Today In Charleston History: February 15

1780-The Seige of Charlestown.

Peter Timothy, editor of the South Carolina Gazette, took the post in the steeple of St. Michael’s Church to report on British land and sea movements. He could see smoke from the British encampments on John’s Island and numerous ships off the Charlestown bar.

The British army crossed the Stono River from John’s Island to James Island, giving them a staging area and view of Charlestown across the Ashley River. They settled in to wait for the British navy to cross the Charleston bar to reinforce and re-supply the army. Over the next five weeks, Clinton’s army seized corn, oxen, cattle, horses, pigs and other supplies from dozens of plantations in the area.


The first Race Week was held at the new Washington Race Course, won by Fox Hunter, owned by Mr. Lynch.


1857 view of the grandstand, published in John Beaufain Irving’s the South Carolina Jockey Club.


Today in Charleston History: February 14


Governor Colleton imposed a large fine on a minister for a sermon he found displeasing and declared martial law due to the opposition of his heavy-handed administration. He quickly retracted this when he could not even control the militia. 


The Old Exchange opened as the central post office of Charleston. It became a Confederate Post Office in 1861 during the War. It was restored as a Federal Post Office in 1865, and would serve in this role until 1896. 

Exchange Building, 1823

Exchange Building, 1823

1835 – Disasters

St. Philip’s Church was destroyed by fire.

St. Philips, 1723, destroyed by fire.

St. Philips, 1723, destroyed by fire.

1865- Bombardment of Charleston

The Charleston Daily Courier reported that William Doran, of 5 Bedon’s Alley, lost to his arm to a Federal shell that passed through his wall. He was the last person to be injured during the bombardment, and it was the last shell that was thrown into the city.

Today In Charleston History: February 13


To generate support for their proposed railroad, to the Savannah River, the Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road Company built a test track of rail 150 feet long in the middle of the cobblestoned Wentworth Street in Charleston. They added flanged wheels to a small flat cart, which they then loaded with forty-seven bales of cotton. A single mule, hitched to the cart, was able to pull this load, four times a normal load, with ease, amazing the spectators. 


James O’Neill appeared as D’Artagnan in The Three Muskateers at the Academy of Music, with Maud Odell, billed as “the beautiful South Carolina girl.” Odell was born in Beaufort, S.C. and had appeared in several productions in New York.


Maud Odell, Library of Congress 

Odell’s first major success was The Prisoner of Zenda, in which she appeared for 400 nights in New York. She later performed in Show Boat, and Tobacco Road. Her career spanned almost 40 years.

Odell was found dead of a heart attack in her dressing room just before a performance of Tobacco Road. She was buried at the cemetery of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Beaufort, South Carolina.

academy of music

Academy of Music, Market and King Street (present site of the Riveria Theater.

Today In Charleston History: February 12 – Charleston Firsts

1736 – Dock Street Theater

Constructed on the corner of Church Street and Dock Street (now known as Queen Street), the Dock Street Theatre was the first building in America built exclusively to be used for theatrical performances. On February 12, 1736 the Dock Street Theatre opened with a performance of The Recruiting Officer, a 1706 comedic play by Irish writer George Farquhar. The second work featured in the theater was the ballad opera, Flora, or Hob in the Well after its successful performance the year before at Shepheard’s Tavern.

The Great Fire of 1740 destroyed the original Dock Street which was replaced in 1809 by the Planter’s Hotel on the same site. In 1835 the wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns of the Church Street facade were added. The Planter’s became one of the finest hotels in the South. Most histories of Charleston claim that the famous drink, Planter’s Punch, was first served here, but that is not true, as is common among many Charleston “legends.”  

After the War (Between the States), the Planter’s Hotel fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition. But in 1935, the original building became a Depression Era WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. The hotel’s grand foyer became the foyer of the new theater and the hotel’s dining room now serves as the box office lobby.

On March 18, 2010, the Dock Street Theater reopened for the third time after a three year, $19 million dollar renovation by the City of Charleston which included state-of-the-art lighting and sound, modern heating and air conditioning.

dock street = two views

Dock Street Theater: TOP: view of the building circa 1835 as the Planters Hotel. BOTTOM: Modern view of the theater.



Today In Charleston History: February 11

 1724 – Crime (and Punishment) 

The citizens of Charlestown learned of Judith Dutartes’ pregnancy by an unidentified member of her family and:

a warrant was issued for bringing her before the Justice to be examined, and bound over to the general sessions, in consequence of a law of the province, framed for preventing bastardy.

Captain Simmons and six men of the Charles Town militia attempted to serve the warrant against the Dutartre family and Peter Rombert.  Rombert told the family that:

God commanded them to arm and defend themselves against persecution, and their substances against the robberies of ungodly men; assuring them at the same time that no weapon formed against them should prosper.

The family opened fire on the militia as it approached the compound. Simmons realized his small group had no chance of delivering the warrant and retreated back to town, where a plan was formulated to take the Dutartres’ home by force.

Two days later, a militia of fifty men attacked the compound. Captain Simmons was killed and several other members were wounded. Within half an hour the militia had taken the property and:

killed one woman within the house, and afterward forcibly entering it, took the rest prisoners, six in number and brought them to Charlestown.

The prisoners taken were:

  • Peter Dutartre: the father
  • Peter Rombert: the prophet
  • Christian George: the minister
  • Michael Boneau: husband of a Dutartre woman
  • Judith Dutartre: daughter
  • David Dutartre: son
  • John Dutartre: son

To read more about the Dutartre family and the Orange Quarter … go here.

1785 – Politics
wm moultrie

Gen. William Moultrie

William Moultrie became the thirty-fifth governor of South Carolina.

Today In Charleston History: February 10



William Drayton was nominated by President George Washington as the first judge of the United State District Court for the District of South Carolina and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He served until is death, May 1790. He also served as an associate judge, Supreme Court of South Carolina, 1789

1826 – Theater
Theater (c. 1792) sat on the corner of Broad and New Streets. Designed by James Hoban.

Theater (c. 1792) sat on the corner of Broad and New Streets. Designed by James Hoban.

Mr. Cowell, “formerly of the Theatre Royale, Drury Lane,” reopened the Broad Street Theatre promising new scenery and splendid pageants. He also brought the New-York and Philadelphia Company of Equestrians and its twenty horses to Charleston. They performed at the old circus facility in the back of Vauxhall Garden.

1835 – Duel

A duel took place between two Jews named Moise and Cohen at the race course. Cohen died of his wounds two days later.

Today In Charleston History: February 9

1760 – England

 John Rutledge was called to the English bar and sailed home for Charlestown soon after.

1776 – American Revolution

The South Carolina delegation returned from the Continental Congress. During the return trip from Philadelphia aboard the Hawke, the British man-o-war Syren bore down on the small pilot boat. Capt. Joseph Vesey sailed hard for the shore and beached the Hawke on the North Carolina coast. The delegates and crew scrambled to safety in a nearby swamp and made their way overland to Charles Town, leaving the Hawke as a prize for the British.

2000px-Gadsden_flag.svgOnce in Charlestown John Rutledge warned that a British attack in the South was probable. Christopher Gadsden presented his “Don’t Tread on Me” flag to the Provincial Congress. As recorded in the South Carolina congressional journals the proclamation read: 

Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American Navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattlesnake in the middle in the attitude of going to strike and these words underneath, “Don’t tread on me.”

Gadsden also a presented copy of Thomas Paine’s just published Common Sense, which helped inflame local political sensibilities.


Today In Charleston History: February 8

1671 – Arrivals  

Forty-two settlers arrived in Charles Town from Barbados on the ship John and Thomas, named for the two men who outfitted the vessel, John Strode and Thomas Colleton.

1780 – The Seige of Charlestown

Colonel Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, commander of Ft. Moultrie, complained to Gen. Lincoln he was short both men and ammunition. He requested 1215 troops to man the walls, artillery and defensive works. He only had 200. He wrote:

“If half cannot be obtained, I shall make the best defense in my power with the number that may be allowed me.”

1824 – Births

Barnard Elliott Bee Jr.  was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Barnard Elliott Bee, Sr., and Ann Wragg Fayssoux, in his grandfather’s house on Tradd Street.  Bee graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1845, thirty-third in his class and assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry. He accumulated many demerits while at West Point, including several for chewing tobacco while on duty.

Bee became a career United States Army officer and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. Bee was appointed brigadier general and given command of the third brigade of the Army of the Shenandoah, under Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.

During the subsequent battle, known as the First Battle of Bull Run, or Manassas. Bee used the term “stone wall” in reference to Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson and his men, giving rise to the name “Stonewall Jackson” and his Stonewall Brigade. There has been debate over whether this nickname was meant in admiration or as an insult due to Jackson’s men not advancing –  “stone wall’ symbolizing being immobile.

Bee was mortally wounded as the Confederates began to gain the upper hand in the battle. He died the following day – one of the first general officers to be killed in the war. As a result, it could not be determined whether his naming of Stonewall Jackson was intended as praise, a condemnation. He is buried in Pendleton, South Carolina. 

Bernard Bee; Peter Fayssoux House, Tradd Street, Charleston

L: Bernard Bee. R: Peter Fayssoux House, Tradd Street, Charleston


Today In Charleston History: February 7

1649-English Civil War

Parliament voted to abolish the English monarchy. What does this have to do with Charleston history?

Charles II

Charles II

After the beheading of Charles I, and the defeat of his army, his sons, Charles and James, were forced to flee England and live in exile for many years. After the Restoration of the throne Charles II became king of England in 1660. To reward some of the men who were instrumental in his restoration, Charles granted them the Carolina colony. 


A severe frost causes the end of trying to grow oranges for profit in the lowcountry. The Orange Grove Plantation was where the present-day Citadel stands today.

Today In Charleston History: February 6

1719 – Fortifications.

The Assembly passed an act “for the more speedy putting the bastions of the Fortification of Charles Town in a posture of defence” by repairing the existing fortifications.

1740 – Religion.
Charles Pachelbel

Charles Pachelbel

Charles Theodore Pachelbel (baptized Karl Theodorus) became the organist at St. Philip’s Church.

 Pachelbel arrived in Charlestown in April 1736.  Born in Germany in 1690, he was the son of the famous Johann Pachelbel, composer of the popular Canon in DPachelbel initially migrated to Providence, Rhode Island to install an organ in Trinity Church in 1733. Three years later he arrived in Charlestown and stayed until his death.