, we want you to pay money for something good that you couldn’t just get for free.”
Jerome delved into the Savannah Evening Press, often visiting the Georgia Historical Society, in search of primary sources and first hand accounts of the pirates and privateers who stopped in Savannah. Diving into the War of 1812, she discovered that Savannah was not only center of trade, but also a privateer hub with famous ships, such as is the Midas of Baltimore and the Saucy Jack of Charleston, docking here. She even found several sources revealing the retributions of Savannahians when French privateer ships tried to recruit men to join their cause, which came to be known as the Savannah Riots.
“They claimed they were merchant men trying to gain wares, but they were really trying to convince guys to join their crew to go be privateers. And it ended up kind of blowing up in their face. They ended up losing both the ships,” Truluck explained. “They made the people of Savannah so angry that they became this riotous mob against the privateer ships. And they ended up taking them down. And it happened right on River Street.”
This is just one example of the stories that they will share on the tour, which is scripted to help ensure that each tour is of quality. “Because they are stories that no one else is telling, I want to make sure that we get the stories right,” Jerome said.
“I’m just more excited about being able to go out there, take over the groups, have a good time with them and see their faces when I’m telling these stories,” Truluck said. “What’s so crazy is that some of them are so outlandish that it almost seems like it couldn’t be real, but it actually happened! I’m really excited to bring that to the public.”
The daily 1.5-mile tour kicks off at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and is $25.95 for adults and $12.99 for kids. For more information or to make reservations, call (470) 344-9646 or go to blackbettystours.com.