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A Short History of Charleston
East Battery, Charleston, ca. 1905
A Short History of
Charleston revised and expanded edition
Robert N. Rosen
© 1982, 1992, 2021 Robert N. Rosen Maps by Tom Dolan First published by Lexikos, San Francisco, 1982 Second edition published by Peninsula Press, Charleston, South Carolina, 1992 First University of South Carolina Press edition published 1997 by arrangement with the author Revised and expanded paperback and ebook editions published in Columbia, South Carolina, by the University of South Carolina Press, 2021. www.uscpress.com Manufactured in the United States of America 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/. ISBN 978-1-64336-186-4 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-64336-187-1 (ebook) Front cover illustrations: (top) South Battery, Charleston, SC, Historic American Buildings Survey; (bottom) North-western view of Charleston, So. Ca., lithograph by William Keenan
To Ida Tanenbaum Rosen, a schoolteacher in the public schools of South Carolina and a lover of books who taught me the value of both; and to Annie and Sol Rosen, planters (in their way) and merchants in early twentieth-century Charleston: Charlestonians, all!
Preface to the Revised Edition Acknowledgments Prologue
1. Good King Charles’s City (1670–1720) 1 2. The Colonial City (1720–1765) 13 3. The Revolutionary City (1765–1800) 39 4. The Capital of Southern Slavery (1670–1865) 59 5. The Antebellum City (1800–1860) 73 6. Confederate Charleston (1861–1865) 99 7. Reconstruction Charleston (1865–1877) 113 8. Porgy’s City (1877–1941) 127 9. The Americanized City (1941–1975) 149 10. The Age of Riley (1975–2015) 159 Selected Bibliography Index
Preface to the Revised Edition
When I sat down to write A Short History of Charleston in 1981 at the invitation of my friend, Tom Cole, author and publisher of A Short History of San Francisco, I could not have imagined either a revised edition forty years later in 2021 or the sweeping changes to come in Charleston. It is hard to believe, but as late as 1981, there were few, if any, histories of Charleston that treated the contributions of Black Charlestonians with respect or acknowledged Charleston’s racist past. I was fortunate to see Southern history fully through the wisdom of my professors, Willie Lee Rose and Paul Gaston, at the University of Virginia and set out to write Charleston’s first modern history, fully acknowledging the facts of slavery and racism. Charleston has changed dramatically in forty years. My last chapter in the first edition (1982) was “The Americanized City (1941– ),” bringing Charleston’s history to the election of Joseph P. Riley Jr., “A Mayor for Modern Times.” The last chapter of this edition is fittingly “The Age of Riley,” describing Riley’s forty years (1975–2015) in office as an historically defined period in Charleston’s history. Having served longer than any other mayor, Riley will undoubtedly be seen by future historians as its most important mayor. In 2020, history itself became more important in the public square as Charleston faced the need to address its past. “Charleston was the capital of Southern Slavery . . . [and] grew wealthy and powerful because of the institution,” I wrote in 1981. “But, at the same time, the City suffered inestimable pain because of it.” In 2020, City Council voted unanimously to remove the monument to John C. Calhoun, “a figure,” I wrote in 1981, “who towers over the City’s history like a great cloud.” The 2015 murder of nine Black worshipers by 21-year-old-racist mass murderer, Dylann Roof, at Emanuel AME Church was one block away from that monument to the chief proponent of slavery in American history on Calhoun Street. Charleston’s unique, tragic, ironic, and bloodstained history continues to fascinate us and compel us to address America’s original sins of slavery and racism, in which Charleston played such a central role. viii
I am grateful in countless ways to my wife Susan, for her loving support over thirty-eight years of marriage; to my daughters Annie and Alexandra and my son William; my family—Morris, Richard, and Debra; my old friend Tom Cole; my law firm, for the time; J. Arthur Brown; A. J. Tamsberg, Esq.; Robert Stockton, for reading the manuscript; Jay Fraser, Marjorie Peale, Robbins Brackett, Joyce Chaplin, Ruth Williams Cupp, Bill Wallace, and Martha Severens, for their assistance; Charlie Brown, for his knowledge; Sol Breibart, formerly of Rivers High School; Willie Lee Rose, Paul Gaston, William Harbaugh, Bernard Mayo, Richard Ellis, William Abbott, and Norman Graebner, of the University of Virginia history department, 1965–1969; and my erudite editor of this revised edition, Ehren Foley.
The beauty of Charleston mesmerizes people and makes it difficult for them to visualize the morality play that is Charleston’s history. There is good and evil in that history, for the city is not innocent. Is Sullivan’s Island the Ellis Island of Black America? Or is it the scene of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold-Bug”? Or is it just a nice oceanfront suburb? Is the Old Exchange Building a fancy architectural jewel designed to house eighteenth-century assemblies? Or is it the ghoulish prison of the Revolution, the place where the martyr Isaac Hayne spent his last night? Or is it the place where George Washington greeted his fellow citizens? And there is no question that slaves were sold for generations next to the very balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was read. It is the tragic and ironic aspects of Charleston’s history that give it such power. It resembles the classic Greek tragedy—its aristocratic and noble leaders were plagued by fatal flaws, by hubris, by pride, by something. They foresaw the decline of the aristocracy. As early as 1833 Hugh Legare wrote: “We are (I am quite sure) the last of the race of South Carolina.” Perhaps the drama was played out in the Civil War, which, as Sidney Andrews said, left “a city of ruins.” For it is, after all, the fall of the noble hero that is the essence of Greek tragedy. When Henry James visited Charleston in 1905, some forty years after the Civil War had ended, he also was captivated by the antique quality of life; by “the Battery of the long, curved seafront, of the waterside public garden furnished with sad old historic guns”; by Fort Sumter, and the start of the Civil War. “The Forts, faintly blue on the twinkling sea,” he wrote, “looked like vague marine flowers; innocence, pleasantness ruled the prospect.” James, a Northerner, was reacting to the start of the Civil War—the firing on the flag at Sumter. But Fort Sumter is so far from the Battery. “The Flag would have been, from the Battery,” he concluded, “such a mere speck in space.” There is more. Charleston’s history has a power even beyond the supposed climax, defeat in the Civil War. Her people are so complicated that the “blacks and whites all mix’d together” produced a greatness after the war—a great literature, art, and music in the twentieth century. The matrix that was Charleston “after the fall” produced Porgy and Bess, “the Charleston,” the jazz x
of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, the preservation movement, and the Spoleto Festival USA. In an article that appeared in Venture magazine in May 1969, Maggie Davis suggested that Charleston’s history is difficult to explain because Charleston “has never had the kind of history we like to boast about in our textbooks.” Charleston’s history, she went on to say, “is not only bloodstained and wicked but continuingly unrepentant.” There is just no way to explain all of the contradictions. Unlike American history, generally, it does not always have a happy ending. C. Vann Woodward, the dean of Southern historians, has suggested that the South has known defeat and felt history. History is not something that happened to other people. The point is that Charleston remains unrepentant and proud. The city defies history, defies time, and continues to defy America. Charlestonians of all races, creeds, and colors reflect the uniqueness of their city. Charleston Blacksmith: The Work of Philip Simmons, by John M. Vlach, tells the story of one special Charlestonian. “The old work was good,” acknowledged blacksmith Philip Simmons, a Black man, in 1980. He was referring to Charleston’s wrought iron gates, and he observed that the scrolls “were curved nice and round. If you see it curve like that it’s either 200 years old or I have done it.” This is the perspective from which we approach the history of the city of Charleston.
Wrought iron gate, 32 Legare Street, Charleston. Genthe photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collection.
Good King Charles’s City (1670–1720)
In April of 1670 a group of colonists in two English ships, the Carolina and a nameless sloop, entered what is now Charleston Harbor and proceeded up what is now the Ashley River. The Spanish had called it St. George’s Bay. The American Indians did not name the rivers but called the entire area “Kayawah” for the tribe that inhabited it. The English ships sailed past a large, gleaming white oyster bank to their right. It was later named Oyster Point and, still later, White Point Gardens. They proceeded up the river past marshes, trees, and creeks, past the present site of the two Ashley River Bridges, and landed on the first high land on the western bank of the Ashley River, which they named Albemarle Point, now Charles Towne Landing. They were five miles from the sea, just south of an Indian village. They named the settlement Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England. Perhaps no other city in American history was more aptly named. Charles II, the Merry Monarch, was the son of Charles I, the hapless king beheaded by the Puritans, the Parliament, and Oliver Cromwell in 1649. Charles II fought bravely for the English crown but was forced into a penurious and humiliating exile. In 1661, he returned to England as a king. Puritanism was in decline. Restoration England, the merry old England of bawdy theaters, wenches, witty playwrights, horse racing, formal gardens and easy virtue was in its ascendancy. And it was in “Good King Charles’s Golden Days” that the city that bears his name was born. Charles was to turn forty in May 1670, just one month after the founding of Charles Town. The character of Charleston was indelibly stamped with the character of Charles II and his reign. The aristocratic city that developed in the 18th and 19th centuries reflected Restoration England just as eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury Boston reflected Puritan England. In fact, the early Charlestonians, 1
Named for Charles II, King of England, the city was known as “Charles Town” during the rule of the Lord Proprietors (1670–1720), as “Charlestown” under the Royal Government and during the Revolution (1720– 1783), and as “Charleston” after it was incorporated in 1783.
Facing Charles II: A King fit for Charleston, and vice versa. (King Charles II of England, 1630–1680. Johannes Faber, artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.)
The early lovers of Nelly Gwynn, Charles II’s most famous mistress, included Charles Hart, an actor, and Charles, Lord Buckhurst. Nelly is said to have referred to her paramours as Charles I, II, and III.
The famous enlightenment philosopher John Locke. Locke was the secretary to Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper and the author of The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which attempted to create an elaborate feudal society in early South Carolina. (“Jean Loke” [ John Locke]. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library.)
like the early Bostonians, came to the New World on their own “errand into the wilderness”: to recreate the luxurious, cosmopolitan, pleasure-filled world of Restoration England. Charleston was the namesake of one of the most hedonistic of English monarchs, and its unspoken mission was to build a miniature aristocratic London in the midst of a recreated English countryside inhabited by a landed gentry. Charles’s life is a treasure chest of symbols in Charleston’s history. He was born on May 29, 1630, “at noon with Venus the star of love and fortune shining high over the horizon.” His grandfather was French. Charles was onequarter Italian, and he was very dark; in fact, abnormally dark in complexion. His mother was reputed to have said that she had given birth to a Black baby, and Charles, because of his skin coloring, was called a variety of names, including “the black Boy.” Charles’s astonishing appetite for women was a hallmark of his reign. He had countless mistresses before and after his marriage and fathered at least 14 illegitimate children. It was said of Charles that he was “the father of his people, or at least, a great many of them.” Four of his mistresses were actresses, the most famous being Nelly Gwynn. Nell was small in stature, with plump cheeks and dimples. Her greatest attributes were her small feet, perfect legs, and great wit. When, at a time of antiCatholic hysteria, an angry mob approached her carriage, believing another of Charles’s mistresses (Louise de Keroualle, a Catholic) was inside, Nell yelled, “Good people, this is the Protestant whore!” Charles loved the theater almost as much as he loved the actresses. He attended plays regularly, and he was a patron and friend to writers and poets. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that more theaters were built in colonial Charleston than elsewhere in America. Good King Charles also loved horse racing. Under his reign it became the true “sport of kings.” Banned by the Puritans, the races were revived with a vengeance by Charles. The Newmarket races became a great tradition in the 1660s and 1670s. Charlestonians were later to name a racecourse “Newmarket,” and the South Carolina Jockey Club was the city’s most venerable institution until after the Civil War. What was true of racing was also true of music, the arts, formal gardens, and raising dogs. All were cultivated in Restoration England, and all came to early Charles Town—together with an overindulgence in drinking. The place names of the Carolina Low Country—Berkeley, Clarendon, Colleton, Albemarle, Monck, Ashley, Cooper—are a living monument to Restoration England. They are the names of friends, counselors, or supporters (from 2
A Short History of Charleston
time to time) of Charles II. Ironically, the name most common to Charleston’s history, that of Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, belonged to a man not always loyal to the King. As a Lord Proprietor, he was unable to devote much time to Carolina during the middle years of Charles’ reign because he was busily engaged in undermining his sovereign lord and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a time. Charles did not have much use for Shaftesbury by 1677. “Few men,” said Clarendon, “knew Lord Ashley better than the King himself did, and had a worse opinion of his integrity.” Yet Charles forgave most of those who plotted against him, including many who had been involved in the execution of his father. He was kindly, tolerant, pleasant, and a good king—a man who enjoyed worldly pleasures to the utmost.
he early years: In 1669 three ships, the Carolina, the Port Royal, and the Albemarle, left England filled with colonists from England and Ireland bound for Carolina. Only the Carolina completed the voyage; the other two ships were damaged or lost in hurricanes, but the passengers survived. When they arrived in the new colony of Carolina in early 1670, the colonists followed in the path of Robert Sandford, an explorer sent earlier by the Lord Proprietors. Sandford had originally landed in what is now the North Edisto River, and the official ceremony by which England claimed Carolina had already taken place either on Seabrook Island or Wadmalaw Island. Sandford had befriended the Kiawah Indians and had visited with their chief (Cacique) in a town near the site of present-day Rockville. He described it as “divers fields of maiz with many little houses,” and he also saw the American Indians’ circular house of state. It was the Cacique of the Kiawahs who urged the English to settle on their lands. Originally the settlers planned to go to Port Royal near Beaufort, and the Carolina and a sloop that replaced one of the lost ships first went to Port Royal. At the insistence of the Cacique, however, the sloop left Port Royal to view the site at Albemarle Point. When it returned the colonists discussed whether to locate Charles Town at Port Royal or on the Ashley River. “The Governor adhearing for Kayawah & most of us being of a temper to follow though wee knew noe reason for it.” So, for no ascertainable reason with no overall plan, at the insistence of an unknown American Indian, the colonists moved to the lands of the Kiawah, on the Ashley River, to establish Charles Town and Carolina. Life in the wilderness at Charles Town was not as difficult as it had been in Virginia and New England. By the 1670s, North America and the West Indies Good King Charles’s City
On June 23, 1666, Robert Sandford took possession of the whole country of Carolina “for his Majesty Charles the Second, King of England, and to the use of the Proprietors.” The Lord Proprietors owned and governed the colony, which was also named in honor of Charles II, but that name was really a matter of convenience since the French had already named the area “Carolina” in honor of Charles IX of France!
Although historians credit the Cacique with noble intentions, his tribe was weaker than those inland and he befriended the English for strategic reasons. A statue of him stands at Charles Towne Landing.
Charleston’s original water line at high tide.
The permanent site of Charles Town was established by a decision of the Grand Council: “we let you know that Oyster Point is the place we do appoint for the port town of which you are to take notice and call it Charles Town.”
had been settled by the English: Virginia since 1607, Massachusetts since 1620, and Barbados since 1625. But the early years, from 1670 until the 1720s, still proved trying. The first settlement was a fort. The greatest threat was not from American Indians but from the Spanish who had colonized Florida. Even a casual visitor to the original site can see that the high land afforded the colonists a view of the river so that Spanish ships could be spotted long before they got within shooting distance of the town. The original settlement was not situated directly on the Ashley River, but up a large creek, Old Towne Creek. The first Charlestonians lived “more like souldiers in a garrison than planters.” They slept within fortified walls at night and went out to work the fields during the day. They planted on ten-acre plots and grew oranges, lemons, limes, pomegranates, figs, wheat, potatoes, flax, and tobacco. There were also Barbadians among the earliest settlers, and they attempted to produce staple money crops—sugar, silk, tobacco, and cotton—but with no success. More Barbadians arrived in 1671. (Charles Towne Landing, a state park, has recreated this period with remarkable accuracy.) On August 25, 1671, a parliament was held. And by 1672 Charles Town consisted of 30 houses and 200 people. The Church of England was the established church, but there was no minister. Governor Sayle wrote to Lord Ashley Cooper complaining of the “want of a Godly and orthodox minist’r.” The early settlers explored the area through the early 1670s to ascertain whether another site for the town would be more desirable, and at least as early as February 1672 they had decided to move the town from Albemarle Point to Oyster Point. On December 17, 1679, the Grand Council decided that Charles Town would be moved to Oyster Point, and, in the spring of 1680, the town was moved back down the Ashley River to a site just north of the large, gleaming, white oyster bank that the original settlers had passed on their journey up the river in 1670. By 1682, there were 100 houses at the new site.
lanning the City: As early as August of 1670 the Proprietors exhibited an interest in the planning of the town. The original plan was based on the checkerboard design proposed by Hooke and Wren for London after the great fire of 1666. The town was to be bounded by present-day Meeting Street (on the west), Broad Street (on the north), Water Street (on the south), and the Cooper River (on the east). The land to the south was variously called Coming’s Point (for John Coming who had owned it) or White Point (“no doubt from the whiteness of the oyster shells upon it”). The early city 4
A Short History of Charleston
was bounded on three sides by water: on the east by the Cooper River; on the north and south, by large creeks; and, on the west, by a wall. Of the early American cities, it was only in Charles Town and Philadelphia that the colonists laid out streets before any buildings were built. In Charles Town, a site was reserved at the outset for a church—the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets. Originally, the Church of England was located there. It was called the English Church or St. Philip’s (St. Michael’s stands there now) and was built of black cypress. Charles Town and the neck of land between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers made up one parish, “St. Philip’s in Charles Town.” In 1682, the town was described by a visitor as “regularly laid out into large and capacious streets, which to buildings is a great ornament and beauty. In it they have reserved convenient places for a church Town House and other public structures, an artillery ground for the exercise of their militia, and wharves for the convenience of their trade and shipping.” The population of Charles Town increased. It was estimated to be 1,000 to 1,200 in 1690. At the same time, the population of New York, then called New Amsterdam, was 3,900; Boston’s was 7,000; Newport’s was 2,600; Philadelphia’s was 4,000. Charles Town was, therefore, the fifth largest city in America by 1690. Other churches were soon built. A second one—the Circular Church— was probably built between 1680 and 1690. It was also known as the Presbyterian Church or the White Meeting, which is how Meeting Street got its name. It was organized by Presbyterians from Scotland and Ireland, Congregationalists from England and New England, and French Protestants or Huguenots (who were Presbyterian in their form of church government). Between 1687 and 1693, a French Huguenot church was built on the site of the present Huguenot church at 136 Church Street (across from the Dock Street Theater). In 1700, a Baptist church was built on the site of the present First Baptist Church at 61 Church Street. The town had not expanded greatly by 1700. It still consisted only of the land between the Cooper River and Meeting Street. In 1698, no street had a name, but by 1701, the streets had been given names, many of which survive to this day. The main street was present-day Church Street. Other streets included Queen, Broad, Elliot, and Tradd. East Bay Street was simply called the Bay. Charles Town was a fortified city-state containing six bastions or battlements. Three bastions stood on the Cooper River: Craven’s Bastion at the end of what is today Market Street (this was the northeast corner of Charles Town in 1700); Blake’s Bastion where the Exchange Building stands today; and Granville’s Bastion, at the site of the present-day Masonic Temple, where the Good King Charles’s City
Lord Ashley instructed governor Sir John Yeamans, to lay out Charles Town “into regular streets, for be the buildings never so mean and thin at first, yet as the town increases in riches and people, the void places will be filled up and the buildings will grow more beautiful.”
A. Court of Guard (now
B. Craven’s Bastion (Market C. D. E. F.
St. at East Bay) Granville’s Bastion (Masonic Temple) Colleton Bastion Carteret Bastion (Cumberland St.) First English Church (St. Philip’s; site now St. Michael’s) Broad St. Meeting St.
A. Charles Town B. Charles Towne Landing C. The Neck D. Ashley River E. Cooper River F. Sullivan’s Is. G. Long Is. (Isle of Palms)
High Battery begins. Water Street was a creek, and a fortified wall ran along its northern bank and around the entire town. At Broad and Meeting Streets was a half-moon (later called Johnson’s Raveline) and a drawbridge. Where Meeting and Cumberland Streets now intersect stood Carteret’s Bastion. Charles Town—in many ways a medieval fortified city—was alive and well on the coast of Carolina in 1700. Charles Town in 1700 was a trading center; a market town where the products of the interior were brought for sale. The harbor soon was dotted with wharves and sailing ships of every description. Grand private homes had already been built, some complete with drawbridges and wharves. The road out of Charles Town was called the Broad Way and was, by all accounts, beautiful “with odoriferous and fragrant woods, and pleasantly green all year.” The countryside was dotted with numerous farms and plantations, and Charleston Neck (the neck of land between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers) was settled with plantations. In 1698, a post office and a public library were established. The public library, probably the first in America, was established by the Reverend Thomas Bray, the Bishop of London’s commissary in Maryland. The Proprietors and citizens of Charles Town contributed to the library, which was located in the rectory of the minister of Charles Town. The legislature provided, through various acts, for its upkeep. All inhabitants could borrow any book.
T Sullivan’s Island was named for the first European to land in 1670. Florence O’Sullivan was not perhaps an admirable founder. Described by contemporaries as an “illnatured buggerer of children,” he was sent to the island to man the signal gun.
hose Who Came: Huguenots, or French Protestants, were rapidly assimilated into Charles Town society. By the late 1690s they were granted full rights of citizenship and the right to own land so long as they pledged allegiance to the King. (All Christians were granted freedom of conscience—except “Papists.”) The Huguenots were not poor; they had, after all, paid for their voyage to the New World. They began life in Carolina by growing wheat and barley and burning tar for market. One of the first Charleston Huguenots, the mother of Gabriel Manigault and later one of the wealthiest Charlestonians, wrote home: “Since leaving France we had experienced every kind of difficulties—disease, pestilence, famine, poverty, hard labor, I have been for six months together without tasting bread.” From these humble, hard-working French Protestants came such great Charleston names as Legare, Guerard, Gaillard, Laurens, Manigault, Mouzon, Prioleau, and Ravenel. The Irish, too, were early settlers in Charles Town. An Irishman, Richard Kyrle, was governor in 1684. James Moore, another Irishman, was governor in 1700. The original Lynches, Rutledges, and Barnwells were Irish.
A Short History of Charleston
It is perhaps a little difficult to appreciate fully the relationship between Barbados and early Charles Town. In a sense, Charles Town was an outpost of Barbados, a colony of a colony, well into the 1700s. Some historians claim that Carolina existed to take in Barbadians because that island had reached capacity. In 1674 there were 50,000 White people and 80,000 Black people living on Barbados, including some Scots and Irish, a few Dutch and French, and a few Portuguese Jews. Certainly, Charles Town reflected its Barbadian heritage. In eighteenthcentury Barbados, one found a Bay Street, a Broad Street, and a St. Michael’s Church. Barbadian parishes included St. Andrew’s, St. James, St. John, and Christ Church—all familiar names of local Low Country parishes. Charleston’s famous “single house,” complete with piazza, was a typical West Indian and Barbadian house. The first slave code was copied from that of Barbados, and the judicial system was copied from a Barbadian act. The original form of government and its military organization were Barbadian. The colonial government adopted the Barbadian method of election, that is, by parish.
In September of 1699, according to Mrs. St. Julian Ravenel’s Charleston, a “tremendous hurricane struck the town. The water rose to the second story of the houses, wharves were swept away, vessels driven ashore, etc., but few lives were lost in the town.”
hreats to safety: Pirates of various descriptions inhabited coastal South Carolina before Charles Town was founded. They roamed the South Atlantic and the Caribbean, free to loot because the fledgling governments of the area were unable to stop them. In its infancy, Charles Town was constantly menaced by pirates. In 1717, the British government cracked down on piracy and quickly drove the pirates from the Bahamas and surrounding areas. Many of them fled to coastal Carolina. One famous pirate who appeared off Charles Town at this time was Edward Thatch (or Teach), more popularly known as “Blackbeard.” In June 1718, Blackbeard’s fleet of four ships and 400 men seized eight or nine ships and a number of prominent Charlestonians, including Samuel Wragg, a member of the colonial Council, and his four-year-old son, William. Blackbeard sent one of his captives to Governor Johnson at Charles Town with the message that unless certain medicines were sent within two days, the governor would receive the heads of Wragg and the other captive Charlestonians. The demand was met. Wragg and the others were saved, and Charles Town determined to put an end to this menace. (Blackbeard escaped from Carolina but was killed shortly thereafter by a military band sent out by Governor Spotswood of Virginia.) One of the most famous pirates to prey on Charles Town was Stede Bonnet, the “Gentleman Pirate.” Bonnet was no ordinary pirate. He had served Good King Charles’s City
Blackbeard: The prototypical pirate held prominent Charlestonians hostage. (Blackbeard the pirate, ca. 1725. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.)
Colonel William Rhett: “A man of violent temper but of great courage and ability” who captured Stede Bonnet. The oldest house in Charleston is the Rhett House, 54 Hasell Street. (William Rhett House, South Elevation, Historic American Buildings Survey.) Stede Bonnet, terrified of hanging, begged Governor Johnson and Colonel Rhett for pity. He offered to separate “all my Limbs from my Body, only reserving the use of my Tongue to call continually on, and to pray to the Lord. . . .”
in the army of Barbados, where he reached the rank of major. He came from a good family, attained some wealth, and became a pirate because, as one historian said, “his mind was disordered.” He was, in fact, with Blackbeard when Samuel Wragg and other hostages were taken. In August and September of 1718, when news arrived in Charles Town that Bonnet’s pirates were at Cape Fear, North Carolina, Colonel William Rhett set forth to capture them. After a fierce battle in which both the pirate ships and Rhett’s ships hit ground and remained stationary with guns blasting at each other until the tide changed, Rhett was victorious. Eighteen South Carolinians were killed, but Bonnet was captured and placed under house arrest with only two sentries guarding him. Dressed as a woman, he escaped and hid on Sullivan’s Island for a time before he was recaptured. Bonnet and his crew were tried by a jury in Charles Town. Without counsel to represent him (as was the practice at that time), Bonnet was interrogated by a ruthless, though learned, judge, Nicholas Trott, chief justice of the colony. Bonnet’s defense was that he had never intended to be a pirate but that he was overpowered by his crew. He was convicted, nevertheless, and sentenced to hang. Public sympathy somewhat favored Bonnet because of his desperate pleas, his gentlemanly nature, and his conduct during the trial. Colonel Rhett was so moved he offered to accompany Bonnet to England to place his case before the King. Governor Johnson, however, did not waver. He set the execution date for December 10, 1718, and on that date, Bonnet was hanged at White Point. It is said that Bonnet was in such fright of the hanging “that he was scarce sensible when he came to the place of execution.” Numerous other pirates were hanged that year—49 in all. An expedition headed by Governor Johnson led to the killing of another famed pirate, Richard Worley, and the execution of his 23-man crew. The skull and crossbones once flew over the seas just outside Charles Town, but the bones of the pirates that flew her lie buried somewhere downtown. According to the historian Isabella Leland, in Charleston: Crossroads of History, they were buried below the low water mark in the marsh: “Their bones may rest today beneath some downtown mansion, as the city long since grew beyond the old low water marks, and tradition gives the location as near modern Meeting and Water Streets.” Early Charles Town, constructed as a fort, was also plagued by war. “Settled in the very caps of the Spaniards,” it became a military objective of the Spanish from its first days. In August 1686, there were 150 Spaniards, American 8
A Short History of Charleston
Indians, and mulattoes outside the city preparing to attack. Because the militia organized and a great storm came up, the invaders withdrew. Later, in 1706, Charles Town was the object of a joint French and Spanish attack during Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713). The invasion, plotted in Havana, failed; the Spanish threat, however, remained. American Indians, too, threatened early Charles Town. There was war with the Westoe Indians in 1673 and with the Stono Indians shortly thereafter. The worst Indian war was the Yemassee War of 1715–1717. It was caused by the usurpation of the Yemassee lands, various treacheries inflicted on the Yemassees by unscrupulous traders, and the abuse of Yemassee women. Fifteen American Indian nations, including the Creeks, were involved. The war lasted for two years and at one time a force of six or seven hundred Native Americans was within striking distance of the town. Governor Craven raised an army, declared martial law, sent to England for supplies, and fought the combined Indian nations all over the colony. One result of the war was the crystallization in the minds of Charlestonians that the Lord Proprietors were both unwilling to send aid and unable to protect the colony. Resentment against the Proprietors, which had been growing for some time, increased dramatically, and in 1717 agents of the colony presented their case before Parliament. The Lord Proprietors, who had failed to protect the colonists against American Indians and Spaniards, made matters worse by vetoing a dozen laws, some of them quite important, that would have given the colonial Commons the right to choose the colonial treasurer (the public receiver), encouraged immigration by White people, regulated American Indian trade, and distributed lands seized in the Yemassee War. In what can only be described as a revolution against the Proprietors, angry Carolinians met in Charles Town on the night of November 17, 1719, and formed a revolutionary Assembly. This Assembly refused to recognize the vetoes. It sought, at first, to continue Governor Johnson (a proprietary appointee) in office, but he refused to serve. Then James Moore was elected governor. South Carolina sought to become a royal colony instead of a proprietary one. The revolution in South Carolina was assisted by powerful forces in England. The Board of Trade and Plantations in England and the collector of the King’s customs favored the abolition of proprietary colonies in general. Maryland, for example, once the proprietary colony of Lord Baltimore, became a royal colony in 1690. Good King Charles’s City
A. Massachusetts (1620) B. Virginia (1607) C. Carolina (1670) D. Charles Town E. Port Royal F. Present-day South
Carolina (separated from North Carolina, 1713)
The names South Carolina and North Carolina came into use in the late 1600s, but “Carolina” was one colony until 1713 when a separate governor was appointed for North Carolina.
“Cards, dice, the bottle and horses engross prodigious portions of time and attention: the gentlemen (planters and merchants) are mostly men of the turf and gamesters,” snorted the Puritan Yankee, Josiah Quincy, about Charles Town in 1773.
The result of all this agitation was that South Carolina became a royal colony when General Sir Francis Nicholson arrived in May 1721 and became provisional royal governor. In 1717, the fortifications around Charles Town were removed to allow for expansion. Until that time, few houses had been built outside of the walled city, but afterward the city began to spread northward across a creek located at present-day Market Street and westward past present-day Meeting Street. A few buildings still standing in Charleston date from this period. The old magazine located on Cumberland Street was the magazine of Carteret Bastion, and is the oldest structure still standing in Charleston. Colonel Rhett erected his family mansion on Hasell Street about 1712, and it still stands at 54 Hasell Street—the oldest residence in Charleston. The streets of early Charles Town were, like the streets of all English and colonial American towns, filthy and unpaved. In 1698 the Assembly declared that the inhabitants should put “broken oyster shells” on the streets in front of their homes. Houses of this period were mainly constructed of wood, the most common materials being cypress and mahogany. In 1698, Charles Town experienced its first serious fire, and in 1713 a hurricane wreaked havoc in the town. The Assembly decreed that, thereafter, houses be built of brick, but the law was largely ignored. The economy of earliest Charles Town was a trading one. Protected by English mercantile laws, the first Charlestonians exported deerskins and furs to England and shipped port, corn, naval stores, and lumber to Barbados and the West Indies. By 1710 Charlestonians were trading with the Dutch in South America and with Antigua, Nevis, and the Bahamas. Through the port of Charles Town were sent enslaved people and hoops, pitch, tar, beef, rice, candles, butter and peas. From the West Indies and the “Caribees” came rum, sugar, molasses, cotton, and salt. Early fortunes were made in trade and commerce as well as planting. Charleston’s proud reputation as a free and open—some would say decadent—city dates from the earliest days of its existence. Alone among the major colonial cities, Charles Town did not exclude undesirable strangers from its city limits. As early as 1702, women of “ill fame” openly approached men on the streets at night. Gambling was common, but at the same time, it was illegal not to attend church on Sunday, and all gaming was forbidden on the Sabbath. Authorities were constantly inspecting the streets to enforce the laws. Unfortunately, not much is known about Charles Town’s earliest inns and taverns. But if Charles Town was at all like its sister towns, taverns flourished. 10
A Short History of Charleston
French cooking and Madeira wine, for example, were served by the innkeeper Peter Poinsett. At any rate, the foremost historian of colonial cities, Carl Bridenbaugh, flatly states that “Charles Town was probably the least religious of all the towns.” This may have been because of the variety of religions represented. In 1702, Charles Town was forty-two percent Anglican, forty-five percent Calvinist (including the Huguenots), ten percent Baptist, two-and-ahalf percent Quaker, and Jews were allowed to worship freely under the Fundamental Constitution. Religious preferences were as diverse as the people. By the end of the proprietary period, Charles Town was no longer just a little fort. It was a true city with a population in the thousands, handsome buildings, and expanding country plantations. Since it could relax its military guard somewhat, there was time to concentrate on building the ideal city of Restoration England. Ashley Cooper, Lord Shaftesbury, had died in exile in 1683, believing, so it is said, that men’s souls become a part of the stars after their death and give the stars life. Charles II died in 1685, but his spirit and the spirit of his age were alive and well across the Atlantic Ocean.
Good King Charles’s City
The Colonial City (1720–1765)
Before there was an Old South, there was a colonial South. And before there was a Charleston in the tradition of the Old South, there was the Charlestown of colonial times. It was the only large city south of Philadelphia, and the economic, social, and political center of the Low Country—a region that eventually extended from the Georgia Sea Islands on the south, to the Pee Dee River on the north, and inland more than 60 miles. Charlestown’s influence in the eighteenth century spread beyond the Carolinas to Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Indeed, as Carl Bridenbaugh has written in Myths and Realities, “Savannah, St. Augustine, Pensacola and Mobile prospered as entrepots for their particular areas and for certain commodities, but always their commercial life was connected with and subsidiary to that of the Low Country metropolis. No wonder that as provincial planters looked out at the world through the Charles Town window their little rivers appeared to be the sources of a great sea.” How did the vulnerable Charles Town, the only fortified city in English America, become Charlestown, fourth largest, most beautiful, and wealthiest city in colonial America? The answer lies in the shipping trade. Rice, indigo, and slavery were the major ingredients in the original Low Country recipe, and it was on that simple but powerful economy that colonial Charlestown was built. The first great fortunes of Charlestown were amassed by merchants, not planters. While the South of a later era looked down its nose at trade, early Charlestown reveled in it. The heyday of colonial Charlestown as a great trading port lasted from the 1730s to the 1820s. In his brilliant work, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, George C. Rogers Jr. described Charleston’s golden age, which “coincided with the last century of the age of sailing vessels. 13
Charlestonians had a pleasantry that the Ashley and Cooper Rivers came together to form the Atlantic Ocean. Charlestown was the center of its own universe: the major city of the southern half of North America outside of Mexico, one of the leading American ports, home of the richest and most cosmopolitan people in all America.
Facing Charleston Harbor, ca. 1762. Engraved for the London Magazine. Division of Maps, Library of Congress.
A. Spanish Florida B. Barbados C. Jamaica D. Hispaniola E. Santo Domingo F. Charlestown
As long as the age of sail lasted, Charleston was on the main Atlantic highway, which circumnavigated the Bermuda High. Vessels leaving England, or leaving any European port for North America, generally sailed southwestwardly to the Azores to catch the trade winds and then with full sail made for the West Indies, Barbados standing out front like a doorman to welcome all to the New World. They next made their way through the West Indies to the Gulf Stream. From the Florida Keys to Cape Hatteras they hugged the American coast before veering off to England and northern Europe. It was a great circle, and Charleston was on its western edge.” The building of a great port, as well as the docks, wharves, and industry to support it, was the foremost activity in colonial Charlestown. There were at least two wharves as early as 1704. By 1739 at least eight wharves jutted out into the Cooper River. All the wharves, or “bridges,” as they were called, were located on the Cooper River between Granville’s Bastion (the site of the presentday Masonic Temple at the beginning of High Battery) and Dock Street (Queen Street since 1739). The “Middle Bridge” was the largest. It boasted eleven warehouses and a market. There were no lighthouses, so mariners aimed for St. Philip’s steeple. “Notwithstanding we have few ships of our own,” Governor Glen wrote in 1751, “Cooper River appears sometimes a kind of floating market, and we have Numbers of Canoes, Boats and Pettygues that Ply incessantly bringing down the Country Produce to Town and returning.” The “floating market” was, of course, serviced by suppliers of all kinds: artisans, coopers shipyards, insurance companies, rope makers, tavern keepers, and retail shops. There were even docks on the Ashley River in 1773, and South Bay Street at the southernmost tip of the city accommodated them. The street known earlier simply as Bay Street was renamed East Bay, and although South Bay has disappeared, the “East” in East Bay remains. The port of Charlestown was trading heavily with English cities by 1742. As a matter of fact, trade with England was six times greater than that with other American ports. There was regular passenger and shipping service between Charlestown and New York after 1728, but little direct trade with Boston. The bustling port was only the visible symbol of the trading and merchandising ability of colonial Charlestonians. “Merchandise and trade,” wrote Edward McCrady, “were the foundation stones of most, if not all, the great fortunes, in South Carolina.” The earliest Indian traders bartered beads, cloth, and hatchets for deerskins and other pelts. It was these items that constituted Charlestown’s earliest and largest exports. Deerskins and beaver skins remained a major export well into the eighteenth century. Early merchants sold Native 14
A Short History of Charleston
American captives as slaves in the West Indies and bought enslaved people of African descent, first in the West Indies and then in Africa. They traded naval stores—lumber, pitch, tar staves, turpentine—for sugar and rum. And, once rice and indigo were cultivated, the traders exchanged these for the manufactured goods of England. “The proceeds of this trade,” wrote McCrady, “went into lands and negroes.” The colonial merchants included Charlestonians of nearly every background. They were not aristocrats, but sons of English, French, Irish, or Barbadian middle-class or yeoman farmers. They were self-made men who, like all pioneers, built their fortunes on hard work and ingenuity. The earliest was Isaac Mazyck, a Huguenot from Liege, Belgium, and France, who traded with the West Indies as early as 1688. The wealthiest merchant and probably the wealthiest man in America was Gabriel Manigault, another Huguenot. Joseph Wragg became wealthy trading in enslaved people. The Indian trade, the fur trade, and foreign trade combined to make Samuel Eveleigh, Samuel Wragg, Arthur Middleton, and Madam Sarah Rhett wealthy. James Crokatt, a native of Scotland, began as an Indian trader, built his own wharf (Crokatt’s Bridge), amassed a fortune, and returned to England. Other great colonial merchants were Miles Brewton, Robert Pringle, John Edwards, John Beswicke, and John Nickleson. Andrew Rutledge, a brother of John, Hugh, and Edward, was the largest retail merchant in the Carolinas. Charlestown merchants spread out all over the region. The Kershaw brothers established a store at a place called Pine Tree, which later became Camden, South Carolina. Charlestown merchants established stores at Cainhoy, Moncks Corner, Rantowle’s on the Stono River, and Jacksonborough on the Edisto River. The great merchants eventually became great planters, for the ideal both in eighteenth-century England and America was the English country gentleman. Ownership of a vast estate and a great country house with leisure time to pursue hunting, riding, and the cultivation of the mind—this was the ideal of the age, the legacy of Charles II. Early Charlestonians, like the Englishmen they were (or, in the case of the French Huguenots, the Irish, or the Scots, like the Englishmen they would become) dreamed of living the life of a country squire.
lantations Develop: The transition from an overwhelmingly merchant to an overwhelmingly planter economy in Carolina and the resulting changes in the city of Charlestown can be attributed to the tremendous growth in the size of the rice crop. The Colonial City
“Opinions differ about the manner in which rice hath been naturalized in Carolina,” one eighteenthcentury observer wrote. “But—whether the province may have acquired it by a shipwreck, or whether it may have been carried there with slaves, or whether it be sent from England, it is certain that the soil is favorable to it.” And indigo, because it needed no work in the winter months, was compatible with the cultivation of rice and became the second staple crop of Carolina.
How rice came to be cultivated in Carolina is not clear. The Proprietors sent over a bushel to try out, apparently without success. And Jean Watt wrote in 1726 that “it was by a woman that Rice was transplanted into Carolina.” Yet others believe that it came from Africa on slave ships. Some historians credit Dr. Henry Woodward with introducing rice to Carolina. Dr. Woodward, an original settler and friend of the Cacique of the Kiawah, received seed rice from Madagascar, and he and others experimented with its cultivation. Whatever the source, African slavery was the engine that fueled the production of rice. As Peter Wood wrote in Black Majority, “One fact which can be clearly documented . . . is that during precisely those two decades after 1695 when rice production took permanent hold in South Carolina the African portion of the population drew equal to, and then surpassed, the European portion.” The European settlers of Carolina had little knowledge of how to cultivate rice. It had not been grown in England or northern Europe, and England consumed comparatively little rice before 1700. African slaves probably taught the White planters how to cultivate it since Africans had been cultivating it for centuries. In the Congo-Angola region, rice was so abundant that it sold for little or nothing. It was so prevalent on the “Windward Coast” in presentday Ghana that the area became known as the Rice Coast. Eighteenth-century Englishmen noted that rice “forms the chief part of the African’s sustenance,” and that Africans were quite familiar with the cultivation of rice fields. The planters obviously knew the value of enslaved people who knew how to cultivate rice because advertisements for enslaved people often indicated their origin. (One advertisement, for example, read: “from the Windward Rice Coast.”) The cleaning and husking of rice, another major problem, was, once again, probably resolved by enslaved Africans. The mortar-and-pestle technique used in colonial Carolina was known to and used by native Africans at that time. No matter who knew how to do what, the rice planters of Carolina grew rich, so rich that they became the wealthiest people in the American colonies. And rice became one of the staple crops shipped through the port of Charlestown. The cultivation of indigo seemed to fit naturally with the cultivation of rice. Indigo was the source of the blue dye so much in demand in the English textile industry that, after 1748, Parliament granted a bounty to encourage production. Indigo was already a popular crop in the West Indies before it was introduced into Carolina by Eliza Lucas, whose father was Governor of 16
A Short History of Charleston
Antigua, and who later became the wife of Chief Justice Charles Pinckney and the mother of General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and General Thomas Pinckney, heroes of the Revolution. It was Lucas’ father who encouraged her interest in botany and sent her not only indigo but a man to instruct her on how to cultivate it and extract the dye. After numerous failures, she succeeded in producing it on her plantation at Wappoo, across from Charlestown. Part of Carolina’s success with indigo was the purity and quality of its product, for which an experienced London merchant, Moses Lindo, the “Surveyor and Inspector General of Indigo” in Charlestown after 1762, was responsible. Plantations in colonial Carolina were numerous and varied. On Edisto Island in 1732, for example, plantations ranged in size from 27 acres to 1,610 acres. The average number of enslaved people on each was 120. Some plantations consisted of thousands of acres complete with rice swamps, indigo fields, and woods that produced naval stores and lumber. According to Governor Glen in 1751, a White overseer (a manager hired to run a plantation for the owners) could manage 30 slaves. Unlike cotton, rice and indigo were best cultivated in small units. Most of the great plantations of the Low Country date from the colonial era: Accabee on the Ashley River, Laurens’ Mepkin on the Cooper River, Charles Pinckney’s Snee Farm in Christ Church parish, Middleton Place, Drayton Hall, Garden’s Otranto on Goose Creek, Manigaults’ The Oaks, Edward Fenwick’s Fenwick Hall on John’s Island, and hundreds of others located on the rivers, streams, and creeks fanning out from the Ashley and the Cooper. These natural waterways provided a ready and inexpensive transportation system by which rice, indigo, and other produce were floated to Charlestown. The planters did not just come to town; they lived in town. The old Charleston saying that “Carolina is in the spring a paradise, in the summer a hell, and in the autumn a hospital” was basically true. The great planters left their plantations for Charlestown in May to escape yellow fever and malaria. They repaired to their Charlestown houses during the season until November or December when they could return. This gave Charlestown a unique character in that the country planters became the elite of the city. Most of them built “town houses” in the city to escape “the country fevers” (mainly malaria and smallpox) and the terrible heat of the summer. They could also escape the doldrums of rural life, for Charlestown offered theater, music, dance, polite society, good food, and intellectual stimulation. For many, the townhouse became their real home. The Colonial City
A. Charlestown B. St. Andrew’s Parish C. Christ Church Parish D. Middleton PL E. Drayton Hall F. James Is. G. Edisto Is.
Former plantations Otranto and Snee Farm are now the names of suburban developments. Middleton Place and Drayton Hall, on the Ashley River Road (State Highway 61), have been carefully preserved, but developers and the state highway department have all but destroyed the once beautiful colonial highway, one of the oldest in America.
By 1750, Henry Laurens said simply that the planters were “full of money,” and they were. They developed a style of life at Charlestown that was the delight of eighteenth-century America. J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, a native of France who became an American citizen, traveled through the colonies in the 1780s. Of Charlestown, he wrote: “Charles-Town is, in the North, what Lima is in the South, both are Capitals of the richest provinces of their respective hemispheres: you may therefore conjecture, that both cities must exhibit the appearances necessarily resulting from riches . . . Here, the produce of this extensive territory concentres . . . The inhabitants are the gayest in America; it is called the centre of our beau monde.” Charlestown’s wealthy planters and merchants built the grandest homes in America during the colonial era. Miles Brewton began construction of his home on lower King Street in 1767. It was designed by Ezra White, architect and builder from London. Josiah Quincy dined with Miles Brewton and found “the grandest hall I ever beheld, azure blue satin window curtains, rich blue paper with gilt, mashee borders, most elegant pictures, excessive grand and costly looking glasses . . . At Mr. Brewton’s sideboard was very magnificent plate: a very exquisitely wrought Goblet, most excellent workmanship and singularly beautiful. A very fine bird kept familiarly playing over the room, under our chairs and the table, picking up the crumbs, etc., and perching on the window, sideboard and chairs: vastly pretty!” This mansion, which still stands at 27 King Street, has been called the finest townhouse ever erected in the colonies. Great mansions were built outside of the old walls of the original fortified city. Colonel Rhett’s home was eventually surrounded by Ansonborough, laid out in 1746. Church Street was extended southward over a creek. The housing boom continued throughout the century. From 1768 to 1773, more than 300 houses were constructed on the Bay, on the banks of the Ashley River, in White Point, and in Ansonborough, Charlestown’s fashionable first suburb.
urther groWth: The city grew in all directions: north, south, east, and west. It grew east by adding numerous large wharves, all of which have disappeared over time. Undoubtedly some lie under landfills that expanded into the Cooper River. The streets themselves are now called “wharves,” like North Adgers Wharf. The building of wharves continued up the peninsula during the late 1700s until wharves lined the entire Cooper River waterfront to present-day Calhoun
The Colonial City
Legend has it that when the Miles Brewton House was used by the British as a headquarters during the Revolution, its owner Rebecca Motte stayed in the house and hid her daughters in the attic. The British officers were not supposed to know they were there, but, on his departure, the British commander is said to have casually looked up at the ceiling and remarked how unfortunate it was he was unable to meet the rest of the family.
Facing Built in 1769: The Miles Brewton House was the headquarters for two occupying armies. (Miles Brewton House, 27 King St., Charleston, South Carolina. Historic American Buildings Survey.)
One way to keep fish fresh was to keep them alive in watertight compartments in the ships that transported them to Charlestown. An enterprising Philadelphian did just that in 1767 when he sold fish at Wragg’s Wharf from a boat called a “Smack.”
Charles Town’s colonial houses were built in a distinctive architectural style derived from England, Barbados, and the West Indies. Some of the earliest houses seem Dutch because the French Huguenots absorbed Dutch culture during their stay in Holland. The Charleston “single house” (one room wide) and Charleston “double house” (two rooms wide) were built in great numbers throughout the colonial era.
Street. Christopher Gadsden built perhaps the largest wharf in colonial America on the Cooper River, between present-day Laurens Street and Calhoun Street (where the Port Authority terminals and Dockside are now located.) Beginning in 1767 at North End, Gadsden’s “Stupendous Work” jutted 840 feet into the river and had docking facilities for up to 12 ships. Gadsden dock was only a part of his enterprise. His housing development next to the docks, known as Gadsden’s Middlesex (now demolished) was alluring because of its close proximity to the shops on the wharves that conveniently sold firewood, lumber, bricks, lime, and building materials. Also along the North Bay (yes, there was a North Bay Street, too, at one time!) were ferryboats such as Andrew Hibben’s to take one into Hobcaws across the Cooper River. “We were rowed,” one New Englander who took the trip wrote, “by six negroes, four of whom had nothing on but their kind of breeches, scarce sufficient for a covering.” A visit to eighteenth-century Charlestown would have had to include a walk down the Bay where, looking toward the harbor, nearly a hundred vessels would have been at anchor. If it were after hurricane season, from November to March, there would have been every kind of sailing vessel: brigantines, sloops, schooners, scows, flatboats, canoes, pettiaugers, and more. There would have been ships bringing immigrants; ships bringing enslaved people; ships bringing Spanish gold, rum, and manufactured goods from England; ships carrying out tons of rice and indigo; lumber and naval supplies. Looking inland on Bay Street one would have seen commerce, commerce, and more commerce. Bay Street was the trading center of colonial Charlestown. In its environs could be purchased almost anything available in any eighteenth-century city in the world: food, hardware, furniture, clothes, shoes, imported and manufactured goods, and enslaved people. In the 1730s and 1740s the seat of government was behind the Half Moon Bastion (“the Council Chamber above & a Guard House below”). This building jutted out into Bay Street, which probably explains why the present Exchange Building, built in 1771, juts out into the street. An earlier Exchange Building of the 1730s (now gone) was built along Bay Street itself, where present East Bay intersects with Tradd. Further up Bay Street, past Craven’s Bastion (present site of Market Street and East Bay), a creek separated the city from what is now Ansonborough. The creek was wide enough to require a bridge, called Governor’s Bridge. Bay Street itself was full of two- and three-story buildings, many built to provide stores at the ground level and residences above. Buildings were close together 20
A Short History of Charleston
because this was valuable land, close to wharves and ships and to the customers of both. Traveling down from Bay Street to Broad Street on sandy streets, carefully avoiding horses, carts, garbage, carriages, and boys throwing rocks at tied cocks, one would have encountered the New Exchange Building (now the “Old Exchange”) just completed in 1771 (and restored in 1981). The planterdominated Assembly built it for two reasons: first, to provide a merchant’s exchange, and, second, to provide a large assembly room for dancing. Proceeding down Broad Street past Union Street (now State Street) to the right, one would soon have reached Church Street. To the right down Church Street was the Church of England, St. Philip’s Church, built in 1723 and described by one observer as “spacious and executed in a very handsome taste, exceeding everything of that kind which we have in America.” Houses and buildings lined Broad and Church, many of which had “a genteel Appearance, though generally incumbered with Balconies or Piazzas . . . the Apartments are contriv’d for Coolness, a very necessary Consideration.” At the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets, right in the middle of the street, one would have come across the first statue erected in America, a statue of the great English statesman William Pitt, erected in 1766 at a cost of 7,000 pounds. Pitt championed the cause of the American colonists and the grateful citizens of Charlestown erected this “large colossal statue”—which is now located at the Judicial Center. St. Michael’s stood on the Southeast corner looking just as it does today. A market on the Northeast corner (where City Hall now stands) has been variously described as “The New Market” or Beef Market. (Bull has been dispensed from that location since the 1730s.) One would have found a new State House on the Northwest corner (where the present historic Courthouse is located) and the Guard House or Watch stood on the Southwest corner (where the Post Office Building now stands). What Charlestonians and visitors now call “the Four Corners of the Law” was originally designed to be a great public square, indeed the grand square of the colonial capital. In 1751, the General Assembly passed an act to create a commission to oversee construction of the new State House and to build St. Michael’s Church. The great hurricane of 1752 hurried things along also because the site, at the corner of Broad and Meeting, was a pond which added to the flooding during the storm. On June 22, 1753, the Royal Governor, the King’s Council, and the Commons House of Assembly observed the 27th anniversary of King George II’s accession to the throne of Great Britain. The highlight of the ceremony was the laying of a cornerstone of the new State House. The Colonial City
St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 80 Meeting Street, Charleston. Historic American Buildings Survey. The intersection of Broad and Meeting was not called the “Corners of Four Laws” by Charlestonians. That name was given by Ripley’s “Believe it or Not.” The Post Office Building houses the Federal Court, representing federal law; the State Courthouse, state law; City Hall, municipal law; and St. Michael’s, God’s law.
Lord Anson commanded a number of ships which, at various times, protected the Carolina coast. Later he circumnavigated the earth. He was made a baron after his great victory over the Spanish in 1747. The first five streets of Ansonborough were Anson and George (named for the developer); Centurion (the Admiral’s ship, now Society Street); Scarborough (another ship, now merged into Anson); and Squirrel (yet another ship, now merged with Meeting).
Facing Peter Manigault and friends in 1754: The wealthy Huguenot is holding a flask at left. Colonel Howarth holds a wig on the end of a stick. (Peter Manigault and His Friends, Drawing, George Roupell, Charleston, South Carolina, United States, 1757–60, Graphite, ink and wash on laid paper, 1963.0073, Museum purchase, Courtesy, Winterthur Museum.)
Three years later in 1756 the building, designed to imitate the shire halls and assize courts of England, was completed. It housed the chambers of the Council, the Commons House of Assembly, the Speaker’s Chambers and the courts. Meeting Street was not the most desirable of colonial locations at certain points, given the location of the Market and the Watch, and so it is not surprising that one writer to the Gazette described his passage through Meeting Street in terms of “a low set of Wood Tenements, with Walls little thicker than a Sheet of Brown Paper, pent up on all Sides by Wooden Structures.” This is where many tradesmen lived, and they found the rents high and the accommodations terrible. As early as the 1730s, Broad Street extended to the marsh that lined the Ashley River. Houses were built, and other streets—Friends Street, Archdales Street, Lambolls Street, King Street—were laid out. In 1739, all streets ended at the city line, which ran across the peninsula a little north of Pinckneys Street (near present-day Market). The city expanded both north and south. To the north, the city’s first suburb was Ansonborough, named in honor of Lord George Anson, a British admiral who resided in Charles Town from 1724 to 1735. According to local legend, the founding of Ansonborough followed Lord Anson’s winning the land at cards. In any event, Ansonborough was developed after 1746, to the north of Colonel William Rhett’s house, and became a discreet but wealthy neighborhood of great houses because it was located on high ground north of the creek at Craven’s Bastion. Henry Laurens, Thomas Lynch, and Chief Justice Pinckney lived there. Other areas were developed in the eighteenth century: Rhett Borough (between Ansonborough and the creek), the Laurens Lands (east of Ansonborough); and the Mazyck Lands west of present-day Legare Street. Boundary Street (now Calhoun) was laid out in 1769. The city expanded south as well. Broughton’s Battery had been built to guard the harbor. In 1739 it was located on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Church Street was extended from this battery southward in such a way as to avoid the mouths of the inlets and creeks cutting into the lower peninsula. For that reason, Church Street bends at the point that used to be Vanderhorst Creek. A bridge was built over that creek to connect lower and upper Church Street. Soon thereafter new houses were built as Meeting Street was also extended across Vanderhorst Creek. Houses began to cover old Oyster Point, especially later in the century when wharves were, for the first time, constructed on the Ashley River (where White Point Gardens is today). The largest area to be developed in the eighteenth century was Harleston 22
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Village. Located south of Boundary (Calhoun) Street, west of King Street and the Free School and Glebe Lands (now the College of Charleston), and north of Beaufain Street, Harleston Village remains a monument to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century suburban Charlestown development. Early homeowners there, like those in Gadsden’s Middlesex and Ansonborough, sought to escape the noise, hustle and bustle, congestion, and odors of the commercial district centered in Bay Street, Broad Street, Queen Street, and environs. The street names once again reflected the revolutionary fervor of the age: Wentworth The Colonial City
was named for Lord Rockingham, the British foe of the detested Stamp Act. Beaufain was named in honor of the collector of customs, Hector Berenger de Beaufain. Pitt was named for William Pitt; Rutledge for John Rutledge; Gadsden, for the fiery radical, Christopher Gadsden. Montague and Bull were named in honor of the governor and lieutenant governor at the time.
A Charleston innkeeper named Eldridge constructed a “cockpit” in 1732 and charged ten shillings to watch and bet. Cockfighting was a popular “half-time” diversion between horse races. A barbaric sport, to be sure, but it did not seem to offend the morals of the times.
he ruling elite: In time and over the generations, the planter class developed into a genuine aristocracy, creating a way of life that surpassed the wildest hopes or dreams of the earliest settlers. “The people of Charleston live rapidly, not willingly letting go untasted any of the pleasures of life. Few of them, therefore, reach a great age,” a traveler, Dr. Johann B. Schoepf, noted, adding that “luxury in Carolina has made the greatest advance, and their manner of life, dress, equipages, furniture, everything, denotes a higher degree of taste and love of show, and less frugality than in the northern provinces.” Josiah Quincy Jr. found in 1773 that “state, magnificence, and ostentation, the natural attendants of riches, are conspicuous among this people.” They loved to see and to be seen, and the urban setting was more conducive to show than the plantation. The Charlestown planters loved to eat—or, rather, to dine. Their food came from the forest, from the rivers, from the ocean, from the plantation. They dined on fish, venison, oysters, and shrimp; on “plumb marmalade,” “mince pyes,” “oyster soop,” “rich plumb cake iced,” “syllabubs,” “white custards in glasses,” “tarts and cheese cakes”; as well as on terrapin soup, okra soup, rice soup, and a variety of rice breads. They imported wine from all over the world, but especially liked Port and Madeira. And they drank a lot of punch made with lemons and limes, which were considered rather exotic since they had to be imported. Dinner was at three o’clock in the afternoon, an eighteenth-century tradition that comported with the plantation day and the hot weather. The other important meal was breakfast—with plenty of grits. It is hard to say with certainty which form of entertainment the planters enjoyed most, or how they found the time to take it all in. There were numerous taverns and clubs in colonial Charlestown. There was horse racing, dancing, music, theater, billiards, cockfighting, bearbaiting, hunting, fishing, and, of course, wenching. A more hedonistic, pleasure-oriented society never lived on the North American continent. Horse racing was even more popular than cockfighting in colonial Charlestown, perhaps because the ladies could also attend. In 1735, a racetrack, the 24
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York Course, was established about one mile from the city. Later, races were held every month. The New Market Track was established at Goose Creek (about 15 miles from the city) in 1743. The “Charleston Races,” much admired throughout the colonies, were established by the Yorkshireman Thomas Nightingale in 1754. These races took place in another New Market Course on the neck north of Charlestown. The Carolina Jockey Club was founded in 1758 and offered purses up to 1,000 pounds. Later in the century, the South Carolina Jockey Club, organized by the great horse breeder Edward Fenwick and revolutionary heroes General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and General William Moultrie, among others, built the even more elegant Washington Racecourse (now Hampton Park). Race days were big social events that women and men could attend together. “Race week” each February was the social event of the season. It was yet another opportunity for dinners, balls, assemblies, parties, and the show of wealth, new fashions, handsome coaches, and well-dressed servants. The odds were published in the local newspaper, the South Carolina Gazette, and great sums were won—and lost—at the Charlestown races. The planters gambled frequently. Private clubs abounded, mainly for card playing and drinking. One Charlestown lady complained: “There is not one night in the week in which they are not engaged with some club or other at the tavern, where they injure their fortunes by gaming in various ways, and impair their healths by the intemperate use of spirituous liquors, and keeping late hours.” Among the clubs were Fryday-Night Club (“the more elderly and substantial gentlemen”), the Whisk Club, the Amiable, the Fancy Society, Meddlers Laughing Club, the Beef-Steak Club, the Fort Jolly Volunteers, and the Brooms (who naturally advertised “a special Sweep”). And what about the women of colonial Charlestown, or at least the White women? The great ladies of the plantations and townhouses lived a number of lives. By many accounts, the ladies were “generally of a middling stature, genteel and slender,” and they had “fair complexions, without the help of art.” Others acknowledged “that the ladies in the province considerably outshine the men.” Their dress was certainly beautiful and far superior to the women of Virginia or the North. As one Charlestonian put it: “the girls for fashion sake go to town.” The “gaiety” of dress rivaled the “Court-end of London.” They excelled in the social arts of dancing, music, art appreciation, and the preparation of great dinners. Cooking was always a fine art in Charlestown, and a lady was expected to keep her own recipe books, know how to supervise servants, and entertain lavishly. The Colonial City
The ladies of old Charlestown played cards too. Sophia Hume, an early evangelical preacher, told her female listeners in 1747 that “Religion and Cards” did not mix and asked them to hold their cards until they said their prayers.
Contrary to popular belief, widows were not always stoic and forlorn. Some, “by forward carriages do snap up the young men.” This aggressiveness of well-to-do widows (of whom there were a number, given the lifestyle of the planter!) caused a “Melancholy Disposition of Mind” in the eligible young girls of Charleston according to one writer.
Others found the ladies of colonial Charlestown to be “generally of sallow complexion and without that bloom” of other American ladies. In White over Black, Winthrop D. Jordan wrote of the White women of Charlestown that: “Some visitors to the city were struck by their desiccated formality, which seems now to betray the strains imposed by the prevailing pattern of miscegenation . . . The dissipation of the white gentleman was as much a tragedy for his white lady as for him. A biracial environment warped her affective life in two directions at once, for she was made to feel that sensual involvement with the opposite sex burned bright and hot with unquenchable passion and at the same time that any such involvement was utterly repulsive.” So began the great Southern tradition of placing women on a pedestal. They could not be reached by those below, and they could not step down. Timothy Ford, in his travels, noted that, while the men were “as agreeable as any I have ever seen,” the women of Charlestown “carry formality and scrupulosity to a considerable extreme . . . The maxims of the country have taught them and custom has forced them to almost consider a sociability on their part with gentlemen as an unbecoming forwardness.” No doubt the great wealth of colonial Charlestown’s women added to their beauty. Marriages were often the result of astute business and political judgments. Sarah Rhett was described by the South Carolina Gazette as “a beautiful and accomplish’d young Lady, with a large Fortune.” Susannah Seabrook was “a young lady endowed with all agreeable Accomplishments, and a fortune of 15,000 pounds.” In describing the great eighteenth-century Charleston matches (Charles Pinckney and Eliza Lucas; George Roupell and Elizabeth Prioleau, for example), the papers always noted that the lady was beautiful “with a large Fortune.” There were other women in Charlestown, but not much is known about them. We do know that some worked alongside their husbands and that some ran taverns and inns, cooked, and gave lessons of every sort from dancing and singing to needlework and embroidery. And there were a number of female teachers in Charlestown who taught French, English, geography, history, and “many instructing amusements.”
ervasive institution: It was the institution of slavery, above all else, that molded Charlestown’s elite. Absolute and unquestioned rule over the lives of other human beings, a rule that included, as a practical matter, life-and-death decisions, gave to the planter class a justified feeling of absolute power. Each planter was king of all he owned. His friends and neighbors 26
A Short History of Charleston
were the government and the courts. In all the history of America it is doubtful that a more absolutely powerful class or group ever ruled a city, colony, or state. And Charlestown was the colony. As the distinguished Southern historian U. B. Phillips phrased it, the Low Country “focused in Charleston to such a degree as to make the whole district in some sense a city-state.” Their power unchecked by a working class (they owned the working class, the enslaved people), or a middle class (it was small, ineffectual, and dependent on the planters), or by strong religious institutions (there was an easy tolerance and much division), the planters held absolute sway over their domain. The last of the planters’ great pastimes, womanizing, is a topic about which most historians of Charlestown have been rather silent. While Josiah Quincy’s view of Charlestown society in 1773 is often quoted by historians of the city, one line is frequently omitted: “The enjoyment of a negro or mulatto woman,” he wrote, “is spoken of as quite a common thing; no reluctance, delicacy or shame is made about the matter.” Charlestown planters were quite open about their sexual exploitation of Black women. Winthrop Jordan, again in his classic White over Black, wrote that “while permanent unions between persons of the two races normally were quiet or secretive affairs elsewhere on the continent, in South Carolina and particularly in Charlestown they were not . . . Charleston was the only English city on the continent where it was at all possible to jest publicly concerning miscegenation . . . Only in Charlestown was it possible to debate publicly, ‘Is sex with Negroes right?’ In other colonies the topic was not looked upon as being open.” The South Carolina Gazette, published in Charlestown, occasionally carried a series of poems and letters that demonstrate how openly, and crudely, the sexual exploitation of enslaved women was spoken about in public. One letter to the editor, supposedly from ladies newly arrived from Bermuda, advised that, if Charlestown bachelors and widowers “are in a Strait for Women, to wait for the next Shipping from the Coast of Guinny. Those African Ladies are of a strong robust Constitution; not easily jaded out, able to serve them by Night as well as Day.” Another writer replied the next week that “our Country-Women are full as capable for service either night or day as any African Ladies,” and he hoped “they’ll have the Preference before the black Ladies in the Esteem of the Widowers and Batchelors at C-town.” The Charlestown ruling elite, in short, was able to do as it pleased, defying many of the standards of its time, because slavery made it an elite without opposition. Over time the planters, the great merchants, and the elite of colonial Charlestown developed a way of life distinguished not only by great wealth but The Colonial City
“He who should presume to shew any displeasure against such a thing as simple fornication, would for his pains be accounted a simple blockhead; since not one in twenty can be persuaded, that there is either sin; or shame in cohabiting with his slave.” So wrote Edward Long of eighteenth-century Jamaica. The White planters of Charlestown were, like their West Indian counterparts, openly involved sexually with Black women. In 1743 the Grand Jury of Charlestown condemned “the too common practice of criminal conversation with negro and other slave wenches in this province.”
“The inhabitants may well be divided into opulent and lordly planters, poor and spiritless whites and vile slaves,” the Bostonian, Josiah Quincy, wrote of Charlestown in 1773. Crevecoeur divided everyone differently: in the 1780’s the “three principal classes of inhabitants are, lawyers, planters, and merchants; this is the province which has afforded to the first the richest spoils, for nothing can exceed their wealth, their power, and their influence . . .”
Aerial view of the grounds at Middleton Place, Dorchester County, South Carolina, near Charleston. Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project. Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
also by the elevation of pleasure and pleasure seeking to the greatest of social goals. “In Charleston we are a set of the busiest, most bustling, hurrying animals imaginable,” Dr. Alexander Garden wrote, “and yet we really do not do much, but we must appear to be doing. And this kind of important hurry appears among all ranks, unless among the gentleman planters, who are absolutely above every occupation but eating, drinking, lolling, smoking and sleeping, which five modes of action constitute the essence of their life and existence.” Garden, a physician and botanist (for whom the gardenia was named) knew the planters well. Another traveler noted that the planter’s “life is whil’d away in idleness, or consumed in dissipation.” Crovecoeur blamed it on the heat: “The climate renders excesses of all kinds very dangerous, particularly those of the table; and yet, insensible or fearless of danger, they live on, and enjoy a short and a merry life: the rays of their sun seem to urge them irresistibly to dissipation and pleasure: on the contrary, the women, from being abstemious, reach to a longer period of life, and seldom die without having had several husbands.” In short, as Richard Hofstadter has written, “By comparison with Charles Town’s elite, old Boston’s uppercrust looked poor and flimsy, and the hedonistic life of the South Carolina capital put the other seaboard towns in the shade.”
ther toWnspeople: People other than planters and great merchants populated colonial Charlestown. It is a sad fact of history, however, that usually only the educated, powerful, and wealthy leave diaries, letters, and newspaper accounts, and it is from these sources that our knowledge of history is primarily drawn. Charlestown teemed with working people of all kinds: shipbuilders, tanners, shoemakers, carpenters, silversmiths, cabinetmakers, coopers, shop clerks, drivers, blacksmiths, jewelry makers, tailors, and others. Coopers, for example, made barrels, pipes, kegs, and “caskes” for shipping. Caulkers, rope makers, and braziers were needed on the waterfront. There were two milliners’ shops, two rum distilleries, three ropewalks, and two sugar houses in early colonial Charlestown. Because of slavery, skilled craftsmen were in much shorter supply in Charlestown than in other colonial cities. Pelatiah Webster came to Charlestown in 1767 from Philadelphia and reported that “they have very few mechanic arts of any sort, and [a] very great quantity of mechanic utensils are imported from England and the Northern Colonies.” When so much of the labor was performed by enslaved people, White artisans were not anxious to come to Charlestown, although their services were badly needed. The shipbuilding industry, for example, which would have been a natural industry for 28
A Short History of Charleston
Charlestown, never fully developed there as it did in the other ports because of the lack of skilled workers. Yet there were small shipbuilding and repair industries with such names as Rose’s Yard, Emery’s, Wright’s, and Black’s, and some ships were built for the coastal trade. Cabinetmakers and silversmiths were in great demand. In 1760, for instance, there were 28 cabinetmakers; in 1790 the number had grown to 35, and, by 1810, it had reached 81. Thomas Elfe is the most famous, probably because his records survive. Elfe’s shop produced more than 1,500 pieces between 1768 and 1776, including bedsteads, bookcases, chairs, card tables, sofas, and desks. Rice was so popular that Charlestown cabinetmakers created the “rice bed,” with rice ears and leaves carved on the bedposts. But the goal of the artisan was to become a planter, and that is exactly what many of them did. Upward mobility was a hallmark of colonial Charlestown. John Paul Grimke, the silversmith, eventually purchased 500 acres on Edisto Island. Artisans such as Benjamin Hawes and George Flagg became great shipping merchants. The planter, Thomas Heyward, had been a hatter; Daniel Cannon, a carpenter. And the best of the cabinetmakers, Thomas Elfe himself, made a small fortune and became a planter. The great shadow of slavery crossed every class, every occupation, every neighborhood. Mechanics, artisans, and tradespeople adapted to the system and came to depend on enslaved people for labor, too. “I have seen tradesmen go through the city,” a visitor noted, “followed by a negro carrying their tools—barbers who are supported in idleness and ease by their negroes who do the business, and in fact many of the mechanics bear nothing more of their trade than the name.” Physicians were the first professional men to arrive in Charlestown. Dr. William Scrivener and Dr. Henry Woodward came in the early years. Dr. John Lining, a Scot, practiced medicine and conducted scientific research as well. His writings concerning the relationship between weather conditions and diseases were published by the Royal Society of London. Dr. Lining also studied “non-infectious diseases” (the first such studies in the colonies), corresponded with Benjamin Franklin about electricity, and kept detailed meteorological observations. Dr. Lionel Chalmers (for whom Chalmers Street is named) practiced in Charlestown and worked with Dr. Lining on the connection between weather and disease. His publications, published in Charlestown and London, became the most important contribution to general medicine made by an American during this era. The Colonial City
In 1772 Governor Nicholson convinced the Assembly to create a formal government for Charlestown. “An Act for the Good Government of Charles Town” was passed renaming the city “Charles City and Port” and modeling the government on New York City’s. No record of the act survives, but it apparently provided for a council and a mayor to be elected annually on the King’s birthday. This government was petitioned to death in about a year. Anti-government agitation reached its climax here in 1860.
College of Charleston. Postcard. Legerton & Co., Inc. South Carolina Postcards Collection, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.
Charlestown’s contributions to science were small but interesting. The foremost scientist of the period, Dr. Alexander Garden, corresponded with the great botanists of his age both in Europe and America, including the great Linneaus. He was a member of virtually every prestigious scientific society, including the Royal Society of London. Garden sent plants and drawings of plants to fellow botanists in America and abroad, and that is why Linnaeus named the gardenia in his honor. Whether it was a result of the life-style, the climate, slavery, or the lack of any real religious “mission” in settling Charlestown, the ruling planter elite never developed a strong civic consciousness. They created few noted public institutions. Every effort to establish a college in the colonial period failed. Harvard College was established in Massachusetts in the early years of that colony. Philadelphians and New Yorkers helped establish “Prince Town” (Princeton) in New Jersey in 1746. Philadelphia established its own college in 1755. New Yorkers established King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1754. Yale was established in 1716 when Cotton Mather was defeated in his attempt to become president of Harvard. But the richest city in the richest province in colonial America had no college until the College of Charleston opened in 1790. A proposal in 1723 to establish an Anglican college in Charlestown had failed. A proposal for “a public college” in 1764 had also failed. “The Rich,” one citizen wrote, “may be indifferent about such an establishment which might deprive their sons of the only advantage of being distinguished among their Countrymen.” In 1770, another attempt was made to found a public (as opposed to a church) college. Governor William Bull, John Rutledge, and numerous citizens supported it, but the planter-dominated legislature refused to enact the legislation. The planters and other wealthy Charlestonians contributed heavily to colleges in Rhode Island, Philadelphia, and New Jersey, and many of their children went to college there. Some of their children attended schools in England. (The number of South Carolinians in the later colonial period who attended the Inns of Court, where lawyers were trained, exceeded the number of students from all of the other colonies combined.) The planters, unconcerned about providing higher education to others and unconcerned about creating their own institutions, sent their children to fine colleges, but established none in Charlestown even though they had the resources to do so. The city was governed, then, by the colonial government itself, which consisted of a Royal Governor appointed by the King and a Council appointed by 30
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the King on the recommendation of the Governor. The Council consisted of the Upper House (from which the later Senate was derived) and a Commons’ House of Assembly, that is, a House of Commons or Lower House, which was popularly elected by those allowed to vote. The Commons was often referred to simply as the Assembly. While New England towns were developing a new form of democratic self-government, the town meeting, and while other colonial cities were becoming municipal corporations complete with various degrees of power, Charlestown was not even a separate entity. Colonial Charlestown’s basic governmental and social needs were met by two institutions: various commissioners who governed the roads, firefighting, the workhouse, and other such matters; and the vestry of St. Philip’s Church, the established Anglican Church, which tended to the needs of the poor. Fire was Charleston’s major urban problem, and numerous blazes wounded the town. The great fire of 1740, the worst in all America to that date, destroyed 334 dwellings and did about 200,000 pounds worth of damage. Other towns took up collections for homeless Charlestonians, and Parliament granted 20,000 pounds to help. (A fire insurance company had been started in 1735 to insure against this terrible peril, but ironically, it failed as a result of the great fire of 1740.) Hampered by medieval English concepts of municipal governments and by the opposition of the planter class and some townspeople to any government at all, the various commissions did the best they could. The streets were generally neglected and unpaved—Broad and Queen Streets were first paved by donations from private citizens. There was no regular police force and crime was another major problem. The city was protected by an “armed watch” and, ultimately, by the military. The watch patrolled at night and was paid out of import duties and tavern fees. It was always poorly organized and complaints issued regularly from the Grand Jury. The men of the watch were generally of “mean and low character,” often bribed, and fond of “beating and abusing negroes sent on errands by their masters with tickets [that is, passes or permission slips], and letting others escape that have none,” at least according to the Grand Jury. The captain of the watch at its lowest ebb was the Governor’s dog keeper. The vestry wardens who cared for the poor were aided in their work by numerous charitable and ethnic organizations formed to aid fellow countrymen who had fallen on hard times. These included the South Carolina Society (probably the wealthiest, founded by French Protestants), the Fellowship The Colonial City
Since there was no formal City of Charlestown, the city’s legislators after 1751 were actually delegates from “St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s” parishes. All that remains of that important district is today’s “St. P. & M.” precinct in the Union Heights section of the Neck, between modern Charleston and North Charleston.
The colony’s military organization served to keep the peace, although it was primarily designed to fight the Indians and Spanish and to suppress slave revolts. The military tradition of South Carolina and Charlestown can be traced to this “military police organization of the white people.” Charlestown was one of the several military districts, the chief of which was a colonel. Each district contained subdivisions headed by a captain. Thus, many prominent citizens became colonels and captains when they headed up the militia in their areas. “To this source,” writes Edward McCrady, “may be traced the prevalence of military titles in the South.” Thus began the tradition of the “Southern Colonel.”
Society, the Charitable Society (Baptist), the German Friendly Society (1766), the Hebrew Benevolent Society (1784), the St. Andrew’s Society (1729), the St. George’s Society (1733), the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick (1774), and the Hibernian Society (1801), which succeeded the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. Many, having once served a useful purpose, have now become exclusive social clubs.
St. Phillip’s Church and Circular Church cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina. Detroit Publishing Co. photograph collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
eligious toleranCe: The Churches of Charlestown flourished and grew in the colonial period. Religious tolerance, taken for granted by modern Americans, was a new concept in the 17th and 18th centuries. Certainly the Puritans of Massachusetts had none of it. But Charlestown, from the beginning, was a model of religious tolerance. Even before the colony was settled, John Locke’s Fundamental Constitutions had guaranteed “ye liberty” of religion to the Indians (“ye natives . . . utterly strangers to Christianity, whose idollatry, ignorance, or mistakes gives us noe right to expell or use ym. ill”), and even to “yt heathens, Jues, and other dissenters.” Thus, while the Anglican Church was established and supported by taxes, no one was forced to belong to it or to refrain from the practice of another religion. There were Methodists, Huguenots, Baptists, Presbyterians, Jews, Quakers, various Dissenters, and those who belonged to no church. Charlestown, unlike Boston or Philadelphia, was not founded by a religious group. It was founded as a business enterprise. Religion was certainly a force, but it was less influential among the tolerant and easy-going Charlestonians than among the Puritans of Boston or the Quakers of Philadelphia. St. Philip’s moved to its present location on Church Street near Queen in 1727. (The architecture of the present church dates, however, from 1835.) The establishment of St. Michael’s was authorized in 1751 because of the expansion of the city’s population. The cornerstone was laid on February 17, 1752, with great ceremony, an official dinner, and toasts to King George II. Nine years in the building, St. Michael’s opened for services on February 1, 1761, and has remained virtually unchanged since. The new church contained a pew for the Governor and Council and special pews for the members of the Assembly. Two future presidents of the Continental Congress (Henry Laurens and Henry Middleton) and one future signer of the Declaration of Independence (Thomas Heyward Jr.) were members. But a majority of Charlestonians were not Anglicans, and other congregations flourished. The Scotch Presbyterians built a frame church (the Scots Kirk) in 1731 on Meeting, south of Tradd Street. Today this is the First (Scots) Presbyterian congregation. 32
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Jewish people from Spain and Portugal came to Charlestown early, some by way of London. There were Jewish people in Charlestown as early as 1695, and, by 1749, the congregation of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (the Holy Congregation Beth Elohim, or House of God) was organized. They met first on Union Street, now State Street, but moved shortly thereafter to Hasell Street. The congregation was strictly Orthodox, and its ritual was the same as the Spanish and Portuguese congregations in London and Amsterdam. In 1792, the Jewish people of Charlestown constructed the largest synagogue in the United States. The Quakers met at a meeting house located on King Street. The Lutherans began construction of St. John’s Lutheran Church in 1759. Construction of a Unitarian Church was commenced in 1772 after a number of Congregationalists broke with that church. Charleston’s Unitarian Church is, thus, the oldest in the South. Beginning with Jonathan Edwards’s sermons in 1734 and continuing through the work of the Reverend George Whitefield, who read Edwards’s tracts in Savannah, the religious revival known as the Great Awakening arrived in Charlestown in the person of Whitefield himself. ( John Wesley, who read the same Edwards tracts in England, was moved to preach the evangelical message, and Methodism was born.) Reverend Whitefield was the greatest preacher of his day. He preached in Charlestown in 1738 and 1740 and caused quite a stir. One of Whitefield’s biographers wrote that Charlestown was “the place of his greatest success and of the greatest opposition.” It was in Charlestown that he confronted the Anglican establishment and began his split from the Anglican Church. Methodism was firmly entrenched in the city from at least the founding of the Cumberland Methodist Church (1787) and the Bethel Methodist Church (1797). John Wesley himself had preached at St. Philip’s in 1737, and Asbury organized the Methodist Church in South Carolina. The Methodists were unpopular for a time, not only because of their “enthusiasm” but because many opposed slavery. The Baptists had been in Charlestown since 1699. In 1751 the Charles Town Baptist Association, the second Baptist Association in America, was established. It consisted of four churches in and near Charlestown. Despite its many religions, Charlestown remained an Anglican stronghold. “As to the State of Religion in this Province,” Dr. Garden wrote after the decline of the Whitefield movement in 1743, “it is bad enough—Rome and the Devil have contriv’d to crucify her between two Thieves, Infedelity [sic] and Enthusiasm. The formers, alas! too much still prevails; but as to the The Colonial City
In 1824, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim became America’s first Reform Jewish congregation. Because the Nazis destroyed the first Reform synagogues, which were all in Germany, this synagogue stands today as the oldest Reform synagogue in the world—and a lasting tribute to religious liberty in Charleston.
A. Ansonborough B. Wm. Rhett House (1717
C. Meeting St. D. Hasell St. E. Dock Street Theatre F. French Huguenot
Karl Theodore Pachelbel, a relative of Johann Sebastian Bach and son of Johann Pachelbel, was the organist at St. Philip’s Church for a time.
latter, Thanks to God it is greatly subsided, even to the Point of vanishing away.” The word “enthusiasm” was a derogatory word used in the eighteenth century to connote irrational thought or behavior, and it was often associated (unfairly at times) with evangelical preachers. It would be quite erroneous to conclude, however, that the evangelical sects did not prosper in normally tolerant Charlestown. The Anglican Church may have lost more than it gained by being “established.” The planter class and elite, eager for the pleasures of this world, found little time for religious study. “Not a single native took Episcopal orders before the Revolution,” writes Carl Bridenbaugh in a final note on Anglican Charlestown.
oCial life: The tavern, inn, or, “punch house” was, in Charlestown as all over colonial America, the most important of social institutions. Despite the protests of some (including the Grand Jury from time to time), Charlestown maintained in excess of one hundred taverns during the colonial era. The most famous was Dillon’s on Broad Street. It was always stocked with wine, liquors, and “good Larder in season.” But there were others, including the Sign of the Bacchus, Henry Gignilliat’s, and the Georgia Coffee House. Taverns provided more than just drinks. They provided food and entertainment. In 1738, for example, one traveling show boasted of an “Ourangnogang (or Man of the Woods), Tho’ this . . . a female of that Species.” A slackwire act appeared later, starring “Mr. Sturges from London,” and “A White Negro Girl” with gray eyes and white hair amused yet another Charlestown tavern audience. “The importation of liquors at Charles Town in 1743,” wrote Carl Bridenbaugh, “staggers the imagination—1,500 dozen empty bottles, among other items, to be used for ‘six months’ supply’ of 1,219 hogsheads, 188 tierces, and 58 barrels of rum.” Colonial Charlestonians loved music. The St. Cecilia Society, which is still in existence, was founded in the early eighteenth century for the purpose of bringing to Charlestown the best concert music available. In the early years the concerts were held at Dillon’s Inn and later at Williams’ Coffee House. The society’s balls became major social events in time. The society was open to anyone who could purchase a subscription, but the subscription was relatively expensive. The music, though, was good. Even young Mr. Quincy approved: “The two bass-viols and French horns were grand. One Abercrombie, a Frenchman just arrived, played a first fiddle, and a solo incomparably better 34
A Short History of Charleston
than any I ever heard.” The society was, by all accounts, the first musical group in British America to support a paid orchestra. The early Charleston theater was as glamorous as its music. As early as 1735 or 1736, Charlestown boasted a theater. The first theaters were located on the Southwest corner of Church and Dock Street, now Queen Street, and were thus called the New Theatre in Dock Street. There appear to have been three or four theaters at that location—all called the New Theatre. (Around the year 1800 the Planter’s Hotel was built on this site and the present facade of the Dock Street Theatre is the old Planter’s Hotel.) By the late colonial period, Charlestown was the undisputed center of drama and theater in the colonies. “In 1773–74, 188 performances were given in Charleston, including eleven of Shakespeare’s plays. It was,” concludes George C. Rogers Jr., “the most brilliantly dramatic season in colonial America.” Probably the main reason for the success of drama and theater in early Charlestown was the city’s ingrained tolerance. Actors were not exactly respectable people in the eighteenth century. Statutes in England against vagrants included “rogues, vagabonds, stage-players, and sturdy beggars.” The Puritans of both England and New England had no use for theater; nor did the Quakers of Pennsylvania. Yet in Charlestown, theater was so accepted that the Court House was the site of the first dramatic performance in the city (a use to which the Court House has been put ever since.) Charlestown was a haven for traveling actors. The planters were able to pay handsomely for the importation of convivial entertainment. And import they did. Anthony Aston showed up in Charlestown in 1703 “full of lice” but able to act. The Orphan or the Unhappy Marriage was performed in 1735, making it the first recorded performance. The players were almost always professional traveling companies. The best always came to Charlestown and stayed for long periods. The Hallam’s Company traveled to Charlestown, for example, in October 1754 and entertained the city for three months with A Bold Stroke for a Wife, The Mock Doctor, and Cato by Addison, among others. In the 1760s Charlestown saw Romeo and Juliet and King Lear performed by the American Company. That company, which met only hostility in Rhode Island and New York, came to Charlestown in November 1763 and stayed until the spring of 1766! Dancing was as popular as music and theater, if not more so. Eighteenthcentury Charlestonians loved to dance. Unlike the Virginians who danced at home, Charlestonians liked to go out. Subscription balls were popular at local inns, such as the Long Room at John Gordon’s. In 1755, Governor Glen gave The Colonial City
The Dock Street Theatre was built in the 1730s and the first play presented there was The Recruiting Officer. Isabella Leland, in Charleston: Crossroads of History, notes that, “This was a favorite with 18th century actresses because the roles include a ‘breeches part’—where the actress wore a British uniform, giving her the opportunity to show off her figure!”
“Pray what is your Assembly about—Dancing?” asked Charlestonian Henry Laurens of a member of the Florida Legislature in 1763. An assembly was a dance and a legislative body in eighteenth-century parlance.
Charlestonians loved to have their portraits painted. Jeremiah Theus, a Swiss, for example, came in 1739 and became “portrait painter in residence” to the planters. The Pinckneys and the Middletons were painted in London. The Izards were among Copley’s patrons, and Gainsborough also painted an Izard.
In 1775, the five largest American cities were Philadelphia (40,000, the second largest city in the British Empire after London), New York (25,000), Boston (16,000), Charlestown (12,000), and Newport, Rhode Island (11,000). Savannah, Georgia was a mere village of 3,200 souls, dependent on Charlestown for trade, protection, and leadership.
“a Supper and a Ball to the Ladies at Mr. Poinsett’s.” Charlestonians liked dancing so well that they included a ballroom in the new “Custom House and Exchange.” The cultural life of colonial Charlestown has taken on many aspects of a myth. The city’s cultural life was a part of its larger life: the hedonistic, sociable, pleasurable life of the planter and merchant elite. That Charlestown was a cultural center, there is no doubt. It abounded with theater, music, dance, and art. But it was an imported culture, not an indigenous one. Actors and musicians were brought in, and plays and music were not written at home. While it’s true that Charlestown had the first public library in America and that the Charleston Library Society, organized in 1743, eventually housed 2,000 books by 1770 (it was the second subscription library in America), it is also true that Charlestonians did not write or publish books in any serious quantity. Between 1743 and 1760, for example, Newport, which was smaller than Charlestown, published 77 titles (almanacs, books, and pamphlets), New York published 495, and Boston published 1,321. Charlestown published 12. “Among a people so sociably inclined . . . reading was never a favorite recreation, nor was learning highly prized for its own sake,” concludes Carl Bridenbaugh in Myths and Realities. Charlestonians did, however, like to read newspapers, and Charlestown had a large number for a city its size: The South Carolina Gazette, established in 1732 by Benjamin Franklin’s partner Lewis Timothy; the South Carolina Weekly Gazette, founded in 1754, and succeeded by the South Carolina and American General Gazette; and Charles Crouch’s South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, founded in 1765.
nD of an era: By the end of the colonial era, Charlestown had experienced its share of success and failure. The population had grown from 2,500 in 1685 to 6,800 in 1742. At mid-century it was the fourth largest city in America, coming after Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. By 1775 its population had climbed to 12,000. Charleston differed markedly from other large cities of America, though, because more than half of its population was enslaved Black people, a simple fact with not-so-simple implications. According to Governor William Bull, in 1770 there were only 24 free Blacks. All of the gaiety of plantation and city life depended on what Thomas Jefferson characterized as “a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.” 36
A Short History of Charleston
Charlestonians survived terrible hurricanes in 1700, 1713, and 1728, as well as the worst ever to that date in September of 1752 when five hundred houses were lost. The great hurricane of 1752, a hurricane comparable to Hurricane Hugo in 1989, blew in on September 14, 1752. Ships in the harbor were blown ashore. Buildings on Sullivan’s Island washed up the Cooper River. “For about forty miles round Charles Town there was hardly a plantation that did not lose every outhouse upon it, and the roads, for years afterwards, were encumbered with trees blown and broken down.” They survived numerous smallpox and yellow fever epidemics. The escape of the planters to the “Carolina Hospital” at Newport, Rhode Island, saved many of them. Charlestown also survived fire after fire, including the great fire of 1740. Yet Charlestown was built on a powder keg: slavery. She would endure Revolution and Civil War before she came face to face with the “peculiar institution.”
The Battery itself is the product of hurricanes. “Especially, does the Battery, the pride of Charleston, owe its origin to this great gale,” Mrs. Ravenel wrote of the hurricane of 1752. The old seawall had been blown away; a new one had to be built. Charles Town actually looked better after the hurricane of 1752 than before.
a final note on colonial Charlestown by “Capt. Martin of A Man of War” in 1769: Black and White all mix’d together, Inconstant, strange, unhealthful weather Burning heat and chilling cold Dangerous both to young and old Boisterous winds and heavy rains Fevers and rhumatic pains Agues plenty without doubt Sores, boils, the prickling heat and gout Musquitos on the skin make blotches Centipedes and large cock-roaches Frightful creatures in the waters Porpoises, sharks and alligators
The Colonial City
Houses built on barren land No lamps or lights, but streets of sand Pleasant walks, if you can find ’em Scandalous tongues, if any mind ’em The markets dear and little money Large potatoes, sweet as honey Water bad, past all drinking Men and women without thinking Every thing at a high price But rum, hominy and rice Many a widow not unwilling Many a beau not worth a shilling Many a bargain, if you strike it This is Charles-town, how do you like it.
An account published in London stated: “The Bay Street which fronts Cooper River is really handsome and would delight any stranger which approached it from the sea.” The walls of the Battery “yielded to every gale and were totally demolished by the hurricane of 1804,” according to Mrs. Ravenel. It was then that the city began using stone, which, as we know, has worked very well ever since.
The Revolutionary City (1765–1800)
The American Revolution turned Charlestown upside down and inside out. Colonial Charlestown, its government, and its way of life broke like fragile china. The city was never to be the same. Before the Revolution, Charlestown was governed by the King, a royal governor, the Council and the Commons or Assembly, St. Philip’s vestry, and various commissioners. After the Revolution, Charlestown became the “City of Charleston” and was incorporated as South Carolina’s first city. It became part of a new national government, first under the Declaration of Independence, then under the Articles of Confederation, and, finally, under the United States Constitution. And native sons had a strong hand in all these forms the new government took. The Revolution opened the door to power for artisans, mechanics, young lawyers, small merchants, and “new men.” Revolutionary Charlestown saw it all: political agitation, class conflict, war, mob rule, death, destruction, civil war, military occupation, near starvation, and chaos. Many Charlestonians sacrificed their lives for the new nation in spite of a deep affection for the English way of life. Perhaps more than anything else, the change was one of mood. The people had come to see themselves as separate from the English, and local institutions had matured. The Commons House of Assembly gained power and prestige. It occupied a new State House built on Broad Street in the 1750s. The Assembly resembled the English House of Commons, complete with ceremonial mace and parliamentary journals. Colonial leadership, as it gained confidence, became more assertive. Charlestonians were in no mood to be obsequious. They had withstood the terrors of the wilderness and the American Indians and had fought the pirates without help from the Proprietors. They had deposed the Lord Proprietors 39
Facing Revolutionary heroism: Sergeant William Jasper replacing flag at Fort Moultrie, Charleston. New York Public Library.
The Stamp Act brought together a powerful group of “mechanics” (craftsmen and artisans) and working people. The mechanics, later to be called Sons of Liberty, were the moving force in the revolutionary movement in Charlestown, and Charlestown was the moving force in the colony.
themselves. They had fought the Spanish and helped to secure Georgia and the upcountry. They had fought successfully in the French and Indian War, a war that brought out the differences between the American colonies and Great Britain. In a sense, the American Revolution was the culmination of the French and Indian War, which had brought about the defeat of the Cherokees, the Spanish, and the French in the New World and left Great Britain in control in North America—a victory that soon caused problems for Great Britain, for the American colonies, and for Charlestown. Who was to pay the huge cost of the French and Indian War and the cost of maintaining British troops in America? Great Britain looked to the colonies, but the colonists felt they had already paid their share of the cost of the war both in terms of men and money. There were two sides to the question, but South Carolinians already paid a wearying variety of taxes on enslaved people, real property, and interest-bearing notes, for example. And many Charlestonians paid especially heavy taxes because they owned both property and enslaved people and because of the nature of their businesses. By the late 1760s, many Charlestonians had begun to feel that Great Britain’s policies were overbearing. The French and Indian War also had a bad effect on the economy. So, it is not surprising that Charlestown bitterly opposed the Stamp Act of 1765. The act roused lawyers because tax stamps were required for most legal documents. It roused printers because stamps were required for the sale of newspapers, books, pamphlets, and almanacs. The Stamp Act consolidated the revolutionary movement in the colonies. It united those people suffering economic hardships, those outraged at “taxation without representation,” those who resented British arrogance. It brought together ambitious young men on the make, idealistic, budding American nationalists and those who harbored personal grievances. Charlestown’s mechanics had a lot to be unhappy about, not all of it the work of the King of England. First, they had limited political power. While most could vote and were qualified for election to the Assembly, they were never elected because, in a deferential society, a workingman was supposed to know his place. During the agitation that was to come, one aristocrat said quite bluntly that he would have no truck with mechanics because men who only knew “how to cut up a beast in a market to best advantage, to cobble an old shoe . . . or to build a necessary house” were not intended by nature to “be profound politicians or able statesmen.” In the eighteenth century most people still believed in the medieval idea of the Great Chain of Being, an ordered 40
A Short History of Charleston
society (God, the King, the Church, the aristocracy, the common people), the rule of gentlemen. Mechanics also suffered from currency problems. In 1764 Parliament passed a law preventing the colonies from issuing paper money, thereby creating a currency shortage. Add to this hard times, scarcities, and competition with enslaved labor (which the mechanics bitterly resented), and the result was a hard-core group of men ready to take a chance.
aDsDen anD felloWs: Add to this group the leadership of an eloquent and brilliant intellectual, a wealthy merchant, a military leader, a respected churchman, a man with a fiery temper and incorruptible integrity, and, even without the planters and merchants, the Sons of Liberty became a party to be reckoned with. Such a man was Christopher Gadsden, owner and builder of the great Gadsden Wharf and an early champion of attributed to Charleston’s mechanics. Gadsden had been angry at the British since the Cherokee War because he thought the British had mishandled it. He was further incensed by a royal governor’s attempt to unseat him in the Commons. Gadsden attacked the British government quite early. “Will it be asserted by any friend to the natural liberties of British subjects,” he asked, “that, in order to retain those liberties, a man must never stir out of Britain?” He gathered about him angry mechanics, young lawyers, and young planters, and agitated throughout the Revolutionary period. He attended the Stamp Act Congress in New York, together with John Rutledge and Thomas Lynch. When, on October 18, 1765 (while the Stamp Act Congress was in session), the Planter’s Adventure arrived in Charlestown harbor with the hated stamps on board, some “very extraordinary and universal commotions” occurred. The next morning a gallows appeared at Broad and Church complete with an effigy, a sign reading “Liberty and no Stamp Act,” and a warning that the effigy not be removed or the guilty party would be “born with a stone about his neck, and cast into the sea.” Two thousand protesters paraded as a funeral procession that night in search of the stamps. The home of George Saxby, the stamp officer, was searched, and the windows broken. Nothing was sacred. Henry Laurens’s home in Ansonborough was invaded on October 23 because the mob believed he had the stamps. Even though Laurens was opposed to the Stamp Act, the mob put a cutlass to his throat, searched his home (in vain), and rummaged through his wine cellar, wasting much of his wine. From there the mob went to the home of Chief Justice Shinner on King Street. An Irishman of great wit, the Chief Justice rose to the
The Revolutionary City
Agitator of the Revolution: Christopher Gadsden, 1724– 1805. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
The Townshend duties taxed and regulated local coastal shipping for the first time. Henry Laurens was so irritated that he twisted Chief Customs Agent Daniel Moore’s nose on the Battery. But more noses than Moore’s were out of joint in Charlestown.
The Liberty Tree’s exact location has been lost, but its approximate location is marked by a plaque placed by the Sons of the American Revolution in 1906 at 80 Alexander Street (near the Gaillard Center on Calhoun Street).
occasion by providing bowls of punch and liquor for the protesters and joining them in toasts of “Damnation to the Stamp Act.” When British merchants realized that the tax was hurting their business, they called for its repeal in London. Parliament succumbed, and the Stamp Act was repealed. Despite repeal, events continued to push the planters closer to rebellion. Planters, after all, needed hard-to-find credit because financing staple crops was expensive. And the next ax to fall, the Townshend Revenue Acts of 1767, made the situation worse. The Acts laid a tax on paper, glass, and other articles of commerce, raising prices and creating what seemed to the Charlestonians a permanent class of British customs officers, “a set of Harpies . . . let loose among ye, to Destroy Your Trade . . . harass ye to Death.” The fact that the Townshend Acts also permitted searches without warrants in places where smuggled or untaxed goods might be found was even more ominous. By June 1767, the planters were coming around to the mechanics’ point of view and attending meetings at the Liberty Tree. The strategy was to join the Northern colonies in refusing to import or buy British goods. John Mackenzie, a planter, joined with Gadsden and Thomas Lynch (“a man of sense,” Governor Bull wrote, but “very obstinate in urging to extremity”) in leading the growing radical movement. Because nonimportation hurt the Charlestown merchants, they became involved in the movement in order to protect their interests. A committee composed of equal numbers of merchants, mechanics, and planters was formed to enforce the nonimportation pact, which, very simply, forbade anyone from importing goods from England. Not everyone agreed. William Wragg, William Henry Drayton, and many others bitterly opposed nonimportation; loyalists abounded in Charlestown at the beginning of the 1760s and throughout the war. All during this period there was, or seemed to be, an increase in what Charlestonians called “placemen;” that is, Englishmen appointed in England to serve in the colony in the place of local people. Customs officers were placemen. Charles Pinckney was replaced by a placeman, Peter Leigh, as Chief Justice. Peter Leigh’s son, Egerton Leigh, replaced John Rutledge as attorney general. Daniel Moore succeeded Beaufain as collector of customs. Royal judges replaced local ones. Local government gave way to strangers. The meetings at the Liberty Tree grew louder, more numerous, and more radical. Things went from bad to worse in 1772 when the royal governor decided to teach the Assembly a lesson. On the pretext that he could not find suitable accommodations in Charlestown, he ordered the Assembly to meet in Beaufort, 42
A Short History of Charleston
75 miles away. Making Charlestonians go anywhere is difficult in any age, but Beaufort was Beaufort and a day’s journey to boot. The royal governor evidently believed the leaders of the revolutionary movement would not bother to attend. He was wrong. The legislature met in record numbers and angrily denounced the governor. Not only had he arbitrarily moved the place of government, but he had also delayed the meeting of the Assembly, kept the members in Beaufort for three days without conducting business, made a condescending speech to the Assembly, and then abruptly ordered the Assembly back to Charlestown. Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts, but kept the duty on tea, which was probably the worst mistake yet. Having alienated mechanics, lawyers, and printers with the Stamp Act, now Parliament alienated the merchants. Under the Tea Act, a government-subsidized monopoly, the East India Company, would have the exclusive right to sell tea without paying duty. The sagging radical movement was rejuvenated. When tea arrived in Charlestown it was resolved not to allow it to land. In Boston they dumped the tea overboard. In Charlestown it ended up in the vaults of the Exchange. In January 1774, the people of Charlestown established an Executive Committee to keep more tea from landing, but Boston was the center of the storm. The tea party there angered Parliament so much that it passed what came to be called the Intolerable Acts, among them: the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston; the Quartering Act, which allowed the royal governor to commandeer private homes for troops; and other acts restricting the Massachusetts colony. Reaction was swift throughout the colonies, and the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in September of that same year. South Carolina sent five delegates—all Charlestonians—to the Continental Congress: Henry Middleton, John Rutledge, Christopher Gadsden, Thomas Lynch, and Edward Rutledge. Henry Middleton and John Rutledge were the unanimous choice of all factions, but support for the other delegates was split between the merchants and the mechanics. The mechanics won the heated contest. South Carolinians joined every other colony in sending aid to beleaguered Boston. The good people of Charlestown sent money and barrels of rice. Government of the colony and the city now fell to an extralegal body, the Provincial Congress, which had representatives from all parts of the province. The mechanics were well represented in this body in contrast to the old colonial Commons. Names such as Cannon, Lockwood, Timothy, Trezevant, and Berwick began to be heard in the halls of government, along with Pinckney and Manigault. The Revolutionary City
When planter Francis Salvador was elected to the Provincial Congress, he became the first Jew in modern history anywhere in the world to be elected to a popular assembly.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence risked their lives and fortunes for liberty. But the Charlestown delegates fought Jefferson’s first draft, which declared that the King “has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him . . . carrying them into slavery.” The paragraph condemning slavery was deleted from the Declaration. The Declaration was signed on August 2, 1776, by 56 revolutionaries, including four young South Carolinians: Edward Rutledge (age 26), Thomas Heyward Jr. (29), Thomas Lynch (26), and Arthur Middleton (34).
Charlestonians awaited a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The great majority still did not want separation from Britain. Throughout the controversy, Charlestown’s families were divided on the issues. Regarding the Stamp Act, William Bull was for the King; his nephews were for the revolutionaries. William Moultrie became a great revolutionary general; his brother remained royal lieutenant governor of Florida. Daniel Heyward was a Tory; his son, Thomas Heyward, signed the Declaration of Independence. The same divisions could be found in the Drayton, Pinckney, Horry, Manigault, Huger, and Lowndes families. The Reverend John Bullman, assistant minister of St. Michael’s, preached a sermon on Sunday, August 14, 1774, chiding “every silly clown and illiterate mechanic [who] will take upon him to censure the conduct of his Prince or Governor.” A meeting was called to challenge Reverend Bullman, and he was ousted by a vote of 42 to 33. The action was hotly disputed. When Reverend Bullman sailed for England he left with a testimonial signed by 81 members of the Church and 986 pounds as a gift. Charlestonians were still divided on the Revolution. But the conflict was not to be resolved. And in the Revolution, as in the Civil War later, brother was to fight brother.
ame the revolution: The “embattled farmers” of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts faced British redcoats, and eight were killed on April 19, 1775. The shot may have been heard around the world, but it took time to reach Charlestown. When the news arrived on May 8, 1775, the mechanics were generally for independence and war. Most of the merchants, planters, and “substantial citizens” of Charlestown, however, were for strong measures short of war. John Rutledge recalled years later that a blacksmith, William Johnson, was “the man who first moved the ball of revolution in Charlestown.” Yet others were openly for revolt. “I can only tell you,” Peter Timothy wrote, “that the Plebeians are still for War—but the noblesse perfectly pacfic [sic].” By June, the revolutionary Secret Committee was tarring and feathering those loyal to the Crown. Every effort at reconciliation with the English government having failed, the American colonies declared their independence. Independence was adopted in principle on July 2, 1776. On the very day the committee assigned to draft the Declaration of Independence reported to Congress, the first attempt by the British to crush the revolt in the South was made in Charlestown harbor. Charlestonians were to provide the new nation with one of its first victories. A fort of palmetto tree logs from Dewees Island was hastily constructed on Sullivan’s Island. The
A Short History of Charleston
commander of the fort was General William Moultrie. North of Sullivan’s Island lay Long Island (now called the Isle of Palms). Across the harbor was Fort Johnson and the First Regiment commanded by Gadsden. Moultrie had 435 men from two units, the Second South Carolina Infantry and the Fourth South Carolina Regiment. The north end of Sullivan’s Island was secured by 780 men under Colonel William Thompson of Orangeburg. Thompson and his rangers, dragoons, and 50 “Raccoon Riflemen” (from their coonskin caps) awaited the British from behind two small sand batteries. The British fleet consisted of 50 ships and 3,000 soldiers under the command of Sir Henry Clinton and Lord Charles Cornwallis. The British strategy was to land the soldiers on Long Island, cross Breach Inlet (separating Long from Sullivan’s Island) while the ships bombarded the little fort on Sullivan’s Island. But Breach Inlet, then as now, proved to be dangerous and deep. On June 28, the fleet set about its business. There were eleven ships carrying two hundred and seventy guns anchored off Fort Sullivan, and the bombardment began. The fort, made of spongy palmetto logs, held. Though the British aim was good, their shots did not do great damage. The British fleet, on the other hand, suffered terribly: the Admiral’s flagship, the Bristol, suffered most, and all men aboard were wounded. The captains of both the Bristol and the Experiment were killed. Three British ships ran aground on the shoal on which Fort Sumter now stands, preventing them from attacking the fort on its most vulnerable side. Sir Peter Parker had “the hindpart of his breeches shot away, which laid his posteriors bare.” The British lost over a hundred men and at least one ship, and they suffered heavy damage to other ships. The Americans lost only twelve men. At one point in the Battle of Fort Moultrie, the new state’s blue and white flag was shot away. The cheering British thought the lowering of the flag meant surrender, but a brave little Irishman, Sergeant Jasper, replaced it. His actions, now a legend in South Carolina, are best described by an eyewitness: “The expression of a Sergeant McDaniel, after a cannon ball had taken off his shoulder and scouped out his stomach, is worth recording in the annals of America: ‘Tight on, my brave boys; don’t let liberty expire with me today!’ . . . My old Grenadier, Ser. Jasper upon the shot carrying away the flag-staff, called out to Col. Moultrie: ‘Col. don’t let us fight without our flag.’ ‘What can you do?’ replied the Col.; ‘the staff is broke.’ ‘Then, sir,’ said he, ‘I’ll fix it to a halbert, and place it on the merlon of the bastion, next to the enemy;’ which he did, through the thickest fire.” Charlestown, having witnessed the first great victory of the American The Revolutionary City
Soldier of the Revolution: General William Moultrie, victorious over the British in 1776, was later captured and offered a regiment of redcoats. “Good God! Is it possible that such an idea could arise in the breast of a man of honor?” He survived to march into Charleston at the head of American troops. (William Moultrie, 1730–1805. Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale, 1782. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.) In remembrance of the palmetto logs that saved the day on Sullivan’s Island, the palmetto tree was affixed to the state flag. South Carolina became the Palmetto State. Fort Sullivan became Fort Moultrie in honor of General Moultrie, and Colonel Thompson is remembered by a bridge named Thompson Bridge over Breach Inlet.
A. Ft. Sullivan (Ft.
B. Ft. Johnson C. Breach Inlet D. John’s Is. E. Hadrell’sPt. F. Provost Prison (under
Old Exchange) G. Snee Farm
Revolution, was ecstatic, and for three years Charlestown was spared further military involvement. The port was open and trade was booming. Young Charlestonians fought elsewhere. But Charlestown’s role in the War for Independence was just beginning. Two events signaled the tragedy to come: an incompetent general, Benjamin Lincoln of Massachusetts, was sent to defend the Carolinas and Georgia, and Savannah had fallen to the British by 1778. It was just a matter of time before Charlestown suffered the same fate. The British had about 40,000 soldiers to Washington’s 27,000. The overall British strategy was to squeeze Washington in a vice between the north and south. After New York was secured, Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, sailed for Savannah. And when Savannah fell, he moved toward Charlestown. Determined not to make the same mistake twice by trying to capture Charlestown by way of the harbor, Clinton landed on John’s Island on February 11, 1780. He easily made his way to James Island and then crossed the Ashley River to the Neck, just north of the city. General Lincoln, bullied into defending an indefensible Charlestown by popular demand, kept his troops in the city instead of placing them in the outlying areas where they could surprise the enemy or at least escape to fight elsewhere. The British commander had almost 8,000 regular troops under his command, 2,000 of whom were Hessian (German) mercenaries. Governor Rutledge and three of his council fled on April 12 to avoid the capture of the state’s government.
S Old Tom Singleton, a rich tobacco planter and merchant, so hated British commander Balfour that he dressed his pet baboon in an exact reproduction of the commander’s regimental uniform. For this he was exiled to St. Augustine. He returned at the end of the war and lies buried in St. Michael’s churchyard.
tate of siege: The siege of Charlestown began on April 13 and lasted one month. One shell hit the statue of William Pitt, taking off his right arm. The women were sent out of the city or sent to the cellars. Bombs, “red-hot balls” and “carcasses” (an iron-frame bomb) descended on the city, bringing fires and death. Finally, the people of Charlestown asked to surrender. The terms of surrender were that regular Continental troops would become prisoners and that soldiers of the militia and townspeople could return home on parole if they promised not to take up arms against the King again. They did not, however, have to agree to take up arms for the King. “Sir,” one British officer said to Moultrie, “you have made a gallant defense. But you had a great many rascals among you . . . who came out at night and gave us information of what was passing in town.” The Tories of Charlestown were still active. Charlestown was occupied for the remainder of the Revolutionary War. The Tories had their day. Two hundred citizens presented an address to the British conquerors declaring their loyalty. Some entertained the British officers and offered their assistance. Most Charlestonians, however, remained loyal to 46
A Short History of Charleston
the Revolution. Despite the terms of the surrender, thirty-three Charlestonians, including Christopher Gadsden, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Peter Timothy, and David Ramsay, were soon arrested for no reason and imprisoned, first in the Exchange and then in a prison ship in the harbor. Finally, they were exiled to St. Augustine, Florida, where the fiery Gadsden refused any parole with the British and consequently spent nearly eleven months in a dungeon. When warned that he would be confined to the dungeon, Gadsden replied: “Prepare it. I will give no parole, so help me God.” Other Charlestonians were confined in the “Provost,” the “damp dark cellar under the Exchange.” Men and women of all classes were rounded up and confined together. Some died. Continental officers were imprisoned at Haddrell’s Point in Mount Pleasant. Moultrie and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were quartered at Snee Farm. The Revolutionary City
The Siege of Charleston during the American Revolution. (The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library.)
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Later as a diplomat, Pinckney was said to have uttered the famous words, “Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute.” (Charles Cotesworth Pinckney [ca. 1773]. Henry Benbridge, artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Instiution.)
Soon the British, led by Colonel Banestre Tarleton, later called “Bloody Tarleton,” began a reign of terror in the countryside. Because British officers and soldiers could legally take the property of “traitors,” it was extremely profitable for them to loot. Silver, china, slaves, or other removable valuables were theirs for the taking. This reign of terror was, however, a major blunder, because it roused the small farmers of the upcountry, and drove most of them into the ranks of the revolutionaries. The Gamecock, Thomas Sumter, and the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, of St. John’s, Berkeley, soon finished what the Moultries and the Gadsdens had begun. South Carolina lost more men in the Revolutionary War than any other state, but it was this sacrifice that was ultimately to break the back of the British Army. The Revolution was almost as much a civil war in Charlestown as it was a war for independence. Those Charlestonians loyal to the King and those loyal to the Revolution became bitter enemies during the last years of the war. Reverend Samuel Prioleau, writing his wife from St. Augustine, declared: “If anything . . . should happen to me that is to say being hung or shot, which I believe they dare not do, I hope my sons will revenge it when they are able, and never be at peace with Great Britain. We hear that the Prisoners familys [sic] have been insulted. I beg as a particular favour if any has insulted you or any of my family you will let me know who it was, and what was the insult, as I think I stand a chance of being relieved and may meet them in some part of the world.” To make matters worse, Sir Henry Clinton next decided to break his agreement and require all South Carolinians to declare allegiance to the crown or lose their right to sue in court, to travel freely, and to conduct their business. Many honorable patriots were forced to accept Clinton’s terms or lose their livelihoods. The British also made very tempting offers to Moultrie, the Pinckneys, and others if they would take command of British troops. Bitterness toward the British and Loyalists reached a new peak. Despite the danger, Charlestonians throughout the occupation gave as much aid as they could to their men at arms. The women of Charlestown smuggled food and clothing to the soldiers and, as Mrs. St. Julian Ravenel tells it, helped in other ways: “Widows were at great advantage; being responsible for no man’s proceedings, they were less severely dealt with than were other women, and with the danger of no man’s life or liberty on their hearts, they could give their favourite weapon—the tongue—full play.” Nor did the women of Charlestown’s aristocracy lose their sense of humor. When Tarleton derided Colonel William Washington as “an ignorant fellow” who “could not 48
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write his name,” Mrs. Charles Elliott replied, “at least, Colonel, he can make his mark,” an allusion to Tarleton’s hand, from which Washington had cut three fingers with his sword.
he exeCution of isaaC hayne: The cruelty of the British was most forcibly expressed in their treatment of Colonel Isaac Hayne, a prominent planter from St. Paul’s parish. Hayne had fought for independence with his fellows in the militia and had been paroled along with the rest after the fall of Charlestown. When Clinton illegally changed the conditions of the parole on June 2, 1780, Hayne was ordered to declare his loyalty to the King and bear arms for the King or face imprisonment. Hayne signed the declaration so that he could be with his dying wife and sick children. He was assured by the British, however, that he would never be forced to bear arms against his countrymen. Later the British demanded that he fight for the Crown. Hayne was indignant and, feeling that the British had broken their word, determined to fight again. Unfortunately, he was captured. The war in South Carolina was not faring well for the British by the time of Colonel Hayne’s capture on July 8, 1781. Sumter and Marion were actively harassing the Tories and the British. Men who had sworn loyalty to the King were rejoining the rebels. Lieutenant Colonel Balfour, Commandant of Charlestown, and Lieutenant Colonel Lord Rawdon, now Supreme Commander in South Carolina, decided to make an example of Hayne. Without a proper trial, they ordered his death as a traitor to the crown. Charlestonians were infuriated and disgusted. Tories as well as rebels petitioned Balfour and Rawdon. Colonel Hayne’s deceased wife’s sister, Mrs. Arthur Peronneau, and the little Hayne children begged on their knees at the Brewton House before Rawdon to spare Hayne’s life. British officers requested that Rawdon allow Hayne to die like a soldier, like the worthy adversary he was, instead of suffering the death of a traitor. Rawdon would not budge. On August 4, 1781, Colonel Hayne, accompanied by a few friends, walked from the Provost jail beneath the Old Exchange Building on East Bay Street to the place of his execution. He did not know how he was to die until he left the town gates at the site of present-day King Street between George and Liberty. He paused when he learned that he was to be hanged. His friends urged him to die with courage, and he replied, “I will try.” Isaac Hayne died with great courage. He mounted the cart, which when pulled away would mean his death, without assistance. He prayed for his soul, The Revolutionary City
Execution of Isaac Hayne. Painting, 1973, by Carrol N. Jones. From the Display Arts Collection [DA-041] at the South Carolina Historical Society.
The Exchange Building was the city’s first city hall and played host to a splendid “dancing assembly” in honor of George Washington in 1791. (Exchange and Custom House, 122 East Bay St., Charleston, South Carolina. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
shook his friends’ hands, and drew a hood over his face. He signaled the hangman that he was ready to die. And so Isaac Hayne gave his life for his country— without fear and “with perfect calmness and dignity.” Cornwallis had left South Carolina a prostrate state when he departed with his troops for points north. But the barbarity of British military policies stirred the people to rise up with even greater vigor. The battles of Eutaw Springs and Cowpens proved the undoing of the British in South Carolina. They were driven back to Charlestown. Meanwhile, events in New York, France, and a little town in Virginia called Yorktown decided the fate of America. King Louis XVI of France decided to commit the major part of his navy to support the Americans against the British; Admiral de Grasse cooperated with Washington and Rochambeau and sealed up Cornwallis at Yorktown. Clinton, safe in New York, would not budge. Washington made an unexpected decision to attack Cornwallis at Yorktown rather than Clinton in New York. Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781, as military bands played “The World Turned Upside Down.” Almost one year later, the British troops left Charlestown via Gadsden’s Wharf, taking with them the booty of war—silver, plates, church books, and the bells of St. Michael’s Church, which a Major Traille of the Royal Artillery claimed as his “perquisite.” The evacuation was tense but peaceful. The American army left its camps at Ashley Hall and Middleton Place in St. Andrews Parish, crossed the river at Bee’s Ferry, and spent the night. As the British departed, the Americans arrived. General Moultrie describes the scene: “I can never forget the happy day when we marched into Charlestown with the American troops; it was a proud day to me, and I felt myself much elated at seeing the balconies, the doors and windows crowded with the patriotick fair, the aged citizens and others congratulating us on our return home, saying ‘God bless you, gentlemen,’—‘You are welcome, gentlemen.’ Both citizens and soldiers shed tears of joy.” But Charlestown was in ruins. Its neighboring plantations were devastated. Government was in disarray. The victors sought vengeance against the Tories. The end of the war brought great ferment and change. There was fortunately, if inevitably, a postwar boom in business, trade, and especially building. After all, the town had to be rebuilt. In the political arena, the inevitable clash between the mechanics, the merchants, and the planters had not been avoided, only postponed. In 1783 and 1784 there were riots of all kinds in Charlestown. Violence was directed mainly at the Tories. Some was directed by the Tories at those loyal 50
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to the Revolution. Some involved class riots pitting a “democratic” element against everything aristocratic and British. The worst riot occurred on July 11, 1783. Tarring and feathering were frequent. The mechanics criticized the planters for their use of enslaved labor and for their leniency toward the Tories. The merchant class was now largely made up of new British merchants who became established during the occupation and decided to stay on after the peace was concluded. The status of the merchant in Charlestown society suffered from this period forward. Democratic societies were formed to resist what was seen as an aristocratic takeover of government. Alexander Gillon founded the Marine Anti-Britannic Society to harass the Tories and the British and to encourage trade with other countries.
eW governments are Born: It is significant that the municipal government of Charlestown was born in the tumultuous year 1783. Charlestown, it will be recalled, had no municipal government throughout the colonial era; that is, there was no mayor or city council. Now the General Assembly acted, apparently because it feared the violence in the streets, to establish a city government. So on August 13, 1783, after a summer of civil disorder, Charlestown was incorporated, and its name was changed to Charleston. At last the city had a municipal government. The mayor was known as the Intendant. Elected representatives were known as Wardens. Together they formed the City Council of Charleston, which was given wide authority to regulate the “harbour, streets, lanes, public buildings, work-houses, markets, wharves, public houses, carriages, wagons, carts, drays, pumps, buckets, fireengines . . . seamen or disorderly people [and] negroes.” In the first city election, the voters chose a pro-aristocratic Intendant, Richard Hutson, but the Council reflected all elements of Charleston society (except, of course, Black people). Some mechanics were elected. But riots and violence continued despite the best efforts of the new Council and many mechanic societies, which were concerned lest the city fall into a permanent state of anarchy. In March 1784, the most famous confrontation of this period occurred. John Rutledge was invited to a dinner to be given by the Sons of Saint Patrick and told a tavern keeper, Captain William Thompson, he could not attend. Thompson apparently forgot to pass along the message. Rutledge summoned Thompson to explain his behavior. Thompson took offense at Rutledge’s questioning, and a great argument ensued. The House of Representatives, at The Revolutionary City
The Intendant became known as the Mayor and the Wardens became known as Aldermen in 1836. The 1783 charter remained in effect as legal basis for the city until 1976, when, under a new Home Rule Act, each city in South Carolina received a standardized charter. The Aldermen are now called Members of Council.
John Rutledge: Revolutionary, Governor, Judge, and one of the architects of the United States Constitution. He was appointed Chief Justice of the United States by George Washington. (John Rutledge, ca. 1791. John Trumbell, artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.)
Rutledge’s request, investigated the matter and ordered that Thompson be arrested “for a gross insult on” a member of the House! Thompson demanded a hearing and an attorney. He was released, but the incident further deepened the bitter divisions between the mechanics and “common folk” and the aristocracy or “Nabobs,” as they were called by their enemies. Thompson complained he was punished because “the great John Rutledge was individually offended by a plebian.” Rioting broke out again in July, after a Fourth of July celebration. Soon, however, the city settled down. The mechanics reached their peak of power in the post-revolutionary period. Over time they were absorbed into the planter class, or at least into a class of small farmers who owned a few enslaved people. The people of the city and the state became resigned to the fact that South Carolina in general and Charleston in particular would be a democracy, but a democracy generally dominated by an aristocratic ruling class. Charlestonians of all classes were committed to the future under a new flag and a new government. Henry Laurens, for example, imprisoned in the Tower of London, was released and exchanged for Lord Cornwallis. He then went to France and helped to negotiate the treaty of peace, together with Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams. Charlestonians muddled through the Confederation period along with the rest of the country and saw the need for a new form of national government. Four Charlestonians—Pierce Butler, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and John Rutledge—went to Philadelphia in 1787 and helped to draft and then have their state ratify the new Constitution of the United States. Charlestonians strongly favored the new federal government. Trade was the basis of Charleston’s economy, and stable international trade required a strong national government. Charlestonians were in the forefront when that government was created. Charles Pinckney and John Rutledge had dinner together at Rutledge’s home at 116 Broad Street prior to leaving for Philadelphia. There the two men met and discussed the shape the new Constitution would take. From that meeting emerged “the Pinckney Draught,” Charles Pinckney’s proposed draft of the new Constitution. “Indeed,” as the historian James M. Beck has written, “Pinckney’s plan was the future Constitution of the United States in embryo.” That draft was presented to the convention on May 29, 1787. Undoubtedly John Rutledge, later elected to chair the Committee on Detail (which actually wrote the first draft of the Constitution), had a copy of Pinckney’s draft before his committee. 52
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Pinckney proposed many key provisions of the Constitution. He proposed on August 30, 1787, and the Convention adopted, an amendment to Article XX of the Constitution that states “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the authority of the United States.” As all states had a religious test for public office, it was an important precedent. He proposed a limitation on congressional powers to appropriate money and to raise and support armies for a longer term than two years. Indeed, some historians view Pinckney as the earliest proponent of a Bill of Rights, which the federal Convention did not propose. Pinckney also contributed immensely to the creation of the presidency. The Virginia Plan did not specify the nature of the Executive, and, in fact, Governor Randolph, the proponent of the Virginia Plan, vigorously pressed for a three-person Executive Branch together with a “Council of Revision” to be composed of the executives and a number of federal judges. It was analogous to the British Privy Council. Pinckney’s plan and his argument on the floor, however, called for a single executive to be called the “President.” The name was Pinckney’s suggestion. Pinckney also proposed that the House of Representatives should exclusively possess the power of impeachment; that the President report on the “state of the union”; that the President commission all officers and that he be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. Pinckney’s other contributions include the names of the House and Senate; granting the Congress the power to coin money, to establish post offices, to call forth the aid of the militia; provisions forbidding the states from maintaining an armed force in time of peace and forbidding the states from coining money. Pinckney proposed that each house choose its own presiding officers and establish its own rules. Pinckney first proposed uniform bankruptcy laws. Pinckney never received the credit he deserved for his contributions. In the first place, he was intensely disliked by James Madison, who kept the best journal of the convention. He was vain and pompous. And his records were all destroyed by fire and he left no credible account himself. A biographer later wrote: “A very strange and melancholy feeling overtakes us as we search the remains of Charles Pinckney. Here is a man upon whom Heaven appears to have showered its gifts . . . and yet, here are his memorials in a few tattered bits of paper.” Modern historians, however, appreciate his role. Christopher Collier wrote, “The Father of the Constitution he was not; but he must be seen as one of the group, with James Madison, James Wilson, Roger Sherman, and others, who did the most in shaping it.” The Revolutionary City
His boasting about his role in drafting the Constitution earned Charles Pinckney the nickname “Constitution Charlie.” Though Pinckney argued for a pro-slavery Constitution, he was the first to propose a Bill of Rights. (Etching of Charles Pinckney by Albert Rosenthal. The American Revolution in South Carolina Digital Collection. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.)
The State of South Carolina ratified the Constitution of the United States on May 23, 1788, at the Exchange Building in Charleston. It is one of only three buildings still standing where the Constitution was ratified.
“But the principle cause [of ratification of the Constitution] was holding the Convention in the City [of Charleston], where there are not 50 inhabitants who are not friendly to it. The merchants and leading men kept open houses for the back and low country members during the whole time the Convention sat.” —Aedanus Burke to John Lamb, June 23, 1788.
Columbia was laid out on the Taylor plantation, “The Plains.” Colonel Taylor is reputed to have said: “They spoiled a damned fine plantation to make a damned poor town.” Charlestonians agreed.
John Rutledge, too, was instrumental in the writing and ratification of the Constitution. He headed the Committee that wrote the final document. In the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville, a French journalist, came to the United States to study its people and government. His book, Democracy in America, became a classic. He researched the origin of the Constitution and was told Thomas Jefferson had written it. De Tocqueville knew Jefferson was in France at the time, so he knew that was not possible. After researching the archives and interviewing numerous people, he exclaimed “There is no mystery about it—the authorship of the Constitution is quite clear—a man named John Rutledge wrote it.” De Tocqueville came to Charleston to interview Rutledge’s family, but it was fifty years later and they knew very little of Rutledge’s contribution. It had been forgotten. Charlestonians also worked for ratification of the Constitution. Those who supported it became known as Federalists. Their opponents, generally older residents of the upcountry, were anti-Federalists. In May 1788 Charleston and the Low Country voted overwhelmingly for ratification. The upcountry voted overwhelmingly against it. Ratification of the federal Constitution led to a movement in the upcountry for a new state constitution. Charleston had lost her place in 1786 when the capital was removed to the Taylor plantation in the center of the state, and, as David Duncan Wallace writes, “given the nationalistic name Columbia.” The convention called in 1790 to rewrite the state constitution voted again on the location of the state capital. By a vote of 109 to 105 the capital remained at the plantation named Columbia (a city-to-be). Charlestonians did not give up. They sought to have two capitals! (The idea was not unique. Rhode Island had two capitals—Newport and Providence— until 1900; Connecticut had two capitals until 1874.) A compromise was reached in which there would be two state treasurers, certain state offices would function in both Charleston and Columbia, and the Courts of Appeals would convene in both cities. The legislature could, by a two-thirds vote, move the capital. Thus Charleston unwillingly lost its status as the capital of South Carolina. Charlestonians were active in government affairs from the national to the local level throughout the remainder of the century: William Moultrie, Thomas Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, Arnoldus Vander Horst, and Edward Rutledge served as Governor. John Rutledge became Chief Justice of the United States in 1795, although he was never confirmed by the Senate. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney served as Washington’s Minister to France after rejecting an offer to become Secretary of State. 54
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In 1797, Pinckney was sent to France, together with John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, to negotiate with the French government, which, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, allowed French privateers to prey on American ships. When Tallyrand, the French Foreign Minister, secretly proposed, through envoys named X, Y, and Z, the possibility of a bribe of $250,000 and a $10 million loan in order to negotiate, Pinckney held firm. “No, not a sixpence,” he said. Or, as a congressman reported it: “Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute.” The XYZ affair caused a great stir in America. Pinckney was welcomed home in grand style. Charlestonians armed themselves for a possible war with France. Castle Pinckney was built in the harbor. Fort Mechanic (built by labor donated by the mechanics) was built on East Battery. Pinckney’s role in the XYZ affair earned him his party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States. He ran as a Federalist with John Adams against Republicans Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, but he lost. Charleston remained a Federalist bastion, and Pinckney was the Federalist nominee for President in 1804 and 1808. In 1791, President George Washington visited Charleston as part of a Southern tour. He arrived at Prioleau’s Wharf at the foot of Queen Street on a barge manned by 12 captains of various ships then in port, accompanied by “a flotilla of boats of all sizes filled with ladies and gentlemen.” He was welcomed to Charleston by the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Intendant (Mr. Vander Horst), the City Council, and the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of Revolutionary War officers. The crowd proceeded to the Exchange, where Washington stood “bareheaded on the steps and received the cheers and homage of the public.” The president was wined and dined in the finest Charleston tradition. Of the Charleston ladies, Washington wrote in his journal: “Went to a concert where were 400 ladies, the number and appearance of wch. exceeded anything I had ever seen . . . was visited about two o’clock by a great number of the most respectable ladies of Charleston, the first honour of the kind I had ever experienced, as flattering as singular.” In Washington’s honor, the ladies of Charleston wore ribbons painted with the President’s likeness and the words “God bless our President.” The Father of His Country won the hearts of all Charlestonians, then left for Savannah. While in Charleston, Washington was taken on a tour of the city and undoubtedly took an interest in the new courthouse, which was almost completed. The President had charge of building the new “Federal City” later named for him and he was searching for competent architects and builders. The State The Revolutionary City
Charles Pinckney’s mansion—now destroyed— once stood at 16 Meeting Street, now the site of the Calhoun Mansion, a large Victorian home constructed by a descendant of John C. Calhoun after the Civil War.
James Hoban, the architect of the White House, met George Washington on his trip to Charleston in 1791. Hoban may have been the architect of the Charleston County Courthouse. (James Hoban. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
House, erected with such pride only 35 years before, had mysteriously burned in 1788 just before it was to serve as the site of the Ratification Convention for the US Constitution. Because of the fire, the Ratification Convention was held at the Exchange Building. Since the capitol was being moved to Columbia, the Assembly decided to rebuild the State House, its walls still intact, as a courthouse. James Hoban, a young Irish builder, probably was involved with its rebuilding in some way. Washington, on his return to the Federal City, decided to hire Hoban to build “the President’s House,” now called the White House. Washington had met Hoban, whom he remembered as a “practical builder,” in Charleston; he was introduced to him by the Commissioners appointed to build the Courthouse. Hoban went on to design the White House and its original design was based, so it appears, on the 1792 Charleston Courthouse. The leading historian of the White House, William Seale, in his definitive history, The President’s House, contends that the Courthouse was probably a “model for the president’s house.” A Charleston newspaper put it this way in 1792: “We have received accounts from the Northward, and with much satisfaction, that Mr. James Hoban, of this city, has furnished the best plan, section and elevation for the presidential palace in the federal city of Washington.” Hoban and Charleston should have been proud. He beat out two designs by Thomas Jefferson himself. Charlestonians continued calling this venerable building the “State House” even after its use changed to a courthouse. They hoped the State would come to its senses and bring the capitol back where it belonged. The eighteenth century closed on an optimistic note. Charleston was recovering rapidly from the ravages of the Revolution. The economy was booming. Population was expanding. Native sons had played a great role in the War for Independence and in the creation of the new federal government. The future looked bright. Perhaps the only ominous note at the close of the century was the arrival in Charleston of refugees from Santo Domingo (now Haiti) in the early 1790s. The French refugees added color, gaiety, cultivation, and high fashion to Charleston’s life. But the reason for their flight was not lost on Charlestonians: A bloody slave revolt had turned the island into a battleground. Thousands of White people were killed or wounded by Black revolutionaries. The lesson was not lost on Black Charlestonians, either. “They write from Charleston (S.C.) that the negroes have become very insolent,” one northern newspaper reported in 1793, “in so much that the citizens are alarmed, and the militia keep a constant guard.” 56
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In 1785 Thomas Jefferson wrote of slavery: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Like Mr. Jefferson, Charlestonians of the late eighteenth century were troubled by slavery, the South’s “peculiar institution.” Yet for years to come its continued existence as an institution was beyond question. a final note on Charleston and the Constitution:
a toast to the Constitution
Given by The Honorable Alexander Sanders, Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals at Charleston, South Carolina, September 16, 1987, On the Occasion of The Bicentennial of the Signing of the United States Constitution: Three things of lasting value are uniquely products of the United States of America: Jazz music, Mark Twain and the Constitution. We can take pride in the fact that all three were produced in the South. Jazz music was, of course, invented in New Orleans. Mark Twain was, of course, born on the Mississippi River. And, as everyone knows, the Constitution was carried to Philadelphia by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina with perhaps some assistance from Washington and Madison of Virginia. At the same time, however, we are constrained to recognize the further fact that all three were exported to the North soon after their creation. Jazz music was sold up the river and has scarcely been heard from since, at least not around here lately. Mark Twain ended up in New England, where he achieved his greatest popularity. And, even sadder to say, the Constitution has not always been uniformly embraced on this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. So, with these facts in mind, my wish on this occasion for the Constitution, the most enduring charter of freedom the world has ever known, is that it may continue to endure in perpetuity and with it, the United States of America, and to these ends, that we, as patriotic sons and daughters of the South, may always realize the essential truth spoken by that quintessential Yankee, Daniel Webster, when he said, “One country, one Constitution, one destiny.”
The Revolutionary City
In a very real sense Charleston and Charlestonians delivered South Carolina to the Federalists. Historians generally agree that the majority of South Carolinians were opposed to the ratification of the US Constitution.
The Capital of Southern Slavery (1670–1865)
The institution of slavery shaped and defined Charleston as much as, if not more than, any other force in its history. The economy and the great wealth of the city rested on enslaved labor, and Charleston was more committed to the institution than any other Southern city. Charleston was unique among colonial cities because its population was half Black, and more White people in Charleston owned enslaved people than in any other city. In 1820 and 1840, three-fourths of all “heads of families” in Charleston owned at least one enslaved person (compared to New Orleans, where two-thirds of White people owned enslaved people in 1820, or Savannah, where one-half owned them). “Carolina looks more like a negro country than like a country settled by white people,” Samuel Dyssli wrote in the early colonial era. On August 23, 1670, five months after the original settlement, the first enslaved person was brought to Charles Town from Virginia. He was described simply as “one lusty negro man.” A few weeks later, three other enslaved people arrived from Bermuda. Others, many others, followed. Charleston was America’s major slave port. “Here was a thin neck in the hourglass of the Afro-American past,” wrote Peter H. Wood in his brilliant work, Black Majority, “a place where individual grains from all along the West African coast had been funneled together, only to be fanned out across the American landscape with the passage of time.” Newly arrived enslaved people were initially quarantined at Sullivan’s Island so they would not bring disease and sickness into the country. In a sense, Sullivan’s Island might, according to Wood, “well be viewed as the Ellis Island of black Americans.” Slavery in Charles Town was a product of forces at work for a hundred years before the city was founded. Englishmen had encountered Black people in West Africa in the 1550s, when, as Winthrop D. Jordan has written, “one of 59
In 1860 Charleston’s slave population was 13,909. New Orleans’s was 13,385; Savannah’s 7,712; and Richmond’s 11,699.
Facing Slave sale: Most slaves were sold on or near East Bay Street. This engraving is from the Illustrated London News, 1856.
the fairest-skinned nations suddenly came face to face with one of the darkest peoples on earth.” The result was not good. The English, unlike the Spanish, had had no experience with darker-skinned people. Black people were mysterious. Captain Thomas Phillips wrote in 1694 that Black people “in odium of the colour say, the devil is white, and so paint him.” Some Englishmen cited Ham’s Scriptural curse to prove that Black people were accursed. They were clearly not Christians but savages, and the English relished stories of cannibalism and other barbarities. To the English, as to the Spanish, slavery came to mean “Negro slavery.” “The term Negro itself,” Jordan writes, “was incorporated into English from the Hispanic languages in mid-sixteenth century . . . This is more striking because a perfectly adequate term, identical in meaning to Negro, already existed in English,” namely, “Black.” Slavery, as the English adopted it, had many, if not all, of the characteristics that were to distinguish Southern slavery. The pattern was set in the West Indies where the Lord Proprietors owned enslaved people before Carolina was even settled. As there was no such thing as slavery in England in the seventeenth century, the English settlers there took slavery as they found it. Barbadians adopted the practices of the Spanish and the Portuguese, who had utilized enslaved labor in the New World since the early 1500s. Slavery was brought to Charles Town by men already familiar with its practice. Sir John Colleton was a planter from Barbados, and Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper was part owner of a Barbadian plantation in the 1640s. The Berkeleys were slave traders. Slavery was encouraged by giving new settlers more land if they brought enslaved people with them. And the Fundamental Constitutions, written before Charles Town was even settled, guaranteed that “Every Freeman of Carolina, shall have absolute power and authority over Negro Slaves, of what opinion or Religion soever.” Unlike in the Virginia colony to the north, where the institution of slavery developed slowly, over the course of several decades, Charlestonians imported the institution of slavery nearly fully formed. As the colonial plantation system expanded, however, slavery grew by leaps and bounds. “Negroes,” one Carolinian wrote in the 1730s, were “the bait proper for Catching a Carolina Planter, as certain as Beef to catch a Shark.” Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793 further revolutionized the economy of South Carolina. Because removing the seed from the cotton by hand had been a difficult and time-consuming task, it was the gin that made growing cotton profitable. Cotton had been raised by the earliest settlers 60
A Short History of Charleston
and had been shipped from Charleston as early as 1785, but it was not until the early 1800s that cotton became a major crop and Charleston a major cotton port. Cotton became king, replacing rice and indigo as the chief staple crop of South Carolina. Cultivation of cotton spread to the upcountry, and with it, spread the institution of slavery. Enslaved people in the city were removed from the mass of enslaved people in the rice and cotton fields. Many were house servants who gradually became better educated than their less fortunate brothers, forming an upper caste among enslaved people. Some became artisans and craftsmen. During the colonial era most of the carpenters, masons, coopers, sawyers, and blacksmiths were enslaved people, and some were highly skilled. Skilled enslaved people competed with White craftsmen. In 1742, the Grand Jury condemned the practice of owners putting their enslaved people out in the market to compete. The myth that enslaved people were indolent, lazy, and incompetent cannot withstand historical inspection; many of Charleston’s buildings are a monument to their skill.
lavery in the fielDs: Early enslaved people contributed to the economy in various ways: they cut wood, prepared tar, built boats and houses, and hunted and fished with expertise. They brought skills from Africa that the English in Carolina did not have. They knew, for example, how to “poison” a stream by adding a mixture of quicklime and plant juices to stun the fish so they could be easily gathered. They knew how to fight a shark or kill an alligator. They brought skills in weaving and basket making, and some became great craftsmen. And they fought in early military battles, including the Yemassee War. With the introduction of rice as a staple crop, enslaved labor became essential to the economy of Carolina. It was rice that brought large numbers of enslaved Africans to Carolina. The irony is that many West African societies, unlike the English, were composed of experienced farmers who knew how to cultivate rice. Rice planters in Carolina searched for enslaved people who knew how to plant and clean rice since their productivity was excellent and profitable. The rice was “fanned” in winnowing baskets of traditional African design and cleaned using a mortar and pestle. The greatest irony of all was that Black people could survive the “fever and ague” (malaria) because they had become immune in Africa. The sicklecell trait offers a partial defense against malaria, and it survived among enslaved people who landed in Charleston as well as their descendants. White The Capital of Southern Slavery
Gullah is a “pidgin” language, that is, an amalgam of various languages. The Gullah word “crawl” is derived, for example, from the Dutch and Portuguese word “Kraal.” Slaves brought many African words into the English language: yam, banana, tote (from “tota” in the Congo), and tabby (a mixture of oyster shells, sand, and cement used in Charles Town to make walls—from “tabax” in Africa).
Europeans had no such defense. Thus enslaved Africans survived the summer fevers in the swamps while White people died by the score. From the matrix of colonial slavery developed a distinctive language and speech pattern among Low Country Black people: Gullah. Captured from their countries of origin, forced into ships like cattle to cross the Atlantic Ocean (during the dreaded Middle Passage a large percentage died), unable to communicate with fellow enslaved people because they spoke different African languages, Black Carolinians developed their own language. The origin of the word “Gullah” itself is unknown, but it may have come from “Angola” or from the Gola tribe of the Windward Coast of Africa.
lavery in the City: During the colonial and antebellum periods most White Charlestonians—three-fourths of all family heads—owned enslaved people. In 1830, out of a total of 2,873 heads of families, only 379 owned no slaves. There were 401 Charlestonians who owned at least ten slaves, and eighty-seven had twenty or more. There were more enslaved females than males since urban work was predominantly domestic. In 1850 there were 10,901 enslaved females and only 8,631 males. The same ratio held true among the free Black population. Slavery in antebellum Charleston, that is, from about 1800 to 1860, had become a settled institution. Domestic chores were entirely performed by enslaved people, and before dawn enslaved women began the day’s cooking and cleaning. “No white woman,” Richard C. Wade wrote in Slavery in the Cities, “‘however humble in the scale of society,’ would touch this domestic work if she could avoid it, for as De Bow [a contemporary writer] observed, she ‘considers such services a degree of degradation to which she could not descend.’” The jobs of urban enslaved people also could include going to market daily for food (no refrigeration meant daily shopping), running errands, butchering, fishmongering, loading ships, repaving streets, and performing construction work, although most slaves were domestic servants. In a survey taken in 1848, 1,886 men and 3,384 women were listed as domestic servants; 120 as carpenters; thirty-nine as bakers; thirty-six as tailors and cap makers; sixty-seven as draymen, fifty as pilots and sailors; thirty-five as porters; sixty-eight as masons and bricklayers; forty as blacksmiths. The survey also shows eleven fishermen, sixteen painters and plasterers, sixty-one ship’s carpenters, sixty-one coopers, three coach makers, eight cabinetmakers, two gun- and locksmiths, six shoemakers, three bookbinders, five printers, and five cigar makers. Individuality had some place in the slavery system of antebellum Charleston. 62
A Short History of Charleston
Among the free Black population in the city (of whom there were 1,475 in 1820 and 3,237 by 1860), the predominant occupations were: seamstresses (196 women); tailors (forty-two men); barbers (fourteen); cooks and confectioners (eighteen men, eighteen women); nurses and midwives (ten); laundresses (fortyfive women); fishermen; carpenters; and shoemakers. The City Council regulated enslaved labor. In 1818 an ordinance was passed requiring owners to register enslaved people for hire with the city. The law obligated the enslaved person to carry a ticket indicating his occupation. To give some idea of the extent of the practice, in 1849 the city collected $14,000 in this way. The purpose was to control the enslaved population, and a violation could cost the owner twenty dollars and the slave twenty “stripes on the bare back.” Violations were common, and the hiring out system—whereby slave owners effectively leased out enslaved people—did offer Charleston enslaved people some measure of autonomy. Enslaved people negotiated with their owners, pressing what advantages they could within the oppressive system of slavery. Some effectively hired themselves out; that is, they found their own employment, agreed to pay their owner a certain sum per month, and kept the rest. Such a system was profitable to the master. He did nothing and received “rent” for his enslaved person. The enslaved person, of course, was “free” to do what he could. Black enslaved people and White owners lived together in a surprisingly integrated society. The master’s family usually lived in the “big house” on the street, and the enslaved people occupied quarters behind the main house. The slaves’ quarters had their own kitchen, storerooms, and stables. Rooms were small, frequently lacking windows, and furniture was minimal. High thick walls gave the house and grounds a prisonlike atmosphere. Enslaved people could
The Capital of Southern Slavery
There were no White barbers in Charleston in 1848. All the barbers were Black—four slaves and 14 free. None of Charleston’s six hairdressers were Black. The logic of it all is hard to understand now.
Slave hire badges recovered from Charleston, South Carolina. While several cities had laws that regulated the hiring out of enslaved people by their enslavers, Charleston is the only city known to have used these pressed copper badges as a way of identifying enslaved people who were working for individuals other than their owners. Image courtesy of Division of Cultural and Community Life, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Selling sweet potatoes: “It is a common practice,” said a contemporary account, “for masters to buy smart women and girls and send them into the streets to sell fruit and vegetables . . . These market-slaves are allowed a percentage of the profits, and manage sometimes to save enough to buy their freedom.” (Selling sweet potatoes in Charleston, February 1861. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library.)
be watched more easily that way since the only exit required them to walk past the master’s house. “They are divided out among us and mingled up with us, and we with them, in a thousand ways,” wrote a minister. By law the enslaved had to reside on their owner’s property unless he had a ticket giving them permission to reside elsewhere. But, despite the law, some enslaved people did live elsewhere, usually on the Neck outside the city limits. In 1848, one census taker found “that the slaves and free colored have removed to the Neck . . . where the class of houses suited to their condition are numerous and obtained at moderate rents.” A certain degree of freedom was inherent in Charleston’s urban life. Enlaved people did have “free time.” An errand to another part of the city might include a stopover at the home of friends, particularly free Black residents. It might include a stop at one of the hundreds of grocery stores or grogshops where enslaved people could buy food and liquor and could socialize with each other (and with some White people). Local grocers and grogshop owners
A Short History of Charleston
vigorously encouraged this illegal traffic because it was so profitable. In 1834 and 1835, when city officials tried to enforce tough new laws, the grocers and shop owners were up in arms. Enlaved people could not marry legally, although free Blacks could. Depending on the circumstances, varying from owner to owner, enslaved people did “marry,” that is, they formed lasting relationships and raised children, but the marriage was always subject to being destroyed at the whim or death of the master. More than one Black family in Charleston was torn apart when the master sold the husband to one party and the wife and children to another. “Though he was living in the same town with them,” one traveler noted of an enslaved husband, “he was never allowed to see them; he would have been beaten within an ace of his life if he ventured to go to the corner of the street.” The general standard of living of enslaved people in Charleston was far superior to that of enslaved living in the countryside. They had much better food and health care. Their dress was so different from that of the plantation slaves that it often shocked outsiders. One White visitor to Charleston in 1822 mistook what he called “a sable Dandy” for an “old acquaintance” and then he discovered “a couple of well dressed ladies . . . one in a black Canton crape, flounced with silk, black silk stockings . . . and a fashionable pair of high heeled shoes to correspond,” only to discover later that the ladies were enslaved. “How much,” he asked rhetorically in a letter to the newspaper, “could either of you do in a Cotton or Rice field?” Dress became very important to the enslaved people of Charleston because it was one of the only ways to have a public identity or to own anything of value. A well-dressed enslaved person was an affront to some White people who thought it “upitty.” The Grand Jury even complained about it: “We recommend to the consideration of the legislature the regulation of the apparel of persons of colour—as we conceive the expensive dress worn by many of them highly destructive of their honesty and industry and subversive of that subordination which policy requires to be enforced.” Subordination of Black people—always official policy in Charleston— was not always effective. In fact, in a city of 40,000 people (Charleston’s approximate population from the late 1840s to 1860), crowded onto a narrow peninsula, it was impossible for White people to fully supervise the Black population. One Charleston jury complained that “the unrestrained intercourse and indulgence of familiarities between the black and white . . . are destructive of the respect and subserviency which our laws recognize as due from the one to the other.” The grocery stores and bars, another jury charged, brought The Capital of Southern Slavery
A. White Point Gardens
B. Centre Market C. Old Slave Mart D. Market St. E. Meeting St. F. Old Exchange Bldg. G. Site of slave auctions
Funerals were major events for Charleston’s Black community because they were often held at night so slaves who worked during the day could attend. Whites complained that Black funerals became carnivals or “a jubilee for every slave in the city” attended by “three or four hundred negroes and a tumultuous crowd of other slaves.”
“the negro slave in such familiar contact with the white man, as to excite his contempt, or invite the assertion of equality.” Interracial sexual relationships— both consensual and coerced—common from the city’s early days, continued. It was illegal in Charleston to teach enslaved people to read or write. In 1800, the City Council authorized the police to “break doors, gates or windows” in preventing meetings “for the purpose of mental instruction” of Charleston’s Black population. But Black Charlestonians wanted to learn and they did—in Bible classes, from free Black people, and from some masters and mistresses who disobeyed the law. “It is probable,” Thomas Pinckney concluded, “that, in spite of all endeavors to the contrary, the evil will increase.” White people encouraged religious devotion among Black people. “The Gospel is our mightiest safeguard,” one churchman stated, “for it governs in secret as well as in public.” Black people generally attended White churches throughout the colonial and antebellum period, although seating was often (but not always) segregated. Reverend Paul Trapier estimated in the 1840s that 1,000 Blacks were “connected with our six Episcopal Churches.” Larger numbers attended services at the Methodist and Baptist churches. By the late 1850s there were at least 6,000 Black Methodists in Charleston. In 1859 the Presbyterians built a separate church for the Black membership because it had become so numerous. Whites debated whether separate Black churches were a good thing. “Separate congregations . . . they will have,” thought Reverend Thornwell, “if our laws and public sentiment of the community tolerate, they will be open, public, responsible. If our laws prohibit them, they will be secret, fanatical, dangerous.” In 1816 Northern Black communities created the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church with congregations in Baltimore and other cities. Morris Brown, a Black Charleston minister, was soon in communication with the first AME Bishop. Black people had heretofore attended the Methodist Church with White people, but in 1818 a dispute over custody of a burial ground led to a break between White and Black Methodists in Charleston. The Black leadership withdrew and founded the African Church. Threefourths of the Black Methodists followed. “The galleries, hitherto crowded, were almost completely deserted,” wrote a white Charlestonian, “and it was a vacancy that could be felt. The absence of their responses and hearty songs were really felt to be a loss to those so long accustomed to hear them.” The African Church did not survive long. Many of its members were to become involved in the Denmark Vesey slave insurrection of 1822, after which the city government demolished the church building. Morris Brown moved to 66
A Short History of Charleston
Philadelphia, where he later became bishop of the AME Church. Most Black Charlestonians returned to White congregations. Ultimately, separate Black churches were established by White people themselves. The Black pew at St. Michael’s and St. Philip’s became so crowded that a separate congregation was organized with a few White people included as members (to keep watch, presumably). The Second Presbyterian Church did the same thing in 1850. As difficult as it may be to understand today, the ownership of enslaved people was not limited to White people. There were Black masters as well. William Ellison, whose extended family lived in Charleston, owned a cotton plantation and more than sixty enslaved people. He was one of the wealthiest men in the state. Ellison, of course, was extremely unusual, but there were numerous “free people of color,” as they were then called, who owned enslaved people. Generally, the slave owners were mixed-race or light-skinned African Americans, but not always. And almost all of these members of the brown elite lived in the city and utilized enslaved laborers as mechanics and craftsmen, not as field hands.
enmark vesey: The Black church was the only institution where Black Charlestonians could genuinely govern themselves. They were, as one unfriendly White Charlestonian put it, “nurseries of self government.” It was in the Black churches and among the Black community’s elite that resistance to slavery was strongest. While no major slave revolt ever occurred in Charleston, the Denmark Vesey plot of 1822 belies the notion that Black Charlestonians were somehow happy in slavery. The full truth about the Denmark Vesey plot or rebellion will never be known because the White community and the newspapers controlled what was published about it. The policy of the times was not to print news of slave revolts in Charleston or elsewhere because the newspapers were read by free Blacks and enslaved people. Thus, most of the information concerning Denmark Vesey comes from the official account published by the City Council in 1822. On May 25, 1822, Devany Prioleau and William Paul, two enslaved people, met on the fish wharf. William, having told Devany that “something serious is about to take place,” described a planned slave revolt. Devany then told his owner, Mrs. Prioleau, who alerted the city authorities. The police detained both William and Devany, and William was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated every day for a week. He finally broke down and named Mingo
The Capital of Southern Slavery
Denmark Vesey’s favorite biblical verse was Joshua, chapter 4, verse 21: “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”
One result of the Vesey plot was the creation of the Citadel, a military college located today in northwest Charleston.
Harth and Peter Poyas as leading conspirators. When questioned, however, Harth and Poyas “behaved with so much composure and coolness, and treated the charges . . . with so much levity” that authorities believed them to be innocent. Nevertheless, the patrol was beefed up, and the city kept on alert. On June 14 another enslaved person confessed that a revolt was set for June 16. A military force surrounded the city. Two days later, ten enslaved people were arrested. On June 21, the authorities arrested Denmark Vesey. By July 2 at least six Black suspects had been hanged. A special secret court established by the City Council set its own rules, among them: that no Black person was to be tried except in the presence of his master or attorney, that everyone on trial should be heard in his own defense, and that no one could be executed on the testimony of one witness. What emerged was evidence of a large slave conspiracy led by Denmark Vesey, a free Black artisan who had been brought from Africa in his youth and had purchased his own freedom with part of a $1,500 lottery prize. He had probably planned the revolt for four years. He had studied the Bible, especially the biblical account of the deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery, and he had collected and read antislavery (abolitionist) writings from England and the north. He preached and encouraged other Black Charlestonians, free and enslaved, to fight for their freedom. Other leaders included the cool Peter Poyas, a “first-rate ship carpenter”; Monday Gell, shopkeeper and harness maker; two enslaved people who belonged to the governor; and Gullah Jack, a witch doctor whose charmed crabs’ claws were to protect those involved. No one will ever know the details of the Vesey plot because the leaders never confessed, but apparently the plan included the organization of plantation slaves into a rebel army (Angolas, Ibos, and Carolina-born Black people were to be separately organized). Charleston was to be captured with arms secretly manufactured or seized from the two city arsenals. The terrified White people believed the worst. Vesey and the five other enslaved people who were the first to be executed maintained their innocence to the last. Most of the thirty-five Blacks ultimately executed died without confessing. One, Bacchus Hammett, “went to the gallows laughing.” Of the 131 suspects detained, thirty-five were executed, thirty-one were deported, twenty-seven were acquitted, and thirty-eight were questioned but not charged. Four White men (a German peddler, a Scotchman, a Spaniard, and a Charlestonian) were indicted and convicted of complicity in the plot. They served prison sentences ranging from three to twelve months. 68
A Short History of Charleston
The Denmark Vesey plot was the most dramatic indication of resistance, but there were others. Charlestonians of the colonial era, for example, had witnessed a major slave revolt—the Stono Rebellion—in 1739. On September 9 of that year, twenty enslaved people met near the Stono River, about twenty miles from Charlestown. The rebels went to a nearby store, took the guns and powder available there, killed the two storekeepers, and left their heads on the front steps. They traveled along the highway to Georgia and St. Augustine, killing, looting, and burning houses along the way. An innkeeper at Wallace’s Tavern was not executed because “he was a good man and kind to his slaves.” The uprising was stopped when Lieutenant Governor Bull just happened by, saw what was in progress, and escaped to sound the alarm. One account stated that the number of enslaved rebels was “above sixty, some say a hundred.” “They halted in a field and set to dancing, Singing and beating Drums to draw more negroes to them.” Late the same afternoon, a group of armed planters rode in to attack the rebels, and fourteen rebels were killed in the ensuing battle. Most were eventually tracked down and hanged. According to one account, the planters “cutt off their heads and set them up at every Mile Post they came to.” More than twenty White people and probably forty Black people died. The odds against successful resistance to slavery were high. Black people might outnumber White people in colonial South Carolina and in nineteenth-century Charleston, but unless an uprising involved almost the entire Black population, it had little chance of success. Barriers to organization were great, and some enslaved people were loyal to their masters. Thomas Rose’s slaves, for example, hid him from the rebels during the Stono Rebellion and were later rewarded. Vesey was betrayed by “loyal” Devany Prioleau. Most slaves could not read or write, which made communication difficult. Some were concerned about what would happen to their families. White people had an organized military and the force of the government. And, in the unlikely event that a rebellion might succeed, where would the rebels go? The governments of other states would ultimately suppress any revolt. But resistance to slavery was not limited to dramatic uprisings. It might take the form of insolence to the master, which was common. The Assembly actually debated a law giving the patrol the right “to kill any resisting or saucy slave.” Or it might take the more serious form of arson or poisoning. Many enslaved people were executed for poisoning their masters or burning houses. White people came to dread uncontrolled Black people, and it is no wonder that White Southerners in general and Charlestonians in particular invented The Capital of Southern Slavery
Charleston’s newspapers were full of advertisements for escaped slaves. “Well known about Charles Town but not for his goodness,” read one. Another warned that as the escapee “is very intelligent, he may attempt to pass by forged papers as free.”
the myth of the happy-go-lucky, docile enslaved person. Such a racial stereotype was comforting to the White community, but if it had been accurate, it would have been unnecessary to control the Black community so rigidly. The punishment of enslaved people, delegated to overseers on the plantation, was a governmental function in Charleston, where the municipal jailer replaced the overseer. Slavery in Charleston declined somewhat during the nineteenth century. In 1820 there were 12,652 enslaved people and 10,663 White people. By 1860, there were 23,376 White people; 13,909 enslaved people; and 3,237 free Black people. The biggest problem for White people was probably the members of the free Black population who could own property, marry, read and write, organize churches, and engage in trade. The free Black people of Charleston were in no danger of losing their freedom and were generally protected by the law, although they were often treated unfairly. “The superior condition of the free person of color excites discontent among our slaves,” Charlestonians fretted, acknowledging that “There is an identity of interest between the slave and the free person of color.” And indeed there was: free Black people were free, but they were still Black. City ordinances relegated them to second-class citizenship. “No free person of color” was to be admitted “within the enclosure of the Garden at White Point” during certain hours, according to an 1838 ordinance. “All smoking of any pipe, or segar, within the enclosure of the said Garden” was prohibited. But “any white person who shall violate this clause” was fined five dollars. A “slave or free person of color, who shall smoke any pipe or segar within said enclosure” was “committed to the Guard House, and ordered to receive such corporal punishment as the Mayor may think proper to direct.” Slavery in Charleston was as varied as the enslaved people and masters themselves. Certainly there is overwhelming proof of widespread affection between the races. More importantly, the integrated nature of Charleston society, the close proximity of the races, the roughly equal numbers of Black people and White people made Charleston unique in the history of race relations. The very first line of Captain Martin’s verse on Charles Town (at the end of Chapter 2) was, fittingly, “black and white all mix’d together.” The two races have lived side by side in Charleston for 300 years. Whatever else might be said about the subject, Black folks and White folks have not been strangers to each other down through the centuries. 70
A Short History of Charleston
Many White South Carolinians worried about slavery. Mary Chestnut wrote in her famous diary, “I wonder if it be a sin to think slavery a curse to any land. Sumner said not one word of this hated institution which is not true. Men and women are punished when their masters and mistresses are brutes and not when they do wrong—& then we live surrounded by prostitutes. An abandoned woman is sent out of any decent house elsewhere. Who thinks any worse of a Negro or Mulatto woman for being a thing we can’t name. God forgive us, but ours is a monstrous system & wrong & iniquity. Perhaps the rest of the world is as bad. This only I see: like the patriarchs of old our men live all in one house with their wives & their concubines, & the Mulattoes one sees in every family exactly resemble the White children—& every lady tells you who is the father of all the Mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own, she seems to think drop from the clouds or pretends so to think— Good women we have, but they talk of all nastiness—tho they never do wrong, they talk day & night . . . My disgust sometimes is boiling over—but they are, I believe, in conduct the purest women God ever made. Thank God for my country women—alas for the men! No worse than men every where but the lower their mistresses, the more degraded they must be.” Charleston was the capital of Southern slavery. The city, which grew wealthy and powerful because of the institution, was its chief defender. But, at the same time, the city suffered inestimable pain because of it.
The Capital of Southern Slavery
“If any Negro or person of color, shall be guilty of whooping or halloing any where in the city, or of making a clamorous noise, or of singing aloud any indecent song, he or she shall, for each and every such offence receive at the Work House or Public Market, such a number of stripes, not exceeding twenty, as any Warden of the city shall adjudge.” —Ordinances of the City Council of Charleston, 1844.
The Antebellum City (1800–1860)
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Charleston was among the five or six largest cities in the United States. Its population was about the same as that of New Orleans and twice that of Richmond, its only Southern rivals. Native sons included a presidential candidate, ambassadors to England and France, and a justice of the US Supreme Court. A future president, Andrew Jackson, spent part of his teenage years roaming the streets—learning to love gambling, horses, and cockfighting, and imitating Charleston aristocrats. The city was standing on what appeared to be the brink of a bright future. And yet, by the 1820s and 1830s, trade had decreased, population growth had leveled off, and Charleston’s position in the Union was less secure. Cold census statistics tell the story dramatically: By 1860, the city’s population was about the same as that of Richmond and one-fourth that of New Orleans and St. Louis (a town half the size of Charleston in 1820). The simplistic picture of the “Queen City of the South” painted by Charleston’s antebellum boosters— the gaiety, the cultural life, the handsome houses—was pretty, but inaccurate. Charleston’s golden era was coming to a close. The antebellum period was a dynamic period for Charleston and not a Hollywood fable of the Old South. Despite a population decline (relative to other cities) in the nineteenth century, Charleston grew in absolute numbers. In 1820 the population was 24,780 (10,653 White people, 1,475 free Black people, and 12,652 enslaved people). By 1860, the population was 40,552 (23,376 White people; 3,237 free Black people; and 13,909 enslaved people). By comparison, Savannah, with 22,292 people, was still a small town. Physically, Charleston grew by leaps and bounds in the antebellum period. The Wragg Lands now became a booming residential suburb of the city. Wragg Borough was established in 1801 and boasted two parks, Wragg Square 73
Facing “Bird’s-Eye View of the Palmetto City.” (Engraving, London, England, 1851). Courtesy of Historic Charleston Foundation Archives.
The Charleston Style: The Edmonston-Alston House (1829), 21 East Battery Street, Charleston, South Carolina. Historic American Buildings Survey.
and Wragg Mall. The streets were named for the six Wragg children—Mary, Judith, Ann, Henrietta, Elizabeth, and John. These streets still exist today, as do Wragg Mall and Wragg Square (in front the Second Presbyterian Church) at 342 Meeting Street. It was here that Joseph Manigault, a Wragg grandson, built his mansion. Designed by Gabriel Manigault, Joseph’s brother, the house (now a part of the Charleston Museum) still stands at 350 Meeting Street.
A Short History of Charleston
Soon other antebellum mansions began to be built in Wragg Borough and adjacent Mazyckborough, formerly Alexander Mazyck’s pasture, where the Liberty Tree once stood. Between Wragg Borough and the old colonial city lay Boundary Street (later Calhoun Street), Ansonborough, and a marshy area soon to become the City Market. The eastern half of the city was also filling out. Large houses were built all along East Bay Street from Boundary Street to what is now High Battery. Christopher Gadsden’s son, Philip, built a mansion on East Bay that still stands (329 East Bay across from Ansonborough Square). A row of grand mansions appeared on one extension of East Bay Street (now East Battery) called, variously, Front Street, “the New-street on East-Bay” or “New East-Bay.” The great Battery mansions—The DeSaussure House (1 East Battery, built in 1850), the John Ravenel House (5 East Battery, built in 1849), the Roper House (9 East Battery, built in 1838), the William Ravenel House (13 East Battery, built in 1845), and the Edmonston-Alston House (21 East Battery, built in 1829 and now a museum open to the public) are monuments to the grandeur that was antebellum Charleston. The Battery itself—a marvelous place to stroll for the past 160 years—dates from the antebellum period when the stone wall and promenade were constructed. White Point Gardens was laid out in the 1830s, and the battery sea wall was constructed between 1848 and 1852. It was called High Battery after 1854 when the promenade was built at its present height. In the 1830s Charleston’s southernmost street was South Bay Street (now South Battery). William Gibbes’s house (64 South Battery), built in 1722, stood overlooking docks, marsh, and the river. Grand houses were built all about the neighborhood: the Nathaniel Russell House (51 Meeting Street, built in 1809 by the “King of the Yankees” and now open to the public); the Thomas Heyward House (18 Meeting Street, built in 1803 by a signer of the Declaration of Independence); and 1 Meeting Street, built in 1846. Vanderhorst Creek was filled in and became (fittingly) Water Street. The City Market was also built on filled-in land. The old colonial market at Broad and Meeting burned in 1796, and by 1804 the city had opened a new market (the present City Market) on Market Street. It was called the Centre Market and was designed to be the city’s major marketplace for food. In an ordinance passed in 1807 the City Council set aside the land from Meeting Street to the Cooper River, established Commissioners of the Centre Market to operate it, and designated the area generally east of East Bay (then Governor’s Bridge) as a Fish Market. The market was kept clean by buzzards (or The Antebellum City
Joseph Manigault House, Gatehouse, 350 Meeting Street, Charleston. Historic American Buildings Survey.
A. Battery mansions B. City Hall and
C. 134 Meeting St.
(Ordinance of Secession signed Dec. 20, 1860) D. John Rutledge’s home E. Miles Brewton House F. Planters’ Hotel G. Charleston Hotel H. Broad St. I. Meeting St.
Charleston’s chief retail area at East Bay, Broad, Tradd, and Elliott was noisy, dirty, commercial, and sometimes dangerous. It was distinctly unfashionable well into this century, but today is among the best addresses in town.
“Charleston eagles”) who were “so tame that they crept about in the meat market among the feet of the buyers.” This was the food market of Charleston until well into the twentieth century. The buying and selling of enslaved people was conducted in a small area bounded by Broad, East Bay, Queen, and Meeting. The busiest slave mart was just north of the Old Exchange Building. Here thousands of enslaved people were bought and sold from colonial days to the 1860s. In 1856, a slave mart opened on Chalmers Street. Now known as the Old Slave Mart, it is still standing and is today a museum of the domestic slave trade. Broad, Elliott, and Tradd Streets comprised the retail district, and upper King Street (at least in the early nineteenth century) was host to a voluminous wagon trade from the surrounding countryside. Cotton was brought to town and traded along with goods of every description. Hundreds of small businessmen traded along upper King Street in its heyday, but the growth of Columbia as a trading center and the use of the Santee River for transportation to Charleston brought an end to upper King Street’s business. Charleston’s first hotel was the Planters’ Hotel on Church Street (now the Dock Street Theater). Prior to its erection, travelers stayed in taverns, inns, and boardinghouses, or in private homes where they were served dinner by the owners. Two of the best boardinghouses were kept by free Black people, one of whom was Jehu Jones. Jones’ inn was described by the English traveler Thomas Hamilton as having “silver forks, clean tablecloths and all the luxuries of the table . . . [including] iced claret to convert Diogenes into a gourmet.” Other hotels included the American Hotel (1830), still standing at King and George, the Victoria (1840), and the Farmer’s Hotel (1838), both on King Street. The Planters’ Hotel later became one of the centers of Charleston’s social life. It played host to the great planters’ families, visiting businessmen, and tourists of the antebellum period. Later still, in 1838, the grandest hotel ever to be built in Charleston, the Charleston Hotel, was opened on Meeting Street (between Pinckney and Hayne). The distinguished architectural historian Kenneth Severens, in Southern Architecture, tells us that the Charleston Hotel was the “architectural symbol of the new city . . . The hotel introduced to the city the archaeological Greek Revival which Gallier had recently used in the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans.” The Charleston Hotel stood as a symbol of antebellum Charleston from 1839 until 1960, when it was demolished to make way for the Heart of Charleston Motel—a true calamity in the city’s history. Wharves and docks multiplied dramatically. A map of the city in 1855 shows more than 20 major wharves, including Adger’s North and South 76
A Short History of Charleston
Wharves, Atlantic Wharf, Accommodation Wharf, the Mount Pleasant Ferry Wharf, Union Wharf, and docks for the Wilmington Steam Packet and railroad. A bathing house jutted out into the Ashley River at White Point Gardens. West of King Street (at White Point) were marsh, water, and shipyards. Most of what is now Murray Boulevard west of King was either marsh or under water. On the West side of the city, on the Ashley River, were mill ponds and rice mills. Great houses were built in Harleston Village north of Beaufain Street. The William Blacklock House (at 18 Bull) was built before 1800 by a wealthy merchant. At the time this house was built, its owner could look across the marshes of Coming’s Creek (later filled in). North of Harleston Village was Radcliffe’s Borough, which had been planned in the late 1700s and had, by the 1820s, become the best address in Charleston. The planters continued to build townhouses in the city, but in the nineteenth century their houses became larger and taller, the gardens and surrounding grounds grander still. Not unlike the suburbs of the twentieth century, these Charleston suburbs were filled with the wealthy showing off their wealth with bigger houses and larger front lawns. The planter class clustered in these new areas, leaving older parts of the city (Broad, Tradd, Elliott, Church) to the merchants and common folk. Two great Episcopal churches were also built in these neighborhoods during the nineteenth century. St. Paul’s Radcliffe Borough was built in 1815 at 126 Coming Street. It became known as the Planter’s Church. Grace Episcopal Church at 100 Wentworth was built in 1847. Both are still in use. The city grew steadily. Cannon Borough and Elliott Borough were opened north of Radcliffe’s Borough. Hamstead and the Village of New Market were opened north of Wragg Borough. New street names appeared: Vanderhorst, Warren, Radcliffe, Coming in Radcliffe’s Borough, Cannon, Spring, and Bridge Streets to the north. Line Street, named for the line of fortifications built during the War of 1812, eventually housed a passenger railroad depot. By the 1840s, the South Carolina Railroad was an integral part of the city. Its tracks came down the Neck between King and Meeting Streets. Before the Civil War streets were laid out as far north as Grove Street (near the present Citadel). The “Neck” then became everything north of Boundary Street. The economy of antebellum Charleston was based on rice, cotton, slave trading, shipping, and retailing. The Low Country planters continued to grow rice. Near the ocean they grew luxury cotton. Everywhere they used enslaved people. The Antebellum City
The original Ashley River Bridge was built in 1819, and burned in 1865 to prevent General William T. Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee from entering the city. A wooden toll bridge was built in 1889 by a private company, and in 1926 a concrete span was built that is still in use.
A. Lowndes Grove B. Fenwick Hall C. The Elms, Otranto, D. E. F. G.
The Oaks Medway Boone Hall Drayton Hall Middleton Pl.
A. Wragg Lands B. Wragg Borough C. Joseph Manigault’s D. E. F. G. H. I. J.
Mansion Mazyckborough Harleston Village Radcliffe’s Borough Cannon Borough Elliott Borough Ansonborough Market St.
Slave trading was big business. The slave trade with Africa was closed in 1808 by federal law, but the expanding Southern states needed enslaved labor. On one day in 1860, for example, two Charleston newspapers, The Courier and the Mercury, advertised 2,048 enslaved people for sale in the near future. Those who sold enslaved people (politely called “brokers,” not slave traders) were numerous and respectable. Some, such as Thomas Norman Gadsden, were from the most prestigious of families. Gadsden’s second cousin was a bishop and rector of St. Philip’s Church. Charleston, like the rest of early nineteenth-century America, was eager to make use of steamboats and railroads to bring business to the city. The Santee Canal was constructed in 1801 to link the state’s major river, the Santee, with the Cooper River. The goal was to provide cheap transportation so that upland cotton could be shipped to Charleston. Use of the steamboat increased shipments of cotton directly to the Bay, and the East Bay merchants and factors grew wealthy on this trade. But while the volume of trade increased, Charleston’s percentage declined. Other ports (Savannah, Mobile, and especially New Orleans) drew on a wider area. Charleston was ahead of its time in developing the railroad. In an effort to enlarge the city’s markets and to cut into Savannah’s trade, Charlestonians in 1833 built a railroad to Hamburg, South Carolina, a trading town on the Savannah River. This railroad was the second in the United States and provided regular passenger service as well. When it was completed it was, according to G. R. Taylor, “the longest railroad in the world under single management.” The city invested heavily in railroad schemes, the most ambitious of which would have connected Charleston with Cincinnati. The schemes all failed, and twentieth-century Charlestonians were still paying the debts incurred in the previous century. There was also significant manufacturing activity in Charleston during the nineteenth century. The city was ranked third in the South, manufacturing steam engines, railroad locomotives, and steamship machinery. Yet textile mills failed. Manufacturing as a major economic activity never reached its full potential because labor, expertise, and social acceptance were all lacking. In the early 1800s, aristocratic Charleston firmly disapproved of trade as an occupation. Northerners and Europeans stepped in to fill the void, and many of the great merchants and financiers of antebellum Charleston were no longer native sons. This haughty attitude contributed further to Charleston’s decline as a great port. Charleston was to remain a planter’s city. 78
A Short History of Charleston
he Way of life: Hedonism and love of pleasure, so prevalent in the colonial era, remained the accepted way of life, a social ideal for antebellum Charlestonians. “For some gentleman planters,” William Freehling wrote in Prelude to Civil War, “contempt for work extended to agricultural endeavor . . . An idle aristocracy which sometimes found its own profession distasteful, lowcountry planters had time to engage in politics, to study, to write.” One planter noted that “dissipation—or to speak more correctly— idleness is the order of the day here.” Young sons of the planter class often whiled away their time in Charleston bars, chased women, or wasted their time. Some went into the “honorable” but overcrowded professions of law, religion, or medicine. All disclaimed the work of merchants, mechanics, or overseers. Visitors found antebellum Charleston in many ways the same as colonial Charlestown: “The men are of Idle disposition, fond of pleasures that lead them into a system of dissipation to which they are in a manner wedded . . . Their principal amusements in the City in the morning is Billiards . . . and in the Evening cards and Segars.” Charlestonians created and joined still more clubs: the Ugly Club, the Three Pace Club (for duels), the Kolf Baan Club, the Golf Club, the Sons of Erin, and the Hibernian Society. The St. Cecilia Society held fewer concerts but more dances, balls, and suppers. The greatest club of them all, however, was the South Carolina Jockey Club, the first jockey club in the United States. Race week in February was a special week in antebellum Charleston. The city’s businesses closed, and everyone celebrated. The “courts of justice used daily to adjourn, and all the schools were regularly let out.” There was a Jockey Club dinner on Wednesday, a great ball on Friday, and numerous private parties. Horse races were held first at the New Market Course and later at the Washington Course (now Hampton Park). Spectators watched from one of the stands, such as the Jockey Club Stand, the Grand Stand, or the Ladies’ Stand (“the ladies alighting from their carriages, protected by an arched way from the weather”). On either side of the saloon of the Ladies’ Stand were “retiring and refreshment rooms.” Finally, there was a “Citizens’ Stand” for the ordinary citizen. According to the rules, “Respectable strangers from abroad, or from other States, are never allowed to pay for admission to any of the Stands on the Course. On their arrival they are immediately considered guests.” Race week was antebellum Charleston’s version of Mardi Gras (or today’s Spoleto Festival). “It is proverbial,” John B. Irving wrote in his delightful 1857 The Antebellum City
One traveler found Charlestonians “devoted in debauchery and probably carry it to a greater length than other people.” He observed that the Carolinian “may be compared with the Persians of old, for the more wine he can swallow the more accomplished he conceives himself.”
It is fitting that the most famous Charlestonian of all time was a dashing, handsome, hard-drinking, womanizing rogue who traveled the world and knew the latest fashions—a man who took a Charleston girl out buggy riding then “refused to marry her the next day.” Rhett Butler, fictional hero of Gone with the Wind, provides a better glimpse of antebellum Charleston than any account yet written by a historian.
In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara visited Charleston—and hated it. “There was more social life . . . but Scarlett did not like the people who called, with their airs and their traditions and their emphasis on family. . . . She thought if she ever again heard voices that said ‘paams’ for ‘palms’ and ‘hoose’ for ‘house’ and ‘woon’t’ for ‘won’t’ and ‘Maa and Paa’ for ‘Ma and Pa’, she would scream. . . . Then she went back to Tara. Better to be tormented with memories of Ashley [Wilkes] than Charleston accents.”
account of the Jockey Club, “that all who come to Charleston during race week, do not find their way there merely to see the races. Many choose that time for a visit to the city . . . Much money is foolishly spent (it is too true), but whatever is spent in this way circulates freely.” Tourism thus has a long and illustrious history in Charleston. Antebellum Charleston society was both a mellowed aristocracy, secure in its control of the city and state, and an open elite ready to absorb promising newcomers. The first Wade Hampton, for example, was an unscrupulous upcountry planter who made a fortune in cotton near Columbia and in sugar in Louisiana. His grandson, Wade Hampton, the aristocratic Confederate leader, married a Charleston heiress, became a cultivated planter, and joined Charleston’s elite. His brother-in-law, James Hammond, grew up impoverished in the upcountry, “the son of a Massachusetts adventurer.” He, too, married a wealthy Charleston lady, built a great townhouse, bred racehorses, and became an insufferable snob. James L. Petigru, the greatest lawyer of antebellum South Carolina, originally from the Abbeville District, was welcomed into Charleston society. Thus did Charleston’s elite absorb talented newcomers. Not everyone found acceptance in antebellum Charleston, however. William Gilmore Simms, the South’s greatest antebellum novelist, lived in Charleston and complained, “all that I have [done] has been poured to waste in Charleston, which has never smiled on any of my labours.” Simms, the son of an Irish immigrant, worked as a druggist’s clerk as a boy, married well, and became a planter, a lawyer, and a writer. At one time, he owned two plantations, a house in Charleston, ninety enslaved people, and was constantly in debt. After he began writing in the 1830s, he produced 25 “romances” or novels, a history of South Carolina, three plays, four biographies, a work of criticism, a collection of short fiction, volumes of speeches, and many magazine articles. He helped to edit nine magazines. His writings celebrated his native soil and described the history of the South in novel form in every age and place. He visited the emerging South (Alabama and Mississippi) and regaled his readers with stories of the “border country” as well as stories from Charleston’s past. Simms’s novels depict the worried Charleston of his time. Southerners, William R. Taylor has written, “had become obsessed by feelings of social decline . . . They grasped for symbols of stability and order.” Simms’s novels reflect this uneasiness. In all of his romances—from The Yemassee (a historical novel about the Yemassee War of 1715) to Border Beagles (about an outlaw gang in Alabama and Mississippi) to Katherine Walton (a love story set in Charleston 80
A Short History of Charleston
during the Revolution)—the theme is disorder and instability in Southern society. Simms was more appreciated in Charleston than he thought. Certainly his great contemporary, Edgar Allan Poe, thought him one of the greatest of American writers, and the city erected a monument to him that still stands in White Point Gardens. Poe also knew Charleston during the antebellum period. He served in the army at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island and was so taken with that mysterious island that he used it in three stories, “The Oblong Box,” “The Balloon Hoax,” and “The Gold-Bug.” With or without Simms or Poe, and W. J. Cash notwithstanding, Charleston was the undisputed intellectual and literary capital of the South during the antebellum period. In addition to two newspapers, The Courier (edited by a Northerner from Massachusetts!) and the Mercury, Charlestonians published at least six successful magazines that had regional and national circulation: the Southern Review (an excellent literary journal founded in 1827), the Southern Quarterly Review, the Magnolia, Russell’s Magazine, Southern Rose, Southern Rosebud (an offshoot of the Rose?) and De Bow’s Review, probably the most influential Southern journal. De Bow subsequently removed himself and his journal to New Orleans, but his Charleston ideas did not change. Writers, poets, and painters abounded. Charles Fraser painted miniatures that can still be seen today at the Gibbes Museum of Art (135 Meeting Street). Reverend Samuel Gilman, the Unitarian minister, wrote Fair Harvard. William Crafts celebrated race week in The Raciad, a poem after the fashion of Pope. So many of Charleston’s antebellum writers were lawyers that one historian of the period concludes that “this literature was a literature of lawyers . . . It was a Charleston pleasantry that John C. Calhoun had written a poem opening with the word ‘Whereas.’” The Literary and Philosophical Society was founded in 1815 by Stephen Elliott, one of Charleston’s many Yale graduates. Elliott wrote widely on botany and became editor of the Southern Review along with Hugh Swinton Legare, lawyer, classicist, and later Attorney General of the United States. Lecturers came in droves to speak before the Literary and Philosophical Society and other learned societies. The Reverend Dr. John Bachman, minister of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Charleston, participated widely in scientific circles and corresponded with the world’s leading scientists and naturalists. Born in New York, Bachman came to Charleston in 1815 for health reasons. He was a lifelong friend of John James Audubon and, in one of the unscientific marvels of the history of The Antebellum City
“If Charleston had its St. Cecilia and its public library, there is no record that it ever added a single idea of any notable importance to the sum total of man’s stock.” So wrote W. J. Cash in The Mind of the South. For a city her size, however, Charleston had quite an active intellectual life in the antebellum period. How many ideas of “notable importance” are there anyway?
In 1838 the actress Fanny Kemble wrote, “In walking about Charleston, I was forcibly reminded of some of the older country towns in England . . . and although the place is certainly pervaded with an air of decay, it is a genteel infirmity, as might be that of a distressed gentlewoman. It has none of the smug mercantile primness of the Northern cities but a look of state . . . a little gone down in the world, yet remembering still its former dignity.”
science, two of Bachman’s daughters married two of Audubon’s sons. Bachman traveled widely with Audubon to study bird life, all the while urging Audubon to give up profanity, “grog and wine,” and snuff. The two scientists coauthored a book, The Quadrupeds of North America, that became a classic. Bachman studied the relationship between the environment and variations of species among animals. William Stanton in The Leopard’s Spots indicates that “Bachman’s observation on variation and its causes testify to his careful study and serve to place him in the front ranks of pre-Darwinian naturalists in the United States . . . Bachman formulated a theory of his own that approached evolution.” Charleston’s theater not only survived, it flourished. The Broad Street Theatre and the French Theatre presented plays throughout the period. And yet another new theater, the Charleston Theatre, was built in 1837 on Meeting Street. A medical school founded in 1822 by the Medical Society became the Medical College by 1852. It was the forerunner of the present Medical University of South Carolina. But the College of Charleston, which graduated six students in 1794, gradually deteriorated. It could not sustain a college-level course of study and became, in essence, a grammar school. Though it became the first municipal college in the United States by act of the General Assembly on December 20, 1837, this was a dubious distinction. It appears that the City Council took it over in an effort to salvage it. Despite the intellectual fervor of some Charlestonians, the state of the arts began to decline in the 1830s, when, according to George C. Rogers Jr., Charlestonians “turned away from cosmopolitanism to a conservative sectional patriotism.” The South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts, incorporated in 1821, held its first exhibition in 1823. In 1830 it closed. Perhaps it was only in architecture that Charleston made a truly lasting contribution to the arts.
harleston style: The Federal period (1793–1808) left a legacy of great homes. The Charleston single house adapted to the new century, indeed adapted to all centuries and styles. “Various styles, such as Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian, can be distinguished in the treatment of the classical orders of the piazzas and the interior ornamentation,” writes Kenneth Severens, but “the ‘single house’ as a vernacular type has transcended the vicissitudes of climate, taste, and prosperity.” Charleston’s first real architect was a gifted amateur named Gabriel Manigault, who introduced the Adam style to Charleston. He designed the Orphan
A Short History of Charleston
House Chapel (now demolished) on Boundary Street, the first US Bank (built in 1800, now City Hall on the corner of Meeting and Broad), South Carolina Society Hall (built in 1804), and the remarkable Joseph Manigault House. During the antebellum period, the nation’s great architects, including a native son, designed buildings for the city. Robert Mills, the first native professional architect in the United States, was born and raised in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston. He studied under the great foreign-born architects of the time, including Benjamin Latrobe. He studied with Thomas Jefferson, proposed and built the Washington Monument, and was the architect of the Treasury Building in Washington. In Charleston, Mills inaugurated the Classical Revival with his design of the Congregational Church (1806, destroyed in the fire of 1861). He also designed the First Baptist Church (1822, 61 Church Street), the Fireproof Building (1822–1827, 100 Meeting Street), the Marine Hospital, and, rather unheroically, the city’s drainage system. William Strickland of Philadelphia and Edward Brickell White designed buildings for the College of Charleston. White also designed Market Hall (1840–1841, a part of the present City Market, on Market Street), the Second Baptist Church (1841–1842, the present Centenary Methodist Church), and the Rebuilt Huguenot Church (1844), at Church and Queen. The Gothic style had become so popular by mid-century that the Episcopalians followed suit with Grace Episcopal Church on Wentworth Street, also designed by White. The Lutherans prospered, building St. Johannes on Hasell Street in 1842 and St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in 1840. The Jewish community rebuilt Beth Elohim Synagogue (90 Hasell Street) after a fire in 1838. Charleston’s Catholics did not, at first, share in the religious tolerance accorded other religions. For one reason, the early colonists were Protestant and English, and they brought with them a fear of “papists,” the Roman Catholic Church, and England’s historic enemies at that time, France and Spain. When two Irish Catholics arrived in Charleston in 1775, they were thought to be against the Revolution, tarred and feathered, and run out of town. Later, however, refugees from Santo Domingo arrived. They were French, like the Huguenots, but they were Catholic. It was these people whose tradition was compatible with that of Charleston, who established Catholicism in Charleston. Though the State Constitution of 1778 banned them from office, they formed their own community and prospered. The first mass was celebrated in Charleston in 1786. Bishop John England, the first Catholic bishop in the South, came to Charleston from Belfast, The Antebellum City
The Fireproof Building, designed by Robert Mills, now houses the South Carolina Historical Society. (County Records Building [Fireproof Building], 100 Meeting Street, Charleston. Historic American Buildings Survey.)
Hibernian Hall, 105 Meeting Street, Charleston. Historic American Buildings Survey.
Ireland, in 1820. He later wrote that “prejudice [against Catholics] at the time of the Revolution was so strong that any Catholics in Carolina kept their faith so secret that they were not even known to each other.” Yet Charlestonians did not reject their tradition of religious freedom for long. By 1789, land was purchased on which to build a Catholic church. In 1800, St. Mary’s was founded. The original church at 89 Hasell Street burned in the fire of 1838, but, like K. K. Beth Elohim across the street, it was rebuilt in 1839. St. Mary’s was, thus, the mother church of Catholicism in the South. As the century progressed, Irish Catholics poured into Charleston. By the 1820s and 1830s, fully one-eighth of Charleston’s population was Irish, and St. Patrick’s Day became a favorite holiday. One of the first Catholic newspapers in the country was published in Charleston. A convent was built in 1839. The Hibernian Society flourished and in 1840 erected a handsome hall at 105 Meeting Street (which still stands). By the 1850s, the Catholics of Charleston erected a great Cathedral at Broad and Legare. It was called the Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar and was named for the Bishop of Cork, Ireland, from whence Charleston’s first and much-beloved bishop, John England, had come. This cathedral burned in the great fire of 1861 and was replaced by the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which still stands.
hoWing the flag: Charlestonians have always been patriotic, and they enthusiastically prepared for the War of 1812. Numerous companies were formed, including the Washington Rangers, the Independent Greens (not football teams!), and the Federalist Artillery. (The state actually lent the federal government the funds for its defense.) The same enthusiasm prevailed for the War with Mexico in 1845. The City Council purchased equipment for a volunteer company of Charlestonians, part of the famous Palmetto Regiment that landed at Vera Cruz in 1847. The first flag to fly over Chapultepec when Mexico City was captured belonged to the Palmetto Regiment. Charlestonians, looking for military glory throughout the antebellum period, were soon to find it in abundance. The city was always eager to celebrate its military history. When the Marquis de Lafayette returned to the United States in 1825, he visited Charleston, the city he had secretly entered 48 years earlier on his way to serve in the Continental Army. He stayed in Charleston four days and received the warmest public welcome since Washington’s visit. At the corner of George and Meeting, the Marquis greeted both Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney, former comrades-in-arms, with an embrace and kisses on the cheek 84
A Short History of Charleston
after the French manner. It was the end of an era. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney died that same year. Thomas died three years later. They were buried “with all possible civil and military honour”—Charles in St. Michael’s, and Thomas in St. Philip’s churchyard. The last heroes of the Revolution were dead or dying. Yet the democratic government that won in the War of Independence was quite alive. The city government was busy. In 1819, a building was purchased at Broad and Meeting Streets to serve as a city hall, and it has remained City Hall ever since. The building had been a bank. However, the tellers’ cages visitors see today were installed for the collection of city taxes after City Hall was rebuilt following a fire in 1882 which gutted the building. They do not date from the time when there was a bank on the premises. City government regulated everything from the theaters and auctions on East Bay Street to the weight of bread. Commissioners of Streets and Lamps were authorized to keep the streets and new streetlamps in good repair. Fires continued to be the greatest menace to public safety. Fire destroyed St. Philip’s Church in 1835. (It was immediately rebuilt.) A great fire in April of 1838 burned a large segment of town, including much of Ansonborough and King Street. Fire engines were purchased early, and by 1857 Charleston had ten engines, ten volunteer White companies, and ten enslaved companies. But the largest fire yet struck in 1861. “The cause,” Steve A. Channing wrote in Crisis of Fear, “was generally laid to pro-Union blacks in the City.” Much of the city was destroyed. Meeting Street was badly damaged. Both the South Carolina Institute Hall and the Circular Congregational Church were lost. Much of Broad Street burned. The fear that pervaded Charleston after the Denmark Vesey plot in 1822 had led to a multitude of civic and governmental efforts to keep the peace and prevent a slave rebellion. First and foremost was the establishment of the Citadel, an outgrowth of Charleston’s earlier police department or guard. In the 1820s the city converted some tobacco inspection buildings on the green north of Boundary Street (Marion Square) into a guardhouse. In 1842 the General Assembly created the Citadel, and by 1843 twenty cadets were enrolled in the military college. There were, in addition, city constables, the City Guard (a city military organization), a city sheriff, city marshals, and, of course, wardens (later called Aldermen) and the mayor—all charged with the duty of keeping the peace. Yet keeping the peace was a difficult task. South Carolinians in general, and Charlestonians in particular, were about to embark on the most tortured The Antebellum City
Many Charlestonians foresaw the Civil War: “I see nothing before us but decay and downfall,” Hugh S. Legare wrote in 1833. And Senator Robert W. Barnwell wrote in 1845: “Our institutions are doomed and the Southern civilization must go out in blood.”
period of their political existence. Just as the city began to decline in stature, population, and economic and political importance, it began to feel the sting of criticism about the institution of slavery. Charlestonians began to withdraw, to close their minds to the outside world. George C. Rogers Jr. simply and eloquently describes the transition by entitling his chapter on Charleston prior to the 1820s “The Open City” and his chapter after the 1820s “The Closed City.” The openness and cosmopolitanism of the eighteenth century gave way to the fanaticism of the nineteenth century. The ardent nationalism of the early 1800s began to grow cold in the 1820s when periodic economic depressions deeply affected upcountry cotton planters and the working people and retailers of Charleston. The planters were troubled by the emerging abolition movement, and most Charlestonians were unhappy about the federal tariff. The original tariff of 1816 was designed to protect infant manufacturing. It had been supported by South Carolinians, but, while the tariff succeeded in protecting New England’s textile mills, the South never developed industry and ended up paying higher prices for manufactured goods without receiving the benefits of the protective tariff. Resentment, nursed by both real and imagined economic problems, and, even more importantly, by the beginning of the crusade against slavery, led to a dramatic shift in South Carolina’s political life. There now arose a radical states’ rights party dedicated to fighting the tariff, the critics of slavery, “internal improvements” (that is, nationally financed turnpikes), and espousing a narrow construction of the Constitution to protect South Carolina’s “rights.” But the real underlying issue was slavery. Eighteenth-century Southerners had mixed feelings about slavery. Some saw it as a necessary evil. Some, such as Henry and John Laurens, had deep reservations about it. (John Laurens had unsuccessfully urged the General Assembly to allow enslaved people to fight in the Revolution and earn their freedom.) And some, such as John Wesley and Francis Asbury, opposed it totally. In 1795, a group of twenty-three Methodist ministers met in Charleston and issued a statement: “deeply sensible of the impropriety, & evil of Slavery, in itself . . . And its baneful consequences, on Religious Society,” the ministers agreed that “all such persons amongst us”—that is, slaveholders—should either emancipate their enslaved people or set them free at the slaveowner’s death. Numerous Charlestonians criticized slavery, and many emancipated their enslaved people in their wills or during their lifetimes. Many joined the American Colonization Society, a movement dedicated to freeing enslaved people and sending them back to Africa. The rector of St. Philip’s and later bishop of 86
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South Carolina was the society’s agent, and leading Southerners of the period applauded its aims. John Marshall, James Madison, and James Monroe had been members. Thomas Jefferson had written eloquently about the evil effects of slavery. But the era of Southern history when slavery was a debatable issue was coming to a close. Mr. Jefferson died in 1826; Mr. Madison, 1836. The torch was passed from Virginians to South Carolinians, from the Jeffersons to the Calhouns. For the first time, the proslavery argument was heard. Charlestonians of the nineteenth century rallied to the new ideology and wrote some of its chief works.
nter John C. Calhoun: The greatest apologist for slavery, states’ rights, and minority (in the sense of political, not racial minorities) rights was not a Charlestonian at all, but a figure who towers over the city’s history like a great cloud: John C. Calhoun. He is buried in St. Philip’s churchyard, Calhoun Street is named in his honor, and a statue of him was erected on Marion Square. Although married to a Charleston heiress, he never cared much for the city. In 1807 he said that the fever in Charleston was “a curse for their intemperance and debaucheries.” The Calhouns were Scotch-Irish from the upcountry of South Carolina. John C. Calhoun was born at Abbeville in 1782. He was raised on a small plantation as part of a middle-class family, went to Yale College, and married a distant, but wealthy, Charleston cousin, Floride Calhoun. He studied law in Charleston at the offices of Henry DeSaussure, one of the leading lawyers of the state, and at the Litchfield Law School in Connecticut. He returned to South Carolina to practice law, became a planter, and entered politics. Calhoun went to Congress in 1810 and became a “War Hawk,” advocating, along with Henry Clay and others, a strong national defense. He was for the tariff, the national bank, national roads, and a strong army. He became Secretary of War under Monroe. It is ironic that Calhoun’s entire early public life was built on nationalism, but the political winds in South Carolina were blowing the other way and Calhoun blew with them. In 1824 he pinned his hopes on Andrew Jackson, a fellow Southerner, in the hope of becoming president. He was elected vice president in both 1824 and 1828. The tariff issue reached a peak in 1828 with the so-called Tariff of Abominations, and Calhoun secretly wrote the “Exposition and Protest” that expressed South Carolina’s views. Because Calhoun hoped to succeed Jackson as president, he tried to play both sides by placating both Jackson and the militant nullifiers in South Carolina at the same time. It did not work. Calhoun fell The Antebellum City
“Charleston was the great cultural center of the Old South, a city with a flavor of its own and an air of cosmopolitan taste and breeding, and Charleston was the one part of South Carolina for which Calhoun had no use. . . . It may stand as a token of Calhoun’s place in the South’s history that when he did find culture there, at Charleston, he wished a plague on it.” —Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition.
John C. Calhoun as a young man: White Charlestonians rallied to Calhoun’s arguments in defense of slavery. (John C. Calhoun, ca. 1823. Charles Bird King, artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.)
Old Hickory actually held a cabinet meeting about the Peggy Eaton Affair and officially pronounced her “as chaste as a virgin.” Henry Clay rejoined: “Age cannot wither nor time stale her infinite virginity.”
out of favor with Jackson for a number of reasons, but the main reason was because he was outmaneuvered by Martin Van Buren, most dramatically in the Peggy Eaton affair. Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel, had been vilified in the election of 1828. She was accused of numerous indiscretions, including marriage to Jackson before her divorce was final. She died soon after the election, and Jackson blamed her death on her critics. When Jackson came to Washington, he found what he considered to be another attempt to wrong a decent woman, Peggy Eaton. Peggy, while working at her father’s Washington tavern, had met John Eaton, a friend of Jackson’s and the new Secretary of War. She and Eaton were married after vicious gossip had spread about their relationship. Peggy, according to Samuel Eliot Morison, was “a luscious brunette with a perfect figure and a come-hither look in her blue eyes that drove the young men of Washington wild.” No proper Charleston lady, such as Floride Calhoun, would receive Peggy in her home, and other cabinet wives and wives of diplomats and congressmen followed her example. The affair became an open scandal. Jackson was furious at Calhoun, but Van Buren, who was a bachelor, went out of his way to show Mrs. Eaton a great deal of attention. The Eaton affair, together with Jackson’s discovery that Calhoun had misled him on a matter involving accusations against Jackson during Monroe’s administration (when Calhoun was Secretary of War), led to a final break. Calhoun tried to defeat Jackson but failed. Having lost his opportunity to be president, he became, instead, the leader of the Southern cause in the US Senate. Calhoun became a very bitter man, obsessed with his mission. Mary Bates, a friend, said she “never heard him utter a jest.” Clay described him as “tall, careworn, with furrowed brow, haggard and intensely gazing looking as if he were dissecting the last abstraction which sprung from metaphysician’s brain, and muttering to himself, in half-uttered tones, ‘This is indeed a real crisis.’” Harriet Martineau called him “the cast iron man who looks as if he had never been born, and could never be extinguished.” Varina Howell Davis described him as “a mental and moral abstraction.” Senator George E. Badger of North Carolina said of Calhoun: “On everything concerning niggers [he was] absolutely deranged.” This fanatical puritan nevertheless possessed a brilliant mind. Richard Hofstadter, in The American Political Tradition, wrote that Calhoun “was one of a few Americans of his age . . . who had a keen sense for social structure 88
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and class forces” and was “probably the last American statesman to do any primary political thinking.” He was the first to affirm in the Senate of the United States that slavery “is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good.” Calhoun argued forcibly that Black workers were better cared for than White laborers, that emancipation meant a race war in the South and the end of Southern civilization, and that Northern business interests ought to join the Southern aristocracy in keeping working people (White or Black) in their place. In his Disquisition on Government, he anticipated Karl Marx by identifying class conflict as inevitable. Indeed, Hofstadter has called him the “Marx of the Master Class.” He wanted to protect the minority South, but he cared nothing for the rights of other minorities. He “created stereotypes in the minds of the Southern people that produced intolerance,” concluded historian Clement Eaton.
ension of the times: Intolerance there was in abundance. When the Virginia legislature debated the merits of slavery in 1832, the Charleston Mercury, soon to become the leading secessionist newspaper in the South, argued against “the public discussion of such a topic.” In 1822, in the wake of the Vesey plot, the state passed a law, the Negro Seaman’s Act, requiring that all Black seamen be jailed while their ships were in port in Charleston. The gentry began to organize extralegal vigilante groups, such as the South Carolina Association, to enforce laws against Black people in Charleston and beyond. Despite protests by the federal government that the Negro Seaman’s Act was unconstitutional, it was continuously enforced. The rise of the abolition movement pushed South Carolinians further than ever before. Even mild protests against slavery brought violent reactions. When the Ohio legislature recommended a moderate plan for emancipation in 1824 and when, in 1827, the American Colonization Society asked Congress for aid, South Carolina reacted with a vengeance. But strong forces were gathering against slavery. The Englishman William Wilberforce led a campaign to abolish it in the British West Indies, and as early as 1827 it was apparent that he would succeed. Barbados, the mother colony of Charleston, abolished the very institution it had exported to Carolina one hundred years earlier. Calhoun fought the tide by promulgating the theory of nullification, which held that the States were sovereign before they entered the federal government and could, therefore, nullify or void any federal law—such as the tariff— that they found unconstitutional or dangerous to their existence. Charlestonians were bitterly divided on nullification. Merchant and mercantile interests The Antebellum City
James L. Petigru: He stood by the Union but stayed in Charleston after secession. Mary Chesnut wrote of him in 1862, “He is as much respected as ever. Maybe his astounding pluck has raised him in the estimation of the people he flouts and contradicts in their tenderest points.” (Engraving of James L. Petigru, ca. 1866. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
favored Clay’s policies and did not oppose the tariff. The great East Bay merchants had prospered under the Union, and they, together with many old Federalists such as the lawyer James L. Petigru, Joel Poinsett (minister to Mexico), Daniel Huger and others, opposed Calhoun and the radicals at every turn. One pro-nullification Columbia newspaper declared “the City of Charleston now, is in fact a colony of Yankee speculators, cherishing not a spark of Southern feeling.” The year 1831 was a watershed year in Southern history. William Lloyd Garrison published the first issue of the Liberator, the radical abolitionist newspaper, and Nat Turner led his fellow enslaved people to kill their masters in Virginia. Garrison denounced the Constitution, which he felt protected slavery, as “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” The greatest slave revolt, following the launching of the Liberator, was more than most White Southerners could take. In Charleston, the year 1831 also proved to be politically tense. There were unionist parades and nullification parades. Hugh Legare, James Petigru, and Daniel Huger denounced nullification and read with delight a supportive letter sent by President Jackson. The nullifiers began creating local political and military organizations. In July, a statewide nullification convention was held in Charleston. The organizers were good politicians. They tapped all classes of White South Carolinians and made the lowliest Charlestonian feel at home with the greatest aristocrat. The younger sons of the aristocracy, so disdainful of work, had now found a cause. Fear of slave revolts, a growing feeling of isolation from world opinion, economic hardship, the political acumen of the Calhoun party—these factors nursed the Nullification Crisis. The unionists were dismayed. “Can we get a gang to oppose robbers, as easily as robbers unite in gangs?” Petigru wondered. “I think not.” By 1832 fights between unionists and nullifiers had spilled over into the city streets. In October, the nullifiers won a large majority of the seats in the General Assembly and tension mounted. The state government then proceeded to organize a nullification convention to forbid the enforcement of the tariff in South Carolina. Robert Hayne resigned his seat in the US Senate to become Governor of South Carolina. Calhoun resigned as Vice President of the United States, the first person to do so. (Spiro Agnew later joined him in that select company.) While the nullification convention resolved to ignore federal law, President Jackson resolved to enforce it. He sent spies to Charleston and troops to Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney. Yet Jackson was cool under fire. When 90
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the General Assembly sought the removal of federal troops from the Citadel, Jackson removed them. He was going to make the South Carolinians fire the first shot. Abraham Lincoln was to learn a great deal from Andrew Jackson. Jackson next issued a Nullification Proclamation in which he denied the legality of nullification. “Disunion by armed force,” he said, “is treason.” The other Southern states were loath to follow South Carolina’s lead. The nullifiers had problems at home, too. In their determination to win they had passed a law that required all voters to swear paramount allegiance to the State. This greatly offended the many unionists who viewed the oath as treason to the United States. Nonetheless, Charlestonians prepared for war. James Hamilton Jr., a former governor, prepared military defenses. Governor Hayne ordered volunteer troops to drill in preparation. Joel Poinsett organized a unionist force to come to the aid of the federal authorities. In the end, of course, there was no war. Henry Clay orchestrated a compromise on the tariff issue. The people of South Carolina realized that they could not fight alone, and the crisis passed—for the time being. Yet the issue of slavery would not fade away. The American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1833, and Congress began to receive thousands of petitions against the institution. In the same year, Parliament abolished slavery in the British West Indies. As Southerners began to feel even more isolated, they perfected the pro-slavery argument. Calhoun, in his effort to reconcile slavery with democracy, repudiated Jefferson’s doctrine of the equality of man. Charlestonians led the fight against abolition. When anti-slavery tracts arrived in Charleston, the local postmaster would not deliver them. A mob appeared on one occasion to enforce this censorship of the mails. The classic pro-slavery work was published in Charleston in 1852. The Pro-Slavery Argument contained essays by regional and state figures quoting the Scriptures and Aristotle and citing pseudoscientific works to prove that people of African descent were inherently inferior. One of the leading pro-slavery philosophers was William J. Grayson, once collector of the port of Charleston. Grayson wrote a long poem in 1856 entitled The Hireling and the Slave. His argument, like that of many other pro-slavery writers, was that enslaved people were better off than industrial workers. The arrogance of these writings was not lost on the average citizen of the North. Ironically, two of the most famous abolitionists of the antebellum period were Charleston aristocrats, Sarah and Angelina Grimké. Their father was a prominent planter, lawyer, and slaveholder, but his two daughters grew up in Charleston detesting slavery. After her father’s death, Sarah became a Quaker, The Antebellum City
Angelina Grimké left her prominent family in Charleston to live up north. She was a leading spokeswoman for the abolitionist movement and an early feminist. She wrote many pamphlets condemning slavery including one entitled “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South.” She told the Massachusetts legislature, “I stand before you as a southerner, exiled from the land of my birth by the sound of the lash and the piteous cry of the slave. I stand before you as a repentant slave holder.” (Angelina Emily Grimké [1805–1879]. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
“The desolated, ruined South; . . . the Slaves unloos’d and become the masters, and the name of Southerner blackn’d with every shame—all that is Calhoun’s real monument,” Walt Whitman wrote in 1865.
and worse (in the opinion of all proper Charlestonians), she decided to leave Charleston and move to the North. Angelina, Sarah’s younger sister, also came to hate slavery and also became a Quaker. She later married Theodore Weld, one of the most famous of the abolitionists. Together, the Grimké sisters became founders of the early feminist movement. On February 21, 1838, Angelina Grimké spoke against slavery before a committee of the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and became the first woman in American history to speak to a legislative body. She spoke constantly against slavery and published a pamphlet, an Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, in which she wrote, “The women of the South can overthrow this horrible system of oppression and cruelty, licentiousness and wrong.”
T James Petigru, one of Charleston’s last unionists, said of secession: “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” In 1861 Stephen A. Hurlbut, President Lincoln’s secret emissary, wrote the President that Mr. Petigru “is now the only man in the City of Charleston who avowedly adheres to the Union . . . [he is] the only citizen loyal to the Nation.” Later on, when a friend told him Louisiana had seceded, Petigru replied, “Good God Williams, I thought we had bought Louisiana.”
he storm gathers: During the 1840s and 1850s agitation over states’ rights and the expansion of slavery in the West increased. A few South Carolinians had begun to urge secession as far back as the Nullification Crisis, though Calhoun was opposed to secession except as a last resort. In 1842 there were rumors of a conspiracy to burn down the city. By 1855 arson (presumably an act of resistance by enslaved people) had become so common that the City Council offered a $2,000 reward for information about suspected arsonists. In 1856, Mayor Miles established a mounted police force and strengthened the City Guard. The long history of conflict over slavery—the Missouri Debates, the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850; domestic and foreign anti-slavery opinion; the advent of the Republican party (dedicated, so the South thought, to the abolition of slavery); growing local tensions in Charleston—all strengthened the movement for secession. By the late 1850s, most White Southerners viewed themselves as prisoners in their own country, condemned by what they saw as a hysterical abolition movement. In March 1850 the great nullifier, John C. Calhoun, died. His body was transported by ship to Charleston, accompanied by a congressional delegation. His funeral was unsurpassed in ceremony. A huge parade followed the funeral car (modeled on Napoleon’s!) down King Street to Hasell, from Hasell to Meeting, down Meeting to South Bay (now South Battery) then to East Bay, up East Bay to Broad and down Broad to City Hall. Ten divisions of troops, organizations of every description, a two hundred-man honor guard (including James L. Petigru, Calhoun’s old foe), and ordinary citizens participated in the funeral march. Calhoun’s body lay in state at City Hall for 24 hours before 92
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the “cast iron man” was buried in St. Philip’s graveyard. In 1880, the present memorial was placed on his grave by the General Assembly. By 1858 a consensus was building in the Northern states that the expansion of slavery must stop and the institution itself put on the road to eventual extinction. “Shall I tell you what this collision means?” William H. Seward thundered in Rochester, New York in 1858. “They who think that it is accidental, unnecessary, the work of interested or fanatical agitators, and therefore ephemeral, mistake the case altogether. It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation. Either the cotton and rice-fields of South Carolina and the sugar plantations of Louisiana will ultimately be tilled by free labor, and Charleston and New Orleans become marts for legitimate merchandise alone, or else the rye-fields and wheat-fields of Massachusetts and New York must again be surrendered by their farmers to slave culture and to the production of slaves, and Boston and New York become once more markets for trade in the bodies and souls of men.” Seward was a senator from New York and the leading Republican candidate for president. In October 1859, John Brown raided Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in an effort to incite a slave rebellion. This was the beginning of the end. Charlestonians, ever the staunchest foes of abolition, began to lead the fight for secession. Perhaps it was the depressed economy, perhaps it was the high percentage of enslaved people, or perhaps it was the vigorous commitment to slavery as an institution that placed South Carolina and Charleston at the forefront of secession. Maybe Charlestonians really believed, as George C. Rogers Jr. argues, that “they had the perfect society,” that Charleston was “the center of an idea, a southern way of life.” Scarlett’s mother, in Gone with the Wind, said, and it was true, “If the nice people of Charleston feel that way, I’m sure we will all feel the same way soon.” Yet there was something else. That ancient Charleston hedonism, the love of posturing, the unrestrained Low Country aristocracy whose power knew no bounds, the lack of any real challenge to the elite’s views—all of these factors contributed, too. When an individual planter had the power of life and death over his enslaved people, when the state government did as the planters willed, when no other class or faction could fight back, it is easy to understand why the radical secessionists of Charleston could believe that no one would dare oppose them. They believed there would be no war, that gentlemen of noble The Antebellum City
James Petigru refused to acknowledge the legality of secession. Mary Chesnut noted in her diary: “Mr. Petigru alone in South Carolina has not seceded.” Born in 1789, James Louis Petigru came to be the greatest lawyer in the history of South Carolina. When he died in 1863 the city closed down to mourn him—despite his refusal to recognize the Confederacy. He is buried in St. Michael’s churchyard. His epitaph so moved Woodrow Wilson that he had it cabled to him at Versailles: “In the great Civil War / He withstood his People for his Country / But his People did homage to the Man / Who held his conscience higher than their praise.”
birth could stare down the nation. “Why, all we have,” said Rhett Butler at Twelve Oaks, “is cotton and slaves and arrogance. They’d lick us in a month.” But then, Rhett had been run out of Charleston. Whatever the reason, events moved rapidly after 1859, though not rapidly enough for the radical secessionists. The Charleston Vigilance Association was formed to protect the peace and suppress enslaved people. Secession activists redoubled their efforts. Moderates such as Christopher Memminger reluctantly concluded that slavery would only be safe outside the Union. Soon, only a handful of unionists remained. What John Brown’s raid started in 1859 was finished by the nomination of Abraham Lincoln as the Republican Party’s candidate in 1860. Lincoln was viewed as a radical opponent of slavery, though he had consistently said he would never interfere with slavery where it existed. Lincoln did, however, argue against the spread of slavery, and this appealed to the working people of America who wanted the West to remain free so White labor could prosper. The Democrats, who convened in Charleston in 1860, were badly divided. The secessionists and moderates both disliked the leading Democratic contender (and eventual nominee), Stephen A. Douglas. He was seen as untrustworthy since he had once championed popular sovereignty in the western territories (allowing the settlers themselves to decide about slavery). In short, no “true” Southerner could be elected, and, in the view of the secessionists, Douglas’ election would only postpone the fight. Charlestonians were not necessarily of one mind, however, on tactics. Some still thought that a compromise candidate could be nominated in Charleston and that war could be averted. When the convention convened in April, no one knew what to expect. What Charleston witnessed was the most divisive national party convention in American history. “There are radical and inextinguishable feuds in the Democratic Party,” Murat Halstead, a reporter, wrote from Charleston, “and they must come out here and now.” The political fabric of the nation began to tear in Charleston that April, one year before Fort Sumter. “No American political convention has ever held so much meaning for party and nation,” wrote Robert W. Johannsen in Politics and the Crisis of 1860, “as that conclave of determined Democrats which gathered in Charleston, South Carolina, in April, 1860, to nominate a candidate for the presidential office. Upon the decision at Charleston rested not only the future of the Democratic Party but also the continued existence of the Union . . . All the forces of sectional animosity that had been building up between the North and the South for over a decade were focused on those ten fateful days.” 94
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Indeed, politically speaking, the first shot of the Civil War was fired in Charleston long before Sumter. South Carolina’s delegation was unionist, as the secessionists had boycotted the state party proceedings. Yet the other Southern states had come to believe in secession, and most of the Southern delegates walked out, urged on by Charleston’s radicals. The city’s newspapers, the Mercury and the Evening News, bombarded the delegates, urging no compromise. Meetings were held, and intemperate speeches were the order of the day. The streets of Charleston and the galleries of the convention at Institute Hall (now demolished) were filled with secessionists, most of whom wanted Lincoln to be elected, thereby hastening the confrontation to come. The tension in the city itself prolonged the convention and helped to deadlock it. Douglas could not get enough votes in Charleston. The nation, Emerson Fite wrote, was “awestruck.” The convention adjourned and reconvened in Baltimore, where Douglas was duly nominated. “The last party, pretending to be a national party, is broken up,” said the Mercury, full of glee, “and the antagonism of the two sections of the Union has nothing to arrest its fierce collisions.” Charleston and Charlestonians had helped disrupt the Democratic Party which was, until that May of 1860, the governing party of American politics. It was the party of Jefferson and Jackson. It was the party of the incumbent president, James Buchanan. There had never been a Republican President. The night after the walkout by Southern delegates, Halstead described the city as follows: There was a Fourth of July feeling in Charleston last night—a jubilee. There was no mistaking the public sentiment of the city. It was overwhelmingly and enthusiastically in favor of the seceders. In all her history Charleston had never enjoyed herself so hugely.
Lincoln defeated Douglas and John C. Breckinridge, a third-party nominee. No one in South Carolina was surprised. Lincoln’s victory was what the majority wanted—a reason to secede. To Charlestonians, wrote Steven A. Channing in Crisis of Fear, “Lincoln’s election meant convulsive slave insurrection—meant emancipation of the negro hordes.” The Civil War was fought to preserve slavery and the Southern civilization slavery made possible. As late as September 1860, however, secession and Civil War did not appear inevitable. James Petigru thought “no possible issue could be more untenable than to make [Lincoln’s] bare election a casus belli, without any overt act against the Constitution . . . If our planter were in debt, or cotton was at 5 The Antebellum City
Robert Barnwell Rhett, the Father of Secession, thought he ought to be the President of the Confederacy. No one else did. “Rhett,” T. R. R. Cobb wrote his wife, “is a generous hearted and honest man with a vast quantity of cranks and a small proportion of common sense.” (Robert Barnwell Rhett, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper [February 9, 1861]. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
cents. . . . [secession] might be likely; but our magnanimous countrymen are too comfortable for such exercise.” He worried, though. “The Constitution,” he wrote his daughter Susan, “is only two months older than I. My life will probably be prolonged till I am older than it is.” But on November 7, 1860, when it was clear Lincoln had been elected, high federal officials in Charleston resigned. On November 9, a large public meeting was held at the Institute Hall. “It was plain, from a brief glance,” wrote J. W. Claxton, “that the respectable citizens of Charleston were there. The speakers were persons of note. They, one after another, in burning phrase, counselled immediate secession . . . As they uttered their fierce words, the multitudes rose from their seats, waved their hats in the air, and thundered forth resounding cheers.” The president of the South Carolina Senate, William O. Porter of Charleston, wrote, “The city which is most exposed and must bear the brunt in great part, is clamorous for secession.” Even the mercantile community was caught up in the frenzy. They, too, after all, believed Lincoln’s election meant the end of slavery, and even the most conservative businessman could not abide abolition. “So unanimous is public sentiment,” wrote William Grimball, “that in the city of Charleston[,] formerly from its commercial interests the most union loving and conservative portion of the State, no other candidates will present themselves to the people.” As Frederick Jackson Turner pointed out, “Charleston was peculiarly suited to lead in a movement of revolt. It was the one important centre of real city life.” It was a focal point, a gathering place for the planters. “Thus South Carolina, affording a combination of plantation life with the social intercourse of the city, gave peculiar opportunities for exchanging ideas and consolidating the sentiment of her leaders.” Charleston was the political center of the state and its only real city. She was located in the center of the Low Country Black belt, surrounded by a huge Black population. She was, as James M. Banner Jr. points out, “at one with the surrounding land.” The planter influx made her both cosmopolitan and provincial, urban and rural. Fear of slave revolts and fear of arson and poison, so much a part of Charleston’s history, now took over the White community. “The negroes are all of the opinion that Lincoln is to come here to free them,” Petigru’s niece wrote to her husband, yet “they are perfectly quiet and nothing is apprehended from them.” But the quiet was ominous, and the city was tense with rumors of slave revolt. On December 17, 1860, the Secession Convention met in Charleston. On December 20, in St. Andrews Hall in Charleston, the State of South Carolina 96
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Mass meeting at Institute Hall to endorse call for a convention to discuss secession from the Union, held at Institute Hall. It was at Institute Hall that the Democratic National Party Convention was held and the Ordinance of Secession was later signed. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, November 24, 1860. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
voted to secede from the United States. The “Ordinance of Secession” was signed at Institute Hall that evening. Six days later, Major Robert Anderson removed his federal troops from Fort Moultrie, where the new nation’s first important military battle had been won, to a new fort built on a sandbar in Charleston harbor. It was called Fort Sumter.
Prelude to war: The most famous front-page story in Charleston’s history. (“The Union is Dissolved!” Charleston Mercury. Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library.)
The Antebellum City
Confederate Charleston (1861–1865)
President James Buchanan, whom most Americans justifiably do not remember, was followed in office by President Abraham Lincoln, whom most Americans venerate. Buchanan, however, was still President in December 1860, and he gave the distinct impression that the federal government had accepted nonviolent secession. There was even a preliminary agreement to negotiate the ownership of federal property in South Carolina. “I informed them [a delegation of South Carolina Congressmen],” Buchanan wrote in December of 1860,” that if they [the federal forts] were assailed this would put them completely in the wrong & [make] them the authors of the civil war.” That, in a nutshell, was the situation when Lincoln took office in March 1861. The Confederate States of America had been established on February 8, 1861, before his inauguration on March 4. He promised in his Inaugural Address not to interfere with slavery, but made it clear he would not brook secession: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without yourselves being the aggressors.” Major Anderson, the Union commander at Fort Sumter, whose father had been stationed at Fort Sullivan, who himself had been a slave owner, and who was married to a Georgian, provided the Confederates with no excuse for aggression. One could argue, as Milby Burton does in The Siege of Charleston, 1861–1865, that “the first overt act of war” was not the firing on Sumter, but the seizing of Castle Pinckney, another federal fort in Charleston harbor. But federal forts had been taken by the Confederacy elsewhere. Or one could argue that the war started on January 9, 1861, when Citadel cadets fired on the Star of the West as that vessel attempted to supply Sumter. 99
“Why did that green goose Anderson go to Fort Sumter,” Mary Chesnut complained to her diary. “Then everything began to go wrong.”
Facing Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor. Currier & Ives, 1861. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard: A Louisiana Creole won the hearts of Charleston’s ladies and was the Confederacy’s man of the hour at Fort Sumter. (Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, ca. 1862. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.)
One officer of the Star of the West said, “The people of Charleston pride themselves upon their hospitality, but it exceeded my expectations. They gave us several balls before we landed.”
But Anderson sat peacefully at Fort Sumter through January, February, March, and the first part of April. Charleston was the stage, but the play was being directed from Montgomery, the capital of the Confederacy, and from Washington. When asked by representatives of the Confederacy to surrender, Anderson politely refused. When Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard, of Louisiana, arrived to take charge of the Confederate military command at Charleston, the drama began. The critical events of March and April are both obvious and mysterious. Did Lincoln manipulate the Confederacy into firing the first shot? Who was really in control of the situation? What really happened? In March, after Lincoln became President, Anderson remained at Sumter. The Confederates occupied Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney. The Star of the West had been repulsed in January. Only seven states had seceded. Three federally controlled forts lay in seceded territory: Fort Taylor in Key West, Fort Pickens in Pensacola, and Fort Sumter. By general consensus in both the North and the South (and contrary to Scarlett O’Hara’s feelings about the matter), Fort Sumter was to be the testing ground because it was a direct threat to Charleston, the Cradle of Secession.
or eaCh, a Dilemma: President Lincoln’s dilemma was that if he withdrew Union troops from Sumter, he would be acknowledging the end of the Union. By doing so he would abandon his oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” If he sent troops to defend Sumter, however, he would be the aggressor in a contest no one— North or South—wanted. President Jefferson Davis’s dilemma was that if he allowed the Union to hold Sumter, he would be acknowledging that he headed a government so weak it allowed a foreign government to hold a fort in the harbor of one of its largest cities. He would be losing the respect and perhaps the recognition of foreign governments. On the other hand, if he attacked a small band of soldiers who had given no provocation, he would seem a warmonger. If he fired on the flag, he would be causing millions of Northerners who did not want war to rally to Lincoln for a noble cause—the preservation of the Union. The people of Charleston looked to their new country and their new President for the right decision. Each side was circling the other. The Confederates wanted to take Sumter peaceably. Lincoln wanted to avoid a confrontation but maintain his position until something could be worked out. Supplies at Sumter were running low.
A Short History of Charleston
It would take 20,000 federal troops to hold the Fort. Radical Republicans pushed Lincoln to start the war, and radical Confederates pushed Davis. Did Lincoln conceive of a plan during those months to force the issue at Charleston—to bring on the first shot by the Confederates—so that he could unify and rally Northern opinion? The evidence is very strong that he did. On March 13, Captain Gustavus V. Fox, a former naval officer and a trusted Lincoln lieutenant, presented the president with a plan for a naval expedition to reinforce Sumter. Fox came to Charleston on March 21, visited with Major Anderson, and learned (and presumably told Lincoln) that Anderson could only hold out until April 15. On the same day Fox was at Sumter, Lincoln sent Ward H. Lamon, another trusted friend, to Charleston. Lamon, in his Recollections, states that he was sent “on a confidential mission.” On March 23 he met with James Petigru, the last Unionist in Charleston, who told him that “peacable secession or war was inevitable.” Lamon also met with Governor Pickens, who told Lamon that reinforcement of Sumter meant war. Lamon apparently told Pickens that the fort would probably be abandoned, though he had no authority to give such assurances. Lincoln also sent another friend to assess the situation in Charleston, an Illinois lawyer and Charleston native, Stephen A. Hurlbut. He, too, found “there is no attachment to the Union” in the city. Thus, by March 27, when Lamon and Hurlbut returned, Lincoln knew for a fact that any attempt to relieve Fort Sumter would result in war. On March 29 Lincoln met with his cabinet, which was divided on the issue of Sumter, and then issued a secret order to prepare a naval expedition. The destination was not given, but the force was to sail on April 6. Lincoln made other secret preparations, preparations so secret they were kept from the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy. Seward was opposed. “I do not think it is wise,” he wrote, “to provoke a civil war beginning at Charleston.” On April 4 Lincoln held a meeting with a number of Republican governors known to favor a strong stand at Sumter. No one knows what transpired at that meeting, though some historians conjecture that Lincoln told them of his plan and warned them to get ready for war. On the same day Lincoln also met with John B. Baldwin, a Virginia Unionist, who told Lincoln that the only solution was to evacuate Fort Sumter. According to Baldwin, Lincoln became excited and said, “Why was I not told this a week ago? You have come too late!” Actually, it was not too late. Lincoln met that day with Captain Fox, the commander of the naval expedition destined for Charleston Harbor. Fox Confederate Charleston
A. Ft. Sumter B. Ft. Moultrie C. Castle Pinckney D. Ft. Johnson E. Cumming’s Pt. Battery F. Port Royal G. Edisto Is. H. Seabrook Is. I. James Is. J. Battery Wagner
received his orders from President Lincoln personally. Anderson would be relieved, Lincoln told Fox, but Governor Pickens of South Carolina would be notified first, before Fox arrived at Sumter. Members of the cabinet objected to this notification, but it was a key element in Lincoln’s plan. A letter was then sent to Major Anderson. On April 6 Lincoln drafted the following notice to Governor Pickens in his own handwriting: I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such an attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort.
As numerous historians have pointed out, the message (read it carefully!) was a masterpiece of ambiguity. Lincoln, master of the English language, most eloquent of speakers, author of the Gettysburg Address, drafted a message he knew all parties would read differently. Let the great Southern historian, Charles W. Ramsdell, explain: To the suspicious and apprehensive Confederates it did not merely give information that provisions would be sent to Anderson’s garrison—which should be enough to bring about an attempt to take the fort—but it carried a threat that force would be used if the provisions were not allowed to be brought in. It was a direct challenge! How were the Southerners expected to react to this challenge? To Northern readers the same words meant only that the government was taking food to hungry men to whom it was under special obligation. Northern men would see no threat; they would understand only that their government did not propose to use force if it could be avoided. Typically, Charlestonians enjoyed life to the brink of war. Mrs. Mary Boykin Chesnut attended “the merriest, maddest dinner we have had yet. Men were audaciously wise and witty. We had an unspoken foreboding that it was to be our last pleasant meeting.”
Late on the night of April 6 and into the morning hours of April 7, an intriguing episode took place. The Powhatan, the flagship of Fox’s naval expedition, left New York under a new commander, Lieutenant David D. Porter. Lincoln had given command to Porter, but Seward, the Secretary of War, after conferring with Lincoln, wired “Deliver the poWhatan at onCe to Captain merCer, (signed) seWarD.” But Porter apparently had other orders. He replied, “have reCeiveD ConfiDential orDers from the presiDent anD shall oBey them, (signed) D. D. Porter.” Was Porter under secret orders from Lincoln not to go to Sumter and thereby ensure that no attack would take 102
A Short History of Charleston
place? (Fox could not attack without the powerful Powhatan) Or was Porter really ordered to go to Fort Pickens, not Sumter, because there was a mix-up between Seward and Lincoln? We shall never know. On April 8 Lincoln’s ambiguous message was given to Governor Pickens and General Beauregard. But the Confederates already knew from intelligence and even newspaper reports that a large naval expedition was on its way. Theoretically, no one knew the destination of Captain Fox’s ships, but Lincoln’s message had implied that force would be available. It was assumed that Fox’s expedition must be that force. Some of the ships were actually heading to Pensacola, but that fact was kept secret, so secret that the Confederates assumed incorrectly that the entire expedition was headed for Charleston. The ball was now in Jefferson Davis’s court. His alternatives were both dangerous. Either Sumter must be captured before the federal naval expedition arrived, or Sumter would be forcibly relieved by the federal fleet. It was a Hobson’s choice: If Sumter were attacked, the South would be the aggressor and appear to be wrong. If Sumter were relieved, Davis’s government would lose face. The Secretary of State of the Confederacy, Robert Toombs, was against attacking Sumter: “It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal!” What could Davis do? If he allowed Lincoln to peaceably reprovision Sumter, Lincoln might then give him “further notice” that he was throwing in “men, arms, or ammunition.” Had not the message clearly said so? On April 9 Beauregard discovered, by seizing the mail from Sumter, that Anderson had been informed of the federal fleet’s imminent arrival. On April 10, the Confederate government learned definitely that the naval expedition had left New York and decided to act before the fleet could arrive. Time was now of the essence. Beauregard was ordered to proceed. The general brought in 5,000 more soldiers because he believed the Yankees were on the way to attack Morris Island. The 2,000 men at Morris Island scurried in anticipation. More than 6,000 Confederate troops now surrounded the small band at Sumter. The Courier editorialized: “We are sick of the subject of evacuation . . . Let the strife begin.” The city was crowded with soldiers, wagons, horses, and people waiting for the war to start. The harbor was full of boats transporting troops. On April 11 Beauregard learned that one of Fox’s ships was only a few miles away. That afternoon three Confederate officers went to Sumter to hand Anderson a message from Beauregard. “I am ordered by the Government of the Confederate States,” it read, “to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter.” Anderson replied that the demand to evacuate was one “which I regret that Confederate Charleston
The tune of “John Brown’s Body” was taken, according to the historian Henry Steel Commager, from an African American melody “popular in the Carolina low country, where it was sung to the refrain, Say, brothers, will you meet us? On Canaan’s happy shore?” Other historians believe that a free Black Charlestonian, William Steffe, wrote the song and that a Vermonter, Tom Bishop, picked up the tune while traveling in South Carolina. Bishop used it in writing “John Brown’s Body.” Bishop later joined a Massachusetts infantry battalion. Julia Ward Howe heard the melody as Bishop’s battalion marched through Washington and used it to write “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Thus, as John Mitchum, a filmmaker, explained to a reporter for the News and Courier in 1991, “the song is black music, with white words, and welded the whole union back together.”
Bombardment of Fort Sumter by the batteries at Fort Moultrie. Harper’s Weekly (April 27, 1861). Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
my sense of honor, and of my obligations to my Government, prevent my compliance.” When Anderson asked if he would be notified prior to the commencement of firing, he was told that he would be warned. “I shall await the first shot,” Anderson replied, “and if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days.” Anderson’s remarks were reported to Beauregard. Still anxious to avoid bloodshed, Beauregard again sent his aides to Anderson to inquire as to when he would be “starved out”—and could then honorably surrender. Anderson played for time, knowing the fleet was on its way. Finally, he replied that he 104
A Short History of Charleston
would evacuate on April 15 at noon (his men would have been without food for three days by then) “should I not receive prior to that time controlling instructions from my Government or additional supplies.” James Chesnut Jr., Beauregard’s aide, knowing that the fleet was on the way, would not agree to Anderson’s stalling. He had waited too long already at Sumter for Anderson’s reply. As he stood at Fort Sumter he wrote to Anderson: sir: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.
irst shots: It was 3:30 a.m., April 12, 1861. The war that no one wanted, that no one really believed would ever happen, was about to begin. The bombardment of Fort Sumter, a truly glorious spectacle (if it were not so pregnant with tragedy), began at 4:30 that morning. Three Union vessels—Fox’s fleet—remained outside the bar, unable, and to all appearances unwilling, to enter the harbor. Colonel Chesnut and his men had left Fort Sumter and gone to Fort Johnson on James Island. Either Chesnut or Lieutenant Stephen D. Lee gave the order to fire to Captain George S. James. The first mortar shot, aimed high into the air so as to form an arc, was the signal to start the Civil War. Tradition has it, probably incorrectly, that the first shot was fired by one Edmund Ruffin of Virginia, the 67-year-old radical secessionist, writer, philosopher, and fanatic. He supposedly jerked the lanyard of a columbiad gun at the Iron Battery on Cummings Point, Morris Island. Whoever fired it, the war’s first shot was a direct hit against the parapet of Fort Sumter. All the guns in the harbor—except those on the Battery—then commenced firing. By 5:00 a.m., more than 40 cannons were firing on Sumter from two batteries on James Island (including Fort Johnson), Cummings Point Battery on Morris Island, a battery in Mount Pleasant, and four batteries on Sullivan’s Island (including Fort Moultrie). The bombardment was furious and constant for the first two and a half hours. Fort Sumter’s defenders fought back and fought bravely, but they were no match for Beauregard’s artillery. Charlestonians climbed atop rooftops to watch the attack and cheer on the Confederacy. The Battery and all the wharves were crowded with spectators. The sounds of the cannon were loud and terrifying. The city’s houses and buildings shook and rattled.
For a while, a little-known general named Robert E. Lee was in charge of Charleston’s defense. His main concern and that of his successors was to keep the railroad line open between Savannah and Charleston. He was sent to Virginia to command the Confederate army, being replaced by General John C. Pemberton. (Portrait of Robert E. Lee. Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
In May 1862 a slave and harbor pilot named Robert Smalls sparked national attention with a dramatic daytime bid for freedom. He stole a Confederate steamer, the Planter, and sailed out to the Union blockade. When passing a rebel sentinel, “I gave the [correct] signal— two long blows and a short one. I put on the captain’s straw hat and stood so the sentinel could not see my color.” He was received with cheers at the blockade. After the war Smalls became a Congressman and customs collector.
Robert Smalls, May 1862. Harpers Weekly (June 14, 1862). Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
The attack continued into Saturday, April 13. Firebombs, or “hot shot,” were hurled into Sumter. The fort still fired back, and its defenders were cheered by the Confederates, who admired the bravery of their enemies. But the firebombs had their effect; Sumter exploded and caught fire. Anderson could not hold out, and the fleet did not come to his rescue. On April 14 he surrendered. The Stars and Stripes was lowered—the fort was taken. Charleston and the Confederacy celebrated. The harbor was soon filled with boats as Charlestonians came to see the site of the first battle of the Civil War. Yet, in truth, the victory belonged to a man far away from Charleston— Abraham Lincoln. His strategy had worked. He had forced the Confederacy to fire at Fort Sumter, thereby electrifying the North. Public opinion in the North, once divided, now united behind the president. He had only tried to send food to loyal, starving soldiers. The Rebels had opened fire on a federal fort for no reason. On May 1, Lincoln wrote to Fox: “You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result.” Lincoln’s two secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, wrote later: “President Lincoln in deciding the Sumter question had adopted a simple but effective policy. To use his own words, he determined to ‘send bread to Anderson’; if the rebels fired on that, they would not be able to convince the world that he had begun the civil war.” In the days following the fall of Sumter, Stephen A. Douglas went to see Abraham Lincoln. The former opponents met so that Douglas’ support—and therefore the support of the Democratic party—could be enlisted in the war effort. Douglas told Lincoln he had best call out 200,000 men, not the 75,000 he originally called for in his proclamation. “Why?” the president asked the senator from Illinois. Remembering the battering he had taken at the Charleston Democratic National Convention just one year before, Douglas replied, “You do not know the dishonest purpose of those men as well as I do.”
ity at War: Charlestonians now settled in for war. Troops came and went. Fortifications were built all over the area. The Union Navy blockaded Charleston harbor, but, at least in the early years of the war, the blockade was ineffective. “Old Abe has at last fulfilled his threats of blockading us by sending the Niagara here,” Emma Holmes confided to her diary. Blockade running became a way of life, a lifeline for the South.
A Short History of Charleston
Port Royal (50 miles from Charleston, near Beaufort) was soon occupied by the Union. What E. Milby Burton described as “the most formidable armada ever assembled under the American flag” sailed into Port Royal Sound in November 1861 and captured the area. Thirty-six transport ships carrying nearly 13,000 troops arrived, together with fourteen men-of-war. It was the first significant Union victory of the Civil War. They then advanced from Port Royal to the Stono Inlet, to Edisto Island, to Seabrook Island, and then to John’s Island. Finally, they landed on James Island just outside Charleston. A vigorous battle was fought on James Island at Secessionville in June 1862, a battle the Confederates won. In hand-to-hand combat, the Union lost seven hundred men; the Confederates, two hundred. The Union troops ultimately withdrew to Port Royal. On December 11, 1861, the city experienced the most tragic fire in its history. At 8:30 in the evening alarm bells sounded. The fire spread from Hasell Street at East Bay to the market, to Meeting Street, and eventually to the Ashley River along Tradd Street. It destroyed the Circular Congregational Church, the Art Association, and whole sections of Meeting Street and Queen Street. Ironically, it destroyed both St. Andrew’s Hall on Broad Street, where secession had been debated and enacted, and Institute Hall on Meeting Street, where the Ordinance of Secession had been signed. Some said the fire had been deliberately set by African Americans; others, that enslaved refugees from the Sea Islands had just not been careful about a camp fire. In later years pictures of burned-out portions of Meeting Street would illustrate the destruction of the war, but in reality the damage was done by The Great Fire of 1861. 540 acres had burned and 575 homes had been destroyed. Charleston remained a high-priority target for the Union because it was the South’s second largest port and because it was the “Cradle of Secession,” the symbolic mother city of the Confederacy. From their base at Port Royal, the Union Army and Navy built a war machine to attack Charleston. Between the Battle of Secessionville in June 1862 and the beginning of the real siege of Charleston in April 1863, the city enjoyed a relative calm interspersed with some Confederate victories. One such victory was the capture of the Union gunboat, the Isaac P. Smith, in January 1863. General Beauregard, a daring and inventive commander, ordered a sneak attack on the gunboat in the Stono River off James Island by land forces and artillery. The siege of Charleston began on April 7, 1863. The most powerful armada of the war was assembled at Port Royal, and soon the deadliest ships of Confederate Charleston
History’s first successful submarine attack occurred in Charleston harbor on February 17, 1864, when the Confederate submarine Hunley sank the Housatonic. The Hunley and its crew were lost in the waves caused by their exploding torpedo. The Hunley remained lost until it was located in 1995. It was raised in 2000 and is currently on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston. A memorial to the crew was erected at the Battery in 1899.
Judah Benjamin grew to young adulthood in Charleston where his father ran a dry goods store on King Street. Young Judah was educated at the private academy of Rufus South-worth on St. Michael’s Alley. He later became a US Senator from Louisiana and served successively as (continued next page)
Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State of the Confederacy. ( Judah P. Benjamin. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.) The decision was made early that Charleston would “be defended at any cost of life or property.” Robert E. Lee, too, thought that Charleston should never be surrendered. He told Pemberton to fight “street by street and house by house as long as we have a foot of ground to stand upon.”
Christopher G. Memminger served as Secretary of the Treasury of the Confederacy. Memminger was perceived as cool headed, “a tactician instead of an ideologue,” according to Emory Thomas. “Memminger,” T. R. R. Cobb wrote his wife, “is as shrewd as a Yankee, a perfect metamorphosed into a legislating lawyer.” Memminger School is named in his honor.
the Union Navy—seven ironclad monitors, the experimental Keokuk, and the New Ironsides, an armored frigate—arrived in Charleston. Beauregard had established excellent defenses for the city: obstructions in the harbor, mines, and well-placed fortifications. He had even approved building the first submarines to be used successfully in warfare. The Confederacy did not have much of a navy, and submarine warfare was its only chance. The first submarine, named David in honor of the engineer who built it, was semi-submersible, with a torpedo attached to a pole 30 feet long. It was used successfully against the New Ironsides in October 1863. Other boats, called “Little Davids” (designed to fight the Union Goliaths), were soon in production. The Union fleet’s attack on Fort Sumter began on April 7, 1863 and continued on and off throughout the remainder of the war. There were eleven major and minor bombardments of the fort, attacks by small boats, and shelling from land and sea. Fort Sumter never surrendered. It was held tenaciously until February 1865 when the end of the war was certain. But during the spring and summer of 1863, Charlestonians still thought they might win the war. They and the Confederacy had determined that Charleston would never surrender. And the siege of Charleston, which had begun in April with the attack on Fort Sumter, continued. In July 1863, after weeks of secret preparations on Folly Island and Coles Island, the Union Army attacked strategically important Morris Island, which protected both Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. The island was really a sandbar, but, in terms of lives, it was an expensive piece of real estate in 1863. The goal of the attack on Morris Island was Battery Wagner, a fort near the tip of Morris Island that commanded part of the harbor and a main ship channel. With Wagner intact, no base would be available to the Union Army from which to launch an attack against Charleston. The assault on Battery Wagner lasted from July 10 to July 18, 1863. Losses were heavy on both sides, but Union losses were especially heavy. Some of those killed belonged to the 54th Massachusetts, a regiment of Black troops led by White officers and commanded by the aristocratic Bostonian Robert Gould Shaw. The 54th Massachusetts had been organized in the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 by Governor John A. Andrews of Massachusetts, a zealous abolitionist who promoted the then-unpopular idea of using Black troops. It was to be “a model for all future Colored Regiments.” Shaw, the 25-year-old Boston Brahmin and battle-seasoned veteran of Cedar Mountain and Antietam, accepted command. The regiment departed from Boston’s 108
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flag-draped streets in May, arrived in Hilton Head in June, and arrived on James Island in July. The soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts were chosen to lead the final assault on Battery Wagner on the night of July 18. Six thousand Union troops stormed the battery, some invading the fort itself before being repulsed. There were 1,500 Union casualties, including Shaw. Nearly half of the 54th Regiment was killed. The attack failed. Historians disagree about the effectiveness of the 54th, but the loss at Battery Wagner had a large impact in the North. “Hardly another operation of the war,” Dudley T. Cornish has written in The Sable Arm, “received so much publicity or stirred so much comment. Out of it a legend was born. As a result of it Robert Gould Shaw came as close to canonization as a New England Puritan can.” The significance of the actions of the 54th Massachusetts was just this: African American troops could and would fight and die for their country. It was a simple proposition, but one which most White people—North and South—did not believe before that battle. “It is not too much to say that if this Massachusetts 54th had faltered when its trial came,” said the New York Tribune, “two hundred thousand troops for whom it was a pioneer would never have put into the field . . . But it did not falter. It made Fort Wagner such a name for the colored race as Bunker Hill has been for ninety years to the white Yankees.” Robert Gould Shaw was buried by the Confederates on Morris Island, with the dead of his regiment, or, as the Southern press described it, in a ditch “with his niggers.” Northern reaction was vehement, and many insisted Shaw’s body be buried with dignity elsewhere. Shaw’s father, however, wrote General Quincy Adams Gillmore, the Union commander, that “a soldier’s most appropriate burial-place is on the field where he has fallen.” Despite the heroism of men such as Colonel Shaw, the Union Army was not ready to march into Charleston. The siege of Charleston was to become bloodier still. On August 21, 1863, General Gillmore sent a message to General Beauregard demanding “the immediate evacuation of Morris Island and Fort Sumter” within four hours, or else “I shall open fire on the city of Charleston.” Beauregard wrote a blistering reply: Among nations not barbarous the usage of war prescribes that when a city is about to be attacked, timely notice shall be given by the attacking commander, in order that noncombatants may have an opportunity for withdrawing beyond its limits . . . It would appear, sir, that despairing of Confederate Charleston
Col. Robert G. Shaw, the hero of the Union assault on Battery Wagner. There are monuments to Robert Gould Shaw in both Charleston and Boston. On the Boston Common Colonel Shaw’s statue bears the inscription: “Together they gave . . . undying proof that Americans of African descent possess the pride, courage and devotion of the patriot soldier.” In Charleston, the Shaw Memorial School was built ca. 1874 as a school for freedpeople and their children. Today it still stands at 22 Mary Street and is used as a community center. (Col. Robert G. Shaw. Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
The Union’s bombardment of Charleston, directed from a marsh near Morris Island (the Yankees called their eight-inch gun the Swamp Angel), reached its nadir when Union artillery officers began using St. Michael’s spire as a marker.
Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind, wrote a letter in 1936 explaining the origins of her character Rhett Butler: “I made him a Charlestonian because I had to make him a blockade runner, and there was little or no blockading done from Savannah.” She came up with the name Rhett because she was looking for a “one-syllable South Carolina Coast first name.” Butler was a “Georgia Coast last name.”
“Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed, and if a little salt should be sown upon its site it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.” —General Henry W. Halleck to General Sherman, 1865.
reducing these works, you now resort to the novel measure of turning your guns against the old men, the women and children, and the hospitals of a sleeping city, an act of inexcusable barbarity.
On August 29, Gillmore began the bombardment of the city. President Lincoln himself gave the order to fire. In fact, President Lincoln was quite interested in and knowledgeable of weapons technology. One historian has described him “in his own person as the Union’s closest approach to a weapons research and development agency.” The president, formerly a surveyor, an amateur inventor, as well as a lawyer, had long been interested in incendiary shells and Greek fire. “Such shells, he thought, would be especially valuable in siege operations, as at Vicksburg and Charleston,” Richard N. Current wrote in The Lincoln Nobody Knows. “Vicksburg surrendered before a thorough test could be made, but behind Fort Sumter the City of Charleston remained exasperatingly out of reach. After a long range, 200-pound Parrott Gun (the ‘Swamp Angel’) had been set up on Morris Island, Lincoln himself gave the order to shoot into the city with incendiary shells.” The lower part of Charleston was bombed and shelled on and off until the surrender a year and a half later. Those who could left Charleston for Columbia or the upcountry. Others removed themselves north of Calhoun Street, where the shells generally did not reach. Downtown Charleston became a ghost town. President Jefferson Davis visited Charleston in November of 1863. He spoke to the assembled citizens from the portico of City Hall and said it was better to leave the city “a heap of ruins” than “prey for Yankee spoils.” The crowd agreed and chanted “Ruins! Ruins!” There were few civilian casualties, but the city was almost destroyed. “By 1864, the town presented the most extraordinary appearance,” wrote Mrs. Ravenel. “The whole life and business of the place were crowded into the few squares above Calhoun Street, and along the Ashley, where the hospitals and the prisoners were and the shells did not reach . . . To pass from this bustling crowded scene to the lower part of the town was . . . like going from life to death.” By the fall of 1864 the end was in sight. Battery Wagner had been evacuated by the Confederacy in the face of an overwhelming Union force. Fort Sumter lay in ruins, though it was still occupied by Confederates living underground. The city was desolate. Lawlessness prevailed as Confederate troops ransacked empty houses looking for loot. Young Gus Smythe wrote, “Our own soldiers are doing us more damage than the shells.” 110
A Short History of Charleston
Charleston was abandoned by the Confederate Army in February 1865, following General William Tecumseh Sherman’s capture of Atlanta and then Savannah in December 1864. The “March to the Sea” was naturally expected, as late as February 11, to lead to the Cradle of Secession, but the natural geography of the Low Country protected Charleston from Sherman just as it has protected it against twentieth-century highways that would destroy the coast. Sherman would have bogged down in any attempt to march and transport through the Low Country marshes. Instead, he headed inland toward Columbia, which he burned, destroying valuables sent from Charleston for safekeeping. On the morning of February 17, 1865, the Confederates at Fort Sumter raised the Confederate flag. That evening it was lowered for the last time. Later, the soldiers left under cover of darkness. The next day no flag appeared over Sumter and the fort, which had received the first shots of the war, was again in federal hands. “And thus after a siege which will rank among the most famous in history,” a Union officer wrote, “Charleston becomes ours.” The city was occupied by Union troops on February 18. In keeping with Charleston’s history, a small child lit a fire near a large stockpile of powder left at a railroad station by the Confederate Army. Soon a great fire began near the Cooper River. On the other side of town, the Ashley River Bridge was intentionally burned, and it, too, started a major fire. The fires soon met in the center of the peninsula. As Milby Burton succinctly puts it in The Siege of Charleston: “The night of February 17–18 was one of horror and chaos, undoubtedly the worst ever experienced in the history of the city . . . with the evacuation a certainty [the cotton piled in public squares] was set on fire . . . casting an eerie glow over the entire city.” The city was at the mercy of roving mobs and looters. Explosions rocked the city—from a magazine on Sullivan’s Island and from the destruction of the gunboats Palmetto State and the Chicora. Gradually federal troops entered the city. Some looted. Some restored order. The 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment, among others, paraded down the streets of Charleston. “Any one who is not satisfied with war,” General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote, “should go and see Charleston, and he will pray louder and deeper than ever that the country may in the long future be spared any more war.”
Mrs. Ravenel wrote Charleston’s epitaph: “With the fall of the city and of the Confederacy went out the old life of Charleston.”
George A. Trenholm succeeded Christopher Memminger as Secretary of the Treasury of the Confederacy. A dashing millionaire, probably the wealthiest man in the South, Trenholm made millions as a blockade-runner during the war and his overseas companies acted as virtual banks for the Confederate government.
“The truth is the whole army is burning with insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina. I almost tremble at her fate.” —General Sherman to General Halleck, 1865.
Reconstruction Charleston (1865–1877)
A Northern reporter for the Boston Advertiser and the Chicago Tribune named Sidney Andrews came to Charleston in September 1865 and saw: “A city of ruins, of desolation, of vacant houses, of widowed women, of rotting wharves, of deserted warehouses, of weed-wild gardens, of miles of grass-grown streets, of acres of pitiful and voiceful barrenness—that is Charleston, wherein Rebellion loftily reared its head five years ago, on whose beautiful promenade the fairest of cultured women gathered with passionate hearts to applaud the assault often thousand upon the little garrison of Fort Sumter!” Physically, the city was in ruins. The great damage done by the fire of 1861 had never been repaired, and the bombardment of the city below Calhoun Street had left a virtual ghost town. Charleston had survived, but its way of life was forever altered. For the White aristocratic elite, civilization seemed almost at an end: “No one in the country in which you live,” Williams Middleton wrote his sister in Philadelphia, “has the slightest conception of the real condition of affairs here—of the utter topsy-turveying of all of our institutions.” Slavery had been abolished, and many former enslaved people had run away or refused to work. Beautiful Middleton Place, like many other plantations, had been burned by Union troops, and capital for rebuilding was nonexistent. Family fortunes, invested in Confederate bonds or currency, and even more in enslaved people, had disappeared. Townhouses were looted by Union troops and criminals of both races. People took what work they could find. Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson worked in the railroad yards. The James Heyward family took in sewing. Other Charleston aristocrats rented rooms in once fashionable homes or ran boarding schools. Some drove streetcars; others became tellers in banks. There were also attempts to get plantations back in 113
Facing The victorious 55th Massachusetts: The Black regiment entered Charleston February 21, 1865, singing “John Brown’s Body.” (Harper’s Weekly, March 18, 1865). Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sumter, April 14, 1865. Jacob F. Coonley, Photographer. Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
working order. Slowly life began to return to some new kind of order, but the poverty and even outright hunger during the first year was grinding. The gloom that pervaded White aristocratic Charleston, however, was unknown in Black Charleston. For Black Charlestonians, life was different. Civilization was not at an end; it was just beginning. They would have agreed with Williams Middleton’s remark about the “utter topsy-turveying of all our institutions.” The difference was that they were happy about it. Slavery was at an end. The “Day of Jubilee” had arrived. Charleston was now the promised land. For the city’s Black population, it was a time of celebration. And celebrations were frequent. On March 3, 1865, a huge crowd of Black Charlestonians assembled at Marion Square and watched as thirteen Black women, elegantly dressed to symbolize the thirteen original states, presented the Union commander with a flag, a bouquet of flowers, and a fan for Mrs. Lincoln. On March 4, Major Martin R. Delany, editor, explorer, and the highest-ranking Black military officer in the army, arrived in Charleston. On March 29, one of the largest parades ever held in Charleston began at noon. Four thousand Black people participated. There were companies of soldiers, tailors, coopers, fifty butchers, 1,800 school children and their teachers, eight companies of firemen, sailors, and many other tradesmen. They were followed, most dramatically, by two carts, one carrying an auction block with an “auctioneer” auctioning two Black women and their children. The other carried a coffin with the signs “Slavery is dead” and “Sumter dug his grave on the 13th of April, 1861.” The greatest celebration was held on April 14, 1865, when Robert Anderson returned to Charleston to raise the garrison flag he had taken with him on that fateful day in April 1861. The city closed down for the festivities. Three thousand African Americans went to Fort Sumter to watch the ceremonies. Robert Smalls was there with the Planter. Denmark Vesey’s son was there. Leading abolitionists Henry Ward Beecher and William Lloyd Garrison were there. The Reverend Mr. Beecher made a speech to the assembled crowd urging national unity and education for Black South Carolinians. He blamed the war on the “the polished, cultured, exceedingly capable and wholly unprincipled ruling aristocracy who wanted to keep power.” A ball, a supper, and a fireworks display were also part of the festivities. It was later that same night, in Washington, D.C., that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. White Charlestonians, seething with anger, had little grief to spare for the murdered president. The Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church refused to say 114
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the traditional Episcopal prayer for the president. And what was said was said behind closed doors. The die of Reconstruction had been cast before the surrender at Appomattox. Class antagonism between Black and White people, the racial animosity of centuries, was now out in the open. Sidney Andrews summed it up this way in 1865: “The Whites charge generally that the negro is idle and at the bottom of all local disturbance, and credit him with most of the vices and very few of the virtues of humanity. The negroes charge that the Whites are revengeful, and intend to cheat the laboring class at every opportunity, and credit them with neither good purposes nor kindly hearts.” The history of Reconstruction Charleston reflects this fundamental tension. On one hand is the standard story of wicked “carpetbaggers” (northern adventurers come South), “scalawags” (White natives who cooperated with Black people), and Black people bent on taking over the government, stealing, and plundering; a story full of bribery, violence, ignorance, and thievery ending in corruption so complete that by 1877 the old aristocracy could take over the reins of government once more. On the other hand is the story of newly emancipated freedpeople, led mainly by free, native Black Charlestonians, former Union soldiers, and some idealistic White people from the North (government officials and New England schoolteachers) trying to reform a narrow-minded and racist society steeped in hostility to the American ideals of equality and democracy and struggling to achieve a more democratic constitution, better schools, and a chance for people who had been poor, oppressed, and ignorant for centuries to better themselves. White Charlestonians and, later, White Northerners saw only the first version. Black Charlestonians and, still later, White Northerners saw the second. Blacks from the countryside came to Charleston in great numbers in the early years and throughout Reconstruction. Contrary to historical myth, most enslaved people deserted their plantations and their masters. And the defection of the house servants was, according to Joel Williamson in After Slavery, “almost complete.” Many, just liberated, never having been allowed to leave their immediate area, had an understandable desire to see the world. For White people, the inpouring of Black people was horrifying. “No negro is improved by a visit to Columbia,” J. K. Robertson wrote Mrs. Smythe in 1865, “& a visit to Charleston is his certain destruction.” Charleston was a mecca for the freedman (as the newly freed enslaved person was called) because of its large free Black population, the social and religious opportunities for Black Reconstruction Charleston
After emancipation, freedpeople had to adopt surnames because in slavery they had none. Many freedpeople from the Charleston area took the names of large slaveholders. Thousands of Charleston’s African Americans today have names like Middleton, Pinckney, Hayne, and Manigault. Freedpeople also took the names of great leaders like Washington, Lincoln, and Grant. There were not many African Americans with the surname Calhoun, however.
people, and the cosmopolitan character of the big city. Charleston was where the action was. The city’s Black population increased by three thousand between 1860 and 1870. In 1870 there were four thousand more Black people than White people in Charleston. As one Black person said, “freedom was free-er in Charleston.” The behavior of Black people toward White people changed. Old courtesies were still shown by many Black people to their former enslavers, but many others were determined to exercise their new independence. One White Charlestonian found “negroes shoving white person[s] . . . [off ] the walk. negro women dressed in the most outre style, all with veils and parasols for which they have an especial fancy. Riding on horseback with negro soldiers and in carriages.” Black Charlestonians now could talk in public in groups, keep dogs and guns, and smoke cigars. They could even go to the Battery, a place legally off limits to them prior to the war. One White aristocrat noted, in 1866, that “On Sunday afternoon the ethiops spread themselves on the Battery.” Yet A. T. Smythe wrote his wife in 1865 that the Black people he met were “as civil and humble as ever. All I met greeted me enthusiastically as ‘Mass Gus.’” An elderly Middleton wrote in 1866 that, “The negroes about town behave as far as I see extremely well. I have met with nothing but respect and good-will from them.”
neW orDer: The violence of the Reconstruction period resulted from the extreme changes of the time. Four hundred thousand Blacks were freed in South Carolina. Black troops occupied a city that was once the proud capital of Black slavery. Centuries of social habits came dramatically to an end. The wonder, really, is why there was not more violence. White people still believed slavery was right and that Black people were innately inferior. Black people, however, were now free—and about to take over the government. It was a strained situation. Something had to give. What gave was the peace. There were two major race riots in Charleston during 1865 and 1866. In July 1865, White Union soldiers from a New York Zouave regiment clashed with Black soldiers of the 21st US Colored Troops. The riot stopped when the Zouaves were sent to Morris Island. On June 24, 1866, an African American mob started a fight on the corner of Tradd and King Streets by assaulting a White man. The instigator of the riot was one Scipio Fraser, who led the assault in which a White man died. Later, Fraser bragged about the killing: “I, and no one else, killed the rebel son of a bitch, and he is 116
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not the first, nor he will not be the last I will kill.” Rioting went on for at least a week. As African Americans rose to political power and many White people were disenfranchised because they had fought for the Confederacy, tension increased. There were rumors of violence on John’s Island in 1868. There were murders of both White and Black people on various plantations. The conflicts inherent in Reconstruction Charleston were worsened by the political realities of the situation. Nothing would satisfy White people except a return to slavery; or, failing that, a form of pseudoslavery in which freedpeople would be controlled by White people. Many White people sincerely believed that Blacks would perish in freedom; that they would die of disease and hunger, and some actually did. The overall health of the Black community declined in the postwar years. While native White people urged Black people to trust them, pointing out their common background, Black people were doubtful. “We have played together, you say,” one Black campaign banner read in 1870, “but were we ever whipped together?” On the national level, Lincoln’s assassination radically altered the political landscape. President Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor, established a provisional government in South Carolina in June 1865 and appointed an old Unionist, Benjamin F. Perry, as governor. In September, a new Constitution was drawn up, but White conservatives still dominated the government. They immediately passed a code “for the regulation of labor, and the protection and government of the Colored Population of the State.” These laws became known as the Black Codes, and, while it was passed in some measure to protect freedpeople from unscrupulous White people, it also harked back to slavery days. The Black Codes, the rejection of the Fourteenth Amendment by Southern legislatures, the election of former Confederates to high public office, and the realization that, with the abolition of slavery, the South’s percentage of congressional seats would increase (slaves had only been counted as three-fifths of a person in the original Constitution)—all led to a movement in Congress to take Reconstruction out of the hands of President Johnson and place it in the hands of the Radical Republican Congress. The state was again put under military rule, and the government was reorganized on the basis of equality of the races. In November 1867, the first elections in which Black men could vote were held. A new constitutional convention met in Charleston on January 14, 1868 and continued through March 18. The convention was attended by 124 delegates, Reconstruction Charleston
Black and White Charlestonians were interdependent despite all the upheaval. Black shopkeepers, tailors, upholsterers, and repairmen relied on Whites for business. By 1876 Black Charlestonians had $125,000 on deposit in White-owned banks.
mostly Republicans. There were seventy-six Black attendees and forty-eight White attendees. “The character of the professional Republican politicians in South Carolina during Reconstruction has often been debated,” writes Joel Williamson. “The Redeemers, who wrote most of the history of the period, damned them all . . . Negro politicians were either Northern-sprung zealots in various stages of mental derangement or ignorant and deluded freed-men who moved directly from the cotton fields into office without so much as a change of clothes. Even a cursory survey of these groups reveals the inaccuracy of such a description.” The scalawags actually came from every social strata of South Carolina. The notorious Reconstruction governor, Franklin J. Moses, had served as the secessionist governor’s secretary. Carpetbaggers also varied widely. The last Republican governor, D. H. Chamberlain, for example, was a graduate of Yale Law School and a distinguished lawyer. And the Black legislators? “The one thing that most native negro leaders were not was fresh from the cotton fields,” concludes Williamson. Fifty-nine Black members of the Constitutional Convention of 1868 were either born in South Carolina or had settled there before the war. Twelve had been free prior to the war. They had been tradesmen, not field hands. Many were teachers working for the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency of the federal government. Francis Louis Cardozo, a mixed-race man whose mother was half Indian and half Black and whose father was Jewish, was educated at the University of Glasgow, studied at Edinburgh and London, and was an ordained Presbyterian minister. Of the thirty-eight delegates who were former slaves, none had worked in the fields. Some were ministers, carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, or coachmen. There were barbers, tanners, teachers, and carriage makers but no field hands. It was, in truth, reminiscent of the rise to power of the artisans after the Revolutionary War—except that the participants were Black and the aristocracy was not represented at all. The convention wrote a new constitution based on those of the Northern states. “In letter it was as good as any other constitution the state has ever had, or as most American states had at that time . . . the Conservative Whites were content to live under it for eighteen years after they recovered control,” concluded F. B. Simkins and R. H. Woody in their study of Reconstruction. Actually, much of the Constitution of 1868 survives today in the present South Carolina Constitution. The Constitution was more democratic than any before or since (until very recent times). It provided for universal male suffrage and for a free public 118
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school system, the first in the history of South Carolina. It protected the rights of property owners. At no time did the Reconstruction government confiscate land. True, its policy was to raise taxes, but, for the first time in its history, South Carolina was going to support public education and minister somewhat to the needs of the poor.
CalaWags anD sCanDals: During the next eight years, South Carolina was governed by a Republican Reconstruction government. The ofttold story was made famous by James S. Pike in his classic The Prostrate State: South Carolina Under Negro Government (1874). While the mythology of Pike and others served political ends, and was in many cases overwrought, it is true that some in the government did abuse their position. No doubt the greatest of the scandals of the day involved the illegal issuance of state bonds. Millions of dollars were siphoned off by the corrupt Republican governors, Scott and Moses, and their cronies. Millions were stolen by US Senator John J. (“Honest John”) Patterson and his pals in a railroad scam in which the state “invested” in the Blue Ridge Railroad. Corruption affected life in Charleston as it did life throughout the state. When the military government was removed in 1868, a Republican was elected mayor. Mayor Pillsbury won the election by a mere twenty-three votes out of 10,000 cast. The city’s debt grew to $5 million by 1873. The position of the collector of the port of Charleston, always a powerful position, went to a Patterson henchman, H. C. Worthington, a former congressman and Union general. White Charlestonians complained that Black people in the city held all of the government posts. Yet no Black mayor was elected and, in fact, the Conservatives actually won the municipal elections of 1871 when they ran John A. Wagener for mayor on a “fusion” or “cooperationist” ticket composed of both White and Black candidates. Black Charlestonians served in a variety of positions in local government. Benjamin A. Boseman, a Black man, was postmaster of Charleston from 1873 to 1881. The police force was half Black and half White. The state judges were White and apparently honest, as were the solicitors. The entire legislative delegation was Black throughout most of the period. African Americans filled lower judgeships. Some performed fairly and honestly; others did not. Some, though not all, elections were corrupt. Republicans, set on winning the mayor’s race in 1873, imported as many Black voters as they could. By some accounts, four hundred Black voters came to the city from Edisto Island to cast a ballot. One travel account indicates that: “Governor Moses told an editor in Reconstruction Charleston
Charleston that every citizen of South Carolina could vote in that city, if he chose, without hindrance.” It was an age of corruption. While this does not excuse Reconstruction South Carolina, the entire country suffered corruption after the Civil War. As the idealism of the war faded, cynicism replaced it. The administration of President Grant and the age of the Robber Barons coincided with Reconstruction in the South. In 1865, the Union Army seized Charleston’s school system and installed a leading abolitionist, James Redpath, as superintendent. Redpath soon opened the Morris Street School to Black and White students, though few White pupils attended. Teachers in the new school system were both Black and White. Northern White churches contributed people and money to the effort. Episcopalians taught Black students at the Franklin Street School after 1866. “The teachers all but one are Charleston ladies,” reported one visitor in 1874. The New England Freedman’s Aid Society supported the Shaw Memorial School, named for Robert Gould Shaw. Segregation was outlawed by the Constitution of 1868, but it is doubtful that much integration took place as a result. Many leaders of the Black community agreed with the Black leader F. L. Cardozo when he said “colored people would prefer separate schools, particularly until some of the present prejudice against their race is removed.” Advanced training for Black citizens became available, too. In 1865 the American Missionary Society established a school for Black teachers in Charleston, the Avery Normal Institute, which continued in existence until 1946. (From 1947 until 1954, Avery was part of the public school system.) The Citadel was closed. Its buildings were used by federal troops for a time. The College of Charleston continued to function on a reduced scale. One of the most dramatic social changes of all occurred in the religious field. Black Charlestonians withdrew from White churches en masse. Not only were they not expelled, but certain sects, such as the Presbyterians, tried to keep Black worshippers in the fold out of a profound belief that their souls were in danger if not properly instructed. A few months after the war ended, Black people were largely to be found in their own segregated churches. “In fact,” J. K. Robertson wrote Mrs. Smythe in June 1865, “the colours are separated now as to churches. The blacks now have Calhoun & Zion, Old Bethel, also I believe another Methodist church, Morris Street Baptist and perhaps some other old churches to themselves.” What was at work was the age-old 120
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dream of Black people to minister to their own needs as well as the missionary zeal of northern and Black churches. Typical of the situation that arose in many White Charleston congregations was the history of Charleston’s Trinity Methodist Church. Timothy Lewis, a Northern Methodist missionary, arrived to organize new Methodist congregations and to minister to the needs of Charlestonians, Black and White. The White congregants did not want the Black congregants to leave Trinity. In fact, they pleaded with them “to stay with us in your old places in the galleries.” Lewis countered with the nondiscriminatory Northern Methodist doctrine that “there will be no galleries in heaven . . . go with a church which makes no distinctions.” The Black Methodists left to form Centenary Church, still one of the strongest Northern Methodist churches in the South. Black ministers came to Charleston, and former Charlestonians returned to their hometown. Charleston attracted Black intellectuals, ministers, and politicians. After all, there was unlimited opportunity for Black people to make a contribution. Take Daniel Alexander Payne. He had been born free in Charleston in 1811, and had been a shoemaker, a tailor, and a teacher. In the 1830s he left for Pennsylvania, where he became a leader in the AME Church. After he was ordained a bishop, Payne returned to Charleston in 1865. It was from this crucible that most of Charleston’s leading Black churches— the Zion Church (Presbyterian), the Emanuel AME Church, the Morris Street Baptist Church, St. Mark’s (Episcopal)—emerged. They were religious, social, political, and educational centers. They were welfare agencies. They were community meeting halls and focal points of organized community efforts. These churches remain to this day the central institution of Black community life in Charleston. The best example of the political power of Black churches can be seen in the life of Richard Harvey Cain. Cain’s father was Black, his mother a Cherokee woman, and he was born free in western Virginia. He grew up in Ohio, studied at Wilberforce University, and became a minister. Cain left his Brooklyn pulpit in 1865 to come to Charleston and immediately organized the Emanuel Church at a cost of $10,000, a considerable sum at that time. He attended the Constitutional Convention of 1868, was elected a state senator, and served as a lobbyist. Cain is probably best remembered as the founder of Lincolnville, a small Black community near Charleston, which he organized in 1871. In 1872 he was elected to Congress. He was editor of the Missionary Record and became a bishop in 1880. Reconstruction Charleston
We have planned for the dedication of the bleak spot where so many hundred of our soldiers were covered in long trenches; in heaps-four short rows containing 249 of our men, the dead of less than a week. These were White soldiers—prisoners of war. The colored men have built a fence about the spot a free offering, and a fine monument is to be erected as soon as we have sufficient means. The cloudless sky and hot sun of an August morning was over us as the school children formed in procession and marched from the Morris St. School to the Club House on the racecourse where the opening ceremonies are to be held. We rode slowly up King St. to the race course. There it was thronged with vehicles of every description and pedestrians of all ages, from the baby in arms to the white hairs of bent old age. All faces wore the sweetest smiles and nearly every hand bore bunches of baskets laden with beautiful flowers. —The diary of Dr. Esther Hill Hawks, May 1, 1865.
The offices of the News & Courier on Broad Street in the 1880s. The News & Courier was created when the News merged with Courier. In 1991 the name of the newspaper was changed to The Post & Courier when the Evening Post and the News & Courier merged. (News and Courier Office after Charleston Earthquake of 1886. Harper’s Weekly [September 11, 1886]. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.)
ostBellum reCovery: Charleston’s economy recovered gradually from the trauma of war. The Freedman’s Bureau, contrary to popular myth, did not promise “40 acres and a mule” to every freedman and, in fact, refused to give food or any relief to those who refused to work. Federal policy was to send “vagrants” back to the plantations to work. But the bureau insisted that the rights of freedmen be protected and that fair wages be paid. Cotton production started immediately after the war and the number of bales shipped from Charleston doubled between 1866 and 1869. The same was true for rice, but rice became less important to the Carolina economy since it was too costly and too difficult to grow without free labor. By 1873, Charleston was beginning to show some signs of prosperity. In addition to the cotton trade and other port business, Charleston began to expand its railroad lines. Lumber exports grew. Phosphate mining along the rivers became a major industry. Phosphate was mined, then baked, then ground to a powder and mixed with ammonia and sulfuric acid to make fertilizer that was shipped and sold to grow cotton. The manufacture of doors, blinds, sashes, and machinery became another major industry. Retail and wholesale establishments flourished once again. King Street became a crowded, bustling retail district, while East Bay regained its reputation as a regional wholesale and shipping district. The intellectual life of Charleston, though, was sadly afflicted by Reconstruction. On the bright side was the temporary increase in newspapers: the Charleston Courier, the Daily Republican, the Mercury, the Charleston Daily News, and the Weekly Republican. Out of all this emerged the News and Courier, which became the only daily morning newspaper in Charleston. In 1873 the owners of the News merged with the venerable Courier, which had been founded in 1803. The newspaper’s offices were originally on Broad Street, and its powerful editor, Francis Warrington Dawson, an Englishman, was no stranger to Reconstruction politics. Dawson, in fact, championed the idea of fusion, that is, native Whites voting for “decent” Republicans rather than boycotting elections. He greatly influenced the course of city politics, as the idea of fusion worked well in city elections. In 1873 Edward King described Charleston as “very lovely . . . lying confidingly on the waters . . . fronting on the spacious harbor, over whose entrance the scarred and ever memorable Sumter keeps watch and ward.” Numerous ships lay at anchor off the new marble customs house on East Bay. King Street sported a new Academy of Music where Charleston’s theater tradition continued. Elliott Street did not fare too well during Reconstruction. 122
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In 1870, three Black women were arrested “in a house of bad repute on Elliott Street, while engaged in a free fight, during which they made use of violent and horrible language,” the Daily Republican reported. A new form of transportation, the streetcar, made its debut during Reconstruction. Inaugurated in 1866, Charleston’s streetcars looked like the later trolleys, but were horsedrawn along tracks. They were operated by the Charleston Street Car Company along the Blue Line (Broad Street), the Red Line (Rutledge), and the Yellow Line (Meeting Street). They were used until 1897. The whole enterprise almost failed in 1867 when a number of Black people insisted on riding in the car instead of on the platform as required by the company’s rules. Police and soldiers were called to restore order. But once Black people won the right to ride on the streetcars, White people stopped using them.
n inglorious enD: By 1876 both North and South had run out of steam when it came to Reconstruction. Eleven years of Radical Republican rule and the idealistic fervor of the past fifteen years had taken their toll. The great emigration of freedpeople to the North had done nothing but strengthen racism in the North and lessen concern for Black citizens in the South. The North finally concluded it could not reconstruct the South. The election of 1876 in South Carolina actually produced two rival governments. Republican D. H. Chamberlain claimed the governorship backed by federal troops. Democrat Wade Hampton claimed the governorship backed by his paramilitary Red Shirts, Rifle Clubs, and Sabre Clubs. Hampton, an aristocratic former Confederate general, had the universal love and respect of White South Carolinians, particularly in the state’s upcountry, where violence was the chief means of preventing African Americans and Republicans from voting. In Charleston, bribery was probably more common. A number of Black Charlestonians, unlike Black voters elsewhere in the state, supported Hampton. Hampton eventually won out, but his election caused still more violence: the Hamburg Massacre marked a decisive turning point in the campaign of 1876 and demonstrated the willingness of Democrats in the state to deploy violence for political purposes. Hamburg, a village on the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia, was known to Charleston history as the terminus of the state’s first railroad. By 1876 it had become an almost entirely African American space, with nearly all the municipal offices, including trial justice and sheriff, controlled by Black men. In the summer of 1876 Whites in the upcountry had organized Reconstruction Charleston
Editor Dawson was probably involved in Reconstruction scandals himself. He may have helped the bond ring transfer business to London, according to historian Joel Williamson. He clearly used bribery to defeat Republican Governor D. H. Chamberlain, who complained, “They beat me out by using more money than I had.” Even conservative historian David Duncan Wallace asserts that Dawson paid graft to the state treasurer for some of the state’s printing business.
The Ku Klux Klan, powerful in South Carolina’s upcountry, was never very active in Reconstruction Charleston.
Wade Hampton III. C.M. Bell Studio Collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Rifle Clubs and Sabre Clubs to overthrow the Reconstruction government. In Hamburg, two White men instigated a confrontation with the Black militia company in the town. The initial confrontation, which occurred on July 4, 1876, would escalate as companies of White paramilitary organizations descended on the town from the surrounding countryside. The resulting standoff ended with the cold-blooded execution of half-a-dozen Black militiamen in the streets of Hamburg in the early morning hours of July 9. The reaction in Charleston was instantaneous. On July 10, a mass meeting was held to condemn the atrocities. A week later, another meeting was held, and the city grew tense. On September 6, a riot broke out. “The rioters held King Street, the main thoroughfare, from midnight until sunrise, breaking windows, robbing stores, and attacking and beating indiscriminately every White man who showed his face,” reported the New York Times. The rioting continued for some time, both in Charleston and in the surrounding areas. At Cainhoy, ten miles from Charleston, one Black man and four White men were killed. At least eight people died in the riots: six White people and two Black people. When the Southern Democrats assented to the election of Rutherford B. Hayes in the disputed presidential election of 1876, Hayes removed federal troops from South Carolina and agreed not to enforce the former enslaved peoples’ newly won rights. Reconstruction was at an end. Despite the tumult that surrounded his election, Wade Hampton was the undisputed hero of post-Reconstruction South Carolina. Hampton’s policy was paternalistic, in the style of the planter aristocracy of which he was heir. During the campaign he had sincerely appealed to Black voters, promising to respect their rights and to appoint Black men to responsible positions. Hampton was willing to accept some African American representation, so long as it did not threaten to topple the program of White Democratic rule. Throughout the 1870s and the 1880s, Black South Carolinians participated in the political process, holding tenuously to pockets of authority under Hampton’s government. But the policies of Reconstruction, when the state’s Black majority population briefly expressed its political power in a way that was commensurate with its numbers, was a thing of the past. Once Hampton left office the situation deteriorated, and Black South Carolinians were at the mercy of much lesser men such as Benjamin Ryan Tillman. Born in Charleston at the Rhett House on Hasell Street, the oldest home now standing in Charleston, Wade Hampton III was the quintessence of the Southern gentleman. After all, his father’s thoroughbreds had won all of the races held by the Jockey Club in 1800. He owned a huge plantation in 124
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Mississippi and had fought for the Confederacy. “Hampton,” historian Walter Edgar wrote, “credited his election to the seventeen thousand Black Carolinians who had cast their ballots for him.” In speeches Hampton talked of racial harmony and political fair play. The funding for Black and White schools was nearly equal under Hampton. There are monuments to him all over the state, and at least two in Charleston, at Hampton Park and on Marion Square.
Porgy’s City (1877–1941)
Fallen from its rare grace as it was, how bad could life have been in Charleston during the 1880s? Well, in the movie version of Gone with the Wind, Rhett left Scarlett to go back to Charleston, “where there’s a little bit of grace and charm left in the world;” or, as Rhett says in the novel, “to try to make peace with my people.” Scarlett (in the novel) cries, “But you hate them!” Scarlett wasn’t going to Charleston, and, as we know, Rhett didn’t give a damn. What kind of city was Rhett Butler coming home to in the 1870s and 1880s? Charleston had yet to recover from the Civil War. Parts of the city were unrepaired well into the 1880s. The great wealth of the antebellum period had not returned. Great suburbs like Harleston or Radclifflborough and Wraggsborough would never be built again. But Charleston survived. Like other cities in the South, it tried to look to the future. From 1877 to 1890, the city retained its role as the political—if not the official—center of the state. The spirit of the “New South” movement gripped the city in the 1880s. That movement, epitomized by Henry Grady’s Atlanta, preached national reconciliation, economic regeneration and diversity, industrialization, and an “amicable” adjustment of the “negro question.” The young men of the 1880s looked to Americanization and industrialism as solutions to the South’s problems, and Francis W. Dawson, the young editor of the News and Courier, was one of the movement’s prime spokesmen. Dawson, an Englishman by birth, had been sympathetic to the Confederacy and came to Charleston after the war at the age of twenty-five. He paid tribute to the past, but urged Charleston to look to the future. He coined the slogan “Bring the Cotton Mills to the Cotton” (recalled by Lillian Hellman in her play The Little Foxes) and argued for the location of the textile industry 127
Facing Inspiration for “Catfish Row”: Cabbage Row, 89–91 Church Street. Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935), set here, wasn’t performed in Charleston until 1970.
The Cotton Palace: Nothing remains of the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition of 1901 but the bandstand in Hampton Park. (The Inter-State and West Indian Exposition Grounds, 1901. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
in Charleston. Charleston did get on the New South bandwagon, and cotton mills did come. The Charleston Cotton Mill, for example, continued in business until the early 1900s. Other factories opened, including the Charleston Shoe Factory. Charlestonians were trying to forget the past and learn the American way of life. One of the staples of the New South movement was the exposition, industrial fair, or what we now call a “world’s fair.” Numerous expositions, such as the Atlanta International Cotton Exposition and the Piedmont Exposition, were held in the South in this period, and Charleston, though a little late, played host to the South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, a truly fantastic world’s fair that attracted international attention, brought President Teddy Roosevelt to Charleston, opened up a whole new section of the city, and left a lasting legacy, Hampton Park. The exposition was organized by a private corporation on land donated by Captain F. W. Wagener, president of the company. It generally encompassed what is now known as Hampton Park and Wagener Terrace in the Northwest Section of the city. The exposition opened on Sunday, December 1, 1901. There were fourteen main buildings, palaces (such as the Cotton Palace, which was lit by electricity at night), manmade lagoons, gardens, and a variety of exhibitions. The Midway featured Akoun’s Beautiful Orient and Streets of Cairo, Fair Japan, and the Cuban Theatre. Captain Wagener entertained President Roosevelt in the Women’s Building at “The Grove” (a plantation house still standing at the end of St. Margaret Street). There was a Negro Building, as well as a Negro Department, organized by Booker T. Washington and prominent Black Charlestonians. There were Eskimo people from Alaska (which the US had purchased in 1867 and where gold was discovered in 1896) and tigers from South Asia. As a result of the exposition, the American Cigar Company was located in the city, the oyster-canning business got started, and the United Fruit Company began shipping bananas through Charleston from their holdings in Central America. After the exposition, more people began to move to the area south of the grounds (south of present-day Hampton Park). Legend has it that wood and other materials from the exposition went into the building of houses in the neighborhood. The old bandstand, once located at the center of the exposition, was moved and still stands in Hampton Park today. The Citadel moved to the Hampton Park area in 1922. But for all of Charleston’s boosterism, the city was in a deep decline. Port business fell dramatically from the 1870s to World War I. The mills failed. 128
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Railroads either bypassed Charleston, or their discriminatory rates hindered the city’s economic recovery; it was cheaper to ship cotton from Spartanburg to New York by rail than it was to ship it to Charleston by rail and then by boat to New York. The poverty was a crushing problem, and remained so until World War II. In 1883 the city celebrated its Centennial of Incorporation, and on August 13 Charlestonians assembled to hear speeches honoring Robert Y. Hayne and James L. Petigru. (Their busts, dating from this celebration, now reside in City Council Chambers at City Hall.) At 8 p.m., fifteen thousand Charlestonians gathered at the Rutledge Street Pond (now Colonial Lake) to witness a great display of fireworks, striped balloons, and colored fires. The fireworks included inscriptions such as “Fort Moultrie, June 28, 1776,” and “Charles town 1670.”
atastrophes anD Demagoguery: As if the city had not suffered enough, two catastrophes struck in the 1880s: a cyclone in 1885 and an earthquake in 1886. The cyclone badly damaged the Battery seawall and flooded parts of the city, but it was only a taste of what was to come. At 9:45 p.m., on August 31, 1886, the Great Earthquake struck. Buildings collapsed and people ran into the streets to escape falling walls. Twenty-seven people were killed immediately; sixty people ultimately died. Damage was estimated at six million dollars. Roads out of the city were impassable for days, and the railroad lines were destroyed. Many buildings were badly damaged or destroyed. The old Guard House and Police Station at Broad and Meeting Streets was so damaged it had to be torn down. It was ten years before the present-day Post Office Building was erected on the site. Hundreds of Charlestonians were left homeless by the earthquake. A tent city was set up in Washington Park, where people lived while their homes were being reconstructed. Other Charlestonians erected tents in their yards. But Charlestonians were encouraged by expressions of sympathy from all over the world. Queen Victoria sent a telegram; a benefit concert was given in Paris. As if Charleston had not had enough, the Great Hurricane of 1893 struck the city seven years later. The lower peninsula was covered with five feet of water and the western section of town under six to ten feet. Hundreds of people were killed on Ladies Island near Beaufort. The founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton herself, took charge of the sea island relief efforts and had a headquarters on East Bay Street. Miss Barton had last been to Charleston in 1863 to nurse Union soldiers on Morris Island. A hurricane or two later, and the rice fields were in such bad condition that rice planting ended forever.
Porg y’s City
Many Charleston buildings had “earthquake rods” driven through them after the earthquake of 1886. Round discs, some ornamented, on the sides of local buildings are reminders that the worst earthquake in the history of the eastern United States occurred in Charleston.
Earthquake, 1886: Charleston (and Boston) are as prone to earthquakes as San Francisco. (Earthquake damage. Charleston, 1886. University of South Carolina Digital Collections.)
Charleston accepted genteel poverty gracefully. In 1905 Henry James came to the city and described a remnant of the Old South. He could see it “in one case by the mere tragic of the manner in which a small, scared, starved person of color . . . an elderly mulattress . . . just barely held open for me a door through which I felt I might have looked straight and far back into the past. The past, that of the vanished order, was hanging on there behind her . . . So, it seemed to me, had I been confronted, in Italy, under quite such a morning air and light, quite the same touch of a tepid, odorous medium, with the ancient sallow crones who guard the locked portals and the fallen pride of provincial palazzini.” The disasters of the 1880s—cyclone, earthquake, economic stagnation— were compounded further by the next shock waves to hit Charleston: Pitchfork Ben Tillman, Populism, and the rise of the Southern demagogue. From colonial times to 1890, Charleston had maintained disproportionate 130
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political clout in South Carolina despite the state’s growing upcountry population. The city had more representation than it was entitled to, and its political and business leaders dominated South Carolina. The war and its aftermath had linked all White South Carolinians against common foes: Black South Carolinians, carpetbaggers, and the federal government. Confederate officers became the natural leaders of the White community during Reconstruction. After Reconstruction, the same conservative class of planters, aristocrats, and Confederate officers (now called “Bourbons” or “Redeemers” by historians) aligned themselves with the new business elite (from the railroads, cotton mills, factories, and banks), many of whom were Northerners come South. The Redeemers stayed in power through the 1880s by a combination of the personal charisma of Wade Hampton and other popular Confederate officers, fear of African Americans and Republicans, inertia, and poverty. But the economic and social frustration of the mass of rural White voters came to the forefront during the 1890s. From this popular movement arose the greatest demagogues and racebaiters in the history of South Carolina: Benjamin Ryan (“Pitchfork Ben”) Tillman and Coleman Blease. These men and others were elected by irate, downtrodden White farmers on a platform of agrarian and educational reform, intimidation and lynching of African Americans (Both “Cotton Ed” Smith and Ben Tillman defended lynching on the floor of the US Senate), and a general hostility toward the only cosmopolitan city in South Carolina— Charleston. Charleston had come to epitomize everything the Populist demagogues were angry about. They hated aristocrats and were tired of old Confederate generals (by 1890 the war had been over for 25 years). Charleston was a city full of aristocrats, and it symbolized the war. They hated aristocratic and intellectual institutions. Tillman attacked the University of South Carolina and the Citadel (“that military dude factory”). They detested Black South Carolinians and even more the prospect of Black political authority. African Americans represented half of Charleston’s residents. They were for prohibition. Charleston was a drinking city. Tillman called Charlestonians “the most self-idolatrous people in the world.” William Watts Ball recalled in his memoirs that the Tillmanites “preached their jehad against Charleston and for no good reason save that Charleston would not bow the knee to Captain Tillman . . . It seems unbelievable now , but it is the simple truth that the political leaders of that day inflamed the people to look upon Charleston as the hatchery of their woes, imagined or real . . . and politically they crushed Charleston.” Porg y’s City
The Upcountry saw Charleston, in the words of one up-country writer, as a “worldly place, a sea city trading with remote London and Canton in heathen China. It had silks and a theatre and . . . was worldly and sumptuous with the wicked walking on every side.”
In 1906 Charleston received 213 of the 297 liquor licenses issued to South Carolina. From the earliest years of the twentieth century to the 1960s when it was cleaned up by reform mayor J. Palmer Gaillard, Market Street was the center of Charleston’s underworld. It is ironic that the federal government and the US Navy have both destroyed and rebuilt Charleston. The building of the Navy Yard in the early twentieth century was Charleston’s economic salvation just as the Civil War had been its undoing.
The ascendancy of the demagogues forced Charleston to turn in on herself. She was now feeling the pent-up resentment of hundreds of years. No Charlestonian was elected governor from 1865 until 1938. “Charleston’s reply was feeble and futile,” Ball wrote. “After 1890 it accepted the verdict. Its leaders scattered and retired to their tents.” Because they could not succeed in statewide politics, Charlestonians turned all of their attention to local races. Ball noted in 1932 that Charleston’s “local contests are of a heat seldom observed elsewhere . . . outsiders gaze upon a Charlestonian election with wonderment, sometimes with merriment.” Tillman’s chief attack on Charleston’s way of life was his program of prohibition, and his government instituted what was called the State Dispensary, a state monopoly on selling alcohol. The Dispensary Act, which went into effect in 1893, was never really enforced in Charleston. Private businesses continued to sell liquor in defiance of state law. Tillmanite governors sent raiding parties of state constables to Charleston to enforce the statute, which the local police refused to do. In 1896 the governor suspended the City Council’s control of the police force and placed Charleston under the metropolitan police law, appointing a Tillmanite (one J. Elmer Martin) as chief of police—all to enforce the unenforceable liquor laws. Charlestonians continued to drink at illegal saloons called “blind tigers.” Centuries of Charlestonian hedonism would not give way to anything so transient as Ben Tillman. Eventually the mayor promised to try to enforce the liquor laws, and the city regained control of its police force. Soon the Dispensary Act was repealed. Charlestonians continued to drink—and to thumb their noses at the rest of the state. Tillman was elected to the US Senate, and, by 1900, both he and Charleston realized that a truce was in order. One result of the truce was the location of a US Naval Station in Charleston in 1901. The location of the old Naval Station at Port Royal was a legacy of the Civil War. In 1899 the battleship Indiana was badly damaged while entering the dry dock at Port Royal, and the navy, dissatisfied with the facility anyway, began looking for a new location. Mayor J. Adger Smyth saw the possibility of locating the navy yard in Charleston and began to campaign for it. Tillman, a member of the naval committee, joined in the campaign, and by 1901 the most important economic decision in the modern history of Charleston was made. The Navy Yard came to Charleston. Later administrations enlarged the facilities dramatically, and it became the largest employer in the Charleston area and a force that permanently changed its character. 132
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Charleston was changing in other ways. In 1904 there were 55,807 inhabitants, 24,238 of them White. A substantial number were newcomers. Immigrants had begun flooding America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By 1904 perhaps one-third of the city’s White population was of German ancestry, for example. Until well into the twentieth century, some Lutheran churches in Charleston conducted services in German. The business community was heavily populated by people of German background, and they dominated the wholesale and retail grocery trade. The Irish constituted ten to fifteen percent of the White population, and there were also Italians, Swedes, Syrians, Jews, Russians, and Poles.
ohn p. graCe anD Changing times: Ethnic Charleston spoke out politically in 1911 with the advent of a dapper Irish politician named John P. Grace. Grace was one of those people who defies easy description. He was raucous, loud, aggressive, and contentious. He fought for the common man, for more and better municipal services, for aid to the underprivileged. He was not proud of Charleston’s role in slavery or the Confederacy. (“And notoriously it was here,” he once wrote in his annual message, “that the Ordinance of Secession was signed, and the first shot of the Civil War was fired.”) He believed in the Declaration of Independence and loudly denounced the aristocrats, whom he accused of exploiting working people and harboring contempt for democracy. Grace was born in Charleston in 1874, of second-generation Irish parents. He was educated in the city and was one of Captain Wagener’s office boys. He worked in the cotton business in Greenville, in the steamship business in New York, and sold encyclopedias in the Midwest. In 1899 he went to Washington as secretary to the local congressman. There he attended Georgetown University Law School and became a lawyer. He then became the partner of W. Turner Logan, a prominent aristocratic Charleston lawyer. Grace’s position on race was progressive for his times. He hated slavery. According to John J. Duffy, Grace “accepted the results of the Civil War. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he considered the results just retribution for the crime of slavery, ‘the worst form of avarice because it put gold above even human lives and liberty.’” He personally argued the case that led to the abolition of legal peonage of Black people in South Carolina. Yet Grace was a man of his times and a bit of a demagogue himself. He used race-baiting as a tactic when it suited his purpose, and he aligned himself with one of the worse race-baiters in South Carolina history, Governor Coleman Blease. Porg y’s City
Grace’s predecessor was Robert G. Rhett, whose greatest achievement was Murray Boulevard around the Battery. Beginning in 1909, the city filled in 47 acres of mud flats from the western boundary of White Point Gardens to Chisolm’s Mill. The city sold 191 lots, a seawall was built, and the Boulevard was constructed.
It was Grace’s support that helped Blease win the governorship and that victory led Grace to run for mayor of Charleston in 1911. He was opposed by a candidate of the “aristocrats” or “boni,” Tristram T. Hyde, a banker. It was a wild campaign. Grace campaigned against “special privilege,” against monopoly, and against the “bluebloods.” The News and Courier, “the Old Lady of Broad Street,” wailed against Grace daily. Grace won, but by a very narrow margin, 2,999 to 2,805. Grace’s first administration (1911–1915), saw improvements in a variety of city services. The streets were paved, with the abutting property owners paying part of the bill. Health laws were passed and enforced. Playgrounds began to be built in earnest for the first time in the history of the city. Grace tried to buy the electric company (the Consolidated Company) so that the city could deliver cheaper electricity, but failed. His greatest achievement, however, was in bringing new railroads to Charleston and securing better rates. Charleston’s traditional love of pleasure (or what Grace’s opponents called “vice”) thrived under the Grace administration. Charlestonians continued to drink at “blind tigers” contrary to state law. Grace’s political ally, Governor Blease, did not interfere. Bribery of state constables was apparently commonplace. A local group called the Law and Order League protested that the vice laws were not enforced. Grace’s attitude was that he could not control sin, that no one had ever stopped Charlestonians from drinking and gambling, and why should he waste time trying? Grace’s enemies accused him of political payoffs to owners of blind tigers, bribery, and just about everything else, but Grace’s honesty was never successfully questioned. As for gambling in Charleston, Governor Blease asked, “Do they expect me to dress up like a preacher and beg them [the Charlestonians] not to race?” In the mayoral race of 1915 Grace was again confronted by his old opponent, Tristram Hyde. A new reform governor, Richard Manning, sent in the militia to guard against a stolen election, an Evening Post reporter was killed, and a number of people were wounded as the votes were counted. It was as bitter an election as Charleston had ever seen. “We shall be voting or rioting,” Tom Waring wrote a friend. Grace even blasted the St. Cecilia Society. The word was out, Grace said, that no one would be admitted to the St. Cecilia ball if he voted for Grace. In the end Grace lost.
Although Grace was out of office between 1915 and 1919, he was hardly quiet. He opposed World War I, and his newspaper, the American, blasted 134
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Wilson, Great Britain, and the League of Nations. Most Charlestonians supported the war, which brought an increase in jobs for the Navy Yard and spurred the growth of North Charleston. In 1919 Grace again ran for mayor against Hyde. This time Grace campaigned on one theme: city control of the docks. The docks were a disaster. The waterfront had been neglected for years. The once proud wharves, pride of eighteenth century Charleston, had rotted. Many were abandoned. The railroads, which controlled the docks through the Terminal Company, did nothing either to remedy the situation or to help the city. Grace attacked them savagely, and his opponents retaliated. Once again the News and Courier railed against Grace as an unpatriotic radical socialist. The paper warned that Grace’s election would be seen as a victory for pro-Germans and that it would hurt the Navy Yard. Despite vicious personal attacks against him, Grace barely won. In his second term (1919–1923), Grace fulfilled his promise and bought the waterfront from the Terminal Company for $1.5 million, a great deal less than the railroads wanted. After long and difficult negotiations, a public referendum, and state legislation, the Ports Utility Commission was created to operate the port. That step led eventually to the establishment of the State Ports Authority, which has modernized and greatly enlarged the port of Charleston. In his second administration Grace remained an activist, liberal, and pro-business mayor. He made both the High School of Charleston and the College of Charleston tuition free. The city donated the land for the Fort Sumter Hotel and encouraged the building of the Francis Marion Hotel on King Street. And, once again, he did little to control vice. In 1921 Turner Logan, Grace’s law partner, replaced Richard S. Whaley in Congress. It was a great victory for Grace and his organization, but it contained the seed of his political demise. In 1923 Grace faced an entirely new kind of opponent, a man with solid ties to the “downtown aristocrats,” who lived “uptown” in Hampton Terrace in the new northwest section, was himself an aristocrat, but was as feisty and tough a street fighter as Grace himself. Thomas P. Stoney was what John Duffy called “a 34-year-old dynamo, and a master of the same tactics of mass manipulation which had brought Grace to the fore.”
he stoney Challenge: Stoney was a lawyer, a great orator, and a great politician. He came from an old aristocratic family, and had the support of former Mayors Rhett and Hyde, the News and Courier, and the old ruling elite, but he was not one of them at heart. He realized very early Porg y’s City
John Grace had a ready wit. He once told an audience in Mount Pleasant: “Mount Pleasant is neither a mount, nor is it pleasant. When I ran two years ago, one man in the town voted for me. He has since died. I came [to the rally] only for the ride.”
that the old patrician way of politics was dead. In other words, he combined the best of the aristocratic tradition and a respect for the city’s past with the best of the democratic tradition and a genuine respect for and affinity with the workingman. He did not live “South of Broad,” but, unlike Hyde, he was not afraid to face Grace in debate at mass meetings. Nor was he afraid to deliver a little demagogic speech himself when necessary. Stoney accused Grace of “bossism.” He called Grace a power-hungry tyrant who used the police for political purposes and was a puppet of the Consolidated Electric and Gas Company. Grace charged that Stoney was a tool of the old elite, that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and was anti-Catholic. It was a typical Charleston mayoral race. Stoney won in an upset, 7,595 to 6,330. The Grace era had ended, although Grace lived on as determined as ever. Perhaps his greatest legacy to Charleston was yet to come: the Cooper River Bridge. The Cooper River Bridge was opened to traffic on August 8, 1929. Until the erection of the second Cooper River Bridge (the Silas Pearman Bridge) in 1966, it was the only route between Charleston and Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, the Isle of Palms, and beyond. The purpose of Grace’s Cooper River Bridge was to make the Isle of Palms a great tourist attraction. By the early twentieth century the Isle of Palms boasted a Pavilion for dancing, a large hotel (the Seashore Hotel, which burned prior to the opening of the bridge), and an amusement park (with a ferris wheel as early as 1911). Florida was rapidly becoming a popular winter resort, and Charlestonians were then, as now, trying to attract some of that tourist traffic. “In the twenties, the Tourist Era really began,” wrote Robert Molloy in Charleston: A Gracious Heritage. “It was then that Northern millionaires, in the cutting phrase of Jonathan Daniels, became ‘the real cash crop of Charleston.’ The great Grace Memorial Bridge was set over the Cooper River.” The Bridge was built at a cost of $6,000,000 by a private company, the Cooper River Bridge, Incorporated, of which Grace was president. The bridge was to be financed by a 50-cent per vehicle toll. As Grace said, “At the time the Bridge deal was made, assurances were given at Chicago (and we all believed it) that the Isle of Palms was backed up by a representative group of the strongest interests in this section; that all it needed to make it the premier beach resort of the South was someone to build a bridge . . . Beautiful maps were shown of the projected Isle of Palms, its lakes, its golf links and hotels that were only waiting for the word ‘bridge.’” Perhaps no public facility in Charleston is more a memorial to one man. Grace planned the bridge; he nurtured it; he went to Columbia to lobby for 136
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appropriate legislation; he pressed his friend the governor to delay signing the bill so as to give the Bridge Company more lead time before the 90-day expiration date of the enabling legislation; he went to Chicago to negotiate a contract; he went to New York to receive the bids (“When the bids were opened I was present in Byllesby and Company’s office in New York. We sat around the table in fear and trembling”); and he even argued the test case personally before the South Carolina Supreme Court. Yet, for all John Grace’s exertions the great beach resort the bridge was to make possible never developed. The old bridge failed to live up to another promise, too. A souvenir pamphlet entitled “The Story of the Bridge” issued at the huge three-day ceremonies accompanying the grand opening in August 1929 stated: “Indication of the strength of the bridge is the stated fact, that if a 10,000-ton steamer should collide with the piers of the bridge, it would be the steamer alone which would suffer damage.” But on February 24, 1946, the Nicaragua Victory slipped anchor, and the tide pushed the 10,000-ton ship into the bridge, ripping it in two. A crushed auto was found below. Five people were killed. The bridge failed financially as well. The year 1929 just was not the year to invest $6 million in a bridge to the Isle of Palms. The stock market crashed, and the Bridge Company was in trouble from the beginning. Funds to pay off the bonds and to protect the stockholders’ investments were to come from tolls, but the traffic never materialized. The company reorganized under the bankruptcy laws, and Charleston County bought the Cooper River Bridge for $4.4 million in 1941. Soon after, L. Mendel Rivers, then in the legislature, and others finally got the state to buy the bridge for $4.15 million. State Senator O. T. Wallace, who took office in 1943, announced his intention to remove the tolls. They were lifted on June 29, 1946, with a public celebration. Wallace paid the last 50 cents and introduced a bill naming the span for Mayor Grace. Following World War I, Charleston continued to expand. The Northwest section and Hampton Park grew in terms of both population and political power. In 1926 Mayor Stoney’s administration saw the opening of the new Ashley River Bridge (it is still in use). In 1929 the city opened a new municipal airport on the site of the colonial French Botanical Gardens. The Union Pier at the end of Market Street opened. Electric streetlights went up. King Street boomed from the 1880s through the 1940s and became, by far, the largest retail district in South Carolina. In 1931 Burnet Rhett Maybank became mayor. In many ways he followed the trail blazed by Tom Stoney. He, too, was an aristocrat who could relate to the average person. He served as mayor until 1938, when he successfully ran for Porg y’s City
There is a memorial to John Grace in City Hall. Carved in 1923, it was a victim of political animosities until rescued in 1981 by the city’s second Irish mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr. Charleston Corporation Counsel William Regan tells the story that upon his election Riley was handed an aged envelope addressed to “The Next Irish Mayor” by the Bishop of Charleston. Inside was the message: “Get the Stoneys.”
The Dock Street Theater, the jewel of Charleston’s cultural scene as well as a monument to Roosevelt and the New Deal, had an ironic early problem: who could use the theater! The director of the first resident company in 1938 scorned “outside people.” Later, when the Footlight Players took over production, “outside people” came regularly as guest directors, players, musicians, writers. Many visiting companies during the Spoleto Festival are booked into the theater.
governor supported by 90.9 percent of the vote in Charleston County. A solid New Dealer, he enthusiastically backed Franklin D. Roosevelt for president. Maybank went on to become a US senator, and he and his fellow Charlestonian, James F. Byrnes, brought Charleston back into the national political limelight. Maybank’s political machine was certainly more powerful and longer-lived than anything envisioned by John P. Grace. V. O. Key wrote in the 1940s that one “erstwhile gubernatorial candidate reported that the Charleston leaders had asked him at the time of his campaign what size vote he wanted from Charleston.” The old saying went that Charleston withheld its votes until the rest of the state reported in—so that the local Democratic machine could see “how many votes are needed.” Maybank was a remarkable mayor. He brought in a new paper mill in the midst of the Depression. He built five public housing projects and a yacht basin. One of Mayor Maybank’s greatest achievements was the charming Dock Street Theater, a product of the New Deal and the Works Progress Administration. Maybank conceived the idea of a replica theater for Charleston and convinced the WPA to give the city $350,000 in the mid-1950s to build a community theater inside the now-defunct Planters’ Hotel. The present Dock Street Theater is a replica of London theaters of the 1730s. It was built inside the shell of the Planters’ Hotel and the facade, entrance, and balcony were all retained from the antebellum hotel. Much of the interior came from old Charleston homes. In November 1937 the Dock Street Theater opened (or reopened) with the same play that had opened the original Dock Street Theater, The Recruiting Officer. Harry Hopkins, Works Progress Administrator, formally presented the key to the theater to Mayor Maybank “on behalf of the United States Government.” In the early twentieth century, Charlestonians had turned in on themselves in every facet of life, not just politics. After enduring the agony of war, the humility of Reconstruction, poverty, defeat, political isolation, and moral rejection by the rest of the state, Charlestonians began to brood and to write. By the early 1920s, writes George B. Tindall in The Emergence of the New South, “The Poetry Society of South Carolina (mainly Charleston) stood in the vanguard of the Southern Renaissance.” The group grew around three local writers, DuBose Heyward, Hervey Allen, and John Bennett, the author of Master Skylark. The Poetry Society, organized in 1920, published a Year Book and began to awaken the South to its literary possibilities. It was the first statewide poetry 138
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society in the country and brought famous poets to Charleston, including Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost. It awarded prizes that gave recognition to such unknowns as Robert Penn Warren. DuBose Heyward traveled extensively to preach the gospel of the new literary South-to-be. Charlestonians contributed significantly to the Southern Renaissance. Out of it came the poetry of Heyward and Allen in Carolina Chansons in 1922; Heyward’s Porgy, Angel, Mambas Daughter, The Half Pint Flask, and Peter Ashley; Allen’s Anthony Adverse; John Bennet’s Madame Margot; Samuel G. Stoney’s Po’ Buckra; Ambrose Gonzales’s The Black Border; and much more. The city began to be a home to writers and artists again. Josephine Pinckney, Archibald Rutledge, Janie Screven Heyward, Herbert R. Sass, and many others came out of this period. The same was true in art. The Gibbes Art Gallery opened in 1905. Alfred Hutty, Alice R. Huger Smith, and Elizabeth O’Neil Verner began painting, drawing, and etching scenes of Charleston and the Low Country. In 1922 a group of White Charlestonians who lived on plantations organized the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals, an organization dedicated to preserving Black spiritual songs and music. In 1931, a number of prominent Charlestonians produced The Carolina Low-Country, a collection of Black songs and essays about Charleston and the Low Country.
orgy anD Bess: Charleston began to glorify its past, its present, its people, and its places. “Local color” became Charleston’s stock-in-trade in the arts, in literature, and in song. That local color was very deep and very colorful, indeed, for it produced nothing less than the most famous American opera ever written, Porgy and Bess. The story of the opera begins with DuBose Heyward, a descendant of rice planters and an insurance salesman living on Church Street in Charleston during the 1920s. Heyward was taken with a way of life he could only glimpse: that of the poor Black people of Charleston. He said of himself later: “I think without realizing it, I started to write ‘Porgy’ when as an employee of a cotton warehouse on the Charleston waterfront, I first came into close contact with the negro life of the city. I was young and impressionable, and the drama that was enacted before me moved me profoundly.” Heyward was well acquainted with a local African American man known as “Goat Sammy,” who for many years sat in his goat cart at the corner of King and Broad asking passersby for money. Goat Sammy’s real name was Samuel Smalls. One day in March 1924, Heyward picked up the News and Porg y’s City
Alicia Rhett, great-granddaughter of Robert Barnwell Rhett, the father of secession, played India Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, which opened in Charleston in January 1940.
“Come quickly, have found heaven.” —Artist Alfred Hutty in a wire to his wife upon discovering Charleston in 1919.
Scene from “Porgy and Bess,” 1935–1936. Theater Guild production. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Dubose Heyward, author of Porgy, lived at 76 Church Street. Down the street was Cabbage Row, a Black tenement that became the model for Catfish Row. Both Heyward’s house and Cabbage Row still stand.
Courier and read a story under the headline “Busy Time for Police.” It read as follows: “Samuel Smalls was arrested, charged with shooting at Maggie Barnes on premises at 4 Romney Street. His marksmanship, however, being poor, the Barnes woman escaping [sic] unhurt.” Smalls was arrested on March 24, 1924. The assault occurred at 4 Johnson Court, Romney Street, near Smalls’ real residence in Green Tenement near Mount Pleasant Street. The “real” Porgy languished in jail until the charges were dismissed on June 3. But Smalls’ passion electrified Heyward. “To Smalls I make acknowledgement of my obligation,” Heyward wrote in the introduction of his play. “From contemplation of his real, and deeply moving, tragedy sprang Porgy, a creature of my imagination . . . and upon whom . . . I could impose my own white man’s conception of a summer of aspiration, devotion, and heartbreak across the colour wall.” The rest is a part of American cultural history. Heyward gave up his work to write. He went to the MacDowell colony in New Hampshire, where he wrote Porgy. The novel was published in 1925 and set in Charleston “in the 1920’s in the Golden Age. Not the Golden Age of a remote and legendary past . . . but an age when men, not yet old, were boys in an ancient, beautiful city that time had forgotten before it destroyed.” It was the story of a Black beggar 140
A Short History of Charleston
named Porgy; Bess, his woman; Crown, his rival; and Sportin’ Life and others who inhabit Catfish Row, the poor Black Charlestonians of the 1920s. The novel was a great success. Dorothy Heyward, Heyward’s wife, wrote a script for a play, and, despite Heyward’s doubts that a play could be successful produced with such a large African American cast, even in New York, Porgy was produced by the Theatre Guild on Broadway. Before the play was ever written, George Gershwin expressed an interest in writing an opera based on the novel. Gershwin had already made his mark, having written Rhapsody in Blue and a number of Broadway musicals. He came to Charleston in the summer of 1934 and stayed on Folly Island. For months he and Heyward roamed the sea islands around Charleston, going to Black churches, listening to gospel music, and to “shouts.” Heyward recalled later: “I shall never forget the night when, at a negro meeting on a remote sea-island, George started ‘shouting’ with them, and eventually to their huge delight stole the show from their champion ‘shouter.’ I think that he is probably the only white man in America who could have done it.” And what happened to Goat Sammy? We shall never know for sure. He disappeared from Charleston, never knowing that the character Porgy was based on him. A few years after Porgy had become successful, people in Charleston began to refer to the missing Smalls as “Porgy.” Some insisted that Porgy was his real name. A number of prominent Charlestonians started looking for Smalls (including Mayor Stoney, who ordered the city police to conduct a search). Two patient investigators, Police Chief Healy and Henry Church allegedly found a grave on James Island, though no one has been able to find it since the 1920s. Apparently Smalls had a wife on the island. Her name was not Bess. It was Normie. According to Dorothy Heyward’s account in the News and Courier, Normie said that “De ole goat follow’ Sammy . . . very close. He ain’t eat nuttin aftuh Sammy gone. Dere nuttin’ we can do. He jus’ grieve an’ die. He want to be wid’ Sammy.” And according to Normie (through Dorothy Heyward), Sammy shot Maggie Barnes because she stole his watch, not out of jealousy. But, then, that’s what Sammy told his wife. In 1911, another terrible hurricane hit the Low Country and finished off the rice growing industry that had flourished since colonial times. It had winds of 105 m.p.h. and left seven dead. Ironically, it was this 1911 hurricane which DuBose Heyward had described in the novel Porgy. An entire chapter of the book (Part V) is devoted to a hurricane in Charleston. It began, as they all do, in September. The church bells clanged twenty times, the signal for a hurricane. Porg y’s City
Street peddlers selling everything from fruit and vegetables to shrimp and fish filled the streets from the earliest days until modern times. Old Joe Cole did a big business on lower King Street. His cry: “Ol’ Joe Cole—good ol’ soul/Porgy [a fish] in de summertime/ An’ ‘e whiting in de spring/ Eight upon a string./Don’t be late I’m waitin’ at de gate/ Don’t be mad—here’s your shad/Old Joe Cole—good ol’ soul.” Another street-crier’s tune: “Straw-ber-ry!/An’ ’e fresh an’ ’e fine/An’ ’e just off de vine!/Straw-ber-ry!” Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess used this street-cry.
Heyward and Gershwin describe the hurricane which terrified Porgy and Bess: Dem Septembuh storm due soon, an’ fish ain’t likes eas’ win an muddy watuh. —DuBose Heyward, Porgy (1925). Lawd Shake de Heavens an’ de Lawd rock de groun’ Lawd Shake de Heavens an’ de Lawd rock de groun’ Brudder an’ my sister, when de sky come a-tum-blin’ down —George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess (1935).
The house Gershwin stayed at while writing Porgy and Bess is still on Folly Beach at 706 West Ashley Avenue.
“At its first stroke, life in Catfish Row was paralyzed,” Heyward wrote. A blue flag was raised over the Customs House. “And now from the opaque surface of the screen came a persistent roar that was neither wind or water, but the articulate cry of the storm itself,” Porgy continued. “The buildings huddled closer and waited. Then it crossed the strip and smote the city.” The hurricane of 1911 was immortalized in the words and music of George Gershwin. After the great storm scene the sheet music for Porgy and Bess reads as follows: “(Clara is at window looking through crack in the shutter. She holds baby as she sings); Clara (with great feeling): ‘One of these mornings you goin’ to rise up singin’, Den you’ll spread yo’ wings an’ you’ll take to de sky.’” Thus, the most famous song of America’s most famous opera is about the feelings of Charleston’s survivors of a great hurricane. Neither Porgy nor Porgy and Bess played in Charleston in the 1920s or 1930s. Nor did they play in the 40s, 50s, or 60s. The reason was segregation. The Black community would not participate in producing a play about Black Charlestonians and watch it in a segregated theatre. In 1954, an attempt was made to produce Porgy locally. Parts were cast, and a theater was secured, but the seating arrangements could not be agreed upon. The leaders of the Black community, Arthur Clement and Mrs. R. L. Fields, indicated that local Black actors would not play to a segregated hall. Porgy was cancelled.
egregation: The Black community had come a long way from slavery and Reconstruction. Charleston may not have been paradise for Black residents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it was not hell, either. There were no lynchings in Charleston throughout the dark days of the Tillman-Blease hysteria. The Ku Klux Klan, “the legitimate offspring of the patrol,” as George Tindall calls it, operated all over South Carolina, but its activities in Charleston were not great. There were at least 73 lynchings in South Carolina between 1882 and 1900 alone, yet Charlestonians would not countenance such violence. The News and Courier was in the vanguard of opposition to both dueling and lynching. Charlestonians of both races settled into a period of relatively peaceful coexistence. In politics, most Black South Carolinians were disenfranchised by the Tillman Constitution of 1895. During the 1880s, though, African American officeholders remained, especially in the Low Country. George Washington Murray, for example, was Inspector of Customs in 1889 and Benjamin Boseman was postmaster. Black South Carolinians were staunch Republicans and remained 142
A Short History of Charleston
with the party of Lincoln until 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt brought them into the Democratic Party. Black voters were cheated and intimidated out of the vote throughout the state, and in Charleston, during the 1880s and 1890s. The Democratic primary—for White people only—became the real election. And Black voters were Republicans, when they could vote at all. Segregation slowly became a way of life. It will be recalled that the freedpeople of the Reconstruction era had themselves sought segregation in religion. They wanted to control their own churches. Others sought segregation in housing. Freedom meant freedom from the watchful eye of White overseers. But in public accommodations—restaurants, hotels, public transportation, and education—Black Charlestonians strongly resisted segregation. Actual figures are difficult to find, but in terms of housing patterns, Charleston was certainly not a segregated city from 1880 to the 1940s. Black residents continued to live where they had lived for centuries—in the slave quarters behind the great houses, in houses of their own throughout the city, in villages on the edge of town. The most obvious statement about residential segregation in Charleston is found in Porgy itself. Porgy is set in Charleston in 1925, and Porgy lived in fictional Catfish Row on East Bay Street. Catfish Row was based on Cabbage Row, a real Black tenement, located on Church Street. It was a simple fact of life in Charleston that Black Charlestonians lived all over what is now referred to as “South of Broad” through the 1920s and the 1930s. Gradually, though, Black Charlestonians began to move. Many left the city altogether and moved North—the greatest emigration in American history was the movement of Black Southerners from the South after the Civil War. Following their emancipation most moved from their former slave quarters and lived elsewhere, but elsewhere was not necessarily in a segregated neighborhood. But in time Black and White neighborhoods did begin to form. Segregation was not established overnight. The state civil rights law, passed during Reconstruction, was only repealed in 1889. As late as 1897 the News and Courier was opposed to the new segregation or “Jim Crow” laws: “we have no . . . need for a Jim Crow car system,” the paper editorialized in 1897, arguing against segregation on the railroads. In 1898, though, the state began legislating segregation. Thus, the theaters in Charleston were integrated between 1865 and 1900. Thereafter segregation became a hallmark of every Southern city, including Charleston. The trolley cars, and later buses, required Black riders to sit in the rear. Signs were posted everywhere: “White” and “Colored.” Restrooms, Porg y’s City
Black Charlestonians listened enthusiastically to speeches about the “Back to Africa” movement in 1878, but not many left. In March of that year 5,000 people attended a religious service at the battery to consecrate the Axor, which would take 206 emigrants to Liberia. Martin R. Delany, the father of the movement, had a long and illustrious career in Charleston.
drinking fountains, doctors’ waiting rooms, schools, hotels, and restaurants (White or Black only), parks and playgrounds—all were segregated. Excluded from the mainstream of White culture, Black citizens founded their own newspapers. During the 1880s and the 1890s, there were at least seven Black newspapers published in Charleston, including the New Era, the Enquirer, the Observer, the Messenger, and others. They formed their own schools, including the Charleston Training School for Nurses (later McClellan-Banks Hospital) and the Charleston Industrial Institute. Black laborers joined trade unions and became stevedores; they worked in knitting mills, cotton mills, shoe factories, and phosphate mines; they farmed and produced truck crops for the northern market. The number of Black lawyers and Black doctors multiplied. The most famous of Charleston’s Black institutions by far was the Jenkins Orphanage, made internationally famous by the Jenkins Orphanage Band. The orphanage was organized in 1891 by Reverend D. J. Jenkins, a Black Baptist minister who, the story goes, made it his life’s work when he found six young Black orphans shivering on a cold winter day. The orphanage opened in 1892 and was funded by local and northern contributions, and eventually by the City Council and by funds raised by the Jenkins Orphanage Band. For much of its existence, the Jenkins Orphanage was housed in the Old Marine Hospital on Franklin Street (which still stands and now is the office of the Housing Authority). The band was organized in the early 1890s and went to London on a fund-raising trip. According to John Chilton in A Jazz Nursery, the band began playing in the streets of London, where it attracted the attention of Major Augustine Smythe of Charleston and his family, who happened to be in London at the same time. When the English courts enjoined the band from playing on the streets, and they could not raise the funds to return home, Major Smythe paid their way. The Smythe law firm thereafter represented the orphanage, and the band played outside the major’s home each Christmas morning until his death in 1914. The band played regularly in New York and traveled extensively. It was known as the “Piccanninny Band,” and Reverend Jenkins was known as the “Orphanage Man.” It appeared at the St. Louis Fair and Exposition and the Buffalo Exposition, at President Taft’s inauguration, at the London Hippodrome, and at the Anglo-American Exposition in London in 1914. And, of course, it played in the streets of Charleston throughout the early 20th century. The band wore old Citadel uniforms and played the popular music of the day, ragtime and some jazz. It starred in the opening of the play Porgy in New 144
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York in 1927. The program indicated that the band was “the original band of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, and is part of the actual aggregation described in the lodge parade of Mr. Heyward’s novel.” Black Charlestonians gave something else to the Jazz Age. They gave it “the Charleston,” the dance that was and remains the very symbol of the Roaring Twenties. The origin of the Charleston is obscure. Some authorities claim the dance was originated on King Street by the Jenkins Orphanage Band. Others claim a Black Charlestonian named Russell Brown did a “Geechie Step” in the Black dance halls of Harlem, and, as Black jazz pianist Willie “The Lion” Smith recalled, people “would holler at him, ‘Hey, Charleston, do your Geechie dance.’ Some folks say that is how the dance known as the Charleston got its name.” Smith wrote that the dance “had been around New York for many years before Brown showed. The kids from the Jenkins Orphanage Band of Charleston used to do Geechie steps when they were in New York on their yearly tour.” What is not obscure is how the Charleston became famous. Black dances had become the rage in New York, and Runnin Wild, a 1923 Broadway musical comedy, featured the new dance. James P. Johnson wrote the music, which had come out of a Harlem nightclub called “The Jungles.” Johnson recalled that “The people who came to The Jungle Casino were mostly from around Charleston, S.C., and other places in the South. Most of them worked for the Ward Line as longshoremen, or on ships that called on southern ports . . . It was while playing for these Southern dancers that I composed a number of Charlestons, eight in all, all with the same rhythm. One of these later became my famous Charleston when it hit Broadway.” Charleston survived from the 1880s to the 1940s by preserving her heritage, by celebrating her local color and her history, and by celebrating herself. Preservation became a way of life. So it was no coincidence that a movement for the preservation of the old buildings also began in Charleston in this period. DuBose Heyward was preserving the past in poetry and literature. The Society for the Preservation of Spirituals was preserving the past in music. The Society for the Preservation of Old Dwelling Houses would preserve the city’s houses and, indeed, the city itself. Charleston’s introspection in the 1920s brought the city face to face with its architectural treasures. While the rest of the nation was booming, while New York, Philadelphia, and Boston were becoming great cities fueled by the Industrial Revolution, Charleston rotted in genteel poverty. There were few great brownstones or Victorian mansions built in Charleston and certainly Porg y’s City
The Rev. Daniel J. Jenkins, whose portrait hangs in City Hall, was the founder of the Jenkins Orphanage and the famous Jenkins Orphanage Band. (The Reverend Jenkins. Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, artist. 1933. Gibbes Museum of Art.) The Jenkins Orphanage Band made regular appearances at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where a former Charlestonian named Adam Clayton Powell was the minister. The band produced some of America’s greatest jazz musicians. Gus Aitken played trumpet with Louis Armstrong, “Cat” Anderson played with Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington; Freddie Green has been with Count Basie since 1937; Speedy Jones played drums with Hampton, Ellington, and Basie.
Gates, 61 Tradd Street. Historic American Buildings Survey. In 1929 the St. Louis Museum of Art paid $5,000 for the early Georgian panelling from one room of the Jacob Motte house at 61 Tradd. It is now an exhibit at the museum—“The Charleston Room.”
no skyscrapers. Life in late 19th and early 20th century America passed Charleston by. Yet, in the 1920s, there were people still alive who remembered the Civil War. There were two generations of children, now grown, who had lived through Reconstruction and after and who had heard a glorified version of the city’s history. They looked back, as Heyward did, to Charleston’s “Golden Age” and wanted to preserve it. Luckily, Charleston had not been destroyed by development. The historic district was isolated even from the north-south highways. Ironically, the threat to Charleston in 1920 came from museum directors and other collectors who had bought up houses and parts of houses for museums. The houses were not valuable, but their mantels and paneling were. A group of dynamic citizens banded together to do something. Susan Frost and Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Pringle founded the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwelling Houses in 1920. One of the Society’s earliest triumphs was saving the Joseph Manigault House from destruction. It was a start. Samuel G. Stoney, storyteller and writer, and Albert Simons, architect, wrote books, attended meetings, and urged civic action to save Charleston’s architectural heritage. Mayor Stoney, unhappy over Standard Oil Company’s plan to put gas stations all over the city, pushed through the city’s first zoning laws in 1929 to protect the historic district. Later, in October 1931, professional planners came, and Charleston adopted the first historic zoning ordinance in America. Charleston became the leader of the preservation movement in the United States. Under the city’s Old and Historic District Ordinance, still in effect, no exterior architectural changes could be made to buildings in the Old and Historic District unless they were approved by the city’s Board of Architectural Review. Other cities copied the “Charleston Ordinance.” But the first ordinance was not Charleston’s only contribution to the preservation movement. The city also pioneered other techniques. Soon the Preservation Society bought famous houses and opened them to the public. The idea of a revolving fund to encourage the preservation of historic houses was originated by Sidney Rittenberg, a member of City Council. Still later, in 1944, the city produced the first citywide architectural survey, This is Charleston, ever done in the United States. It is still in print. The Historic Charleston Foundation was organized in the 1940s to do what the Preservation Society had failed to do: raise substantial money to buy historic properties for resale. The Foundation, which has led the preservation 146
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movement in Charleston, began its famous house tours in 1947. Two years later a dynamic young businesswoman, named Frances Edmunds, was chosen to head the tours, and they made a profit for the first time. (The idea of house tours had come from Natchez via Dorothy Legge, who, incidentally, pioneered the rehabilitation of Rainbow Row on East Bay Street in the 1930s.) Why did the preservation movement succeed in Charleston? There were many people dedicated to the proposition that as Charles B. Hosmer has written in Preservation Comes of Age, “something was sacred about the city.” Charleston had no industrial or economic machine eager to develop it. It produced leaders capable of leading. And it was a conservative city that respected its traditions even before the Civil War. As Robert P. Stockton has written, “Charlestonians, in rebuilding the ruined city after the Civil War, often chose traditional (ante bellum) forms rather than styles nationally current in the 1870’s and ’80s, and the single house form, in fact, survived into the early part of the 20th century.” The city seal reads: “She guards her buildings, customs and laws.” Charlestonians, such as Rhett Butler, enjoyed living in a city where a little bit of grace and charm was left in the world.
Porg y’s City
The Americanized City (1941–1975)
On December 14, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Charleston. He was asked by a reporter what role the South would play in the new defense buildup, and he answered with a question of his own: “Of these million four hundred thousand people who are going to be trained, how many are going to be trained in the South?” The answer to that simple question explains much of Charleston’s recent history. On December 7, 1941, one year after Roosevelt’s visit, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and Charleston would never be the same. War has always been a prime force in Charleston’s history, and World War II had a more profound effect on Charleston than any other war except, perhaps, the Civil War. Between 1930 and 1950, Charleston County grew from 101,050 to 164,856, while the city grew very little. Charleston itself, which had been two-thirds of the county in 1910, now became a small part of an Americanized “metropolitan area.” By 1960 the city would account for about only one-fourth of the population of the county. As the county grew by leaps and bounds, the city either lost population or gained only by the annexation of suburban areas. Why? In the aftermath of World War I, North Charleston was still a small suburb of Charleston. The city had no other suburbs. North Charleston was originally developed by a group of investors that included former Mayor Robert G. Rhett, B. L. Montague, a lawyer, and E. W. Durant, a real estate investor. A trolley line ran to North Charleston from Charleston, but the various companies that owned the land did not fare well. In 1932, the North Charleston development company went into bankruptcy. During World War II the Navy Yard and the Charleston Shipyard and Drydock became, by far, the major industry in the area, attracting workers to the old northern suburbs. In some ways, life north of Charleston was like a 149
Facing View of East Bay Street, 1940. C. O. Greene, photographer. Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress.
The Class of 1946 at North Charleston High School had more Georgians than South Carolinians. In 1972 the City of North Charleston, a product of the Navy Yard, was incorporated.
Postwar growth of the Navy Yard and military-related industries was due in part to the efforts of L. Mendel Rivers, congressman from the First District for 30 years and later chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. It was said in the 1960s that Charleston was surrounded by three rivers—the Ashley, the Cooper, and the Mendel Rivers.
“Howe, Long, must our Road be Stoney?” read a civil rights placard in the 1960s. Long was J. C. Long, a former state senator.
western boom town as thousands of new people—war workers, their families, and those who came to service the new industries—came to the “North Area” from rural and small-town South Carolina, from Georgia, and from all over the South. In 1938, there were 1,632 workers at the Navy Yard. By the mid1940s, there were in excess of 25,000! North Charleston and Charleston Heights were the centers of this new migration, which was mostly White and mostly Southern. People slept in their cars and in makeshift apartments, and they were packed into every type of accommodation. Workers often lived as cheaply as they could in order to send money home. The Great Depression had meant poverty and want; World War II meant jobs and money. World War II permanently changed Charleston’s way of life, for the boom at the Navy Yard proved not to be temporary. When the war ended, there was a decline in the number of people employed, but the number never returned to prewar levels. Both the Navy Yard and the North Area became a permanent part of the Charleston landscape. The Americanization of Charleston continued with the creation of other suburbs west of the Ashley River, beginning with the building of the concrete Ashley River Bridge in 1926. The bridge allowed those with automobiles to move into St. Andrew’s Parish and beyond, to old Windermere, the Crescent, and Wappoo Heights in the 1930s and to Byrnes Downs (named for Jimmy Byrnes) in the 1940s. The old peninsula city began losing population in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1940 Charleston’s population was 71,275, the largest in its history. The affluence of the era, the invention of the automobile, the building of better roads and bridges—all led to the movement to the suburbs. Then, in the 1950s, shopping centers sprang up. Like all American cities, Charleston witnessed a movement out of the crowded city center to the greener pastures of suburbia. The northwest section of the peninsula (Hampton Park), itself a suburb, grew as well. Ward 12, the ward in which the northwest section lay, became the most populous ward in the city and the center of political activity. Huger Street ran through the center of Ward 12. And it was on that street that two giants of postwar Charleston politics lived: former Mayor Tom Stoney at 573 Huger and Gedney M. Howe Jr. at 554 Huger. A lawyer, Howe served on a PT Boat during World War II, saw action in Africa, and returned home a hero. In 1946 he ran for solicitor with Stoney’s blessings. (Howe’s father, Gedney M. Howe Sr. had been city engineer under Stoney, and he supervised the construction of Murray Boulevard.) 150
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Gedney Howe served as solicitor from 1946 to 1956. During that time, he built a reputation as a brilliant politician and a formidable lawyer. Recognizing the potential impact of the growing union vote and being philosophically committed to the labor movement, he early championed labor causes and wielded great influence in labor councils. He was also committed to racial equality at a time when Charleston was almost totally segregated and soon gained the trust of the Black community. He never sought another elective office after serving as solicitor, but he became the key figure in Charleston’s political history from the 1950s to the 1980s. The city government had greatly expanded its functions between the time of Grace and Stoney and the New Deal Era. By the 1950s it was operating a municipal airport, a waterworks department, a marina, a golf course, incinerators, swimming pools, and a housing authority. Under William McG. Morrison, the position of mayor became a full-time job. In 1959 a young reform candidate, J. Palmer Gaillard Jr. ran for mayor with the support of Stoney and Howe. His slogan was “We Need a Change.” Gaillard was elected, and change the city did. For the first time since before the Civil War, Charleston’s boundaries were expanded to take in a portion of St. Andrew’s Parish, urban renewal was begun, the marina was expanded, and a municipal auditorium was built. There was also a shake-up in the police department. Charlestonians once again celebrated their past in the Civil War Centennial of 1961. A postage stamp commemorating the firing on Fort Sumter was issued at Charleston. Citadel cadets “fired” again on the Star of the West. And in 1970 the city joined with the state to celebrate the tricentennial of the founding of South Carolina. The state purchased the site of the original settlement at Albemarle Point at a cost of $4.9 million from the owners, who had carefully protected it from suburban development. The site was made a state park and called Charles Towne Landing. Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie were restored, and both are now open to the public. History became Charleston’s leading business. But the most symbolic event of the Tricentennial Celebration of 1970 did not take place at Charles Towne Landing. It took place at the new Municipal Auditorium when Porgy returned home for the first time. The Charleston community—Black and White—staged Porgy and Bess with a local all-Black cast and an integrated audience. Every performance was sold out. The long-overdue performance of Porgy reflected the great change that had taken place in race relations in Charleston and all over the South between 1941 and 1970. The Americanized City
A. North Charleston B. US Naval Base and
C. Cooper River Br. D. Ashley River Br. E. The Citadel and
Hampton Park F. Author’s House G. Kiawah Is.
World War II, like World War I before it, had been a catalyst for change in the Black community. On a national level, Black leaders began asserting the needs and rights of Blacks, beginning with A. Phillip Randolph’s proposed march on Washington in 1941. The navy was desegregated during the war, and Harry Truman integrated the army in 1947. In a series of decisions that began in 1944, the Supreme Court gradually recognized the constitutional rights of Black citizens.
The Supreme Court may not have given Waties Waring credit for its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education but civil rights leaders certainly did. According to Tinsley E. Yarbrough in A Passion for Justice, Waring encouraged Thurgood Marshall and other NAACP officials “to make a direct assault on the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine in the public schools.” When Brown was decided on May 17, 1954, leading civil rights leaders in New York City, including Kenneth Clark, Walter White, and Alan Paton, headed not for Harlem but for Judge Waring’s apartment on Fifth Avenue.
uDge Waring anD “Darkest south Carolina”: The Democratic party was closed to African Americans in Charleston in the 1940s, and, because nomination in the Democratic primary was tantamount to election, Black voters were effectively shut out of the political process. In 1947 Federal District Judge (and eighth-generation Charlestonian) J. Waties Waring held that “South Carolina is the only State which now conducts a primary election solely for whites . . . I cannot see where the skies will fall if South Carolina is put in the same class with these and other states.” The Democratic primary was opened to Black South Carolinians. The civil rights era had begun in earnest in Charleston. Waring was only following precedent, but many federal judges lacked the courage. They preferred to let an appellate court make the tough decisions. Waring continued to defend the rights of Black men and women. He wrote a dissenting opinion in Briggs v. Elliott, one of the nation’s first school desegregation cases. Thurgood Marshall, later a Justice of the Supreme Court, came to Charleston to argue the case on behalf of the NAACP in the federal courthouse on Broad Street. The majority opinion for the three-judge federal court was written by Judge John J. Parker, the eminent Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals. Judge Parker affirmed the legality of segregation in the public schools of South Carolina. Judge Waring wrote a scathing dissent in which he severely criticized the segregation laws. “[S]egregation in education can never produce equality . . . it is an evil that must be eradicated . . . [and] the system of segregation in education adopted and practiced in the State of South Carolina must go and must go now. Segregation is per se, inequality.” It was the first pronouncement by a federal judge in the twentieth century that segregation in the public schools was unconstitutional. Briggs v. Elliott was appealed to the US Supreme Court, where it became one of four companion cases decided under another name by that Court in 1954. That case was Brown v. Board of Education. Waring’s dissent was not quoted or relied upon by the Supreme Court because Waring himself had 152
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become such a controversial figure and because the tone of his dissent was bitter and critical. Chief Justice Earl Warren wanted the landmark decision to speak softly and calmly to the nation. Waring came from a long line of Charleston aristocrats. When he was first nominated for a federal judgeship in the 1930s by “Cotton” Ed Smith, his appointment was defeated by northern liberals who thought him too conservative. Roosevelt appointed him in 1941. A former Corporation Counsel of the City of Charleston and a close friend of Senator Burnet Maybank, Waring was the epitome of a Charleston lawyer. Some Charlestonians contend that Waring began to change in 1945 or 1946 when he became romantically involved with Elizabeth Hoffman, a beautiful lady from up north. The Warings and Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman had enjoyed playing bridge when the Hoffmans visited Charleston. One thing led to another, and shortly Waring and Elizabeth Hoffman were divorced. When they later married each other, Charleston society was scandalized. Judge and Mrs. Waring were ostracized from Charleston society. She often sat in his courtroom while he presided, and his decisions increasingly favored civil rights. Politicians denounced him, and an effort was made to impeach him. By the 1950s Judge Waring said, “We do not live in darkest Africa. We live in darkest South Carolina.” A cross was burned in front of his home at 61 Meeting Street, and rocks were thrown at the windows. US marshals guarded his house. President Truman called him “a very great judge,” but it was an opinion not shared by many White Charlestonians. Later the Warings left Charleston, and Judge Waring lived in New York until his death in 1968. The modern civil rights movement traces its roots back to the 1940s. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People grew steadily, although membership could prove dangerous. Septima Clark, the distinguished Black educator and author, was fired from her job as a schoolteacher in the public schools in 1956 for being an officer in the NAACP. Esau Jenkins of John’s Island met in the early years of the movement with Martin Luther King Jr. and developed “citizenship schools” for potential Black voters on John’s Island. Bernice Robinson and Septima Clark further developed the concept of the Citizenship Schools, where Black attendees learned about the Constitution and how to assert their right to vote. Martin Luther King and the Southern Leadership Conference were to spread the idea all over the South in the 1960s. J. Arthur Brown, a successful Black realtor, became president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP in 1955 and membership soared. There were 2,000 members by the end of the 1950s. Charleston’s Black community mobilized. The Americanized City
J. Waties Waring. Fabian Bachrach, photographer. J. A. DeLaine Papers, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.
When Annie Waring, the judge’s first wife, died, her six pallbearers were all Warings. When Judge Waring died in 1968, only 12 Whites, but more than 200 Blacks attended his funeral. And so was buried the distinguished son of a distinguished veteran of the Confederate Army.
“We Shall Overcome” was originally an old (White) Baptist hymn. In 1946 Black strikers of the Food and Tobacco Workers’ Union rewrote the chorus. It went on to the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, where it became popular in civil rights circles.
Septima Poinsette Clark was the daughter of a slave owned by the Poinsette family who late in life became one of Martin Luther King’s chief lieutenants in the civil rights movement. “Her extraordinary gifts in teaching,” Taylor Branch wrote in Parting the Waters, “inspired civil rights leaders to put her in charge of the movement’s citizenship schools.” These were workshops in which Mrs. Clark turned sharecroppers and other unschooled citizens into potential voters. Branch concluded, “Clark was a saint even to many of the learned critics who predicted she would fail.” (Septima Clark [left] and Rosa Parks [right] at Highlander Folk School, Monteagle, Tennessee, ca. 1955. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
Suits were brought to desegregate city facilities. The first integrated facility in South Carolina was the Charleston Municipal Golf Course, opened to both races in 1960. The NAACP brought suit during Mayor Morrison’s administration, but the defense against the action fell to the incoming Gaillard administration. Palmer Gaillard was the descendant of a long line of stubborn, hardheaded Huguenots. When he was confronted with deciding whether the city of Charleston would resist desegregation, his only question was, “What is the law?” Upon learning that the federal courts would rule against the city’s segregation policies, he instructed the city attorneys to conclude the suit, which had been pending for some years, as quickly as possible. This was done, an adverse judgment was received, and the golf course immediately integrated without incident. There were a multitude of lunch counter sit-ins in Charleston in the 1960s, led by J. Arthur Brown, the Reverend James G. Blake, Marjorie Amos, Herbert Fielding, Esau Jenkins, the Reverend I. D. Newman, the Reverend B. J. Glover, and the Reverend Fred Dawson. Despite efforts of die-hard segregationists to circumvent the law or harass the demonstrators, Mayor Gaillard held firm to a policy of law and order in the streets of Charleston. Protestors were not mistreated. Peaceful demonstrations continued. Arrests were made, and the segregation laws were tested in court. The courts threw them all out. Charleston began to become an integrated city once again—without violence or bloodshed. The 1960s saw the desegregation of the city’s public schools. Charleston was once again chosen by civil rights activists as a major testing ground because of its tradition of peaceful change in the area of race relations. Rivers High School became the first integrated public high school in South Carolina in 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King came to Charleston in 1967 and addressed a crowd at County Hall. He argued against the “Burn, Baby, Burn” philosophy of some Black activists and urged Charleston’s Black community to build the community, not destroy it. In 1969 a major civil rights confrontation—the Medical University strike— took place in Charleston. The university had become (and remains to this day) the largest single employer in the city. A large percentage of the workforce was then (and is now) Black, and the protestors sought to have the university recognize their union, bargain with their leaders, promote more Blacks, and raise wages from $1.30 per hour. The strike was unusual in that organized labor and the civil rights movement cooperated for the first time. At Emmanuel AME 154
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Church, Coretta Scott King and Andrew Young of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference addressed a capacity crowd. The National Guard was called out to keep the peace, but the leaders of the strike, Mary Moultrie and Bill Saunders, saw that no breaches of the peace occurred. The Hospital strike hit a national chord. “The strike of hospital workers in Charleston, S.C., has become the country’s tensest civil rights struggle,” the New York Times editorialized in the first of three editorials on the subject, and warned of the “dangers of a racial explosion.” The Times praised the coalition behind the strike as “rightly angered by the systematic exploitation public agencies were practicing against underpaid black workers.” Martin Luther King had been assassinated the summer before in just such a strike in Memphis, and the city was tense during the months the strike continued. Mayor Gaillard and a new police chief, John F. Conroy, later called “Mr. Cool” for the way he handled the crisis, kept a steady hand on the situation and no one was injured. The strike lasted 100 days and many protestors went to jail, including the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who described the Charleston County jail as “luxurious.” Rev. Abernathy wrote in his memoirs, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, “I remembered the Birmingham jail and considered myself fortunate.” Although it ended in a compromise, the strike gave the Black community a sense that change was possible, and it alerted the White community to the frustrations of the Black worker. Politically, the Black community came into its own in the 1960s. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Black Charlestonians registered to vote in ever greater numbers. Mayor Gaillard integrated Charleston’s City Council in the 1960s by running three Black aldermen on his slate. In 1970, Herbert Fielding became the first Black person to be elected to the General Assembly since the 1880s. Lonnie Hamilton became the first Black person elected to County Council. James E. Clyburn was nominated in the Democratic primary, but lost in the general election. He went on to become the first Human Affairs Commissioner for the state. Palmer Gaillard, up to that time, served as mayor longer than anyone in the city’s history—15 years. He was reelected without opposition in 1963 and 1967, but in 1971 Charleston witnessed another of its award-winning mayoral races. Despite his moderation in handling the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s and his appointment of some African Americans, by 1971 a majority of the Black community was dissatisfied with Gaillard. The issues were no longer segregation and integration, but, rather, economic issues and the role of Black The Americanized City
J. Arthur Brown at NAACP meeting, 1963. The State Newspaper Photograph Archive, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, South Carolina.
Charleston hospital workers’ strike picket line, 1969. The State Newspaper Photograph Archive, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, South Carolina.
citizens in city government, among others. The Hospital strike had activated the Black community, and so, in 1971, Gaillard faced two opponents, one in the Democratic primary and one in the general election. He barely defeated his opponent William Ackerman, a prominent attorney, in the primary. The election was, like some of the old Grace battles, thrown into the Democratic Party Executive Committee and ultimately into the courts. Gaillard survived the general election, too, and went on to serve one more four-year term. But it was clear, after the 1971 election, that politics would never be the same in Charleston. The Americanization of Charleston continued unabated from the 1960s to the 1990s. Changing politics matched the changing landscape. With the opening of Interstate 26 in the 1960s, of the second Cooper River Bridge in 1966, and of the North Ashley River Bridge, Charleston became as suburban a community as any in America. The population of the old peninsula city continued to decline: in 1980 there were approximately the same number of people living on the peninsula as there had been in 1850—about 40,000. But metropolitan Charleston now includes more than twenty separate government entities and towns. Incorporated towns include Sullivan’s Island, the Isle of Palms, and Mount Pleasant, east of the Cooper River; and North Charleston, Hanahan, Goose Creek, and Summerville, north of Charleston. Unincorporated but growing suburbs include James Island and St. Andrew’s Parish west of the Ashley. In 1985 Charleston built a new international airport. The Mark Clark Expressway, Charleston’s version of the interstate beltway, opened in 1990. At the same time that many Charlestonians were leaving the old city for the suburbs and newcomers were filling up yet more suburbs, a group of farsighted preservationists realized that the city had a treasure in her old houses and neighborhoods outside the original historic district. In 1959 the Historic Charleston Foundation, led by executive director Frances Edmunds, began buying old homes in Ansonborough. The plan was to buy the homes, restore them, and sell them to owners who agreed to protect them. The plan worked, and Ansonborough became a great pioneering success in the preservation movement. Since 1959, hundreds of houses have been restored all over the old city. The foundation is presently trying to save houses in Wraggsborough and Radcliffborough. The Harleston Village area has been restored, too. It was given a boost in 1970 when the College of Charleston became a state college again and millions of dollars were poured into expanding 156
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it. Numerous houses were restored, and new buildings were built under the leadership of the college’s energetic president, Theodore Stern. The affluence of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s led to even greater changes in the old city: the Gibbes Museum of Art was completely restored, and a modern wing was added; the Market area became a specialty shopping area; the old St. Johns Hotel was demolished, and the Mills House—a replica of the antebellum hotel—was built. Houses were painted and restored, many for the first time in years. In short, old Charleston became something she never had been—clean, new, painted, and preserved. For the first time in her history, her streets were clean. Federal urban development grants (in the pre-Reagan years) and the federal tax laws of the 1970s and 80s had an immense impact on downtown Charleston. Historic buildings became the best tax shelters available and a source of funding for development. As a direct result, much of the historic district was revitalized—in particular, King Street and East Bay Street south of Calhoun. Americanization has come to downtown Charleston. Charleston’s economy changed dramatically in the postwar era as well. In 1940, for example, 88.7 percent of the county’s retail sales occurred within the city limits. Between 1970 and 1976 that fell to 39.8 percent—a striking comment on the effect of suburban malls. Wholesale activity, traditionally located in the East Bay Street area, also declined, though not as dramatically. Manufacturing activity now centers almost entirely in the North Area. Yet dramatic growth has occurred in other areas, mainly in the growth of the Medical University (4,950 employees in 1977), port industries (5,000 employees in 1977), the Citadel, the College of Charleston, the federal government, public schools, and city and county government. Government workers now account for more than half of Charleston’s work force. The other mainstay of Charleston’s economy is tourism, which has increased dramatically since 1970. The number of tourists increased by 60 percent from 1970 to 1976, for example. According to the November 24, 1991 Post and Courier, the number of tourists visiting Charleston increased from an estimated 2.1 million in 1980 to 4.7 million in 1990. Horsedrawn carriages increased from 37 in 1984 to 99 in 1991. The resort industry, so elusive to John P. Grace and the Cooper River Bridge Company in the 1930s, has arrived on Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, and, finally, on the Isle of Palms (Wild Dunes).
The Americanized City
It is a little-known fact that Lolita once visited Magnolia Gardens outside of Charleston—in the novel, that is. Nabokov mentions the Garden’s advertisement to the effect that children will “walk starry-eyed” through it, “drinking in beauty that can influence a life.” “Not mine,” Lolita said. Perhaps she was too young.
The Age of Riley (1975–2015)
On December 15, 1975, Joseph P. Riley Jr. was sworn in as mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. At age 33, he was the youngest mayor in the city’s history. But Joe Riley was an experienced politician. He was born and raised in downtown Charleston. He was the son of prominent parents and a politically active and successful father. He graduated from The Citadel and served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for six years. A Democrat and a protegé of Senator Ernest F. (“Fritz”) Hollings, Riley was deeply concerned about the city’s African American citizens. He was also committed to the city’s business establishment, which had confidence in Riley’s integrity and sympathy for its concerns. As a result of the Federal Voting Rights Act, more Black voters were able to vote, and they were eager to participate in the electoral process. Despite Mayor Gaillard’s strides in integrating City Council and appointing the first Black judge in the state since Reconstruction (Richard Fields as municipal judge), the Black community was dissatisfied with his administration. Many of Riley’s Black supporters, such as Marjorie Amos, came from the Ackerman camp, but many of Gaillard’s supporters also lined up behind Riley. In the 1975 election, the Republicans, resurgent in the city since the Goldwater and Nixon presidential campaigns of 1964 and 1968, ran a serious candidate for mayor, Nancy Hawk. Energetic and articulate, Mrs. Hawk championed the conservative point of view but was handily defeated by Riley and his broad-based coalition. In his inaugural address, the boyish mayor acknowledged “long standing urban problems in a period of economic recession” but promised civility and economic progress for “all of our citizens.” Riley promised Charlestonians that there would be “more blacks and more women in positions of authority” 159
Facing Modern Charleston: An aerial view of the peninsular city as it appeared at the end of Joe Riley’s forty years as mayor. (Aerial view of Charleston, May 2017. Carol M. Highsmith’s “America Project” in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
The young mayor. Joseph P. Riley. Charleston Intendants and Mayors. City of Charleston.
and that his administration would fight crime, seek to expand the city by annexations, preserve the historic district, and rejuvenate King Street. He called on his fellow Charlestonians to “join with me and with City Council, in a new age of tolerance, harmony and creativity.” Thus began the Age of Riley: a golden age of progress not only in material and physical improvements to the city but also in improved race relations and a cultural renaissance in the arts and literature. Mayor Riley’s first term was a whirlwind of activity. The city embarked on numerous development projects, the boldest of which was Charleston Place, a development that originated in the previous administration when city planners determined that a major hotel or convention center on the site would revitalize the King Street retail district. Charleston Place and the Omni Hotel (bounded by King, Beaufain, Meeting, and Hasell) were financed through a combination of public and private funding and were designed to bring conventions to Charleston, rejuvenate the central business district, and focus tourism in the Market area. The project was extremely controversial throughout the 1980s when some preservationists fought the original developer and plan (then called “Charleston Center”) in the courts, government, and the political arena. Riley prevailed in building Charleston Place after the Historic Charleston Foundation, other preservation groups, and the city ultimately negotiated a compromise plan for the development. The modern King Street–Market Street retail district is a product of this controversy in the late 1970s and 1980s. The City Council had been reorganized and elected by single-member districts as a result of a federal lawsuit. There were now six Black and six White male and female council members. The Gaillard administration, assuming that the City Council would consist of seven White and five Black representatives to accurately reflect the city’s demography, had settled the lawsuit. But Charlestonians are hard to predict. In one majority White district, Arthur Christopher, a Black moderate, defeated a White liberal candidate supported by Blacks. When asked by the mayor how the Council turned out six to six (Black and White) instead of seven to five, Corporation Counsel Morris D. Rosen replied, “How could we know that the whites would vote for the black candidate and the blacks for the white candidate?” Riley was seen by both Black and White Charlestonians as eager to bring African Americans fully into city government, provide equal municipal services to Black neighborhoods, recognize Black history and culture, and appoint African Americans to responsible governmental positions, many of which they had not historically held. Arthur McFarland became Chief Judge of the 160
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Municipal Court in December 1977. James Etheredge became Director of City Finance in December 1979. Riley appointed Veronica Small as the first Black female Municipal Court judge. Vanessa Turner-Maybank was hired as Tourism Director in March 1984. By January 1995, Turner-Maybank was the Clerk of City Council and Chief Tourism Official. Riley was determined to put an end to racial discrimination in the public arena and, in 1978, he and a group of Democrats in tuxedos escorted Arthur Clement Jr., a retired Black businessman, to the formerly all-White St. Patrick’s Day dinner at the Hibernian Society. Riley targeted parks and playgrounds in Black neighborhoods for improvement. A portrait of Denmark Vesey, the leader of the famous (or infamous, depending on one’s point of view) slave rebellion in 1822, was placed in the Gaillard Auditorium. “This is,” the mayor told 250 Black and White citizens assembled at the dedication, “part of the effort . . . of the administration to see that parts of history heretofore forgotten are remembered.” Bishop Frank M. Reid Jr. of the AME Church described Vesey as “a liberator whom God had sent to set the people free from oppression.” Thus, it came to be that a free Black man who was tried and executed by city officials for leading a slave insurrection conspiracy was honored by city officials one hundred and fifty years later. In 2014, the city would go even further, unveiling a statue of Denmark Vesey. Several hundred gathered for the event and Riley told the assembled crowd that Vesey “risked his life and gave his life to make enslaved people free.” Even in 2014, this was not an uncontroversial position as evidenced by the fact that original plans to place the monument in Marion Square, Charleston’s most visible public space, were by vetoed the site’s owners, the Washington Light Infantry and Sumter Guards. Instead, the monument would ultimately reside in the city-owned Hampton Park. Riley’s efforts at reconciling Black aspiration and White anxieties were generally successful. He had the support of the business community, the newspapers, and most community leaders. Some White people, however, reacted angrily, calling the mayor “LBJ” (for “Little Black Joe”) and sneering at the Vesey portrait as being offensive to many White people and akin to honoring Hitler. One of Riley’s earliest and best-known achievements was the Spoleto Festival USA. Twentieth-century Charlestonians had long sought to establish a festival to publicize the city and attract tourists. The Azalea Festival, for example, began in 1934 and featured horse shows, golf tournaments, balls, parades, beauty contests, and even a street crier’s contest. That festival fell apart about 1953. During the period that followed, civic leaders debated various proposals. The Age of Riley
Newsweek called Charleston a “Sleeping Beauty” in reporting on the first Spoleto Festival in 1977 and quoted “Charleston’s Cagney-like mayor,” Joe Riley, who “sees the Spoleto Festival as a chance to restore the city to its status in the 18th and 19th centuries. . . .”
In the mid-1970s, Gian Carlo Menotti, the founder of the Italian Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds, came to Charleston at the instigation of an Italian transplant to the Lowcountry, Countess Alicia Paolozzi. Menotti had founded the Italian festival in 1957 and wanted to bring it to America. Menotti looked at many cities. After numerous preliminary meetings and conferences with civic leaders, it appeared that the curtain would not rise on the first festival. The two original leaders of the coordinating committee resigned. Mayor Riley asked Theodore S. Stern, the former president of the College of Charleston who had successfully presided over the great expansion of the college in the 1970s, to lead the effort to establish the festival. Stern capped his astonishing career, Keith West wrote in “Charleston” magazine, “by guiding the infant Spoleto Festival USA through its birth pangs.” The result was the first Spoleto Festival USA, held in 1977. “Riley believed the festival would change Charleston forever,” Brian Hicks wrote in The Mayor. That sentiment proved prescient. Spoleto brought to Charleston the best in the arts from around the world: the Eliot Feld Ballet, the Westminster Choir, The Queen of Spades, The Consul, plays, jazz, films, and lectures. In 1978, Spoleto brought Zulu dancers, Ballet’s Felix Blaska, Il Furioso, Vanessa, a Tennessee Williams play, as well as more jazz, chamber music, dance, music, crafts, lectures, film, and street theater. “This bill of fare,” Newsweek said of the 1977 festival, “is like nothing else on the international scene, and Charleston is proud of it.” The festival received rave reviews in the national media. It had, by the 1980s, become a Charleston institution. In 2016, the festival celebrated its 40th anniversary. Among the offerings that year was a new production of “Porgy and Bess.” Fittingly, performers took the stage in the new, $142 million Gaillard Center, which replaced the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium that had long housed Spoleto performances. Like the festival itself, the new performing arts center stands as a signal achievement of the Riley administration, and its completion was a priority during the last years of Riley’s time as mayor. Accompanying the Spoleto Festival beginning in 1979 was Piccolo Spoleto, a community arts festival featuring local artists and free or modestly priced offerings. Hundreds of events—ranging from film, classical concerts, dance, theater, and late-night events to the Festival of Churches, Jazz After Hours, and the Children’s Festival—were presented by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, under the direction of Ellen Dressler Moryl and a community advisory committee with both public and private funding. 162
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Riley sought to raise the city’s national profile by bringing the Miss USA beauty pageant to Charleston in 1977, but this experiment fizzled. Charlestonians, it appeared, had greater aspirations than being a Southern version of Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1978, the first Cooper River Bridge Run was held. Its “origins held no clue,” the Post and Courier observed in 2002, that such a race “would flower.” Charleston continued to make amends for its racist past. In 1978, the Crosstown highway was named in honor of the distinguished Civil Rights leader and native Charlestonian, Septima P. Clark. In 1982, a bronze sculpture of Judge Waites Waring, the federal judge who had courageously ruled in favor of Blacks’ civil rights in several landmark cases (and had subsequently left Charleston for New York), was placed in the corner of City Council chambers overlooking the Federal Courthouse. “It’s time to bring him home,” the mayor said privately. In 1985, a portrait of the Reverend Daniel J. Jenkins, founder of an orphanage for Black children, was hung in City Council chambers. Joe Riley was reelected without opposition in 1979 and 1983. He asked Septima P. Clark to administer his second oath of office in 1979. “The thing I’m proudest of,” Riley said in his second inaugural, “is bringing together the black and white communities of Charleston.” In 1981, the city’s respected Police Chief, John F. Conroy, committed suicide. According to Brian Hicks, “Riley was heartbroken.” Conroy, who had served under Gaillard, had kept a steady hand on the potentially violent Hospital Strike in 1969 and had earned the nickname “Mr. Cool.” Popular with all Charlestonians (at least the law-abiding ones), he “was the right man at the right time,” The Evening Post said. Conroy was a tough act to follow, but Riley conducted a national search and appointed the city’s first Black police chief, Reuben Greenberg, in April 1982. Greenberg, who was also Jewish and the holder of two Master’s degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, attracted national media attention throughout his long career as an innovative and sometimes controversial crime fighter. In May 1982, construction began on Charleston Place. It became one of the city’s biggest taxpayers and largest employers and put Charleston on the map as a convention destination. Empty and dilapidated buildings now fetched hitherto unimaginable prices. Riley fought with business and property owners who could not visualize a rejuvenated King Street to create parking lots and upgrade the infrastructure. Gradually the real estate adjacent to the keystone project began to come back to life. The old Riviera Theater was renovated as The Age of Riley
The attempt to make public housing sympathetic with Charleston’s historic architecture did not begin with Joe Riley. Robert Mills Manor was Charleston’s first lowincome housing project and was designed by Charleston architects Albert Simons and Samuel Lapham. (Historic American Buildings Survey.)
a conference center. Richard Widman established the first of several bed-andbreakfast historic hotels, the King’s Courtyard Inn in 1983. A handsome new office building sprang up where the old Charleston Hotel had once stood on Meeting Street. Downtown property values soared. Riley was determined to expand the city’s boundaries. The city first expanded west of the Ashley River and on James Island, annexing White, middle-class suburban areas and also expanded north, taking in the predominantly African American neighborhoods on the Neck between Charleston and North Charleston. When Riley was elected in 1975, the city consisted of 16.7 square miles and a population of 70,132. By 1988, the city was 41.63 square miles large and had a population of 80,879. Thirty years later, the square mileage was 108.8 and the population 136,208. One result of the annexations was that Charleston’s African American population declined as a percentage of the city’s overall population. In 1970, the city’s White population was 36,576 and its Black population 30,251. By 2000, there were 60,964 Whites and 32,864 Blacks. By 2018 the growth of the city’s White population was even more pronounced, with 100,522 Whites and 30,511 Blacks living in Charleston. Because Riley was a Democrat, these annexations strengthened his political opponents, but the mayor’s vision of the city took priority over his politics. And, it might be added, his electoral prospects did not seem to suffer. Low-cost public housing has also been a focus of the Riley administration. “Scattered-site” or “infill” housing meant fewer units in one location and less isolation for residents. One such program received the Presidential Award for Design Excellence for one hundred thirteen units “exemplary in their social, architectural and urbanistic goals” and designed to resemble the traditional Charleston single house complete with piazzas. In 1985, ABC filmed its historic television miniseries North and South in Charleston. Hollywood had discovered the Holy City, and old Charleston was now stepping onto the silver screen. Based on the North and South trilogy by the renowned storyteller John Jakes, the twelve-hour miniseries starred Patrick Swayze, Leslie Anne Down, Elizabeth Taylor, Kirstie Alley, and Hal Holbrooke. Set in the years preceding the Civil War, the story follows two families, one Northern and one Southern, as their lives are nearly destroyed by the Civil War. A sequel, North and South, Book II, appeared a year later. Earlier in the decade, The Citadel had refused permission for Pat Conroy’s novel, The Lords of Discipline (which was highly critical of the military college especially in racial matters), to be filmed on the campus, igniting an ongoing debate about 164
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the film industry and the city. A few years later, an actual incident of alleged hazing of a Black cadet at The Citadel created a national sensation and had Charlestonians wondering whether life imitated art or vice versa. The Lords of Discipline was shot in Charleston, and the movie premiered at Charleston’s Ultravision Theatre in February 1983. Governor Dick Riley created a state film office in the early 1980s, and, as a result, numerous films were shot in whole or in part in and around Charleston, including Swamp Thing (1981), A House Divided: Denmark Vesey’s Rebellion (PBS, 1982), Turner Network Television’s The C.S.S. Hunley (1999) filmed in North Charleston, The Patriot (2000), Cold Mountain (2002), and The Notebook (2004). Kiawah was the backdrop of Robert Redford’s The Legend of Bagger Vance (1999). For several years in the 1990s, Charleston was home to the World-FestCharleston International Film Festival. In 1991, Sidney Poitier came to Charleston to portray Thurgood Marshall in an ABC miniseries Separate But Equal, the story of the famous South Carolina desegregation case, Briggs v. Elliott, which became a part of the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education, which ended segregation in the public schools. (Judge Waring argued in his dissent in Briggs that segregation was unconstitutional.) The real-life hearings were conducted at the Federal Courthouse on Broad Street where the movie was filmed. Paradise, starring Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, was shot in the area in 1991; Queen, a television movie in 1992. Josephine Humphreys’s Rich in Love was made into a movie starring Albert Finney and Jill Clayburgh and was filmed in Mount Pleasant in 1993. The filming of The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson, was exciting for most downtown residents, but some Charlestonians had their noses out of joint. “While some residents sat on their steps, sipped wine and enjoyed the show,” the Post and Courier reported, “others lost sleep and got snarled in traffic.” The president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association said there was substantial opposition to any filmmaking South of Broad Street. City Council enacted more rules regulating filmmaking in the city. The Patriot told an important story: The incredible bravery and sacrifice of South Carolinians in helping to win the War for Independence. The British press, however, was incensed with the brutal portrayal of their soldiers in The Patriot. The Riley administration continued its efforts at revitalizing the historic district. In September 1986, when Charleston Place opened, thirty historic buildings in the immediate area were restored or on the drawing boards. The project created seventy-five new or restored storefronts and fourteen hundred The Age of Riley
“Walking the streets of Charleston in the late afternoons of August was like walking through gauze or inhaling damaged silk.” —Pat Conroy.
Not everyone agreed that Conroy’s depictions of Charleston were realistic. The Post and Courier referred to his 2009 novel South of Broad as “South of Absurd.”
“There is no city on Earth quite like Charleston. From the time I first came there in 1961, it’s held me in its enchanter’s power, the wordless articulation of its singularity, its withheld and magical beauty. Wandering through its streets can be dreamlike and otherworldly, its alleyways and shortcuts both fragrant and mysterious, yet as haunted as time turned in on itself.” —Pat Conroy.
new jobs. The number of shops on King Street increased by forty to fifty by the end of 1988. The growth would continue apace to the point where even a visitor transported from 1988 to the present would hardly recognize the city streetscape, where high-end boutiques and trendy restaurants as well as new hotels and parking line both sides of upper King. Private citizens, preservationists, organizations, and the state also contributed to revitalization. In 1981 one of the city’s most important landmarks, the Exchange Building, had been restored to its 1771 appearance. Saved from destruction by the Daughters of the American Revolution earlier in the twentieth century, the building was restored by the state to its original grandeur. In 1988, the South Carolina General Assembly met at the Old Exchange in celebration of the bicentennial of the ratification of the US Constitution. Playing “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, resplendent in colonial uniforms, accompanied the governor, state representatives, and senators down Broad Street to the Old Exchange. A great deal had changed since 1861. Charleston’s revitalization and affluence were accompanied by a literary and artistic renaissance. Although not a Charlestonian, Pat Conroy had been a Citadel cadet, as he made millions of readers painfully aware, and wrote extensively about Charleston and the Carolina Lowcountry. His novels and the movies based on some of them included The Boo (his first novel about his life at The Citadel); The Water is Wide (about his days as a teacher near Beaufort) and the movie based on it, Conrack, starring Jon Voight; The Great Santini (a movie about Conroy’s father starring Robert Duval); The Lords of Discipline (more about The Citadel); The Prince of Tides (with Barbra Streisand); My Losing Season (about Conroy as a Citadel basketball player), and finally South of Broad (2009), in which Conroy delighted his readers with characters in the historic district. Conroy’s novels described and portrayed the city, The Citadel, and the lowcountry to a national, and indeed, an international audience. Josephine Humphreys, a Charlestonian who grew up in the historic district and attended Ashley Hall School, began publishing novels set in the Charleston area in 1984. By the early 1990s, she was recognized as “one of the South’s most elegant and engaging literary voices” (San Francisco Chronicle). In Dreams of Sleep (1984), Rich in Love (1987), and The Fireman’s Fair (1991), Humphreys described and analyzed Charlestonians and Lowcountry South Carolinians. And like many Charleston authors of the past, both Humphreys’s and Conroy’s works are sensitive to issues of race and sympathetic with the 166
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aspirations of African Americans. Like Faulkner’s novels, they were also attuned to the idiosyncracies of Southern life. While the most prominent of Charleston’s creative literary community, Conroy and Humphreys were not alone. Robert Jordan, a Charleston native (born James Oliver Rigney Jr.) and a nuclear engineer, wrote fantasy fiction, including the Conan series (beginning with Conan the Destroyer  and the Wheel of Time series [beginning with The Eye of the World ]). Padgett Powell’s first novel, Edisto, read, according to Newsweek, as “Holden Caulfield come to the South Carolina swamps.” In 1993, William Baldwin of McClellanville published The Hard to Catch Mercy, a comic novel about the early twentiethcentury lowcountry. Harlan Greene described Charleston in a Southern Gothic mystery, Why We Never Danced the Charleston (1984). Anne Rivers Siddons, author of Colony, Low Country, and Outer Banks, moved to Charleston. Native son, Edward Ball, won the National Book Award with his Slaves in the Family, the story of his ancestors and literally the slaves in his family. Native daughter, Dorothy Benton Frank, wrote lovingly and wittily about her hometown in Sullivan’s Island: A Lowcountry Tale (2000) and Plantation: A Lowcountry Tale (2001), and she wrote eighteen other books that earned a place on the New York Times best-seller list. Sue Kidd Monk of Mount Pleasant published The Secret Life of Bees and received rave reviews in 2002. The flame of literary romantic frivolity was kept alive by Charlestonnative Alexandra Ripley, who wrote Charleston (1981) and a sequel, On Leaving Charleston (1984), a New York Times bestseller. Ripley later wrote Scarlett (1991), the (authorized) sequel to Gone with the Wind, in which Scarlett pursues Rhett after his move to Charleston. Scarlett, it must be said, did not like all those Yankees in Charleston after the Civil War. Rhett’s local reputation was still terrible and then there was the boating accident in the inevitable (you guessed it) Ashley River. “‘It’s the Ashley River,’ Rhett pronounced the name with exaggerated distinctiveness,” Ms. Ripley wrote. Scathingly reviewed by the critics (“At this point,” The New York Times noted, “one more negative review of ‘Scarlett’ . . . constitutes what is known in football as ‘piling on’”), the novel nonetheless sold millions. Hundreds of Charlestonians stood in line at Ashley Hall School, Ms. Ripley’s alma mater, to have her autograph their copy. Fascinated by the “often bloody history of the region,” John Jakes, a resident of Hilton Head for twenty-five years, published a best-selling novel, Charleston in 2002. The multigenerational saga of the fictional Bell family, the novel describes almost 100 years of Charleston’s history. Thus, Charleston’s The Age of Riley
“Her books were so popular that you couldn’t just show up at her signings: you had to buy a ticket. There was even a Dorothea Benton Frank Fan Fest in Charleston. Dot Frank was an industry.” —Mary Norris “My Friend Dorothea Benton Frank,” The New Yorker, September 11, 2019.
history continued to captivate the nation—from Ripley’s romance novel, Charleston (1981), to Jake’s serious historical fiction, Charleston (2002). Charleston’s cultural renaissance in the late twentieth century also included a blossoming in paintings and the visual arts. Painters and art galleries, long a mainstay of old Charleston, began to dot the landscape. By 1999, there were Art Walks involving thirty-three galleries. While artists of the early twentieth century, such as Alice Huger Smith, Alfred Hutty, and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, recorded and interpreted Charleston’s defeated, decadent decline, artists of the late twentieth century celebrated Charleston’s affluent, aesthetic ascent. John Doyle painted, among many other things, Charleston’s landscapes, wildlife, marshes, and people. West Fraser portrayed the city in his unique American plein air–impressionist way. Manning Williams, a pillar of the Charleston artistic establishment, attracted national attention. Margaret Petterson and Betty Anglin Smith, among others, portrayed the natural beauty of the lowcountry. Sculptor Jon Michel enriched the city’s public space with his statue of George Washington in Washington Park and his bust of Gedney M. Howe Jr. at Courthouse Square. Accomplished photographers such as Jack Alterman and William Struhs recorded Charleston’s lifestyle. The Charleston metropolitan area expanded dramatically in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The population of the metropolitan area rose from 278,961 in 1960 to 430,462 in 1980 to 802,122 in 2019. In 1975, the City of Charleston itself consisted of the peninsula and a few sections of West Ashley. By 2020, it consisted of those areas plus much of James Island, the Neck, Daniel Island, and Cainhoy for a total of 127.5 square miles. The City of North Charleston was incorporated in 1972 after many years of political warfare. John Bourne Jr. and Jim Gonzales spearheaded the effort to create a new city, which quickly became the fourth largest in South Carolina. Bourne served for nineteen years and created a vibrant new city government complete with a city hall. Bourne was defeated in 1991 by Bobby Kinard, who served until 1993. In 1995, Keith Summey became mayor, and under his leadership North Charleston became the third largest city in South Carolina, a position it retained in 2020. Numerous suburbs were built as a result of the construction of Interstates 26 and 526. The Silas Pearman Bridge had been built in the 1960s and a third Cooper River bridge, the Don Holt Bridge, opened as a section of Interstate 526. Three huge shopping malls—Northwoods (North Charleston), Citadel (West Ashley), and Towne Centre (Mount Pleasant)—joined the original suburban shopping centers West of the Ashley, South Windermere, and St. 168
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Andrews. Urban development (or, to its critics, urban sprawl) engulfed massive land areas in Mount Pleasant, James Island, and North Charleston, leading to explosive growth in other communities in the metropolitan area including Goose Creek, Ladson, Hanahan, and Summerville. The latter, in Dorchester County, had become an affluent bedroom community of Charleston by the 1980s. Dorchester County had a population of 58,761 in 1980. By 2019, its population increased to 162,809. The islands north and south of Charleston were next to be developed. Influenced by the brilliant achievements of the visionary Charles E. Fraser at Hilton Head, Kuwaiti investors developed Kiawah Island beginning in the 1970s. Formerly a family plantation, Kiawah Island became an internationally famous resort and residential community and the site of the international Ryder Cup Golf tournament in 1991 and the PGA Championship in 2012. Neighboring Seabrook Island was developed beginning in the 1970s. To the north of Charleston, the development of Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms began in 1972. Even Dewees Island, north of the Isle of Palms, with no bridge between it and the mainland, was developed as a residential community. The Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, and Sullivan’s Island, formerly beach resorts with chiefly summer residents from the city and other parts of South Carolina, now became affluent year-round suburbs of Charleston. The affluence and expansion of the period affected public education. Major demographic changes occurred as Blacks moved to the suburbs West of the Ashley, and Whites moved to Mount Pleasant and Dorchester County. In 1981, the Justice Department brought a lawsuit to further desegregate the county’s schools, which had been desegregated in the late 1960s and 1970s. Controversies over whether the schools were, in fact, desegregated, the quality of education for both Black and White children, taxes, and the management styles of school boards and superintendents were major political issues of the 1980s and 1990s. In 1990, the federal courts found the public school system to be “unitary”; that is, no legal vestiges of segregation existed, but Charlestonians of both races continued to see public education as a controversial issue. Explosive growth and affluence also brought new problems. As in many other cities, the highway system could not handle the increased traffic, and the dramatic, uncontrolled loss of the natural environment shocked many Charlestonians. Concerned citizens founded a number of environmental organizations, including the Lowcountry Open Land Trust and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League. Dana Beach became active in the environmental movement as a member of Save the Wando, a group opposed to the expansion The Age of Riley
Kiawah Island developed as a posh resort and golf community. (Aerial view of Kiawah Island. Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
of the port on the Wando River. Beach later became director of the Conservation League. Josephine Humphreys spoke for many Charlestonians when she wrote about urban sprawl in Rich in Love: In the distance the highway appeared to flare suddenly into the air; that was the bridge to Charleston. But before the bridge, just beyond the television station, was an opening in the shopping strip and a nondescript road that cut back behind the import repair shop. That was my road. It led to my town, Mount Pleasant, which huddled secretly behind all this new development. In Latin class . . . I had studied the town of Herculaneum, buried by hot mud in the year 79 a.D. My town had been similarly engulfed, not by mud but by overflow from the city of Charleston, which had erupted and settled all around, leaving Mount Pleasant embedded in the middle.
The Charleston Battery in modern times. Courtesy of Explore Charleston, ExploreCharleston.com.
In the historic district, opposition to unlimited growth grew. As early as the Charleston Place debate in the 1980s, preservation organizations and neighborhood groups saw growth as a negative force rather than a positive one. While the overwhelming majority of Charlestonians, including the venerable Historic Charleston Foundation, supported Riley’s plans for King Street, the Preservation Society and an ad hoc advocacy group, the Save Historic Charleston Foundation, opposed him. Opposition to growth rose in the 1980s and 1990s. The Charlestowne Neighborhood Association was organized to represent residents of the historic district as were other louder groups. Controversies about the historic district continued into the 1990s over the building of the new judicial center on Broad Street, number of hotels, height of buildings, and future of tourism, in general. Mayor Riley responded to these concerns with major planning initiatives, including tourism managements plans, historic preservation and neighborhood plans, height limits, public transportation, hotel zoning restrictions, and an emphasis on waterfront access. A Tourism Commission was established in 1984 to address problems arising from the dramatic increase in tourism. Neighborhood councils were officially established by City Council, and by January 1999, Riley said in his State of the City Address: “I am very proud of our 65 neighborhood councils . . . I hold regular meetings with the presidents of our neighborhood organizations.” Riley’s interest in urban planning and redevelopment was particularly evident on the Cooper River waterfront. The old State Ports Authority wharves located along the Cooper River were destroyed by fire in the 1950s. Given the weak economy of the period, the wharves were never rebuilt, and the land 170
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remained in public hands. Riley, wrote Hicks, “wanted the last open vista on the Cooper River” to be open to the public. In the late 1980s, the city began planning a waterfront park on the site. Financed by public and private funds, including a $3.3 million federal Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG), of the Waterfront Park opened in May 1990. It contains twelve acres including the huge Pineapple Fountain, a four hundred-foot-long wharf and fishing pier and plenty of Battery benches. Next came the Maritime Center between Concord Street and the Cooper River. Completed in 1997, the Center is home to a marina and facilities for special events. In the late 1990s, Riley convinced the General Assembly and the voters of Charleston County to help fund the South Carolina Aquarium on the Cooper River at the foot of Calhoun Street. The Aquarium cost $69 million and was paid for by state, county, city, and private funds. It opened in May 2000. The National Park Service built a major $15 million facility next door to the Aquarium in 2002 to orient and transport visitors to Fort Sumter. In recognition of the area’s significance in the Revolutionary period, the city named the adjacent open space Liberty Square. By 2003, “Aquarium Wharf ” included the Aquarium, the Fort Sumter tour boat facility, restaurants, offices, and an IMAX theater. In his inaugural address in 2000, the mayor proposed the building of a major African American Museum on Calhoun Street near the Aquarium. It would take nearly twenty years of planning and fundraising, but in October 2019 ground was finally broken and construction commenced on the The Age of Riley
Liberty Square. Charleston Aquarium and Fort Sumter Visitor Center, with the USS Yorktown in the background. Photo courtesy of Kristen L. Stucky.
Dock Street Theater, left, with historic St. Philip’s Church in the distance. Courtesy of Explore Charleston, ExploreCharleston.com.
International African American Museum (IAAM). Built on the site where Christopher Gadsden’s Wharf once stood, and where an estimated 100,000 enslaved Africans had debarked in the years between 1783 and 1808, the new museum will help to further situate Charleston within the broader African diaspora. The full participation of African Americans in the civic life of the community did not end at the water’s edge. The city launched a Black arts festival in 1979. The city sponsored the MOJA (a Swahili word meaning “One”) Festival beginning in 1984. Designed to showcase, explore, and celebrate Black music, theater, and the arts, MOJA was the city’s first effort to recognize its African American cultural heritage. Major events included opera, film, jazz, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, African and Caribbean artists, poetry, storytelling, and Gullah plays. The Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture opened at the College of Charleston in 1978. The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture opened in 1985. Housed in the building which was once was home to The Avery Normal Institute, an African American school founded in 1865, it is the only research center of its kind in the Southeast region of the United States. The affluence of the late twentieth century brought Charlestonians a heady fare of cultural activities. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1936, achieved world-class status under the able leadership of its renowned maestro, David Stahl, who served as music director and conductor from 1984 until his death in 2010. Ken Lam replaced Stahl as music director in 2014. The Gibbes Museum of Art has undergone several periods of renovation, the most recent being a two-year, $13.5 million capital campaign that was completed in 2016 and expanded the gallery space of the 1905 Beaux Arts building by thirty percent. A new Charleston Museum was built on Meeting Street in 1980. It too has evolved through the years, most recently with the opening of a fully renovated, 4,000-square-foot natural history gallery in 2017. The city made extensive use of the Dock Street Theater, and it too was renovated and modernized for use, not only at the Spoleto Festival but also as a year-round facility. The Footlight Players moved to Queen Street and created a new playhouse. The “Spoleto Effect” raised expectations, and the festival’s rising tide raised all arts boats. One of the most destructive hurricanes in Charleston’s history, and one of the costliest hurricanes in America’s twentieth-century history, hit the city near midnight on September 21, 1989. Hurricane Hugo was a calamity to the 172
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Caribbean Islands and to the South Carolina Lowcountry. Riley and County Council Chairman, Linda Lombard, took to the local television airwaves to urge Charlestonians to evacuate the city beginning the night before the hurricane hit. At midnight, twenty-four hours before Hugo swept ashore, the traffic was bumper-to-bumper on Interstate 26 and remained so well into the afternoon of the storm. Hundreds of thousands of people left the coast for inland areas. Governor Caroll A. Campbell and Mayor Riley ordered an evacuation of low-lying areas. By 10:30 p.m. on September 21st, powerful winds battered Charleston. The city was pounded by rain and sheets of water. Tides rose. The city went dark. By midnight, winds were 130 mph. The eye of the hurricane passed over the city at 11:50 p.m. Trees and utility poles cracked. A twelve-to-seventeenfoot wall of water hit Fort Sumter. Many homes were badly damaged. The Courthouse on Broad Street was so badly damaged that the courts moved temporarily (for twelve years!) to North Charleston. Many of the homes at Folly Beach were destroyed. The damage was devastating on Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms. Nine people were killed in Charleston County. Nearly every house and building in the city was damaged. The Wall Street Journal reported the storm as the costliest in history to the insurance industry to date. The New York Times reported $3.7 billion in losses. Hugo totally destroyed 3,785 homes and 5,815 mobile homes. Massive numbers of trees were knocked down by the storm, and the loss changed the look of parts of the city and surrounding areas. Power was out for a month in some places. After the hurricane, Mayor Riley, who had remained at City Hall throughout the night, invoked a curfew. The governor sent in 2,500 National Guardsmen to prevent looting. “Hugo,” author Dorothy Frank wrote, “forced Charleston to clean herself up. While Charleston was always a beautiful city, now she is a stunner, cherished all the more for her near death experience.” Many of Charleston’s churches and steeples needed extensive repair. St. John’s Lutheran Church at Archdale and Clifford was closed for repairs for more than thirteen months. First Baptist Church was closed for fourteen months while $1.6 million in repairs were made. “The sight of church steeples dangling from cranes turned many heads upwards,” the Post and Courier reported in 1990. It took the city a year to recover physically. But by 1991, many Charlestonians believed that Hugo had been a blessing in disguise. Houses in the historic district and Sullivan’s Island were repaired and looked better than before the hurricane. The new judicial center on Broad Street owes its existence to Hugo. The Age of Riley
Members of South Carolina National Guard examine damage in Folly Beach following Hurricane Hugo. September 1989. The State Newspaper Photograph Archive, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC.
Hurricane Hugo may even have woken up the staid, conservative News and Courier. In 1990, it named Barbara S. Williams, a well-respected journalist, its first woman editor. The two Charleston daily newspapers, the News and Courier and the Evening Post, merged in October 1991 to form the Post and Courier, and Williams was its first editor. Special events proliferated after the success of the Spoleto Festival. The biggest such event, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, which features wildlife art of all kinds, began in 1983 and has grown to over 500 artists and exhibitors from around the globe who present their offerings to over 40,000 attendees. One of the biggest women’s tennis events in the world, the Family Circle Cup, came to Charleston in 2001. It was renamed the Volvo Cars Open in 2016. The Family Circle Tennis Center, located on Daniel Island, includes a 10,200-seat stadium and has made Charleston a major tennis destination. The United States won the 29th Ryder Cup match at Kiawah Island Ocean Golf Course in September 1991. The worldwide media event, which included continuous coverage on NBC, established Kiawah Island, the lowcountry, and Charleston as a premier golf destination. By 2002, the Charleston area was home to a plethora of golf resorts and courses. Several suburban developments had been built around golf courses: Shadowmoss on Highway 61 West of the Ashley in 1971 and Snee Farm on Highway 17 East of the Cooper in the 1971. In addition to Kiawah, Seabrook Island, and Wild Dunes golfers teed up at the Charleston National Golf Course in Mount Pleasant on Daniel Island, Stono Ferry, Patriot’s Point, and Coosaw Creek Country Club in North Charleston, among others. In 1991, Riley called a special meeting of City Council and annexed Daniel Island. The 4,500-acre island, purchased by Harry F. Guggenheim in 1947 as a hunting preserve, was suddenly made a part of the Charleston metropolitan area by the construction of Interstate 526, which crossed the island. Dramatically demonstrating how powerful the building of highways can be in modern American cities, a remote rural island with few inhabitants, previously an hour-and-a-half drive from downtown Charleston, was, by 1993 (when Exit 23 opened), a five-minute drive from Interstate 26. The Guggenheim Foundation wanted to properly dispose of the huge tract, and, in 1989, the original “Daniel Island Concept Plan” was released. Situated in Berkeley County and adjacent to both Mount Pleasant and North Charleston, the City of Charleston’s annexation provoked a firestorm of controversy and a lawsuit by the Guggenheim Foundation. In the end, however, the Guggenheim Foundation’s confidence in Mayor Riley and the city’s history of sound land-use planning led 174
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to a resolution when the Foundation voluntarily annexed into the city. Bishop England High School relocated to Daniel Island in 1998. By 1999, Exit 24 of Interstate 526 opened directly onto the island. But progress in the 1990s did not follow a straight line. The banner headline in the Post and Courier on March 13, 1992, read, “A Direct Hit.” The Defense Department had just announced the closure (or “realignment”) of forty-three major military installations across the country. “Charleston was among the worst hit,” the Post and Courier reported, “with nearly every naval command targeted for closure.” Senator Hollings called the plan, which meant closure of the Charleston Naval Station (or Base), the Naval Hospital, the Naval Supply Center, and other facilities, “an economic disaster.” The Charleston Naval Shipyard, a fixture in the local economy for ninety-two years, would also close. Shipyard workers, engineers, naval personnel, business and political leaders were surprised and worried. The Post and Courier called the announcement “shocking news.” (The Charleston Naval Weapons Station near Goose Creek and several related military activities would remain.) The reaction of community leaders was swift. Facing millions of dollars in lost revenue, $4 million in payments annually to school districts alone, local governments banded together to fight the closure. D. E. “Sis” Inabinet, president of the Trident Chamber of Commerce, led an effort to lobby the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission to reject the recommendation. The chamber estimated the Navy’s total impact in the Charleston economy at $3.2 billion ($1.1 billion in Navy and civilian payroll alone). Riley compared the loss of the Navy to the devastation of Hurricane Hugo. Inabinet insisted, “We can win this if we’re in the fight together.” Riley was “confident we can reverse this decision.” Rallies and meetings were held, delegations went to Washington, Black leaders and Democrats lobbied President Clinton. A committee, In Defense of Charleston, was organized. Military consultants were hired. The Base Closure Commission met in Charleston on May 1, 1993, and thousands of Charlestonians, many wearing yellow “In Defense of Charleston” buttons, came to the Gaillard Auditorium to hear Governor Carroll A. Campbell Jr., Riley, Inabinet, and others make an impassioned plea for the base. “Closing the base,” Riley told the commissioners, “will rip the heart out of the region’s economy,” causing a depression; 37,000 jobs would be lost immediately; 10,000 jobs were already gone; and 22,000 additional civilian jobs would be lost in the future. The mood of the meeting was somber. Despite the massive community effort, on June 25, 1993, the Commission voted to close the base and the shipyard. “sCuttleD” screamed the headline in The Age of Riley
Aerial view of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown berthed at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
the Post and Courier. “Two hundred years of naval history came to an abrupt, gut-wrenching halt,” the newspaper announced, “when a federal panel voted to close Charleston’s Navy base and shipyard.” “This is probably the worst disaster that’s happened to Charleston in my lifetime,” Senator Strom Thurmond lamented. The Navy could have downsized the Norfolk base, but “closing Norfolk is like moving the Pope out of Rome,” Senator Hollings quipped. “It’s devastating,” Inabinet said. “What more can you say?” “This community,” the Post and Courier editorialized, “has a . . . calamity on its hands.” But Riley had more to say: “We’re not going to be crying in our soup and beer. We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and get to work.” The base was scheduled to close on April 1, 1996. On March 16, 1996, an assistant Secretary of the Navy handed a gold key to South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Bob Peeler, turning the Naval Base over to the state. The future of the base was turned over to the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority, a state agency. Despite the widespread and deeply felt concern about the impact of the base closure, the loss of the naval facilities did not, in fact, impact significantly on the local economy. Construction was booming; the population of the metropolitan area increased dramatically; suburban areas expanded. The tourist industry, the port, all services, and especially health services, manufacturing, construction, educational institutions, and transportation all grew. The city’s accommodations tax revenue doubled from 1990 to 1998. Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant became a major tourist attraction. Even with the base closing, government jobs declined only slightly from 1990 to 1998. There was a 40% increase in services likely due to the increase in tourism in the region. There was a 5.8% drop in the government sector from 1990 to 1998 due to the closure of the base. Unemployment rates were highest in 1993 and 1994, but by 1998 the unemployment rate declined to its preclosure (1990) level. Increases in local and state government jobs offset the decline in federal jobs. The Medical University remained the city’s largest employer, and local hospitals (Roper, St. Francis, VA) provided many jobs. Although manufacturing did not make a dent in Charleston’s public image, the area’s manufacturing sector expanded substantially in the late twentieth century. A huge Amoco plant was built at Cainhoy. Westvaco expanded its operations on the banks of the Cooper River. By 2000, fifteen hundred people worked for Bayer Corporation and Jacobs Applied Technology at the Bushy Park industrial park in North Charleston. Alcoa (formerly Alumax), JW Aluminum, Nucor Steel, Mikasa, Robert Bosch Corporation, even hightech software maker Blackbaud located in the metropolitan area. In 2009 176
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the Boeing Company announced that it had selected Charleston as the site of a $750 million assembly plant for its new 787 Dreamliner. The first plane rolled off the assembly line in 2012, and the Boeing facility has since expanded to include a 141-acre north campus. Volvo Car USA also opened its first US manufacturing plant in Berkeley County in 2018. The $1.1 billion facility has the capacity to produce 150,000 cars annually, and they are shipped around the world from the Port of Charleston. Another luxury automaker, Mercedes Benz, also has a production facility in North Charleston. The Mercedes plant assembles Sprinter vans for the US market. All of this manufacturing activity leverages Charleston’s position as a transportation hub, with both a seaport and a network of interstate highways that facilitate the movement of goods both nationally and internationally. The Mark Clark Expressway (Interstate 526) opened in June 1992. Twentysix miles long at the time it was opened, Charleston’s version of a “loop” around the city allowed Charlestonians to drive from West Ashley to North Charleston, across the Cooper River to Daniel Island, across the James B. Edwards Bridge over the Wando River to Mount Pleasant. The James Island Expressway opened in 1993 after thirty years of planning and controversy. The venerable architectural reporter for the New York Times, Ada Louise Huxtable had reported in April 1971 that there “is a truce in this city this week that is almost as welcome as the end of the Civil War. The threat of a controversial bridge [into the historic district] . . . has been temporarily stayed.” The Spoleto Festival was rocked by the departure of its 82-year-old founder and chief prima donna, Gian Carlo Menotti, in October 1993. “The time has come for me to take my festival away,” the maestro threatened. Riley and civic leaders, determined to hold on to the prestigious festival despite its financial difficulties, politely disagreed with Menotti and let him depart—but without the Spoleto Festival. Indeed, Menotti’s departure strengthened the festival, and, under the direction of Nigel Redden, it has flourished. Regularly featured in national and international media, the Spoleto Festival has put Charleston on the world’s cultural map. “Through the years,” the New York Times noted in April 2001, “Spoleto has featured not just great art but also the city itself . . . This year, Spoleto encompasses more than 130 performances of opera, dance, music and theater in a dozen historic sites.” The State Ports Authority (SPA) expanded its container ship operation during the 1980s and 1990s making Charleston the nation’s fourth busiest port and the busiest container port along the Southeastern and Gulf coasts. Docks and huge cranes were built in Mount Pleasant on the Wando River but only The Age of Riley
after substantial opposition from citizens groups such as Save the Wando. In the early 1990s, the SPA bought 800 acres on the Cooper River side of Daniel Island to build a “Global Gateway” to accommodate newer gargantuan container ships. These plans floundered as environmental and neighborhood groups protested. Other battles have raged over the growth of the cruise ship industry and its place in the city. Local preservation groups, including the Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston, among others, have filed lawsuits aimed at blocking the expansion of the cruise industry. This includes a suit filed in 2013 challenging the legitimacy of an Army Corps of Engineers permit issued for proposed $35 million renovation of the Union Pier terminal on the Cooper River. As of this writing those proceedings remain ongoing. Other developments to the harbor include major dredging operations that would deepen the navigational channel from its current 45 feet below mean low water depth to a new level of 52 feet below mean low water. This project, begun in 2015, is currently slated to cost more than $550 million and will give Charleston the deepest shipping channel on the East Coast and allow South Carolina’s largest port to accommodate fully loaded post-Panamex ships. Still, by the turn of the century it had become clear that Charleston’s Depression-era mentality—the desperate search for any industry and any job— had been replaced, or at least neutralized, by Charlestonians who were willing to fight businesses, such as the port and tourism, which they viewed as harmful to the environment and the historic scale and pace of the city. The mayor responded to growing criticism from residents of the historic district with a Tourism Commission to regulate the tourism industry and other reforms. The Visitor Reception and Transportation Center on Meeting Street (between John and Mary Streets) was designed to orient tourists and get them out of their automobiles. The center itself is an example of historic preservation and adaptive reuse within the historic district. The center is housed in the old Deans Warehouse, constructed circa 1856, that was part of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company depot complex that once stood on the site. The entire complex was designated as a National Historic Land Landmark in 1963 and subsequently listed in the National Register of Historic Places when the program was inaugurated in 1966. It stands today as a stand-alone National Historic Landmark within the larger Charleston Historic Landmark District. The new center opened in the historic depot in May 1991 at a cost of $13 million. 178
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By 1999, Riley agreed that development had its limits and required careful management. “I am working with the Coastal Conservation League to develop ways to create Greenbelts,” he said in his State of the City address. “Now, before it is too late, we must act to preserve farmland, forests and vistas for future generations . . . We are aware of the danger of a city having too many hotel rooms.” The affluence of the 1980s and 1990s led to other civic improvements. The Community Foundation was established and led by a dynamic director, Madeline McGee. Other civic achievements included the building of a modern new airport in 1985; construction of the North Charleston Coliseum in 1993; and an $11 million library on Calhoun Street in 1998. In 1997, the city built a new $19.5 million, 6,000 seat baseball park on the banks of the Ashley River and City Council promptly named it the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park with one dissenting vote: Riley’s. The park is home to a professional baseball team as well as The Citadel Bulldogs. Suburbanization and urban sprawl meant that more people were living in unincorporated areas of the county. New towns were created at Kiawah and Seabrook. Kiawah Island, in particular, has attracted new residents to the Charleston area. Developed over a period of twenty-five years starting in 1976, the island is a private residential and resort community sprawling over 10,000 acres. Mayor Riley sought to annex James Island, but many James Islanders resisted and sought to establish their own town. A referendum to establish a town was favorable, but the city sought dissolution of the town in court and won. New legislation allowed the town of James Island to be reestablished. The City Market was reinvented between 1975 and 2000. Before the Riley administration, the market was a warehouse district for the distribution of produce and groceries, butcher shops, and port-related businesses, such as bars, nightclubs, and a red-light district. It was leased to tourist-related businesses in the 1970s and 1980s, and gradually the area has become a tourist Mecca. Henry’s restaurant at 54 North Market Street, for example, was a fixture of old Charleston from 1932 to the 1970s. It was sold and “updated” in 1985, though it continues to operate under the Henry’s name as of 2020. The leaders of the Civil Rights movement passed on. Younger Black leaders emerged. Esau Jenkins of Johns Island died in 1972; J. Arthur Brown, the leader of the NAACP in Charleston, died in 1988; Septima Clark died in 1987; and Bernice V. Robinson died in 1994. But James Clyburn of Charleston was elected to Congress in 1992 and became the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1998. In December 2002, he was elected vice chair of the The Age of Riley
Charleston City Market. Courtesy of Explore Charleston, ExploreCharleston.com.
Tim Scott. Official portrait, 113th Congress (Renee Bouchard, US Senate Photographic Studio).
Jim Clyburn. Official Portrait, 110th Congress ( January 2007).
Democratic Caucus, which made him the highest-ranking African American in the House. Clyburn won election to his 14th term in office in 2018 and assumed the post of House Majority Whip in January 2019. It was his second time serving as Majority Whip, having previously held the position 2007–11. Clyburn also served as House Assistant Democratic Leader, 2011–19, and has been the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives since 2007. McKinley Washington and Herbert Fielding were leaders in the South Carolina Senate. Robert Ford went from City Council to a leadership role in the South Carolina Senate. Lucille Whipper became a leader in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Tim Scott of North Charleston began his political career with a position on the Charleston County Council in the 1990s. He ascended through Republican Party ranks, and in 2012 Governor Nikki Haley appointed him to replace retiring US Senator Jim DeMint. At the time, Scott was only the sixth African American to serve in the US Senate and was the first African American to represent South Carolina in that body. He subsequently won an election to a full term in 2016. The tourism industry began a serious effort to include Black history. African American history tours and African American tour guides became more commonplace by the late 1980s and early 1990s. Plantations began to highlight slave quarters and discuss the contribution of African Americans to the success of the Lowcountry economy. “Charleston has been trying hard to promote African American history in its tourism offerings,” the State newspaper reported in May 1993. “Since 1985, city guides have been required to study African American history to get their licenses.” The Old Slave Mart Museum, which was founded by Miriam B. Wilson in 1937 and operated as a museum of African American crafts and included artifacts created by enslaved artisans, was purchased by the city in 1988. In 2007 it opened, retooled, as a museum of the domestic slave trade. Middleton Plantation, Drayton Hall, and McLeod Plantation have all been at the forefront of national movements aimed at enhancing the interpretation of slavery and the enslaved at historic plantation sites. McLeod, located on James Island and operated by Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCRPC), officially opened in 2015, and rather than merely including African American history into its programming, it has made it a primary focus. McLeod also took an expansive view of African American history in its site interpretation, telling not only stories about the enslaved people who lived there but also including the era of Reconstruction and after, showing how African Americans continued to shape the landscape, literally and figuratively, of McLeod 180
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well into the twentieth century. Even in the mid-2010s this represented a step beyond what many historic sites, even those that included interpretations of slavery, were doing. The nature of downtown Charleston changed over the last quarter of the twentieth century. Restored to perfection, with Sunbelt weather, a cultural renaissance, resort islands, golf courses, superb restaurants, one of the most popular “getaway” destinations in the nation, Charleston attracted newcomers to the historic district. Many purchased a second or a third house in Charleston and are part-time residents. Like Palm Beach, Santa Fe, and Nantucket, Charleston is now a place for the rich to own “trophy” houses. Indeed, the autumn 1999 issue of Art World News claimed: “Charleston: The Time Is Right . . . It’s Being Hailed as the Next Sante Fe.” These new Charlestonians have contributed substantially to the success of civic and cultural organizations, but some old Charlestonians grieve for the loss of continuity and tradition in the historic district. The Palm Beach-i-fication of old Charleston (or “Hamptonization” for New Yorkers) is, however, a fact of life in the twenty-first century. The Citadel attracted national attention in 1995 when Shannon Faulkner brought a federal lawsuit to force the military college to admit her and other women to the Corps of Cadets. Faulkner dropped out after six days, but other women succeeded. Nancy Mellette intervened in the federal suit. Riley and Hollings, both Citadel graduates, urged their alma mater to admit women. The Citadel surrendered to the inevitable in June 1996 after the US Supreme Court ordered the Virginia Military Institute to accept female cadets. The case generated a great deal of controversy. Pat Conroy supported Shannon Faulkner, but he could not abide the politically correct anti-Citadel feminist rhetoric. Of one feminist writer who interviewed him about the case, Conroy wrote, “her questions . . . were remarkable for their shallowness and lack of importance.” One bumper sticker urged: “Save the Males” (a parody of “Save the Whales”). “We have come a long way since 1995,” Citadel President John S. Grinalds wrote in January 2000, noting that The Citadel’s first female cadet had graduated in May 1999 and that female cadets were winning honors. The “unheralded story is that The Citadel has emerged from its troubled beginnings with co-education and can be proud of the success we have achieved.” By the second decade of the twenty-first century, women made up approximately ten percent of the student body, and in 2018 Sarah Zorn became the Citadel’s first female regimental commander, an honor bestowed each year on the school’s top cadet. The Age of Riley
Drayton Hall. Courtesy of Explore Charleston, ExploreCharleston.com.
Charlestonians vigorously debated the issue of gentrification as dramatically rising property values in the peninsula made dilapidated but historic houses much more valuable. Black property owners could sell their homes at a handsome profit and, like White Charlestonians before them, move to the suburbs. But Black tenants were dispossessed as their rented homes and apartments were sold to more affluent homeowners. Major controversies swirled over the displacement of the residents of Shoreview Apartments on the Ashley River in 2000 to accommodate an upscale development and about what should be done with the site of the former Ansonborough public housing projects near the Cooper River waterfront. The unmistakable trend at century’s end was the loss of African American neighborhoods on the peninsula. Riley was reelected in 1995, defeating Republican State Representative Ron Fulmer and again in 1999 when he defeated a Black candidate, Maurice Washington. The city later switched to nonpartisan elections at Riley’s instigation. Under the new system Riley continued his electoral success, winning an eighth term in office in the city’s first nonpartisan election in 2003. He would prevail twice more before retiring after his tenth and final term in office in January 2016. Riley earned a national reputation in urban planning. “There is no reason,” Riley told the Washington Post, “for government ever to build something that is not beautiful.” He was president of the US Conference of Mayors and a founder of the Mayor’s Institute for City Design. In July 2000, he was the first recipient of the Urban Land Institute’s Nichols Prize ($100,000) for Visionary Urban Development. He also won the first President’s Award from the US Conference of Mayors. Riley even demanded creative designs for parking garages. He staunchly defended the building of the new judicial center on Broad Street despite opposition from neighborhood groups opposed to any further development on the peninsula. Riley praised the County’s decision to pursue “the difficult, costly, complicated, controversial course to preserve and reinvigorate” the courthouse complex area. Beginning with the construction of an elegant replica of the 1853 Mills House Hotel on Meeting Street in 1970, numerous hotels and inns have sprung up, many with the help of the city government and use of federal support, such as Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) grants: Charleston Place in 1986, Lodge Alley Inn in 1982–1986, and the Francis Marion in 1996. The Lodge Alley Project, led by the city in the late 1970s, spurred the revitalization of East Bay Street. Built in 1924, the Francis Marion had closed in 1989. Riley’s efforts at revitalizing upper King Street led not only to the reopening 182
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of the Francis Marion but also to the renovation of the old Citadel building on Marion Square and its use as a unique Embassy Suites Historic Charleston hotel. In May 1998, Rick Widman opened the magnificent Wentworth Mansion. In 2001, a new six-story hotel, the Renaissance Charleston took the place of an abandoned bus station on Wentworth Street. In 2002, the French Quarter Hotel opened in the Market. Just across Marion Square from the Francis Marion, and catty-corner to the renovated Citadel complex, The Dewberry opened as a boutique hotel in 2016. It occupied the old L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building, which had stood vacant since 1999, and represented another triumph of adaptive reuse in the historic district, this time in the unlikely venue of a mid-century federal office building. Similarly, the Hotel Bennett, which opened in 2019, overlooks Marion Square and incorporates the former west wing of the original Citadel Academy into its design. Melding past and present, and doing so with a flare of luxury, all of these examples highlight the core ethos of modern-day Charleston. Charleston celebrated the millennium by going about its business as usual. The year 2000 was advertised by many doomsayers as a potential technological disaster but according to the Post and Courier, “It was a flag-furling, subraising, tax-capping kind of year.” (The tax cap was designed to give residential property owners some relief.) A bitter controversy over whether or not the Confederate flag should fly over the South Carolina Capitol boiled over. Mayor Riley, accompanied by Black and White Charlestonians, joined the protest against the flag and marched all the way to Columbia. The Confederate flag battle was ultimately moved from its former position atop the State House dome to a position in front of a Confederate monument on the State House grounds, before finally being removed from the grounds altogether in 2015. Ironically, in the very same year, the Confederate flag was lowered from the State House dome in Columbia, the Confederate submarine Hunley was raised from the depths of Charleston harbor. The small vessel, a desperation measure designed to keep the US Navy out of Charleston harbor during the Civil War, was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in battle. It also sank in the attack, and divers searched for it for years. A team funded by author Clive Cussler found the Hunley in 1995, and a recovery effort, led by State Senator Glenn McConnell, a Charleston Civil War buff, was successful in raising the submarine in August 2000. Thousands watched from the shore of the Cooper River, and people all over the world saw images on television as the relic was raised from the ocean floor and was carried by ship to the Naval The Age of Riley
The Dewberry Hotel, occupying the former L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building on Marion Square. Courtesy of Explore Charleston, Explore Charleston.com.
Arthur Ravenel Bridge. (Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.)
Shipyard, where it remains on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center on Supply Street. In 2001, after two decades of debate and explosive growth East of the Cooper, the state approved a $531 million contract to build yet another bridge over the Cooper River. By 2001, Mount Pleasant had 49,000 residents, a 52% increase from the 32,000 in 1992. The Arthur Ravenel Bridge, named for the Congressman and State Senator credited with securing its funding, cost nearly $700 million and includes eight lanes for automobile traffic as well as a pedestrian–bicycle lane. The bridge is 2.5 miles long; the main span towers stand 575 feet above the water; and the bridge rises 186 feet above water. As of 2020 it remains the longest cable-stayed main span in the United States. The historic district had a stable population in the late twentieth century. In 1940, the peninsula contained 71,000 residents. By 1990, it was less than 39,000, the lowest since 1850, and it remained at approximately 40,000 through 2000. The decrease was due to the move to the suburbs in the 1950s and 60s and the restoration of homes that formerly housed many multiple low-income families into single-family homes for the affluent. The decrease was offset somewhat by the increase in the number of students at the College of Charleston (10,700 as of 2018), Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and Trident Technical College. Retirees and absentee owners also affected the population figures as numerous homes in the historic district are 184
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now second homes. The city population is also older because of retirees. Indeed, 78% of the population growth in Charleston County between 1990 and 2000 was attributed to residents age 55 and older. Despite this, the age of the city’s population has roughly kept pace with the nation. In 2019, approximately fourteen percent of the city’s residents were older than 65, compared with the sixteen percent of the national population that fell into that demographic. Charlestonians were rarely successful in the late twentieth century in achieving statewide political office, and Charleston’s influence in the state legislature waned. With the exception of Senator Hollings and Dr. James B. Edwards, who served as governor, and Nancy Stevenson as Lt. Governor, from 1974 to 1978, Charleston candidates did not fare well statewide. In 1994, Joe Riley failed in his bid to become the Democratic nominee for governor and former GOP Congressmen Arthur Ravenel and Tommy Hartnett were unable to win the Republican nomination. But by 2002, Charlestonians had returned to power in state government. Republican Mark Sanford of Sullivan’s Island, formerly a Congressman from the Charleston area, was elected Governor in 2002; Senator Glenn McConnell had risen to the position of President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Representative Robert Harrell was Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. By 2003, Charleston’s historic district had been dramatically transformed from its appearance of only thirty years before. Riley’s strenuous efforts at urban revitalization included the rejuvenation of upper and lower King Street, the rebuilding of the Calhoun Street corridor, the renovation of Market Hall and Marion Square, the Waterfront park, and the building of the South Carolina Aquarium and Liberty Square. After Hurricane Hugo in 1989, county government contributed to this transformation by restoring the Charleston County Court House to its 1792 appearance and building a new Judicial Center at the Four Corners of Law at Broad and Meeting Streets. The debate over the courthouse and the restoration and construction work took more than twelve years. The federal government contributed by building a modern annex to the federal courthouse named in honor of federal judge, J. Waties Waring. It was said to be the most expensive federal courthouse per square foot in the United States. St. Philips and St. Michael’s churches were both restored as were the French Huguenot church on Church Street, Mt. Zion Church on Glebe Street, and Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue and St. Mary’s Church, both on Hasell Street. The continued expansion of the College of Charleston and the Medical University also contributed to the revitalization of the historic district. The South Carolina Historical Society restored the Fireproof Building. Long the The Age of Riley
home of the South Carolina Historical Society’s archival collections, the 1827 building underwent significant renovations and reopened as a museum space in 2018, with the Society’s archival holdings moving to the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library. The value of private homes in the historic district soared. “Taxes, Tourism alter City’s Face,” a Post and Courier headline told its readers in November 1991. Property taxes also rose dramatically. Between 1980 and 1990, the average value of a home south of Broad increased more than 300%. The SimmonsEdwards House (or Pineapple Gates House) at 14 Legare Street was purchased by a corporate executive for $3.1 million in 1997. The Solomon Legare House (known locally as the Sword Gate house) at 32 Legare Street was next, purchased for $3 million in 1999. These trends only accelerated as the twentieth century gave way to the twenty-first century. Low inventory and high demand predictably combined to result in soaring housing prices at the end of the 2010s. Seven-figure sale prices became the norm for houses in the historic district and iconic properties extended well into the eight figures. When the 17,000-square-foot Solomon Legare house went back to market in 2016 the asking price was $19.5 million; a dramatic 550% increase over the late 1990s sale price. Of course, even this market has its limits and as of 2020 the property remained for sale; its price reduced to a mere $14 million. With prices in the historic district reaching levels unattainable by any but the most affluent, housing prices in the Charleston suburbs also saw a steep increase as more Charlestonians were forced to move off the peninsula to find affordable homes. In 2018, nearby Berkeley and Dorchester counties were the fourth- and fifth-highest-growth counties in the state. Meanwhile, just across the Ravenel Bridge in Mount Pleasant, the median home price was more than $500k by 2020. The tourism boom brought with it an explosion in restaurants. “How does one small city lure so many sophisticated travelers?” Conde Nast Traveler magazine asked in August 1997. One answer was Charleston’s cuisine. New restaurants with nationally recognized chefs abounded: Robert’s and Garibaldi’s in the Market in the 1970s; Phillipe Million at McCrady’s Long Room on Unity Alley in the 1980s; Louis’s, Anson’s, Carolina’s, Magnolia’s, and Slightly North of Broad in the 1990s; and 1886 at the Wentworth Mansion, Cypress, High Cotton, McCrady’s, Hank’s, the Peninsula Grill, and FIG set new local standards. Seafood restaurants multiplied in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, and on the island. Eclectic restaurants such as Brett’s on James Island and the Mustard 186
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Seed in Mount Pleasant sprang up. The elegant Woodlands opened in Summerville. Nathalie Dupree, the nationally renowned cooking doyenne, author of fifteen books, and winner of three James Beard Awards, made Charleston her home. Charleston became a restaurant destination as more visitors came for the dining than seeing old dining rooms. In November 1999, R. W. Apple Jr. wrote a travel piece on Charleston in the New York Times titled, “A Southern Legacy and a New Spirit.” “You can’t say it about many cities,” Apple wrote, “but you can say it about this one: One man changed its destiny. His name is Joseph P. Riley, Jr. He is Charleston’s mayor. He halted its long decline, which lasted for a hundred years after the Civil War, turning it from a proud but rotting relic into a model modern city.” Michael Shnayerson writing in Conde Nast Traveler described Charleston as “the town that Joe rebuilt.” The Post and Courier concurred. It consistently supported Riley for reelection stating in 1995, “Joe Riley is no ordinary mayor and this is no ordinary city.” Future historians might not agree completely on Riley’s singular influence. After all, the general affluence of the nation and of the Sunbelt South (other Southern cities reinvented themselves in the late twentieth century), a revolution in race relations, an influx of new wealth, massive federal and military spending contributed to Charleston’s economic and cultural revitalization. And Riley was not without his critics. Neighborhood and environmental activists complained he was too pro-development, that the historic district was too crowded, and taxes were too high. Some Charlestonians lament the loss of family businesses on King Street. Riley’s Republican opponents vigorously criticized his use of federal funds. “We said all the time,” Nancy Hawk recalled in 1996, “we’ve survived wars and hurricanes, but can we survive federal money.” John Bourne, the former mayor of North Charleston said in a 1992 interview: “Nobody’s perfect, even Joe. He has been progressive, but at the same time he really has created a very big and expensive government.” Republican Representative Ron Fulmer ran against Riley in 1995 and criticized Riley’s alleged massive spending and big municipal debt, but the voters did not agree. Riley garnered 75% of the vote. “First elected in 1975,” Walter Edgar wrote in South Carolina: A History, “Mayor Joseph P. Riley led a city government that transformed the old port city . . . For the first time in its history, Charleston became a liveable city for most of its residents, not just those south of Broad Street.” It is undeniable that Joe Riley’s vision of a racially inclusive community; a multifaceted, lively, and busy downtown; his insistence on excellence in urban design (best The Age of Riley
But if you’re looking for Mr. Riley’s most distinguishing mark, you can find it in the title of one of his speeches— “The Mayor As Urban Designer.” He believes “the lasting mark of a civilization is the city.” Americans may have left cities by the millions, he notes, “but we need our cities more than ever.” —Baltimore Sun, January 3, 1994.
A quest for balance has also marked Mr. Riley’s stewardship of Charleston’s historic peninsula. An internationally renowned student of architecture and urban planning, he has been one of the country’s most ardent advocates of a brand of urbanism that seeks to guide the future of cities with an eye to what worked in the past: walkable streets, mixed-use developments, and thoughtful buildings and parks that offer what he calls “the inspiration of the public realm.” —New York Times, November 15, 2015.
“As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves.” —President Barack Obama, 2015 Speech in Charleston Eulogizing the Emanuel Nine.
exemplified in the Waterfront Park); and his emphasis on the cultural life of the city (Spoleto, MOJA, the symphony, and ballet) have fundamentally altered Charleston. The “standard itinerary” to Charleston prior to Spoleto, Cecily McMillan wrote in the New York Times in 1988 was old houses, Fort Sumter, a souvenir, and she-crab soup. “It took an arts festival of international importance to break the spell.” “Joe Riley has done a remarkable job since he became mayor,” the Post and Courier editorialized in 1995, “and he retains an infectious enthusiasm for the task ahead.” In the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo in late 1989, Jesse Jackson, the Civil Rights leader, compared Riley to Moses saving his people. A few months later, Prince Charles visited Charleston to discuss urban preservation and called the mayor “a remarkable man.” But perhaps Riley’s greatest challenge, greater even than Hugo, came at the end of his final term in office. In June 2015, an avowed White supremacist walked into the historic Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street and murdered nine parishioners who were attending a bible study class. The slain ranged in age from 26 (Tywanza Sanders) to 87 (Susie Jackson). Included among that number was Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a senior pastor at the church and a state senator. The horror of the event reverberated nationally and internationally. Pinckney’s casket lay in state in the lobby of the State Senate Chamber, and his funeral was held in the College of Charleston’s TD Arena, a 5,100-seat complex that had opened in 2008 and was filled to capacity for the occasion. President Barack Obama delivered the eulogy. That the murders took place at Emanuel AME was not a coincidence. It became clear in the aftermath of the event that the perpetrator had intentionally targeted the church due to its historical significance as a center of African American life and activism in the city. Mother Emanuel, as it is commonly known, can trace its origins to 1816 and the earliest days of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Denmark Vesey was among the builders of the original church. When Vesey was charged with planning a slave rebellion in the city in 1822, he was executed, and the original church, which was located at the corner of Reid and Hanover Streets, was forced to disband. It would not return as a formal entity until after the Civil War. By the twentieth century Mother Emanuel, now housed in a sanctuary built on Calhoun Street in 1891, had emerged as a center of African life in the city. In 1909 Booker T. Washington visited the church and addressed a large-assembled crowd during a tour of the state aimed at promoting African American educational advancement. In 1921, famed intellectual and activist 188
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W. E. B. DuBois visited Emanuel and delivered a message about the need for international racial equality. By the 1950s and 60s the church had become a center of civil rights activism in the city. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held multiple meetings in the building. In 1954, national executive secretary Walter White spoke at Emanuel, and in 1962 Martin Luther King Jr. visited and gave a speech promoting voter registration that was attended by more than 1,500 people. Following King’s assassination, his widow, Coretta Scott King came to Emanuel in 1969 and spoke in support of the striking hospital workers in Charleston. It was against this backdrop of activism in favor of greater freedom for the city’s African American residents that the events of 2015 unfolded. The murders were intended as an intentional strike against this vision of equality and were born in part from a distorted interpretation of the city, the state, and the nation. But as Charleston’s history demonstrates, it cannot merely be dismissed as an isolated event. It was, rather, a tragic episode within a much longer continuum and struggle for racial equality. In the context of Joe Riley’s term as mayor, however, it represented a dire challenge that required a response. Both nationally, as well as within the state, the events of June 2015 sparked new discussions about the power of historical symbols on the landscape, particularly those that seem to celebrate the former Confederacy. In the state capital of Columbia, the Confederate battle flag that had flown on the State House grounds since the 1960s, first on the dome and later in front of the building, was permanently removed in July 2015. Elsewhere, debates over the fate of Confederate monuments raged, with some localities deciding that removal was the best option and others fighting to retain them. In Charleston, much of the controversy centered on the monument to John C. Calhoun that stood on the edge of Marion Square and towered over the street that bears his name, a mere stone’s throw from Emanuel AME. Attempts to decide the disposition of the monument, whether it could or should be removed or whether a contextual plaque was more appropriate, took place over the subsequent years. Finally, in 2020, five years after the Emanuel AME murders, the Charleston city government removed the Calhoun monument and the pedestal upon which it had long stood. The removal of the Calhoun monument came at the end of half a decade of activism and attempts to achieve racial reconciliation in the city. Less than one week after the shootings at Emanuel AME, an estimated ten- to fifteenthousand people gathered on the Ravenel Bridge to join hands and form a human “Bridge to Peace Unity Chain.” In September, families of the victims The Age of Riley
An empty pedestal. Following removal of the figure of John C. Calhoun in the spring of 2020, the Calhoun monument stood as an empty pedestal until the city removed the pedestal as well several months later. (Photo by Robert N. Rosen.)
Joseph P. Riley Jr. in 2015 at the end of his forty years as Charleston’s mayor. Photo by Sean McBride, US Army Corps of Engineers.
led a march that was dubbed the “Days of Grace” rally. In that same month, new signage in front of the church declared the area of between Meeting and Concord Streets the “Emanuel AME Historic District.” Elsewhere in the city, several new historical markers highlighting places and events important to the city’s African American history were installed. In the wake of the shooting, the new International African American Museum that Riley had long championed took on even greater significance. It is set to open its doors in 2022. Charleston’s response to the tragedy of June 2015 was in many ways emblematic of the city and of Riley’s time as mayor. Though the passage of time and many of the actions taken by the Riley administration had done much to bridge the racial divisions and inequalities that had long plagued the city, even those actions could not fully repair the rifts that remain in a nation with deep and lingering divisions that run along lines of race and class. But Charleston is different from most other cities in its sense of its own history and the way in which the past and present exist so closely alongside one another, with one always in quiet tension with the other. Its attempts to modernize and heal racial division, while positioning itself as a cosmopolitan city with a unique historical and architectural legacy, was in many ways the defining feature of the forty years that comprised Joe Riley’s time as mayor. The message of “Charleston Strong” and the themes of grace and unity that marked much of the city’s response to the events of 2015 and the Emanuel Nine show that even this darkest of tragedies could not undo Joe Riley’s promise of “a new age of tolerance, harmony and creativity.” While that promise may have been kept imperfectly, it nonetheless remained the guiding principle of his enlightened administration and helped to mark Charleston’s long transition from the birthplace of secession to a modern, vibrant, and cosmopolitan city. That is the defining legacy of the Age of Riley.
A Short History of Charleston
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When I first wrote A Short History of Charleston, there appeared to me to be more bad books written about Charleston than just about any subject I know. Many new books have been published since 1982. I have listed here the major works on each period; I recommend to the reader all of these. Certain books listed under one period frequently contain material on other periods. The literature on slavery is immense; this selection is a good beginning. I wish to acknowledge my debt to all of the authors and publishers listed.
Goloboy, Jennifer L. Charleston and the Emergence of Middle-Class Culture in the Revolutionary Era. Aiken, David. Fire in the Cradle: Athens: University of Georgia Charleston’s Literary Heritage. Press, 2016. Charleston, SC: Charleston Press, Hart, Emma. Building Charleston: 1999. Town and Society in The EighteenthBorick, Carl P. A Gallant Defense: The Century British Atlantic World. CharSiege of Charleston, 1780. Columbia: lottesville: University of Virginia University of South Carolina Press, Press, 2010 2003. Jones, Lewis P. S.C.—A Synoptic Bridenbaugh, Carl. Cities in the History of Laymen. Lexington, SC: Wilderness: Urban Life in America, Sandlapper Store, Inc., 1971 1625–1742. New York: Capricorn, Leiding, Harriette K. Charleston: His1955. toric and Romantic. Philadelphia: ———. Cities in Revolt: Urban life J. B. Lippincott, 1931. in America, 1743–1776. New York: Leland, Isabella G. Charleston: CrossOxford University Press, 1955. roads of History. Woodland Hills, ———. Myths and Realities: Societies CA: Charleston Trident Chamber of the Colonial South. New York: of Commerce/Windsor PublicaAthenaeum, 1967. tions 1980. Coker, P. C., III. Charleston’s MariMcCrady, Edward. The History of time Heritage, 1670–1865. CharlesSouth Carolina under the Propriton, SC: Coker Craft Press, 1987. etary Government, 1670–1719. New Crevecoeur, J. Hector St. John de. York, 1897; New York: Russell & Letters from an American Farmer. Russell, 1969. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1957. ———. The History of South CaroEdgar, Walter. South Carolina: A lina under the Royal Government, History. Columbia: University of 1719–1776. New York, 1899; New South Carolina Press, 1999. York: Russell & Russell, 1969. Fraser, Antonia. Royal Charles: Charles Molloy, Robert. Charleston: A Gracious II and the Restoration. New York: Heritage. New York: D. AppletonAlfred A. Knopf, 1980. Century, 1947. Fraser, Walter J. Charleston! CharlesPoston, Jonathan H. The Buildings of ton! The History of a Southern City. Charleston. Columbia: University Columbia: University of South of South Carolina Press, 1997. Carolina Press, 1989. Colonial Era through the Revolution (and General Works)
Powers, Bernard E. Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822–1885. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994. Ravenel, (Mrs.) St. Julien. Charleston: The Place and the People. New York: Macmillan, 1906. Rhett, Robert Goodwin. Charleston: An Epic of Carolina. Richmond, VA, 1940. Rogers, George C, Jr. Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969; Columbia University of South Carolina Press, 1980. Simons, Albert, and Samuel Lapham, Jr. The Early Architecture of Charleston. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1927 and 1970. Sirmans, M. Eugene. “The Colony at Mid-Century,” in Perspectives on South Carolina History, edited by Ernest M. Lander Jr. and Robert K. Ackerman. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973. Wallace, David Duncan. South Carolina: A Short History. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1951. Walsh, Richard. Charleston’s Sons of Liberty: A Study of the Artisans, 1763–1789. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1959. Slavery
Bancroft, Frederic. Slave Trading in the Old South. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1931. Egerton, Douglas. He Shall Go Out Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey. Madison, WI: Madison House, 1999. Jordan, Winthrop D. White over Black: American Attitudes toward
the Negro, 1550–1812. Baltimore: Penguin, 1969. Pearson, Edward. Designs Against Charleston: The Trial Record of the Denmark Vesey Conspiracy of 1822. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. Phillips, Ulrich B. American Negro Slavery. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1966; originally pub. in 1918. Stampp, Kenneth M. The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South. New York: Vintage, 1956. Wade, Richard C. Slavery in the Cities: The South, 1820–1860 New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. Wood, Peter H. Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.
Lerner, Gerda. The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina. New York: Schocken, 1971. McInnis, Maurie D. The Politics of Taste in Antebellum Charleston. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005. O’Brien, Michael, and David MoltkeHansen, eds., Intellectual Life in Antebellum Charleston. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986. Severens, Kenneth. Charleston Antebellum Architecture and Civic Destiny. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1988. Severens, Kenneth. Southern Architecture. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1981. Strickland, Jeff. Unequal Freedoms Ethnicity, Race and White Supremacy in Civil War–Era Charleston. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2015.
The Antebellum Period
Capers, Gerald M. John C. Calhoun, Opportunist. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1960. Channing, Steven A. Crisis of Fear: Secession in South Carolina. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970. Eaton, Clement. The Growth of Southern Civilization, 1790–1860. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Freehling, William W. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816–1836. New York: Harper & Row, 1968. Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1948 Huger, Alice R., and Daniel E. Huger Smith. Dwelling Houses of Charleston, South Carolina. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1917.
Burton, E. Milby. The Siege of Charleston, 1861–1865. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1970. Cornish, Dudley Taylor. The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861–1865. New York: W. W. Norton, 1966. Current, Richard N. Lincoln and the First Shot. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1963. Dickey, Christopher. Our Man in Charleston, Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South. New York: Crown Publishers, 2015. Potter, David M. Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis, 2nd ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1962.
Ramsdell, Charles W. “Lincoln and Fort Sumter,” Journal of Southern History III (1937), 259–288. Rosen, Robert N. Confederate Charleston, An Illustrated History of the City and the People During the Civil War. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994. Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Volume I. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1936. Starobin, Paul, Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860 and The Mania for War, Public Affairs. Swanberg, W. A. First Blood: The Story of Fort Sumter. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958. Wilcox, Arthur M., and Warren Ripley. The Civil War at Charleston. Charleston, SC: News and Courier and Charleston Evening Post, 1966. Reconstruction
Ball, William Watts. The State That Forgot: South Carolina’s Surrender to Democracy. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1932. Jenkins, Wilbert L. Seizing the Day African-Americans in Post-Civil War Charleston. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998. Simkins, Francis B., and Robert Hilliard Woody. South Carolina during Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1932. Tindall, George Brown. South Carolina Negroes, 1877–1900. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1952.
Uya, Okon Edet. From Slavery to Public Service: Robert Smalls, 1839– 1915. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971. Williamson, Joel. After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina during Reconstruction, 1861–1877. New York: W. W. Norton, 1965.
Hosmer, Charles B. Preservation Comes of Age. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981. Key, V. O., Jr. Southern Politics. New York: Vintage, 1949. Kytle, Ethan J., and Blain, Roberts. Denmark Vesey’s Garden, Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy. New York: The New More Recent Times Press, 2018. Bass, Jack. Porgy Comes Home: South Lander, Ernest McPherson, Jr. A HisCarolina after Three Hundred Years. tory of South Carolina, 1865–1960. Columbia, SC: R. L. Bryan Co., Columbia: University of South 1972. Carolina Press, 1970. Cooper, William J. The Conservative Levkoff, Alice F., Robert Levkoff, and Regime: South Carolina, 1877–1890. N. S. Whitelaw. Charleston Come Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Hell or High Water. Columbia, SC: Press, 1968. R. L. Bryan Co., 1976. Duffy, John Joseph. “Charleston Poli- Tindall, George B. The Emergence of tics in the Progressive Era,” Unpub. the New South, 1913–1945. Baton diss. University of South Carolina, Rouge: Louisiana State University 1963. Press, 1967. Gaston, Paul M. The New South Vlach, John Michael. Charleston Creed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Blacksmith: The Work of Philip 1970. Simmons. Athens: University of Gaillard, J. Palmer, Jr. Boards to Georgia Press, 1981. Boardrooms: The Life and Memoirs Woodward, C. Vann. Origins of of J. Palmer Gaillard, Jr. 2nd ed. the New South, 1877–1913. Baton Charleston, SC: J. Palmer Gaillard, Rouge: Louisiana State University Jr., 2004. Press, 1951. Gergel, Richard. Unexampled Cour———. The Strange Career of Jim age: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac WoodCrow, 2nd rev. ed. New York: Oxard and the Awakening of President ford University Press, 1967. Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waites Yarbrough, Tinsley E. A Passion for Waring. New York: Sarah Crichton Justice: J. Waites Waring and Civil Books, 2019. Rights. New York: Oxford UniverHicks, Brian, and Schuyler Kropf. sity Press, 2001. Raising the Hunley. New York: Yuhl, Stephanie. Golden Haze of Ballantine Books, 2002. Memory. Chapel Hill: University of Hicks, Brian. The Mayor, Joe Riley, North Carolina Press, 2005. and the Rise of Charleston. Charleston, SC: Evening Post Books, 2015.
Abernathy, Ralph, 155 Abolitionism, 68, 86, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 96, 108, 114, 117, 120, 133 Academy of Music, 122 Ackerman, William, 156, 159 Albemarle Point, 1, 3, 4, 151 Alcoa, 176 Allen, Hervey, 138, 139 Alley, Kirstie, 164 American Anti-Slavery Society, 91 American Revolution, x, 1, 9, 17, 39–40, 43–48, 51, 53, 56, 83–85, 86, 118 Amos, Marjorie, 154, 159 Anderson, “Cat,” 145 Anderson, Richard H., 113 Anderson, Robert, 97, 99–100, 101, 102, 103–106, 114 Andrews, John A., 108 Andrews, Sidney, x, 113, 115 Anglican Church, 33, 34 Anson, George, 22 Ansonborough, 19, 20, 22, 23, 34, 41, 75, 78, 85, 156, 182 architecture, x, 20, 32, 76, 82, 145, 146, 164, 187, 190 arson, 69, 92, 96 Arthur Ravenel Bridge, 184, 189 artisans: 14, 28, 29, 39, 40, 61, 118, 180. See also mechanics Asbury, Francis, 33, 96 Ashley River, 1, 3, 4, 6, 14, 17, 19, 22, 77, 107, 150, 164, 167, 179, 182 Ashley River Bridge, 1, 77, 111, 137, 150, 156 Audubon, John James, 81 Avery Institute of Afro-American History & Culture, 172 Azalea Festival, 161 Bachman, John, 81, 82
Baldwin, John B., 101 Baldwin, William, 167 Balfour, Lieutenant Colonel, 46, 49 Ball, Edward, 167 Ball, William Watts, 131, 132 Baptists, 32, 33 Barbados, 4, 7–8, 10, 14, 20, 60, 89 Barnwell, Robert W., 86 Barton, Clara, 129 bastions, 5 Bates, Mary, 88 Battery Wagner, 101, 108–109, 110 Battery, x, 6, 14, 22, 37, 42, 65, 75, 105, 107, 116, 129, 134, 144, 170 Battle of Fort Moultrie, 45 Bay Street. See East Bay Street Bayer Corporation, 176 Beach, Dana, 169, 170 Beaufain, H. B. de, 24, 42 Beauregard, P. G. T., 100, 103, 104–105, 107, 108, 109 Beecher, Henry Ward, 114 Benjamin, Judah, 107 Bennett, John, 138 Beswicke, John, 15 Beth Elohim Synagogue, 83 Bethel Methodist Church, 33 Black Codes, 117 Blackbaud, 176 Blackbeard, 7, 8 Blake, James G., 154 Blaska, Felix, 162 Blease, Coleman, 131, 133–34, 142 Boeing Company, 177 Bonnet, Stede, 7, 8 Boseman, Benjamin A., 119, 142 Bourne, John, Jr., 168, 187 Bray, Thomas, 6 Breckinridge, John C., 95 Brewton, Miles, 15, 19
Bridenbaugh, Carl, 11, 13, 34, 36 Briggs v. Elliott, 152, 165 Broad Street, 4, 7, 21, 22, 23, 34, 39, 52, 85, 107, 122, 123, 134, 152, 165, 166, 170, 173, 182, 187 Brown v. Board of Education, 152, 165 Brown, J. Arthur, 153, 154, 155, 179 Brown, John, 93, 94, 103, 113 Brown, Morris, 66 Brown, Russell, 145 Buchanan, James, 95, 99 Bull, William, 24, 30, 36, 42, 44, 69 Bullman, John, 44 Burton, E. Milby, 99, 107, 111 Butler, Pierce, 52 Butler, Rhett (fictional character), 79, 94, 110, 127, 147 Byrnes, James F., 138, 150 Cainhoy, 15, 124, 168, 176 Campbell, Caroll A., Jr., 173, 175 Cannon Borough, 77, 78 Castle Pinckney, 55, 90, 99, 100, 101 Cathedral of St. John, 84 Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 84 Centenary Methodist Church, 83, 121 Charles I, 1 Charles II, 1, 2, 3, 11, 15 Charles III, 2 Charles IX, 3 Charles Towne Landing, 1, 3, 4, 6, 151 Charleston Center, 160 Charleston County Courthouse, 21, 56 Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCRPC), 180 Charleston dance, 145 Charleston Mercury, 78, 81, 89, 95, 122 Charleston Museum, 21, 74, 172 Charleston Neck, 6, 25, 31, 46, 64, 77, 164, 168
Charleston Place, 160, 163, 165–66, 182 Charleston Symphony Orchestra, 172 Charleston Theatre, 82 Charleston Vigilance Association, 94 Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, 165, 170 Chesnut, James, Jr., 105 Chesnut, Mary, 90, 94, 99, 102 Christ Church Parish, 7, 17 Christopher, Arthur, 160 Church of England. See St. Philip’s Church Church Street, 5, 19, 21, 22, 32, 76, 83, 127, 139, 140, 143, 185 Church, Henry, 141 churches, 32, 66, 67, 70, 83–84, 120–21, 133, 141, 143, 173 Circular Congregational Church, 83, 85, 107 Citadel, 68, 85, 91, 99, 120, 128, 131, 151, 157, 164–65, 166, 181 City Market, 75, 83, 179 city planning, 4, 170–71, 174, 182, 187 Civil Rights movement, 143, 150, 152–55, 163, 169, 179, 188, 189–90 Civil War, x, 44, 79, 86, 94–95, 99, 101, 105–107, 127, 132, 133, 146, 147, 164, 183–84 Clark, Kenneth, 152 Clark, Septima, 153, 154, 163, 179 Clay, Henry, 87, 88, 90, 91 Clayburgh, Jill, 165 Clement, Arthur, Jr., 142, 161 Clinton, Bill, 175 Clinton, Henry, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50 clubs, 24, 25, 32, 79, 123, 124, 174 Clyburn, James E., 155, 179–80 cockfighting, 24, 73 College of Charleston, 23, 30, 82, 83, 120, 135, 156–57, 172, 184, 185–86 colleges: See Citadel; College of Charleston; Medical University of South Carolina; Trident Technical College Colleton, John, 2, 60 Columbia, 54, 56, 76, 110, 111, 115, 183, 189
Commons House of Assembly, 21, 22, 31, 39 Community Foundation, 179 Confederate flag controversy, 183 Congregationalists, 5, 33 Conroy, John F., 155, 163 Conroy, Pat, 164, 166, 167, 181 Cooper River, 4–5, 6, 13, 14, 17, 19–20, 37, 78, 111, 136, 150, 156, 170–71, 178, 182, 183–84 Cooper River Bridge, 136, 137, 151, 156, 168 Cooper River Bridge Company, 157 Cooper River Bridge Run, 163 Cooper, Anthony Ashley, 2, 3, 4, 11, 60 Corners of Four Laws, 21, 185 Cornwallis, Charles, 45, 50, 52 cotton, 4, 10, 60–61, 67, 76, 77, 78, 86, 93–94, 95–96, 111, 118, 122, 128, 129 cotton mills, 127, 128, 129, 144 Courier, The, 78, 81, 103, 122 Crafts, William, 81 craftsmen, 28, 40, 61, 67 Craven, Governor, 9 Crévecoeur, J. Hector St. John de, 19, 27 crime, 31, 160 Crokatt, James, 15 Crouch, Charles, 36 Cumberland Methodist Church, 33 cyclones, 129, 130 dancing, 21, 24, 25, 26, 35–36, 50, 69, 136 Daughters of the American Revolution, 166 Davis, Jefferson, 100, 101, 103, 110 Davis, Maggie, xi Davis, Varina Howell, 88 Dawson, Francis Warrington, 122, 123, 127 Dawson, Fred, 154 Declaration of Independence, x, 32, 39, 44, 75, 133 Delany, Martin R., 114, 144 DeMint, Jim, 180 Dewberry Hotel, 183 Dewees Island, 44, 169
Dock Street Theater, 5, 34, 35, 76, 138, 172 Don Holt Bridge, 168 Douglas, Stephen A., 94, 95, 106 Down, Leslie Anne, 164 Doyle, John, 168 Drayton Hall, 17, 77, 180 Drayton, William Henry, 50 dress, slave, 65 drinking (alcohol), 2, 25, 28, 79, 131, 134 Du Bois, W. E. B., 189 dueling, 79, 142 Duffy, John J., 133, 135 Durant, E. W., 149 Duval, Robert, 166 earthquakes, 122, 129, 130 East Bay Street, 5, 7, 14, 20–21, 23, 37, 49, 59, 75, 85, 129, 143, 147, 149, 157, 182 Eaton, Clement, 89 Eaton, John, 88 Eaton, Peggy, 88 economy: 10, 13, 15, 40, 52, 56, 59, 60, 61, 77, 93, 122, 157, 170, 175–76, 180. See also plantations; trade Edgar, Walter B., 125, 187 Edmonston-Alston House, 74, 75 Edmunds, Frances, 147, 156 education: 30, 131, 176; of Blacks, 114, 121, 143, 152, 165, 169, 188; public, 119, 169; See also Briggs v. Elliott; Brown v. Board of Education Edwards, James B., 185 Edwards, John, 15 Edwards, Jonathan, 33 Elfe, Thomas, 29 elites: 17, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, 34, 36, 67, 80, 93, 113, 131, 135–36. See also planters Elliott Borough, 77, 78 Elliott, Mrs. Charles, 49 Elliott, Stephen, 81 Ellison, William, 67 Emanuel AME Church, viii, 121, 154–55, 188–90 Embassy Suites Historic Charleston Hotel, 183
England, 1, 2, 3, 9, 11, 14–15, 16, 20, 22, 28, 30, 35, 42, 60, 68, 82, 83 England, John, 84, 85 environmental issues: 169, 178, 187; See also Save the Wando; South Carolina Coastal Conservation League Episcopal churches: 66, 77; See also Grace Episcopal Church; St. John’s Episcopal Church; St. Michael’s Episcopal Church; St. Philip’s Episcopal Church Etheredge, James, 161 Eveleigh, Samuel, 15 Evening News, 95 Exchange Building, x, 5, 20, 21, 49, 50, 54, 56, 65, 76, 166 Exposition of 1901, 128 Faulkner, Shannon, 181 Feminism/feminists, 91, 92, 181 Fenwick, Edward, 17, 25 ferryboats, 20 Fielding, Herbert, 154, 155, 180 Fields, Mrs. R. L., 142 Fields, Richard, 159 film industry, 164, 165 Finney, Albert, 165 Fireproof Building, 83, 185 fires, 4, 10, 31, 37, 46, 53, 56, 83, 84, 85, 106, 107, 111, 113, 170 First Baptist Church, 5, 83, 173 First Continental Congress, 43 First Scots Presbyterian Church, 32 Flagg, George, 29 Folly Beach, 142, 169, 173 food, 17, 20, 24, 34, 48, 62, 64, 65, 75, 76, 102, 105, 106, 122, 186 Food and Tobacco Workers’ Union, 153 Footlight Players, 138, 172 Ford, Robert, 180 Ford, Timothy, 26 Fort Johnson, 45, 46, 101, 105 Fort Moultrie, 39, 45, 81, 90, 97, 100, 104, 105, 129, 151 Fort Sullivan: 45, 99. See also Fort Moultrie
Fort Sumter, x, 45, 94, 97, 99–111, 113–14, 135, 151, 171, 173, 188 Fox, Gustavus V., 101, 102, 103, 105, 106 Francis Marion Hotel, 135, 182–83 Frank, Dorothea Benton, 167, 173 Fraser, Charles, 81 Fraser, Charles E., 169 Fraser, Scipio, 116 Fraser, West, 168 free people of color, 67, 70 Freedman’s Bureau, 118, 122 French and Indian War, 40 French Huguenot Church, 5, 34, 185 French Quarter Hotel, 183 Frost, Robert, 139 Frost, Susan, 146 Fulmer, Ron, 182, 187 funerals, 41, 66, 92, 153, 188 Gadsden, Christopher, 20, 24, 41, 42, 43, 45, 47 Gadsden, Philip, 75 Gadsden, Thomas Norman, 78 Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 42, 161, 175 Gaillard, J. Palmer, 132, 151, 154, 155–56, 159, 160 gambling, 10, 25, 73, 134 Garden, Alexander, 28, 30, 33 Garrison, William Lloyd, 90, 114 Gell, Monday, 68 German community, 133 Gershwin, George, 127, 141–42 Gibbes Museum of Art, 81, 139, 145, 157, 172 Gibbes, William, 75 Gibson, Mel, 165 Gillmore, Quincy Adams, 109, 110 Gillon, Alexander, 51 Gilman, Samuel, 81 Glen, Governor, 14, 17, 35 Glover, B. J., 154 Goldwater, Barry, 159 golfing, 136, 151, 154, 161, 169, 174, 181 Gone with the Wind, 79 Gonzales, Ambrose, 139 Gonzales, Jim, 168
government: 1, 31, 69, 175; city 20, 51, 52, 66, 70, 85, 151, 156, 156, 160, 168, 182, 187, 189; colonial, 7, 30, 39, 42, 43, 50; Confederate, 100, 102, 103–104, 105, 111; Reconstruction, 115, 116, 117, 119, 124; state, 46, 90, 93, 123, 124, 132, 176, 185; United States, 39, 52, 54, 56, 84, 89, 99, 100, 102, 118, 131, 132, 138, 157, 176, 185 Grace Episcopal Church, 77, 83 Grace, John P., 133–37, 138, 151, 156, 157 Grady, Henry, 127 Grant, U. S., 115, 120 Grasse, Admiral de, 50 Grayson, William J., 91 Greenberg, Reuben, 163 Greene, Harlan, 167 Griffith, Melanie, 165 Grimké, Angelina, 91, 92 Grimké, John Paul, 29 Grimké, Sarah, 91, 92 Grinalds, John S., 181 Guggenheim, Harry F., 174 Gullah, 62, 172 Gwynn, Nelly, 2 Haley, Nikki, 180 Halleck, Henry W., 110, 111 Halstead, Murat, 94, 95 Hamburg Massacre, 123, 124 Hamilton, James, Jr., 91 Hamilton, Lonnie, 155 Hamilton, Thomas, 76 Hammond, James, 80 Hampton Park, 25, 79, 125, 128, 137, 150, 151, 161 Hampton, Lionel, 145 Hampton, Wade, I, 80 Hampton, Wade, III, 80, 123, 124, 125, 131 Harleston Village, 23, 77, 78, 156 Harrell, Robert, 185 Hartnett, Tommy, 185 Hawes, Benjamin, 29 Hawk, Nancy, 159, 187 Hay, John, 106 Hayes, Rutherford B., 124
Hayne, Isaac, x, 49–50, 76, 115 Hayne, Robert Y., 90, 91, 129 Hellman, Lillian, 127 Heyward, Daniel, 44 Heyward, Dorothy, 141 Heyward, DuBose, 138, 139, 140, 141–42, 145, 146 Heyward, Janie Screven, 139 Heyward, Thomas, 29, 44 Heyward, Thomas, Jr., 32, 44, 47 Hibben, Andrew, 20 Hibernian Society, 32, 79, 84, 161 Hicks, Brian, 162, 163, 171 Hilton Head, 167, 169 Historic Charleston Foundation, 146, 156, 160, 170 Hoban, James, 56 Hoffman, Elizabeth, 153 Hofstadter, Richard, 28, 87, 88–89 Holbrook, Hal, 164 Hollings, Ernest F. “Fritz,” 159, 175, 176, 181, 185 Hopkins, Harry, 138 horse racing, 1, 2, 24, 79 hospital strike, 155–56, 163 Hotel Bennett, 183 hotels, 76, 136, 143, 144, 164, 166, 170, 182 housing, 19, 20, 138, 143, 151, 164, 182, 186 Howe, Gedney M., Jr., 150, 151, 168 Howe, Gedney M., Sr., 150 Howe, Julia Ward, 103 Huger, Daniel, 90 Huguenots, 5, 6, 11, 15, 20, 22, 32, 34, 83, 185 Hume, Sophia, 25 Humphreys, Josephine, 165, 166, 167, 170 Hunley, 107, 165, 183 Hurlbut, Stephen A., 92, 101 Hurricane Hugo, 37, 172–73 hurricanes, 3, 7, 10, 20, 21, 37, 129, 141–42, 172–73, 187 Hutson, Richard, 51 Hutty, Alfred, 139, 168 Huxtable, Ada Louise, 177 Hyde, Tristram T., 134, 135, 136
immigrants, 20, 80, 133 Inabinet, D. E. “Sis,” 175, 176 Indians: 1, 3, 4, 9, 14, 15, 31, 32, 39–40. See also Yemassee War indigo, 13, 15, 16–17, 20, 61 International African American Museum (IAAM), 170, 171 Intolerable Acts, 43 Irish community, 6–7, 15, 83, 84, 133 Irving, John B., 79 Isle of Palms, 6, 45, 136, 137, 156, 157, 169, 173 Jack, Gullah, 68 Jackson, Andrew, 73, 87–88, 90–91, 95 Jackson, Jesse, 188 Jackson, Rachel, 88 Jackson, Susie, 188 Jacobs Applied Technology, 176 Jakes, John, 164, 167 James Island, 46, 105, 107, 109, 141, 156, 164, 164, 168, 169, 177, 179, 180 James Island Expressway, 177 James, George S., 113 James, Henry, x, 130 Jasper, William, 39, 45 jazz, 10, 57, 144, 145, 162, 172 Jefferson, Thomas, 36, 44, 54, 55, 56, 57, 83, 87, 91, 95, 100, 103, 110 Jenkins Orphanage Band, xi, 144, 145 Jenkins, Daniel J., 144, 145, 163 Jenkins, Esau, 153, 154, 179 Jews: 7, 11, 32, 133. See also Beth Elohim Synagogue; Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue Jim Crow laws, 143 John C. Calhoun monument, 189 John’s Island, 117, 153 Johnson, Andrew, 117 Johnson, Don, 165 Johnson, Governor, 7, 8, 9 Johnson, James P., 145 Johnson, William, 44 Jones, Jehu, 76 Jones, Speedy, 145 Jordan, Robert, 167 Jordan, Winthrop D., 26, 27, 59–60 Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, 179
JW Aluminum, 176 Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, 33, 83, 84, 185 Kérouälle, Louise de, 2 Kershaw brothers, 15 Kiawah Island, 151, 157, 165, 169, 174, 179 Kidd, Sue Monk, 167 Kinard, Bobby, 168 King Street, 22, 76, 85, 122, 124, 137, 157, 160, 163, 166, 170, 182, 185, 187 King, Coretta Scott, 155, 189 King, Martin Luther, Jr., 153, 154, 155, 189 Ku Klux Klan, 123, 136, 142 Kyrle, Richard, 6 Lafayette, Marquis de, 84 Lam, Ken, 172 Lamon, Ward H., 101 Latrobe, Benjamin, 83 Laurens, Henry, 19, 22, 32, 35, 41, 42, 52 Laurens, John, 86 lawyers, 27, 30, 39, 40, 41, 43, 81, 87, 144 Lee, Robert E., 105, 108 Lee, Stephen D., 105 Legaré, Hugh Swinton, x, 81, 86, 90 Legge, Dorothy, 147 Leigh, Egerton, 42 Leigh, Peter, 42 Lewis, Timothy, 121 Liberator, 90 Liberty Tree, 42, 75 library, public, 6, 36 Lincoln, Abraham, 91, 92, 94, 95–96, 99–103, 106, 110, 114, 115, 117, 143 Lincoln, Benjamin, 46 Lincoln, Mary Todd, 114 Lindo, Moses, 17 Lining, John, 29 Literary and Philosophical Society, 81 Locke, John, 2, 32 Lodge Alley Inn, 182 Logan, W. Turner, 133, 135 Lombard, Linda, 173 Long Island. See Isle of Palms
Long, Edward, 27 Long, J. C., 150 Lord Proprietors, 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 16, 39, 60 Louis XVI (France), 50 Lowcountry Open Land Trust, 169 Lucas, Eliza, 16–17, 26 Lynch, Thomas, 22, 41, 42, 43, 44 lynchings, 131, 142
Nicolay, John G., 106 Nightingale, Thomas, 25 Nixon, Richard M., 159 Nonimportation pact, 42 North Ashley River Bridge, 156 North Bay Street. See East Bay Street North Charleston, 135, 149–50, 151, 156, 168–69, 173, 174, 176, 177, 179 Nucor Steel, 176 nullification, 89–91, 92, 110
placemen, 42 plantations, 6, 11, 17, 24, 25, 36–37, 50, 54, 60, 65, 67, 68, 70, 93, 96, 113–14, 115, 117, 122, 139, 180 Planter’s Church, 77 planters: 4, 13, 15, 17, 24, 37, 50, 69, 76, 86, 96, 131; and American Revolution, 41–42, 44, 51, and crops 16, 61, 77, 86; pastimes of, 10, 24, 25, 27–28, malaria, 17, 61 35, 79; and slavery, 16, 51, 93; houses Marion Square, 85, 87, 114, 125, 161, 183, of, 19, 77; wealth of, 13, 19, 27, 30, 35 185, 189 O’Sullivan, Florence, 6 Poe, Edgar Allan, x, 81 Maritime Center, 171 Obama, Barack, 188 Poetry Society of South Carolina, 138 Mark Clark Expressway (Interstate Old Slave Mart, 65, 76 poets, 2, 81, 139 526), 177 Old Slave Mart Museum, 180 Poinsett, Joel, 36, 90, 91 Maybank, Burnet Rhett, 137–38, 15 Omni Hotel, 160 Poinsett, Peter, 11 McConnell, Glen, 183, 185 Oyster Point, 1, 4, 22 Poitier, Sidney, 165 McFarland, Arthur, 160 poor/poverty, 6, 27, 31, 114, 115, 119, 129, McGee, Madeline, 179 Pachelbel, Karl Theodore, 34 130, 131, 138, 139, 141, 145, 150 McLeod Plantation, 180 painters, 62, 81, 168 population: and African Americans, 16, McMillan, Cecily, 188 palmetto tree, 44, 45 32, 59, 62, 63, 65, 66, 69, 70, 96, 114, Medical University of South Carolina, Paolozzi, Alicia, 162 115–16, 117, 124, 164; city, 5, 11, 32, 59, 82, 154, 157, 176, 184, 185 Parker, John J., 152 73, 84, 86, 133, 137, 149, 150, 156, 164, Mellette, Nancy, 181 Parker, Peter, 45 168, 176, 184–85; county, 149, 164, 169 Menotti, Gian Carlo, 162 Patriot’s Point Navel and Maritime Populists, 130, 131 Mercedes Benz, 177 Museum, 176 Porgy (Heyward), 139, 140, 141–42, 143, Michel, Jon, 168 Patterson, John J., 119 144–45, 151 Middleton Plantation, 180 Paul, William, 67 Porgy and Bess (Gershwin), x, 127, 139, Mikasa, 176 Payne, Daniel Alexander, 121 140, 141, 142, 151, 162 Mills House Hotel, 157, 182 Peeler, Bob, 176 Porter, David D., 102, 103 MOJA Festival, 172, 188 Perry, Benjamin F., 117 Porter, William O., 96 Moryl, Ellen Dressler, 162 Petigru, James L., 80, 90, 92, 94, 95, 96, ports: 4, 10, 13–14, 16, 29, 46, 55, 59, 61, Mount Pleasant, 47, 77, 105, 135, 136, 101, 129 78, 107, 128–29, 135, 157, 176, 177, 156, 165, 168–69, 170, 177, 185, 186–87 Petterson, Margaret, 168 178, 179, 187. See also slavery; trade Mt. Zion Church, 185 physicians, 29, 144 Post and Courier, 157, 163, 165, 166, 174, Pickens, Frances W., 101, 102, 103 175–76, 183, 186, 187, 188 National Association for the AdvancePillsbury, Gilbert, 119 Powell, Adam Clayton, 145 ment of Colored People (NAACP), Pinckney, Charles, 17, 22, 26, 42, 52–53, Powell, Padgett, 167 152–55, 179, 189 54, 55, 57 Presbyterians, 5, 32, 67, 74, 121 Navy Yard, 132, 135, 149–50 Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth, 17, 25, preservation, xi, 145, 146–47, 156, 160, Negro Seaman’s Act, 89 47, 48, 52, 54, 84–85 170, 178, 188 Newman, I. D., 154 Pinckney, Clementa, 188 Pringle, Mr. & Mrs. Ernest, 146 News and Courier, 122, 127, 134, 135, 142, Pinckney, Josephine, 139 Pringle, Robert, 15 143, 174 Pinckney, Thomas, 54, 66, 84 Prioleau, Devany, 67, 69 newspapers, 36, 40, 67, 69, 78, 81, 84, Pineapple Fountain, 171 Prioleau, Elizabeth, 26 122, 144, 161, 174 pirates: 7–8, 39. See also Bonnet, Stede; Prioleau, Samuel, 48 Nicholson, Francis, 10, 29 Thatch, Edward prohibition, 131, 132 Nickleson, John, 15 Pitt, William, 21, 24, 46 property values, 164, 182, 186
Pro-Slavery Argument, 53, 91 prostitution, 10, 71 Provincial Congress, 43 Quakers, 11, 91–92 Queen Anne’s War, 9 Quincy, Josiah, Jr., 10, 19, 24, 27, 34 Race Week, 25, 79–80, 81 railroads, 77, 78, 105, 111, 113, 119, 122, 123, 129 Ramsay, David, 47 Randolph, A. Phillip, 152 Ravenel, Arthur, 185 Ravenel, Mrs. St. Julien, 7, 37, 48, 110, 111 Rawdon, Francis, 49 Rebuilt Huguenot Church, 83 Reconstruction, 115–25, 131, 138, 142, 143, 146, 159, 180 Redden, Nigel, 177 Redford, Robert, 165 Redpath, James, 120 Reid, Frank M., Jr., 161 Renaissance Charleston Hotel, 183 restaurants, 143, 144, 166, 171, 179, 181, 186–87 Restoration England, 1–2, 11 Rhett, Alicia, 139 Rhett, Robert Barnwell, 95 Rhett, Robert G., 134, 135, 149 Rhett, Sarah, 15, 26 Rhett, William, 8, 10, 19, 22 rice, 10, 13, 15–17, 23, 37, 43, 61, 67, 77, 93, 122, 129, 139, 141 Rice Coast, 16 Rigney, James Oliver, Jr. See Jordan, Robert Riley, Dick, 165 Riley, Joseph P., Jr.: viii, 137, 159, 164, 173, 181, 182, 183, 185, 187–88; and African Americans, 159, 160–61, 163, 183, 188, 190; city expansion, 164, 174, 179; development projects, 160, 170–71, 178–79, 182, 187; historic district revitalization, 163, 165–66, 170, 179; Naval Shipyard, 175, 176; and Spoleto, 162, 177
riots, 51, 116, 124 Ripley, Alexandra, 167, 168 Rittenberg, Sidney, 146 Rivers, L. Mendel, 137, 150, 183 Riviera Theater, 163 Robert Bosch Corporation, 176 Robinson, Bernice V., 153, 179 Rockingham, Charles, 24 Rogers, George C., Jr., 13, 35, 82, 86, 93 Roosevelt, Franklin D., 138, 143, 149, 153 Roosevelt, Theodore, 128 Rose, Thomas, 69 Rosen, Morris D., 160 Roupell, George, 22, 26 Ruffin, Edmund, 105 Rutledge, Andrew, 15 Rutledge, Archibald, 139 Rutledge, Edward, 43, 44, 47, 54 Rutledge, John, 24, 30, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46, 51–52, 54 Salvador, Francis, 43 Sanders, Alexander, 57 Sanders, Tywanza, 188 Sanford, Mark, 185 Santo Domingan refugees, 56, 83 Sass, Herbert R., 139 Saunders, Bill, 155 Saussure, Henry De, 87 Save the Wando, 169, 178 Saxby, George, 41 Sayle, William, 1 Scott, Tim, 180 Scrivener, William, 29 Seabrook Island, 3, 101, 107, 157, 169, 174, 179 Seabrook, Susannah, 26 Secession, 75, 89, 90, 92–99, 100, 101, 105, 107, 110, 111, 118, 133, 139 Second Baptist Church, 33, 83 Second Presbyterian Church, 67, 74 Segregation: 120, 142, 143, 144, 151, 152, 154, 155; churches, 66, 120, 143; public schools, 120, 152, 154, 165, 169; resistance to, 143, 152; See also Briggs v. Elliott; Brown v. Board of Education; Civil Rights movement; Jim Crow laws
Seward, William H., 93, 101, 102, 103 Shaw, Robert Gould, 108–109, 120 Sherman, Roger, 53 Sherman, William T., 77, 110, 111 Shinner, Chief Justice, 41 shipbuilding, 28, 29 shopping malls, 168 Siddons, Anne Rivers, 167 Siege of Charleston, 46–47, 99, 107–108, 109, 111 Silas Pearman Bridge, 136, 168 Simms, William G., 80, 81 Simons, Albert, 146, 164 Singleton, Tom, 46 slavery/slaves: viii, 26, 28, 29, 30, 37, 40, 41, 48, 52, 57, 60, 62, 64, 65, 67, 69, 86, 99, 113–15, 116, 117, 133, 167, 180–81; codes, 7, 63, 66; cotton cultivation, 61, 77, 93, 94; defense of 53, 87, 89, 91, 92; emancipation/freedom, 86, 106, 107, 116, 118, 124, 143; expansion of, 92, 94; opposition to, 33, 44, 51, 71, 86, 89, 91–94; population, 17, 36, 59, 70, 73; rebellions, 31, 56, 66–69, 85, 90, 95, 96, 161, 188; rice cultivation, 16, 61, 77, 93; standards of living, 64, 65; trade, x, 10, 13, 15–16, 20, 59–60, 76, 78, 180; women, 27, 62. See also abolitionism; American Anti-Slavery Society; International African American Museum (IAAM); Old Slave Mart; Old Slave Mart Museum; plantations; planters Small, Veronica, 161 Smalls, Normie, 141 Smalls, Robert, 106, 114 Smalls, Samuel, 139, 140, 141 Smith, Alice R. Huger, 139, 168 Smith, Betty Anglin, 168 Smith, Ellison D. “Cotton Ed,” 131, 153 Smith, Willie, 145 Smyth, J. Adger, 132 Smythe, A. T. “Gus,” 110, 116 Smythe, Augustine, 144 social and cultural life, 36, 73, 76, 80, 188 Society for the Preservation of Old Dwelling Houses, 145, 146
Society for the Preservation of Spirituals, 139, 145 Sons of Liberty, 40, 41 South Bay Street. See East Bay Street South Carolina Aquarium, 171, 185 South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company, 178 South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, 169, 178, 179 South Carolina constitutions, 2, 11, 32, 54, 60, 83, 117, 118, 120, 121, 142 South Carolina Gazette, 22, 25, 26, 27, 36 South Carolina Jockey Club, 2, 25, 79–80, 124 Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, 174 Spanish threat, 9 Spoleto Festival USA, xi, 79, 138, 161–62, 172, 174, 177, 188 St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 83 St. Andrew’s Parish, 7, 17, 150, 151, 156 St. Cecilia Society, 34, 79, 81, 134 St. James Parish, 7 St. John Parish, 7 St. John’s Episcopal Church, 114 St. John’s Lutheran Church, 33, 81, 173 St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 84, 185 St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 5, 7, 21, 31, 32, 46, 50, 67, 94, 110, 185 St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 5, 14, 21, 31, 32, 33, 34, 39, 67, 78, 85, 86, 87, 93, 172, 185 Stahl, David, 172 Stamp Act, 24, 40–44 State Ports Authority (SPA), 135, 170, 177–78 steamboats, 78 Steffe, William, 103 Stern, Theodore S., 157, 162 Stevenson, Nancy, 185 Stoney, Samuel G., 139, 146 Stoney, Thomas P., 135–36, 137, 141, 146, 150, 151 Stono Rebellion, 69 streetcars, 113, 123 streets, 5, 10, 19, 21–22, 31, 51, 62, 74, 77, 85, 113, 134, 157, 166, 187 Streisand, Barbra, 166
Strickland, William, 83 submarines, 107, 108, 183; See also Hunley suburbs, 17, 19, 22, 23, 73, 77, 127, 149–50, 151, 156, 164, 168–69, 174, 176, 179, 182, 184, 186 Sullivan’s Island, x, 6, 8, 37, 44, 45, 59, 81, 105, 111, 136, 156, 169, 173 Summey, Keith, 168 Sumner, Charles, 71 Sumter, Thomas, 48, 49 Swayze, Patrick, 164 tariffs, 86, 87, 89–90, 91 Tarleton, Banestre, 48 taverns/tavern keepers, 14, 25, 31, 34, 51, 88 taxes: 40, 42, 157, 176, 183; See also Stamp Act Taylor, Elizabeth, 164 Tea Act, 43 tennis, 174 Thatch, Edward, 7 theater: 2, 17, 24, 35–36, 82, 122–23, 138, 142, 162, 172, 177; See also Broad Street Theatre; Charleston Theatre; Dock Street Theater Theus, Jeremiah, 36 Thompson, Captain William, 51, 52 Thompson, Colonel William, 45 Thornwell, Reverend, 66 Thurmond, J. Strom, 176 Tillman, Benjamin Ryan, 124, 130–32, 142 Timothy, Lewis, 36 Timothy, Peter, 44, 47 Toombs, Robert, 103 tourism, 76, 80, 136, 157, 160–61, 170, 176, 178, 179, 180, 186 Tourism Commission, 170, 178 Townshend Revenue Acts, 42, 43 trade: 5, 9, 10, 13, 14–15, 29, 36, 42, 46, 50, 51, 52, 73, 78, 93, 122, 133. See also slavery/slaves: trade Trapier, Paul, 66 Trenholm, George A., 111 Trident Technical College, 184 Trott, Nicholas, 8
Truman, Harry, 152, 153 Turner, Frederick Jackson, 96 Turner, Nat, 90 Turner-Maybank, Vanessa, 161 unemployment, 176 Unitarian Church, 33 United States Constitution, 39, 52–54, 56, 57, 86, 89, 90, 95–96, 100, 115, 152, 153, 165, 166 Van Buren, Martin, 88 Vander Horst, Arnoldus, 54, 55 Vanderhorst Creek, 22, 75 Verner, Elizabeth O’Neill, 139, 145, 168 Vesey, Denmark, 66–69, 85, 89, 114, 161, 165, 188 Voight, Jon, 166 Volvo Car USA, 177 voting patterns: of Blacks 117, 119–20, 123, 124, 134, 152, 153, 155, 159; of Whites, 31, 40, 51, 91, 95, 122, 131, 160 Voting Rights Act (1965), 155, 159 Wagener, F. W., 128, 133 Wagener, John A., 119 Wallace, David Duncan, 54, 123 Wallace, O. T., 137 Wardens, 51, 71 Waring, Annie, 153 Waring, J. Waties: 152–53, 163, 165, 185; See also Briggs v. Elliott Waring, Tom, 134 Warren Lasch Conservation Center, 107, 184 Warren, Earl, 153 Warren, Robert Penn, 139 Washington, Booker T., 128, 188 Washington, George, x, 46, 50, 55, 56, 57, 88, 115, 168 Washington, Maurice, 182 Washington, McKinley, 180 Washington, William, 48, 49 Waterfront Park, 171, 185, 188 Webster, Daniel, 57 Webster, Pelatiah, 28 Weld, Theodore, 92 Wesley, John, 33, 86
West Ashley, 168, 177, 186 West Indies, 3, 10, 14, 15, 20, 60, 89, 91 West, Keith, 162 Whaley, Richard S., 135 wharves, 5, 6, 7, 14, 19–20, 21, 22, 51, 76, 105, 113, 135, 170 Whipper, Lucille, 180 White Point, 4, 8, 77 White Point Gardens, 1, 22, 65, 75, 77, 81, 134 White, Edward Brickell, 83 White, Ezra, 19 White, Walter, 152, 189 Whitefield, George, 33 Whitman, Walt, 92 Widman, Richard, 164, 183 Wilberforce, William, 89
Wild Dunes, 157, 169, 174 Williams, Barbara S., 174 Williams, Manning, 168 Williams, Tennessee, 162 Williamson, Joel, 115, 118, 123 Windward Coast, 16, 62 women: 9, 25, 28, 37, 79, 113; Black, 27, 62, 63, 64, 71, 114, 116, 123, 152, 159; political activism/power, 91, 92, 159, 181; social scene, 25, 26; wartime, 46, 47, 48–49, 110 Woodward, C. Vann, xi Woodward, Henry, 16, 29 World War I, 128–29, 134–35, 149, 152 World War II, 129, 149–50, 152 World-Fest-Charleston International Film Festival, 165
Worley, Richard, 8 Worthington, H. C., 119 Wragg Lands, 20, 73–74, 75, 77, 78, 127, 156 Wragg, Joseph, 15 Wragg, Samuel, 7, 8, 15 Wragg, William, 42 writers, 80, 81, 138, 139 XYZ affair, 55 Yeamans, John, 5 yellow fever, 17, 37 Yemassee War, 9, 61, 80 Young, Andrew, 155 Zion Presbyterian Church, 121
About the Author
ROBERT ROSEN, a third-generation Charlestonian, practices law on historic Broad Street. A trial lawyer and partner in The Rosen Law Firm, he is the author of Confederate Charleston: An Illustrated History of the City and People during the Civil War, The Jewish Confederates, and Saving the Jews: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust.