A Few Charleston Civil War Sites

15 10 2007


Last week my family spent a few days visiting with my brother in Charleston, SC.  He lives on the water just off Ft. Johnson Rd., on James Island.  On April 12, 1861 artillery at Ft. Johnson opened fire on Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor to initiate hostilities between the Confederacy and the United States.  From my brother’s dock you can see the local landmark Morris Island Lighthouse.  Morris Island is the site (now submerged) of Battery Wagner.  Across the street from my brother’s house, on private property, is the remnant of a Rebel battery, which was part of the island’s defenses.  I believe this battery was Ryan, Tatom or Haskell, but I have to check into that more.  Only a few yards from his backyard is the site of one end of Hatch’s Bridge, which ran to Secessionville during the war.  And a quick jaunt across Clark’s Sound brings you to Secessionville Manor, used as a hospital after the Battle of Secessionville (here’s a picture…click the thumbnails for larger images). 


The long and the short of it is you can’t swing a dead cat in my brother’s neighborhood, or in Charleston for that matter, without hitting some piece of Civil War history.  I could literally spend weeks down there sightseeing.  While I only seem to be there for a few days at a time, I always manage to work in little CW excursions, not always an easy task when accompanied by a nine-year-old son and his mom who has little interest in my hobby.  This time we saw three Bull Run related sites.

As part of an hours long afternoon on the water we worked in a sea tour of Castle Pinckney, where Bull Run prisoners were briefly held (see here and here).  Below are three views, including a close up of the overgrown interior.  Note the curved wall which I believe gave the fort its medieval name.  Access to the island (Shute’s Folly) is restricted, but I hope to get permission to go ashore the next time I visit.   

pinckney2.jpg pinckney3.jpg pinckney1.jpg

Toward the end of our cruise we looped by the Morris Island Lighthouse.  Though not constructed until 1876, the lighthouse has a pretty strong Bull Run connection.  Its foundation was designed and built by Major Peter Conover Hains, who as a lieutenant and graduate of the West Point class of June, 1861 fired the first shot of the Battle of Bull Run from a 30-pdr Parrott rifle.  The lighthouse is suffering the ravages of time and the sea, but an organization is actively trying to save it, and procedures are under way. 


The next day we had some time to kill, and to my surprise the family agreed to kill it by taking the cruise out to Ft. Sumter.  It was a beautiful day, if a little hot.  This time I got a picture of the storm flag, which flew over the fort during the bombardment.  The larger garrison flag, damaged in a storm earlier, is on display in the NPS visitor’s center near the aquarium, but flash photography of it is verboten and you can only view bits of it at a time.  Here are some images of the fort, the parade ground, the big guns, the storm flag, and my son.   

 sumter1.jpg sumter4.jpg sumter3.jpg 

sumterflag.jpg sumter2.jpg

To round out the afternoon, we drove over to Magazine St. to see the Old City Jail.  When the Bull Run prisoners were moved out of Castle Pinckney, the officers were sent to the City Jail and the enlisted men wound up at the Race Course on the outskirts of town.  During the fire of December, 1861, the guards abandoned the jail to help fight the flames, and the prisoners, including Colonel Michael Corcoran of the 69th NY State Militia, were left to fend for themselves.  They escaped out a window and spent the night huddled together for safety.  I don’t know if it was this window. 

cityjail1.jpg cityjail2.jpg

The next time I visit, I must try to find the site of the race course – as described in David Blight’s Race and Reunion, it was also the site of the earliest Memorial Day ceremony – and Magnolia Cemetery, where the only Bull Run prisoner to die in Castle Pinckney was buried.  But in Charleston, it’s always so much to see, so little time.

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18 responses

16 10 2007
Jan Moss

Hey Harry! It’s Teej’s friend Jan. I was also in Charleston this past weekend but you had a better time than I did, hands down. I spent the weekend gutting a house on Johns Island we’re renovating. The race course, as far as I know, was located where Hampton Park is today – adjacent to the Citadel. And I must say that Magnolia Cemetery is one of my favorite spots. I like to go out there and shoot photos when I have the time.

For years I’ve been trying to find out where on James Island the first shot was fired. Unfortunately for me, all my friends down there are not into Civil War history and nobody knows anything! During my recent real estate search my agent, who has lived all his life on James Island, said that as a child he used to play on the “hills” in the neighborhood but didn’t realize what they were. Guess I’ll have to look up your brother!!!!

16 10 2007
Phil LeDuc

Are you aware of any efforts being made to remove the growth and at least partially restore Castle Pinckney?

16 10 2007
Harry Smeltzer


No, I am not.


5 11 2007

Hi Harry.

I’m new to your blog but am enjoying it a great deal. I particularly enjoyed this post. I was just reading about the siege of Charleston in the book by William C. Davis, “The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy.” Your pictures couldn’t have been better timed. I’ve not been there before so to see pictures of both Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney made the reading more real.

Davis provides some terrific details that were new to me… like the sinking of the Stone Fleet that Lincoln sent down in hopes of blocking the harbor. I’m curious whether tour guides speak of it. I also found fascinating the experimentation done with mines and torpedoes including the “”torpedo steamer.”

I really must make a point of visiting sometime soon and – per your advice – staying a while to take in the CW sites.

Best regards….

Rene Tyree

6 11 2007
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[…] Smeltzer over at Bull Runnings has pictures of the Charleston Harbor in a post on his blog that’s definitely worth a […]

10 11 2007
On Mind Mapping and a Sunken Confederate Sub « wig-wags

[…] One trail I picked up was the fate of the submarine, H. L Hunley which Custler’s team had been looking for since the early 1980s. And find it,of course, they did on May 3, 1995. It’s location was “a thousand feet off the U.S.S. Housatonic’s boiler in Charleston harbor, the ship it successfully sank with a spar torpedo packed with explosive powder and attached to a long pole on its bow. (See Harry Smeltzer’s post with pcitures of the Charleston harbor on Bull Runnings). […]

5 04 2008
Second Chance « Bull Runnings

[…] in second place with 660 is …but I know what I like.  The top five is rounded out by A Few Charleston Civil War Sites (600), 1862 Photos of Bull Run (580), and A 100 Pound Quarterback […]

21 04 2008

I was searching for information on a battle at James Island and found your site. My hometown (Seymour, CT) has a faily large C.W. monument listing the larger four battle sites it lost men. Atlanta, Antietum, Gettysburg and James Island. By the way, the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic. The Housatonic is named after a river which borders my town.

21 04 2008
Harry Smeltzer


Thanks for stopping by. James Island is a wonderful place, especially for anyone with an interest in the Civil War. I usually get down there at least once a year.

Come back often!

27 05 2008

I came upon your site looking for one of my gr gr grandfathers. Old records indicate that he was in the hospital on James Island during the Civil War. He was a Confederate soldier.

Your site is the most informative one I’ve found on the subject. So thank you!

27 05 2008
Harry Smeltzer


I’m Harry, the owner of this site. Thanks for the compliment. I’ve received several inquiries about James Island in the war, and while I’m no expert, I think I’ll list a few books that folks can check out to learn more. Maybe I’ll do that tonight or tomorrow.

Come back often!

27 05 2008
Charleston Related Readings « Bull Runnings

[…] Related Readings One of the most popular posts I’ve made here at Bull Runnings is A Few Charleston Civil War Sites.  I still receive questions and comments on that article, and in an attempt to answer a few of the […]

5 06 2009

Hey Harry your photo are beautiful!! and I have really liked your post!! to help you with your search for books and reading material on the civil war here is a link I came across while searching on the same topic http://www.brettschulte.net/CWBlog/2009/05/02/top-10-civil-war-blogs/ hope this helps :)

4 07 2009
maureen Hessel


Really interesting info. I came across your site while researching my great grandfather who, according to the 1910 census was the warden of the Old Jail in Charleston. His father served in the Civil War as a private. Would you know if there is any other info on the jail? Seems my grandmother was raised in it as her father was warden


4 07 2009
Harry Smeltzer


I really don’t have much more on the jail. I suggest Googling or Binging Charleston City Jail and your ggf’s name, and see what comes up.


12 04 2011
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[…] you’re planning a trip to Charleston, here’s a post on some of the sites and […]

19 10 2014

I am from charleston. My great, great uncle was a Charleston Zouave. The Race Track is now Hampton Park. I spent most of my days growing up on Hampton Playground which is adjacent to the Park. Would be interested if you have access to any more pictures of charleston zouaves

20 10 2014
Harry Smeltzer

Pat, the ones I do have are from the national archives. Have you tried doing a web search? Check out this Google Images link: https://www.google.com/search?q=charleston+zouaves&rlz=1C1TGIB_enUS531US542&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=637&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=XxBFVNDQCeKIsQTnrICwBQ&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ

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