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). 

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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.   

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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. 

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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.   

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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. 

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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.





A Brief Foray to the Birthplace of the Rebellion

10 10 2007

 

I apologize for the lack of posts over the past few days.  I have once more ventured into the heart of Secessia –Charleston, SC – and again emerged unscathed.  While in the Holy City, I had a little time to CW sightsee.  We sailed around Castle Pinckney, where Bull Run POWs were briefly held, and drove over to where they were transferred, the Old City Jail.  We also took the ferry over to Ft. Sumter.  We didn’t have time to see much since we were only in town for three days, but we had some quality R&R on my brother’s boat.  I’ll post some photos later.

In the meantime, Brian Downey called me out.  Tantalizing stuff…I’ll have to dig into it.  But right now I’m swamped with my real job, in addition to family stuff and a couple of other CW projects I’m working on.  I’ll try to make regular posts despite all that.





More on Pinckney

19 12 2006

I found more in Lonnie Speer’s Portals to Hell, though it’s tough to figure out where he gets some of his information – the loose standards of footnoting these days!  Anyway, it appears that Castle Pinckney was captured by South Carolina forces under Col. James J. Pettigrew (better known as Reverence N. Awe at Chapel Hill) on December 27, 1860.  The first Union prisoners held there made up a small work detail that was quickly permitted to retire to Ft. Sumter.

The first batch of prisoners arrived at Castle Pinckney from Richmond on September 13, 1861 (after first spending a disturbing night in the city jail), and consisted of 154 men primarily from the 11th, 79th, and 69th NY regiments.  Speer says there were also some men from the 8th MI, but since this regiment did not leave Michigan until September 29, I think he got the regiment number wrong.  These were men of the 1st MI of Willcox’s Brigade, per Willcox’s diary and memoir; meaning the whole kit and caboodle were taken at Bull Run.  Willcox also reports that Chaplain Eddy of the 2nd CT and Maj. J. D. Potter of the 38th NY – both BR1 regiments – were also at Castle Pinckney, so it would appear that a hodgepodge of prisoners taken at the battle were held there.

Probably due in part to the less crowded condition and the fair treatment of their guards – about 40 young men of the Charleston Zouave Cadets – conditions were pretty good at Castle Pinckney.  Willcox said that only one man died while he was there – Porter, Co. D., 1st MI, of typhoid – and that there was little sickness.

By the end of October, the Castle had become so crowded that the men were once again sent to the city jail.  Eventually, that building became so crowded that the enlisted men were sent to the Charleston Race Course.  I believe it was the cemetery of this same race course, in which at least 257 Union soldiers (known as The Martyrs of the Race Course) were buried, that became the scene of the nation’s first Decoration Day, conducted by thousands of the city’s black residents on May 1, 1865.  This is vividly described in David Blight’s Race and Reunion.

On December 11, 1861, the city was engulfed in flames.  The guards at the city jail and the Guard House, which was also being used to house POW’s, rushed to assist in putting out the flames as the fire grew.  The prisoners, trapped in the path of the fire, were left to fend for themselves.  The men in the city jail managed to escape the burning building, and kept together throughout the night.  The next day, they were not too gently herded back into captivity and over 300 men from the various facilities were sent to a now very crowded Castle Pinckney.  After being held in exposed conditions for over a week, the prisoners were transferred out to various locales.  By the beginning of 1862, Castle Pinckney had been converted back to a defensive work.

During the early days of the Castle’s use as a prison, the commandant, Captain C. E. Chichester, brought in a professional photographer to record the images of the prisoners and their guards.  I’ve seen a few of these, which show the guards on a parapet above the prisoners and their makeshift camp signs.  I haven’t been able to locate any online yet, but when I do I’ll post them here.  Here’s one:

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Castle Pinckney

18 12 2006

Tom over at Touch the Elbow has a writeup on Castle Pinckney, which sits in Charleston Harbor and was one of the places Union soldiers taken prisoner at First Bull Run were sent, including Orlando Willcox.  Here’s a photo I took of the remnants of the castle while in Charleston earlier this month: 

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 And here is one of the interior of the Castle from 1865:

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The next time I’m down there I’m going to have to see if my brother can arrange for me to get on the island.





Charleston

6 12 2006

I had a great time in Charleston.  It’s always fun to get together with my brothers (3), and sisters (2), and in-laws, nieces, nephews, and now great nephew and great niece (I am way too young to be a great anything, but facts is facts).  I had a little time on Saturday to stop in and see the Confederate Museum run by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

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The museum is situated on the upper floor of the southernmost of the market buildings (no, these buildings were never slave markets), at the intersection of Market and Meeting Streets.  It was closed after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and only recently reopened.  They have some very cool stuff in there, including Barnard Bee’s sword and a slightly larger than life size full portrait statue of Governor Wade Hampton that really freaked out my son.  I asked the staff for some contact info to get some images for my future website, and was told that they “don’t do that”.  While I have seen photos in at least one magazine and one website credited to the museum, I didn’t want to make a federal case.  It could be they just weren’t happy with my John Brown Ale T-Shirt.  And no, I didn’t see any other Free State Brewing Co. apparel in the Holy City.

On Monday I spent a little time exploring the churchyard of the James Island Presbyterian Church at the corner of Folly and Ft. Johnson Roads.  I’m always on the lookout for the resting places of Civil War veterans.  I found a significant number of Bees, though the General is buried in the northern end of the city at Magnolia Cemetery – time would not permit a visit there (though born in Charleston, Bee is buried in St. Paul’s Episcopal Churchyard in Pendleton, SC).  The coolest find was the first marker I saw, that of Samuel “Goat” Smalls. 

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Smalls was the inspiration for the novel “Porgy” and the opera “Porgy and Bess”.  I learned on a carriage ride later that day that DuBose Heyward, the author of the book and Gershwin’s collaborator on the opera, is interred in St. Philip’s Church cemetery in town.

With over 350 years of history spanning pirates, patriots, and rebels there is plenty to see in Charleston.  And it is very hard to find a bad meal there.  Put it on your list.  There are many threads between Bull Run and Charleston, and I’ll talk about some of them in the future.