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.
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.
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.
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.