Today In Charleston History: July 18


John Rutledge died from “the wearing out of an exhausted frame rather than … positive illness.” He was buried in St. Michael’s graveyard. He died without ever recovering from the crippling financial debt accrued during the Revolution. 

John Rutledge

John Rutledge

One of Charleston’s “founding fathers” Rutledge, a lawyer, served as provincial attorney general (1764), and was voted to the Stamp Act Congress (1765). He served in the 1st Continental Congress (1774) and 2nd Continental Congress (1775). In 1776, he helped South Carolina write a new state constitution, and was elected president of the new state government.

During the Constitutional Convention, he maintained a moderate nationalist stance and chaired the Committee of Detail, he attended all the sessions, spoke often and effectively, and served on five committees. Like his fellow South Carolina delegates, he vigorously advocated southern interests. In 1787 he was one of the signer of the Constituion of the United States. 

President George Washington appointed Rutledge as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1791 he became chief justice of the South Carolina supreme court. Four years later, Washington again appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court, this time as Chief Justice to replace John Jay. But Rutledge’s outspoken opposition to Jay’s Treaty (1794), and the intermittent mental illness he had suffered from since the death of his wife in 1792, caused the Federalist-dominated Senate to reject his appointment and end his public career. Meantime, however, he had presided over one term of the Court.


John Rutledge’s grave, St. Michael’s Church


1863-Civil War. Assault on Battery Wagner

Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and 272 of his troops were killed in an assault on Fort Wagner, near Charleston, South Carolina. Shaw was commander of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, perhaps the most famous regiment of African-American troops during the war.


Images of Battery Wagner, Harper’s Weekly

Fort Wagner stood on Morris Island, guarding the approach to Charleston harbor. It was a massive earthwork, 600 feet wide and made from sand piled 30 feet high. The only approach to the fort was across a narrow stretch of beach bounded by the Atlantic on one side and a swampy marshland on the other. Union General Quincy Gillmore headed an operation in July 1863 to take the island and seal the approach to Charleston.


Col. Robert Shaw

Col. Robert Shaw

Shaw and his 54th Massachusetts were chosen to lead the attack of July 18. Shaw was the scion of an abolitionist family and a veteran of the 1862 Shenandoah Valley and Antietam campaigns. The regiment included two sons of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the grandson of author and poet Sojourner Truth.

Confederate General Samuel Jones wrote:

The First Brigade was formed in column by regiments, except the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts … it was a negro regiment, recruited in Massachusetts, and was regarded as an admirable and reliable body of men. Half the ground to be traversed before reaching Wagner was undulating with sand hills, which afforded some shelter, but not so much as prevent free and easy movement; the other half smooth and unobstructed up to the ditch. Within easy range of Wagner the march encroached so much on the firm sand of the island as leave a narrow way between it and the water.

Union artillery battered Fort Wagner all day on July 18, but the barrage did little damage to the fort and its garrison. At 7:45 p.m., the attack commenced. Yankee troops had to march 1,200 yards down the beach to the stronghold, facing a hail of bullets from the Confederates. Shaw’s troops and other Union regiments penetrated the walls at two points but did not have sufficient numbers to take the fort. Over 1,500 Union troops fell or were captured to the Confederates’ 222.

The Storming of Ft. Wagner, lithograph by Kurz and Allison,1890

The Storming of Ft. Wagner, lithograph by Kurz and Allison,1890

Despite the failure, the battle proved that African-American forces could not only hold their own but also excel in battle. The experience of Shaw and his regiment was memorialized in the critically acclaimed 1990 movie Glory, starring Mathew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman. Washington won an Academy Award for his role in the film.

To read more about the assault on Fort Wagner, read here

1864-Civil War

George Trenholm

George Trenholm

George Trenholm replaced Christopher G. Memminger as Secretary of the Treasury in President Jefferson Davis’s Cabinet. As skilled as he was with money, Trenholm couldn’t rescue the Confederate economy. After the fall of Richmond, he took flight southward with the rest of the Cabinet, but in ill health, was unable to continue running.

Today In Charleston History: April 14


John Wesley arrived from Savannah for a second visit to Charlestown. He noted in his diary:

I had the pleasure of meeting with the clergy of South Carolina among whom in the afternoon there was such a conversation for several hours on ‘Christ our Righteousness’ as I had not heard at any visitation in England or hardly any other occasion.

During Wesley’s visit he arranged with Lewis Timothy to publish the Collection of Psalms and Hymns, the first Anglican hymnbook published in the American colonies.

Lewis Timothy print shop

Lewis Timothy print shop marker on King Street, Charleston

1780-American Revolution 

Lt. Colonel Tarleton and his British dragoons took an American cavalry encampment commanded by General Issac Huger, at Middleton’s Plantation in Goose Creek. In a surprise attack Tarleton’s troops killed fifteen and captured eighteen. Tarleton noted that “Lt. Colonel Washington was Prisoner but afterward thro’ the Darkness of the Morn escaped on foot.”

This action effectively cut off Gen. Lincoln’s escape route from Charlestown. The Continental Army was now stuck in the city.

 1861 – Civil War

The Federal garrison at Sumter saluted the American flag with a fifty-gun salute.  The harbor was filled with thousands of Charlestonians, on every type of boat imaginable, to watch the surrender. Major Robert Anderson takes the Stars and Stripes with him when they evacuate the fort. 

The New York Times correspondent described the scene:

The bells have been chiming all day, guns firing, ladies waving handkerchiefs, people cheering and citizens making themselves generally demonstrative. It is regarded as the greatest day in the history of South Carolina.

1865 – Civil War

Maj. Gen. Robert Anderson, who surrendered Fort Sumter to the Confederates, came out of retirement to re-raise the same Stars and Stripes over Fort Sumter that he had lowered in surrender four years earlier. This flag is now on exhibit at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center.

Robert Smalls, the slave who had stolen his master’s boat, the Planter, and fled to freedom, returned with the Planter to Charleston harbor for the ceremonial raising of the American flag upon Ft. Sumter.

ft sumter flag raising

Flag Raising ceremony at Fort Sumter. Library of Congress

Today In Charleston History: April 13


The London Frigate, a slave ship, arrived in Charleston from Guinea with small pox on board. It spread so extensively that there were not enough healthy people to take care of the ill.

1780-The Siege of Charlestown

The British had managed to mount seventeen 24-pound cannons, two 12-pounders, three 8-inch howitzers and nine mortars.  At 10:00 am the batteries in the neck, north of the American lines opened steady fire until midnight.

      Major William Croghan wrote:

The balls flew thro’ the streets & spent their fury on the houses; & those who were walking or visiting in the town, as was usual during the former quiet, now flew to their cellars, & others to their works, as the places of greatest safety.

The first day’s bombardment killed two soldiers, several women and children, two cannons were destroyed and two houses burned to the ground. 

During the day, Governor John Rutledge and a few members of privy council, including Charles Pinckney left the city, heading for the backcountry. Gen. Lincoln persuaded Rutledge to “Preserve the Executive Authority … give confidence to the people and throw in the necessary succours and supplies to garrison.” That left Lt. Governor Christopher Gadsden the leading civil authority in the city.

The governor’s entourage included a number of invalids, including Lt. Colonel Francis Marion and his broken ankle. At noon they crossed the Cooper River leaving behind the constant booming of artillery and a city covered with smoke and fire.


At a Thomas Jefferson birthday celebration in Washington, DC, Pres. Andrew Jackson toasted: “Our Federal union – It must be preserved.” V-P John Calhoun replied, “The union – Next to our liberties the most dear.”

1832 – Passenger Train Wreck – Charleston First

The first passenger train wreck in the United States occurred on the C&HRR. Pulled by the West Point, the axle of the lead car snapped and was destroyed, tossing passengers out of the open car into a “low swampy place filled with mud and water.” Five of the passengers were seriously injured, but recovered.

west point

1861 – Civil War

By 8:00 a.m. the upper story of the officer’s quarters at Sumter were burning. The most immediate danger was the 300 barrels of gunpowder stored in a magazine. At one o’clock the flagstaff at Fort Sumter was struck by a Confederate shell and crashed to the ground. The soldiers rushed to rehoist the flag before the Confederates assumed they had surrendered.

About this time, former Senator Louis Wigfall of Texas visited Fort Sumter. During the midst of the bombardment, Wigfall had himself rowed out by slaves. Soldiers at Sumter were perplexed by a man waving a white handkerchief from a sword. The Federals raised a flag of truce and Wigfall, although he had no authority to do so, told the first Federal officers he met, “Let us stop this firing. You are on fire, and your flag is down. Let us quit.”

Anderson arrived a moment later and Wigfall told him:

You have defended your flag nobly sir. You have done all that it is possible to do, and General Beauregard wants to stop this fight. On what terms, Major Anderson, will you evacuate this fort?

ft sumter - interior

Inside Fort Sumter during the bombardment. Courtesy Library of Congress

Anderson felt some relief. His soldiers were half-way starved, exhausted and down to their last three shots. The American flag was taken down and Wigfall’s white handkerchief was raised in its place. The firing from all batteries ceased – the battle over.

Church bells rang across the city. Men on horseback galloped across the city, shouting the news. Spectators on the Battery sea wall cheered hysterically, the sound carrying across the Charleston harbor to the exhausted soldiers into Fort Sumter.

Hermann Klatte, a partner in a local liquor outlet called “Lilienthal & Klatte” on East Bay Street, wrote: 

 Yesterday morning at 4:30 they began fighting at Fort Sumpter…the United States flag was not raised again….Somewhat after 2:00 Sumpter surrendered unconditionally to the southern Confederacy, and soldiers from the same government will take over soon, and the bells are playing…victory.


Henry Ward Beecher, a Northern Congregationalist minister and staunch abolitionist, arrived in Charleston to preach at Ft. Sumter. Beecher’s sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe had written the wildly popular (and universally hated in the South) Uncle Tom’s Cabin. President Lincoln had personally selected him, stating, “We had better send Beecher down to deliver the address on the occasion of raising the flag because if it had not been for Beecher there would have been no flag to raise.”

Henry Ward Beecher, Army Chaplain

Henry Ward Beecher, Army Chaplain

Today In Charleston History: April 12 – Charleston First, Fort Sumter

 1861 – Civil War – Firing on Fort Sumter – Charleston First

After contacting his superiors in Montgomery, Beauregard wrote another dispatch and about midnight, his aides rowed out to Fort Sumter again flying a white flag. His response to Anderson was:

MAJOR: In consequence of the verbal observation made by you to my aides, Messrs. Chesnut and Lee, in relation to the condition of your supplies, and that you would in a few days be starved out if our guns did not batter you to pieces, or words to that effect, and desiring no useless effusion of blood, I communicated both the verbal observations and your written answer to my communications to my Government.

If you will state the time at which you will evacuate Fort Sumter, and agree that in the mean time you will not use your guns against us unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you. Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee are authorized by me to enter into such an agreement with you. You are, therefore, requested to communicate to them an open answer.

I remain, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

About 1:30 a.m. Anderson assembled his officers and read the Confederacy’s latest offer. For the next ninety minutes they discussed their response. They all considered the condition that they would not fire unless Sumter was shot at to be unacceptable. If the Federal supply ship arrived no doubt Confederate batteries would open fire upon it. The Federal officers were determined not repeat their lack of response during the Star of the West episode. But they were unsure of when (or even if) the supply ship would arrive. The officers agreed they could hold out four more days. Anderson composed his next reply to Beauregard:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt by Colonel Chesnut of your second communication of the 11th instant, and to state in reply that, cordially uniting with you in the desire to avoid the useless effusion of blood, I will, if provided with the proper and necessary means of transportation, evacuate Fort Sumter by noon on the 15th instant, and that I will not in the mean time open my fires upon your forces unless compelled to do so by some hostile act against this fort or the flag of my Government by the forces under your command, or by some portion of them, or by the perpetration of some act showing a hostile intention on your part against this fort or the flag it bears, should I not receive prior to that time controlling instructions from my Government or additional supplies.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ROBERT ANDERSON, Major, First Artillery, Commanding.

The Confederate aides, Chesnut, Chisholm and Lee, read the reply immediately. Chesnut, following Beauregard’s orders, composed the following note:

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.

We have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servants.

JAMES CHESNUT, JR., Aide-de-Camp.
STEPHEN D. LEE, Captain, C. S. Army, Aide-de-Camp.

Chesnut delivered the message to Anderson. After reading it, Anderson pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time – it was 3:20 a.m. He asked Chesnut, “I understand you, sir, then, that your batteries will open in an hour from this time?”

Chesnut replied, “Yes, sir. In one hour.”

Anderson walked the Confederate officers to their boat. It was beginning to rain. He shook hands with each of them. “Gentlemen, if we do not meet again in this world, I hope we may meet in a better one,” he told them.  

Inside Fort Sumter Anderson ordered his men to prepare to receive an attack within the hour. He urged them to sleep if possible, that they would be returning fire at dawn.

The Confederate officers made the one-mile journey from Fort Sumter to Fort Johnson within half an hour. Col. Chesnut told Captain George James, battery commander at Johnson, they had given Anderson a deadline, and it was to be met. He as to fire a signal shot at 4:30 a.m.  

Chestnut, James and Chisholm, anxious to return to Beauregard as soon as possible, then got back in their boat and began to row across the harbor to Charleston. Out in the middle of the water, in the drizzling rain, not a single star was visible against the dark forbidding sky.  At exactly 4:30, Lt. Henry S. Farley pulled a lanyard on one of the cannons at the beach battery on James Island. A mortal shell arced high across the water, heading for Ft. Sumter, its glowing fuse leaving a glowing contrail, illuminating the sky. It exploded just above the fort like Fourth of July fireworks, spreading an orange-red glow across the horizon.

firing on sumter

 Confederate batteries at Fort Johnson fire on Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861. Courtesy Library of Congress

Within a minute of the signal shot, another shell screamed across the harbor and exploded within Fort Sumter. Beauregard had given precise orders on the firing rhythm. The forty-three guns that faced Sumter were each to fire in turn, in a counterclockwise circle, with two minutes between each shot, in order to save shot and powder.

In Charleston, Chesnut’s wife, Mary, was having a restless night. As she wrote in her diary:

I do not pretend to sleep. How can I? If Anderson does not accept terms at four, the orders are he shall be fired upon. I count four, St. Michael’s bells chime out and I begin to hope. At half-past four the heavy booming of a cannon. I sprang out of bed, and on my knees prostrate  prayed as I have never prayed before … I knew my husband was rowing about in a boat somewhere in that dark bay, and that the shells were roofing it over, bursting toward the fort. The women were wild out there on the housetop. 


Watching the bombardment from Charleston rooftops. Courtesy Library of Congress

In Charleston, the bombardment was a spectacle. As dawn broke, the streets were filled with people rushing in the rain to find a vantage point to watch the battle. The sea wall along the Battery was quickly crammed with ladies and gentlemen in their finest clothes. Boys scampered around, climbing on anything in an attempt to have a better view of the harbor.

There was not a single person who believed the Yankees would win.

14. battery party

TOP: Watching the bombardment from the Battery. Courtesy Library of Congress

 Anna Brackett, a school teacher, described the scene in Charleston:

Women of all ages and ranks of life look eagerly out with spyglasses and opera glasses. Children talk and laugh and walk back and forth in the small moving place as if they were at a public show.

As dawn broke just after six, the Federal garrison at Sumter mustered for roll call and breakfast, which consisted mainly of salt pork. Private Joe Thompson wrote, “Our supply of foodstuffs are fast giving out. Yesterday our allowance was one biscuit.”

At 6:30 Capt. Doubleday ordered the first Federal shot in reply aimed at the Iron Battery at Cummings Point. It landed beyond the battery and into the marsh.  

James Petigru, while sitting in his office at 8 St. Michael’s Alley wrote:

All the world is gone to witness the bombardment of Fort Sumter by the collective forces of South Carolina. Our politicians have succeeded in evoking the spirit of hostility on both sides.

By full light the rain had stopped and for the next two days, Fort Sumter was hammered from three sides by Confederate batteries, with more than 2,500 shots fired the first day. Overnight the bombardment slackened but resumed in full force the next morning.

Charleston (and America) would never be the same again. 

Today In Charleston History: April 11

1842 – Deaths.

Bishop John England died.

Bishop_John_EnglandEngland was an Irish-born American Roman Catholic (1786) who became the first bishop of Charleston. Ordained in 1808, England became an instructor at St. Patrick’s Seminary, Cork, where in 1812 he was made president. His outspoken opposition to governmental intervention in the selection of Irish and English bishops displeased some of his superiors.

He was named bishop of the new diocese of Charleston—comprising the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia—and was consecrated in Ireland (Sept. 21, 1820). Seeing that the first need of his diocese was education, he prepared and printed a catechism and a missal for Americans. He founded the United States Catholic Miscellany, the first Roman Catholic newspaper in the United States. An eloquent orator, he was also the first Roman Catholic clergyman invited to speak before the U.S. Congress (1826), where for two hours he described the doctrines of his church. He became a U.S. citizen in the same year.

1861 – Civil War

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard sent a letter to Major Anderson demanding the surrender of Fort Sumter. The letter was carried by Col. James Chesnut, Alexander Chisolm and Stephen Dill Lee. Their boat, carrying a white flag, landed at Ft. Sumter at 3:34 p.m. They were escorted to the guardroom, just inside the gate. The note from Beauregard read:

SIR: The Government of the Confederate States has hitherto forborne from any hostile demonstration against Fort Sumter, in the hope that the Government of the United States, with a view to the amicable adjustment of all questions between the two Governments, and to avert the calamities of war, would voluntarily evacuate it.

There was reason at one time to believe that such would be the course pursued by the Government of the United States, and under that impression my Government has refrained from making any demand for the surrender of the fort. But the Confederate States can no longer delay assuming actual possession of a fortification commanding the entrance of one of their harbors, and necessary to its defense and security.

I am ordered by the Government of the Confederate States to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter. My aides, Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee, are authorized to make such demand of you. All proper facilities will be afforded for the removal of yourself and command, together with company arms and property, and all private property, to any post in the United States which you may select. The flag which you have upheld so long and with so much fortitude, under the most trying circumstances, may be saluted by you on taking it down.

Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee will for a reasonable time, await your answer.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
 G. T. BEAUREGARD, Brigadier-General, Commanding. 

Anderson read the note to his officers and they agreed to reject the Confederacy’s ultimatum. About 4:30 p.m. Anderson handed his response to Chesnut and the Confederate aides boarded their boat to carry it back to Beauregard in Charleston.

Federal officers at Fort Sumter. BACK ROW, L-R: Capt. Seymour, 1st Lt. Snyder, 1st Lt. Davis, 2nd Lt. Meade, 1st lt. Talbot. FRONT ROW, L-R: Capt. Doubleday, Major Anderson, Asst. Surgeon Crawford, Capt. Foster. Courtesy Library of Congress

Federal officers at Fort Sumter. BACK ROW, L-R: Capt. Seymour, 1st Lt. Snyder, 1st Lt. Davis, 2nd Lt. Meade, 1st lt. Talbot. FRONT ROW, L-R: Capt. Doubleday, Major Anderson, Asst. Surgeon Crawford, Capt. Foster. Courtesy Library of Congress

As they were leaving Anderson asked, “Will General Beauregard open his batteries without further notice to me?”

Col. Chesnut, a former U.S. Senator, and therefore the most senior of the aides answered, “No, I can say to you that he will not, without giving further notice.”

Anderson replied, “Gentlemen, if you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days.”  Anderson was sending Beauregard, a friend and former colleague, a subtle message: that if the resupply effort from Washington was unsuccessful, Anderson was going to have to decide whether to surrender the fort.

James Chesnut and Stephen Dill Lee, Confederate Aides-de-Camp to Gen. Beauregard. Courtesy Library of Congress

James Chesnut and Stephen Dill Lee, Confederate Aides-de-Camp to Gen. Beauregard. Courtesy Library of Congress

While these events on at Fort Sumter were playing out, in downtown Charleston, rumors had spread that something was going to happen. Emma Holmes described it in her diary:

 A day never to be forgotten in the annals of Charleston … the whole afternoon & night the Battery was thronged with spectators of every age and sex, anxiously watching and awaiting with the momentary expectation of hearing the war of cannon opening on the fort or on the fleet which was reported off the bar. Everybody was restless and all who could go were out.

At approximately 5:30 p.m., Chesnut delivered Anderson’s note to Beauregard in Charleston. It read:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication demanding the evacuation of this fort, and to say, in reply thereto, that it is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obligations to my Government, prevent my compliance. Thanking you for the fair, manly, and courteous terms proposed, and for the high compliment paid me.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major, First Artillery, Commanding.

To be continued … tomorrow …

Today In Charleston History: April 6


17th century frigate

17th century frigate, similar to the Carolina.

“Early in April” (the only date recorded, but upon investigation of related documents, letters etc … April 6-7 seems to accurate) the Carolina sailed into what is now Charleston harbor, navigated past something called “Oyster Point” (a spit of sandy land which at low tide was covered with shells) and sailed up the Kiawha (Ashley) River. About three miles inland they landed on the west bank. They named the settlement Albemarle Point (named after George Monck, Duke of Albermarle, one of the Lords Proprietor.) Albermarle Point is currently the site of Charles Town Landing, a state park. It became the third English colony in North America (Virginia, 1607 and Massachusetts, 1620).

They chose a nine-acre site on what is now called Town Creek, making the settlement invisible to vessels sailing into the harbor until they sailed more than three miles inland around the curve of the Ashley River. Security from the Spanish was always a major consideration.

The cargo of the Carolina included:

  • 15 tons of beer
  • 30 gallons of brandy
  • 59 bushels of flour
  • 12 suits of armor
  • 100 beds and pillows
  • 1200 grubbing hoes
  • 100,000 four penny nails
  • 756 fishing hooks

The passengers include: 29 “Masters” (men of property) and “free” persons; 63 indentured white servants; and 1 black slave. One of the servant girls, Affra Harleston, married the first mate of the Carolina, John Coming.


Pres. Lincoln notified Governor Francis Pickens and Gen.P.G.T. Beauregard that he had sent a naval expedition to resupply Fort Sumter, including 200 reinforcements. Pres. Jefferson Davis ordered Beauregard to prevent those provisions from being delivered.

Mary Chesnut, wife of Col. James Chesnut, second in command to Beauregard, wrote on April 6:

The plot thickens, the air is red hot with rumors … In spite of all, Tom Huger came for us and we went on the Planter to take a look at Morris Island …

A reporter for the New York Times wrote about the attitude among Charleston’s city’s elite. He suggested that a doctor be sent to the city to “give us a proper analysis of them.” He reported:

The more I see of the men of Charleston, the more convinced I am that very many of them act, talk and behave like perfect children … Charleston is a sublime mystery not measured by any of the common-sense rules that govern one in their intercourse with ordinary people.


Top: Pres. Lincoln & Gen. Beauregard Bottom: Gov. Pickens & Mary Chesnut

Today In Charleston History: December 8

1769 England  – John Wilkes Affair.

The South Carolina Assembly voted to send to £1500 sterling to help pay the debts of John Wilkes “for the support of the just and constitutional rights and liberties of the people of Great Britain and America.”  (See November 21 post for explanation of the John Wilkes affair.)

The Sons of Liberty, who met at the Liberty Tree, considered this part of “their resistance to the arbitrary rule by the same Parliament that had imposed unconstitutional taxes on America.” At the behest of Christopher Gadsden, the Assembly ordered Jacob Motte, the public Treasurer, to send £10,500 provincial currency to the John Wilkes Fund in London “for assisting in the support of the just and constitutional rights of the People of Great Britain and America.” Only seven members of the Assembly voted against the measure, including Speaker Peter Manigault. This action shocked and infuriated government officials in both London and Charlestown, as it undermined official authority over the financial purse-strings of the colony.


Langdon Cheves

Langdon Cheves

Langdon Cheves was elected Attorney General of South Carolina. He would later be elected to the House of Representatives and served as Speaker of the House 1814-15.


John C. Calhoun took the oath of office as Secretary of War under Pres. James Monroe.

1822 – Slavery.

Intendent (Mayor) James Hamilton introduced a bill to grant “compensation [to] those persons whose slaves have been executed” associated with the Denmark Vesey Rebellion – $122.40 for each slave. 

1864 – Bombardment of Charleston. 

Gen. John G. Foster

Gen. John G. Foster

Gen. John G. Foster, in command of the Department of the South, acknowledged the Federal order to discontinue the bombardment of Charleston … two weeks after receiving it.

Today In Charleston History: December 4

1832 – Nullification Crisis.

Pres. Andrew Jackson assigned Major General Winfield Scott to take charge of all federal forces in South Carolina.

1833 – Slavery.

The American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in Philadelphia, Robert Purvis, a mulatto born in Charleston helped abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison establish the Society and signed its “Declaration of Sentiments.”

Robert Purvis

Robert Purvis

Purvis was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1810. His father was an English immigrant to Charleston, William Purvis. His mother, Harriet Judah, was a free woman of color, the daughter of former slave Dido Badaraka and Baron Judah, a Jewish American born in Charleston. Robert’s grandmother, Badaraka, had been kidnapped at age 12 from Morocco and transported to the colonies on a slave ship.  She was sold as a slave in Charleston. She was freed at age 19 by her master’s will. She then married Baron Judah, who was born in Charleston, the third of ten children of Hillel Judah, a German Jewish immigrant, and Abigail Seixas, his Sephardic Jewish wife, a native of Charleston.

1864 – Bombardment of Charleston.  

The Union and Confederate prisoner exchanges between resumed in Charleston harbor. A cease-fire was negotiated to last the duration of the exchange.

Today In Charleston History: December 1

1773 – American Revolution – Foundations.

Two hundred and fifty-seven chests of tea arrived in Charlestown on the ship London. Consigned by the East India Company, the arrival of the tea set off a crisis. Handbills were passed out, calling for a mass meeting of all South Carolinians at the great hall in the Exchange Building.

1781 American Revolution

Henry Laurens, Charleston diplomat, and the first American imprisoned in the Tower of London, wrote a bitter note which was smuggled out of the Tower and sent to Congress:

Almost fifteen months I have been closely confined and inhumanely treated. The treaty for exchange is abortive. There has been languor, and there is neglect somewhere. If I merit your attention, you will not longer delay speedy and efficacious means for my deliverance.

laurens, tower

Tower of London; Henry Laurens’ cell. Photos by Mark R. Jones



Dr. Thomas Tudor Tucker

Dr. Thomas Tudor Tucker of Charleston was appointed as Treasurer of the United States by President Thomas Jefferson. He would hold the position for twenty-six years under four different presidents: Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams, and died while holding the office in 1828. From 1809 to 1817, Tucker managed to hold the treasurer’s post while also serving as President James Madison’s personal physician.

Tucker was the longest serving Treasurer in American history.


Thomas Bennett was elected governor of South Carolina.

1822 – Slavery

As a result of the Vesey Conspiracy, SC Legislature passed a law requiring all free black males over fifteen years old either take a white guardian, or be sold into slavery.  Any free black who left South Carolina and returned could be enslaved.

1832 – Nullification Crisis

In a coordinated effort with V-P Calhoun, Robert Hayne resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate.


On December 1, the Planter was caught in a crossfire between Union and Confederate forces. The ship’s commander, Captain Nickerson, decided to surrender. The ship’s pilot, Robert Smalls refused, fearing that the black crewmen would not be treated as prisoners of war and might be summarily killed. The Planter was a former Confederate vessel that was piloted out of Charleston harbor by an enslaved pilot, Robert Smalls, who surrendered the vessel to the United States navy. Smalls and his family were given their freedom and Smalls later met with Pres. Lincoln. 

Taking command of the Planter from Nickerson, Smalls piloted the ship out of range of the Confederate guns. For his bravery, Smalls was named to replace Nickerson as the Planter’s captain – the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States.


The Planter