Today In History: June 16

1701-England. Religion.

King William III issued a charter establishing the “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts” as “an organisation able to send priests and schoolteachers to America to help provide the Church’s ministry to the colonists.”

1776-American Revolution

The privateer Polly, commanded by Capt. Francis Morgan and carrying a cargo of 300 barrels of gunpowder, 20 chests of cartridges, 90 barrels of rum, sugar, and gin, tried to run the gauntlet of British ships into Charleston Harbor.

The Polly ran aground near Stono Creek and the Patriots scuttled and abandoned her. The HMS Bristol sent eight boats under the command of Lt. Molloy to investigate and attempt to refloat the Polly, but she had five feet of water in her hold. So, they set her on fire, and she

“blew up with a great Explosion… It would have been much greater but she had five feet of water in her hold, which had damaged a great deal of the Powder.”

1788-Piracy

Richard Cain, Richard Williams, William Rogers, John Masters, and William Pendergrass from the schooner Two Friends, were executed for piracy and murder at Hangman’s Point opposite the city of Charleston.

The bodies of William Rogers and Richard Williams, being the principal aggressors, were cut down and conveyed to Morris’s island, there to be hung in chains.

1802

Aaron Burr sailed from Charleston on the Comet. The ailing Theodosia traveled with her father, her three-week old son and her sister-in-law Maria Alston to her father’s house in New York, Richmond Hill, to escape the Charleston summer.

1826

Another fire set by arsonists on King Street resulted in $100,000 in damages. Four years after the discovery of the Denmark Vesey plot,  Much of the white population was living in dread of another slave insurrection.

1862-Civil War

On this day, a Union attempt to capture Charleston, South Carolina, is thwarted when the Confederates turn back an attack at Secessionville, just south of the city on James Island. Read about the Battle of Secessionville.

The Union army establishes a foothold on James Island on the Stono River. Harper’s Weekly

The Union army establishes a foothold on James Island on the Stono River. Harper’s Weekly

1934-Porgy and Bess
George Gershwin and Debose Heyward on Chalmers Street, Charleston, SC

George Gershwin and Debose Heyward on Chalmers Street, Charleston, SC

George Gershwin arrived by train in Charleston with his cousin, artist Henry Botkin. They drove out to Folly Beach where Heyward had rented a cottage at 708 West Arctic Avenue. Gershwin was in the lowcountry to work on the score for his proposed opera, Porgy and Bess, based on Dubose Heyward’s novel and stage play, Porgy. 

For the entire story of Gershwin’s visit and Porgy and Bess read Doin’ the Charleston. doin' the charleston

Today In Charleston History: June 13

1713-Yemassee War.

The Cherokee war party returned north. That left the remaining Catawba force to face a rapidly-assembled militia under the command of George Chicken from Goose Creek.  In the Battle of the Ponds, the Chicken militia routed the Catawba, who returned to their villages and decided on peace.

1777-American Revolution

The Marquis de Lafayette and the Baron de Kalb arrived in America on North Island in Winyah Bay. They proceeded to Benjamin Huger’s house in Georgetown to join the American military cause. 

1796-Disasters

A fire broke out in Lodge Alley. Winds blew it westward, toward the center of the city where it burned “a vast Number of Houses and … left many Citizens without the Means of being otherwise accommodated.” St. Philip’s Church was also in the path of the fire, but was saved by the heroic actions of a slave called Boney. The fire:

would have destroyed that venerable building but for the heroic intrepidity of a negro, who, at the risk of his life, climbed to the very summit of the belfry, and tore off the burning shingles.

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion

Ned Bennett turned himself in to the authorities at the Work House. He told the wardens that he learned his name had been mentioned in association with a planned rebellion and he wished to clear his name. He was questioned for several hours, cleared and released.

He then walked the five blocks from the Work House to Denmark Vesey’s house on Bull Street to attend a meeting to finalize plans for the rebellion.       

1838-Disasters

The steamship Pulaski exploded and sank just off the Charleston harbor. It was owned by the Savannah and Charleston Steam Packet Company to safely and speedily carry freight and passengers between Savannah to Baltimore with stops in Charleston.

The sinking of the Pulaski

The sinking of the Pulaski

That night, after taking on about sixty-five passengers in Charleston the Pulaski steamed to about thirty miles off the North Carolina coast through a dark night and moderate weather. Around ten o’clock the Pulaski’s starboard boiler suddenly exploded and swept some passengers into the sea and scalded others to death. Panicked passengers, most of them wearing their night clothes, sought refuge on the promenade deck. The bow of the Pulaski rose out of the water and eventually she ripped apart.

Passengers clung to furniture and pieces of wreckage. As the Pulaski sank, the crew lowered four life boats but two of them capsizing while the other two filled with frantic passengers.

Three days later the Henry Camerdon, schooner bound for Wilmington, North Carolina, rescued the 30 survivors. There were more than 100 deaths. Passengers rescued were:
MRS. P. M. NIGHTINGALE, servant and child.
MRS. W. FREHER and child, St. Simons, Geo.
J. H. COOPER, Glynn, Georgia.
F. W. POOLER, Savannah, Georgia.
Capt. POOLER, son.
WILLIAM ROBERTSON, Savannah, Georgia.
ELIAS L. BARNEY, N.C.
SOLOMON ________
S. HIBBERD, 1st mate Pulaski.
W. C. N. SWIFT, New Bedford.
F. A. ZENOHTENBERG, Munich.
CHARLES B. TAPPAN, New York.
GIDEON WEST, New Bedford, boatswain.
B. BRAGG, Norfolk, steward.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston 
Gen. Samuel Jones
Gen. Samuel Jones

Confederate Gen. Samuel Jones, in an effort to stop or reduce the bombardment of the city, notified Union Gen. John G. Foster that

five Union generals and forty-five field officers had arrived in the city for safe keeping … in commodious quarters in a part of the city occupied by non-combatants, the majority of whom are women and children. It is proper, however, that I should inform you it is a part of the city which has been for many months exposed day and night to the fire of your guns.

Gen. John Foster

Gen. John Foster

      Union Gen. Schimmelfenneg, before forwarding the letter to Gen. Foster added a note:

Charleston must be considered a place “of arms.” It contains a large arsenal, military foundries … and has already furnished three iron-clads to the enemy. It is our duty to destroy these resources. In reference to the women and children of the bombarded city, I therefore can only say the same situation occurs wherever a weak and strong party are at war … In my opinion the endeavor of the enemy to force us to give up the bombardment should be the reason for its continuation … as a means to force him to give up his barbarous practices.

Today In Charleston History: May 15

1863

  Angelina Grimke Weld gave the closing speech at the convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society titled “Address to the Soldiers of our Second Revolution” in which she said:

This war is not, as the South falsely pretends, a war of races, not of sections, nor of political parties, but a war of Principles; a war upon the working classes, whether white or black, a war against Man, the world over … The nation is in a death-struggle. It must either become one vast slaveocracy of petty tyrants, or wholly the land of the free …

1864-Bombardment of Charleston.  

Gus Smythe, serving in the Confederate Signal Corps in Charleston wrote:

Just at the corner of Tradd & the Bay, as I was going to step on one end of a cellar door, a shell fell thro’ the other end, not three ft. from me, & burst down in the cellar, covering me with dirt & smoke, but leaving me unharmed.

Gus Smythe

Gus Smythe

#Today In Charleston History: May 13

1862 – The Escape of The Planter
Z_The_Planter

The Planter

The Planter was a high-pressure, side-wheel steamer, one hundred and forty feet in length, and about fifty feet beam. She was built in Charleston, was formerly used as a cotton-boat, and was capable of carrying about 1400 bales. On the organization of the Confederate navy she was transformed into a gun-boat, and was the most valuable war vessel the Confederates had at Charleston. Her armament consisted of one 32-pound rifle gun forward, and a 24-pound howitzer aft.

On the night of May 12-13 The Planter also had on board one seven-inch rifled gun, one eight-inch Columbiad, one eight-inch howitzer, one long 32-pounder, and about two hundred rounds of ammunition, which had been consigned to Fort Ripley, and which would have been delivered at that fortification on Tuesday had not the designs of the rebel authorities been frustrated.

The Planter’s slave pilot was named Robert Smalls. On this night, three white officers decided to spend the night ashore. About 3:00 am on the 13th, Smalls and seven of the eight enslaved crewmen decided to make a run for the Union vessels that formed the blockade.

Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls

Smalls dressed in the captain’s uniform was wearing a straw hat similar to that of the white captain. He backed the Planter out of what was then known as Southern Wharf around 3 a.m. The Planter stopped at a nearby wharf to pick up Smalls’ family and the relatives of other crewmen, who had been concealed there for some time. With his crew and the women and children, Smalls made the daring escape. The Planter had as cargo four valuable artillery pieces, besides its own two guns. Perhaps most valuable was the code book that would reveal the Confederate’s secret signals, and the placement of mines and torpedoes in and around Charleston harbor. Smalls used proper signals so the Confederate soldiers would not know he was escaping in the ship.

Smalls piloted the ship past the five Confederate forts that guarded the harbor, including Fort Sumter. The renegade ship passed by Sumter approximately 4:30 a.m. He headed straight for the Federal fleet, which was part of the Union blockade of Confederate ports, making sure to hoist a white sheet as a flag.

The first ship he encountered was USS Onward, which was preparing to fire until a sailor noticed the white flag. When the Onward’s captain boarded the Planter, Smalls requested to raise the United States flag immediately. Smalls turned the Planter over to the United States Navy, along with its cargo of artillery and explosives intended for a Confederate fort.

Admiral Samuel DuPont

Admiral Samuel DuPont

Because of his extensive knowledge of the shipyards and Confederate defenses, Smalls provided valuable assistance to the Union Navy. He gave detailed information about the harbor’s defenses to Admiral Samuel Dupont, commander of the blockading fleet.

Smalls quickly became famous in the North. Numerous newspapers ran articles describing his daring actions. Congress passed a bill, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, that rewarded Smalls and his crewmen with the prize money for the captured Planter. Smalls’ own share was $1,500 (about $34,000 adjusted for inflation in 2012 dollars), a huge sum for the time.

 The names of the black men of the crew were:

  • Robert Smalls, pilot;
  • John Smalls and Alfred Gradine, engineers;
  • Abraham Jackson, Gabriel Turno, William Morrison, Samuel Chisholm, Abraham Allston, and David Jones.
The Planter, loaded with bales of cotton at Georgetown, SC

The Planter, loaded with bales of cotton at Georgetown, SC

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,

ROBERT ANDERSON, 
Major, First Artillery, Commanding.

Today In Charleston History: April 10

1693 – Religion

The Huguenots complained to the Lords Proprietors about threats made upon their estates. The Proprietors replied to the Carolina governor:

The French have complained to us that they are threatened to have their estates taken from their children after their death because they are aliens. Now many have bought the land they enjoy of us … God forbid that we should take advantage …

They also complain that are required to begin their Divine Worshipp at the same time that the English doe, which is inconvenient to them in regard that severall of their congregations living out of Towne are forced to come and go by water; & for the convenience of such they begin their Divine Worshipp earlier or later as the tide serves, in which we would have them not molested. 

1780 – The Siege of Charlestown

General Henry Clinton issued a summons of surrender for delivery to Continental Gen. Lincoln who replied that “Duty and Inclination point to the propriety of supporting it [Charlestown] to the last extremity.”

1861 – Civil War

Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard received word from Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker to require the surrender of Fort Sumter from the Federals. All around Charleston, Confederate troops prepare for conflict; a rebel floating battery is stationed off Sullivan’s Island. 

disunion_coddington_batteryside-blog427

Floating Battery, Charleston, SC – Ft. Sumter in the background left

Today In Charleston History: March 31

1850 – Death

John C. Calhoun, at the age of 68, died of tuberculosis at the Old Brick Capitol boarding house in Washington, D.C. He was buried at St. Philip’s Cemetery in Charleston. 

Calhoun served in South Carolina’s legislature and was elected to the United States House of Representatives serving three terms. In 1812, Calhoun and Henry Clay, two famous “warhawks”, who preferred war to the “putrescent pool of ignominous peace”, convinced the House to declare war on Great Britian.

From 1808 to 1810 an economic recession hit the United States and Calhoun realized that British policies were ruining the economy.

Calhoun's tomb in St. Philip's cemetery

Calhoun’s tomb in St. Philip’s cemetery

Calhoun served as Secretary of War under President James Monroe from 1817 to 1825 and ran for president in the 1824 election along with four others, John Q. Adams, Henry Clay, Crawford, and Andrew Jackson. However, Calhoun withdrew from the race, due to Jackson’s support, and ran for vice president unopposed.
Calhoun was vice president of the United States in 1824 under John Quincy Adams and was re-elected in 1828 under Andrew Jackson.

Calhoun as an elder statesman

Calhoun as an elder statesman

Jackson supported the Tariff of 1828 which caused fierce opposition between the president and vice president. Because the tariffs benefited  the industrial North and hurt the slave-holding South, John C. Calhoun became the first vice president to resign. (On October 10, 1973 Vice President of the United States Spiro Agnew resigned after being charged with federal income tax evasion.)

Calhoun wrote an essay about this conflict, “The South Carolina Exposition and Protest”, in which he asserted nullification of federal laws, and in 1832 the South Carolina legislature did just that. The next year in the Senate Calhoun and Daniel Webster opposed each other over slavery and states’ rights in a famous debate. In 1844 President John Tyler appointed Calhoun secretary of state. In later years he was reelected to the Senate, where he supported the Texas Annexation and defeated the Wilmot Proviso.

 

In 1957, United States Senators honored Calhoun as one of the five greatest senators of all time.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston 

In a letter to his mother, Gus Smythe, look-out for the Confederate Signal Corps, wrote from the steeple of St. Michael’s Church:

Here am I on my lofty perch, behind a big telescope , looking out for any movements of the Yankees which may be of sufficient importance to send up to Gen. Jordan … My tour of duty to-night is from 1:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. & I have been on duty half the day … The worst difficulty is the trouble of getting up here, for it is no joke climbing up 150 feet … our place is in the upper piazza, above the clock. We have boarded it in, & bunks put in for us to sleep in so that we are tolerably comfortable, except when the wind blows thro’ the cracks  of the boards at a great & there is always a wind up here.

Gus Smythe

Gus Smythe