Today In Charleston History: January 31

1780 – The Seige of Charlestown

Continental Army General Benjamin Lincoln requested that Governor John Rutledge “order 1500 Negroes to assemble in the vicinity of this town with the necessary tools for throwing up lines immediately.”


Charles Pinckney delivered a speech in the U.S. Senate on the subject of trial by jury.

Viewing as I do impartial juries as among the most indispensable ingredients of a free government, it is my duty to declare … that in those states in which the federal marshals have a right to summon jurors as they please, the people are not free!

 1864 – Civil War   

 Colonel W.W.H. Davis took in three Confederate Irish deserters from Charleston who complained they were “much pinched for food.” From the deserters accounts Davis reported that:

Our shells have done considerable damage in Charleston. Most of the shells explode, but as yet few people have been injured by them. Charleston is depopulated, except by the very poorest class of people, and they have moved as fat uptown as they can get. Beauregard’s headquarters and all the public offices have been removed to the upper part of the city. 


Charleston, Meeting Street, circa 1865 – Ruins of the Circular Church after the 1861 fire and Federal Bombardment.


Today In Charleston History: January 30

1649 -English Civil War

King Charles I, “tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy,” was executed for at the Banqueting House of the Palace of Whitehall.

Execution of Charles I

Execution of Charles I


On the 12th anniversary of his father’s execution, Charles II ordered the body of Oliver Cromwell removed from Westminster Abbey. The corpse was given a posthumous execution by beheading and the “twice-dead” body was hanged in chains at Tyburn. The decapitated head was displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685. (One of the world’s greatest moments of revenge.)


Lt. Governor William Bull urged the Assembly to make provisions for adequate education in South Carolina. He stated that “liberal education in the province was essential for the future of the community.” A committee which included Henry Laurens and Christopher Gadsden, presented a bill to the Assembly for the establishment of a college. This is often defined as the founding of the College of Charleston, which would be inaccurate since the bill was never approved by the Assembly.  The College would not officially be established until 1785.

1838 – Deaths

Osceola, the Seminole Indian chief, died in captivity at Ft. Moultrie.

In October 1837, Osceola was captured when he went for peace talks near St. Augustine, Florida. He was initially imprisoned at Fort Marionbefore being transferred to Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island, outside Charleston, South Carolina. Osceola’s capture by deceit caused a national uproar. General Jesup and President Martin Van Buren were condemned by many congressional leaders. That December, Osceola and other Seminole prisoners were moved to Fort Moultrie, Charleston, South Carolina. where they were visited by many locals.

Three months later Osceola died of quinsy, a recognized complication of tonsillitis, or malaria, according to some sources. He was buried with military honors at Fort Moultrie.

osceola grave - illustration

Today In Charleston History: January 29

1737. Culture. Scandal

It was not unusual for husbands to place notices in the Gazette announcing their wayward wives, as a means of shaming them to society. However, Issac Simmons placed the following announcement in the Gazette about his wife, lured by the theater life:

This is to give notice to all people in Charles-town or elsewhere, not to credit harbor nor entertain Mary Simmons, the wife of Issac Simmons, which has made an elopement from her said husband especially to be employed in the Playhouse in Charles-Town, it being entirely against the said Mr. Simmons’ request. 

1751. Slavery

The Assembly received a petition of Thomas Miles for reimbursement for his slaves Venus and Kitt who “were tryed for Poisoning and condemned to be executed pursuant to the directions of the ‘Act for the better ordering and governing of Negroes and other Slaves in this Province.’” Kitt was executed but Venus was “pardoned, and was afterwards sent off the Province.” 

The most profitable commodity in the lowcountry was African slaves  – to work the rice fields, construct casks and barrels and build and maintain the boats that transported the rice down river from plantation to port.  Two skilled slaves represented a substantial financial investment for a planter. In present-day economics, their value would approximately be $15,000 – $20,000. The Carolina planters’ appetite for new slaves was so strong that one merchant wrote that “Negroes are the proper bait for Catching a Carolina Planter, as certain as Beef to catch a Shark.”

Lt. Governor Bull estimated there were 57,253 Negroes in South Carolina, about 15,000 adult males. He also noted that with only about 6000 white males this “must raise in our midst many melancholy reflections.”

rice production

Today In Charleston History: January 28

1787 – Marriage

Dr. David Ramsay married Martha Laurens.

Ramsay had been married twice, and tragically lost both wives within a year of being married. Martha was the beloved daughter of Henry Laurens, former President of Continental Congress, and the first American imprisoned in the Tower of London (he was arrested by the British while acting as an agent for Congress raising funds for the Revolution in Europe.) Ramsay met Martha while he was researching his History of the Revolution of South Carolina. 

1861 – Secession 
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beuaregard

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beuaregard

P.G.T. Beauregard was removed as Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was the shortest tenure of any superintendent – five days. His orders were revoked when his native Louisiana seceded from the Union. Beauregard protested to the War Department that they had cast “improper reflection upon [his] reputation or position in the Corps of Engineers” by forcing him out as a Southern officer before any hostilities began.

Within a month he resigned his commission and became the first Brigadier General of the Confederate Army. He served in Charleston and ordered the firsts shots of the War be fired at Fort Sumter. 

1866 – Civil War

The melted fragments of St. Michael’s bells were shipped to England by Fraser, Trenholm and Company. 

The bells for St. Michael’s were cast in 1764, by Lester & Pack in London. When the British evacuated Charleston in 1782 as part of their plunder, the eight bells of St. Michael’s were taken back to England. Shortly afterward, a merchant in London secured the bells and returned them to a grateful Charleston. 


st. michael's - postcard

St. Michael’s Church

In 1864, when Sherman made his march through the South Carolina, Charleston expected to be in his path, so the bells were sent to Columbia for safe-keeping.  Sherman by passed Charleston and burned Columbia, the state capital. The shed in which the bells were stored was burned and the bells were reduced into molten slag. The metal was salvaged and the bells were sent to London to be recast by Lester & Pack – today in history.The bells were returned in 1868 and resumed their place in the church.

In 1989, the bells were damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. They once again were shipped to London for repair. They can be heard chiming in Charleston today on an hourly basis.

Today In Charleston History: January 27

1649 – English Civil War
King Charles I

King Charles I

King Charles I was found guilty by a court of Puritans. When given the opportunity to speak, Charles refused to enter a plea, claiming that no court had jurisdiction over a monarch. He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death.

1716 -Yemassee War

  Several weeks of negotiation bore fruit when the Cherokee tribe allied with the English. They lured Creek soldiers with a plan of hiding in the forest, lying in wait for the English. The Cherokee killed the Creek and attacked their villages. Within a few months, the Creek and the Yemassee were decimated and asked for peace.

1730 – Arrivals.  

Eleazar Phillips, a bookseller, binder and printer arrived in Charlestown from Boston, the “first Printer to his Majesty” in Carolina.

1784 – Politics. State Capital.

       More than 220 citizens of the District between the Broad and Catawba Rivers petitioned the Assembly for “removal of the seat of government, county courts, a college, a revision of the state constitution and tobacco inspection warehouses.” They asked that the new capital “be fixed as centrical as possible for the ease and convenience of the community at large.”

       John Lewis Gervais presented a plan to move the capital to Friday’s Ferry on the Congaree River. His plan called for the division of 640 acres near Friday’s Ferry into half-acre lots. The legislature passed “an act to appoint Commissioners to purchase lands for the purpose of building a town and for removing the seat of government thereto.” The new town would be named Columbia.

Today In Charleston History: January 26

1776. Fortifications.

      The Council of Safety ordered Col. William Moultrie to develop new signals to be used for the lighthouse at Morris Island, at Ft. Sullivan and Ft. Johnson to warn of the approach of British naval vessels.


As part of the defenses of the city,  a fleet of twenty ships were sunk in Maffit’s Channel off the Isle of Palms.


DoubledayoAbner Doubleday, who DID NOT invent baseball, died. However, Doubleday DID fire the first shot of the War in defense of the Union at Ft. Sumter, April 12, 1861.

The whole “invented baseball” thing is typical of lazy history. In 1908, fifteen years after his death, Doubleday was declared by the Mills Commission to have invented the game of baseball (a claim never made by Doubleday during his lifetime). While the modern rules of baseball were formulated in New York during the 1840s, it was the scattering of New Yorkers exposed to these rules throughout the country, that spread not only baseball, but also the “New York Rules”, thereby harmonizing the rules, and being a catalyst for its growth. Doubleday was a high-ranking officer, whose duties included seeing to provisions for the US Army fighting throughout the south and border states. For the morale of the men, he is said to have provisioned balls and bats for the men, hence his connection to spreading baseball across the country.

When I mention Doubleday’s connection to Ft. Sumter on tour, someone always says, “He invented baseball.” When I tell them, “No, he didn’t” you’d think I just insulted their mother. If they persist the argument I ask, “Do you also think George Washington never told a lie?”

1911. Hampton Memorial

Louisa Smythe wrote to Mayor Robert Goodwyn Rhett:

hamptonmonument-smEight years ago, it was decided by Daughters of the Confederacy to put up a memorial to Hampton – an ‘Egyptian obelisk of correct proportions’ on three low bases each about one foot high.

The Daughters raised $2000 for the monument, which was ultimately erected in Marion Square. 

Hampton, of course, is Wade Hampton III. Born in Charleston, into one of the most prominent families in South Carolina, Hampton became one of the wealthiest men in the South. When South Carolina seceded, Hampton formed his own calvary unit and served across the South throughout the War. After the War, near the end of the Reconstruction, he was elected 77th Governor of South Carolina, serving 1876-1879, and later was elected as a U.S. Senator.

640px-WadeHamptonp274cropHis election as governor was marked by extensive violence by the Red Shirts, a paramilitary group that served the Democratic Party to work to disrupt elections and suppress black voting in the state. They contributed to the Democrats regaining control of the state government.

Today In Charleston: January 25


Andrew Rutledge married Sarah Hext, widow of Hugh Hext, one of the richest men in South Carolina. Hext left Sarah a plantation in Christ Church on the Wando Neck and twenty-three slaves. His other holdings were left as a legacy for his eight-year daughter, Sarah, to inherit when she turned twenty-one or upon her marriage, whichever came first. They included: two houses in Charlestown, a 550-acre plantation at Stono and a 640-acre plantation at St. Helena (Beaufort).


Major Pierce Butler of the British Army married Mary Middleton. She was heiress to a vast fortune, the orphaned daughter of Thomas Middleton, a South Carolina planter and slave importer. Two years later Butler resigned his commission in the British Army and settled with Mary in South Carolina.

Pierce Butler

Pierce Butler

The War for Independence cost him much of his property, and his finances were so precarious for a time that he was forced to travel to Amsterdam to seek a personal loan. Butler won election to both the Continental Congress (1787-88) and the Constitutional Convention. In the latter assembly, he was an outspoken nationalist who attended practically every session and was a key spokesman for the Madison-Wilson caucus. Butler also supported the interests of southern slaveholders. He served on the Committee on Postponed Matters. He was one of the four signers of the Constitution from South Carolina. 

His later career was spent as a wealthy planter. In his last years, he moved to Philadelphia, apparently to be near a daughter who had married a local physician. Butler died there in 1822 at the age of 77 and was buried in the yard of Christ Church.