Today In Charleston History: June 11

1747-Slavery
Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens returned from his internship London and opened an import and export business. Through his English contacts, Laurens entered into the slave trade with the Grant, Oswald & Company who controlled 18th century British slave castle in the Republic of Sierra Leone, West Africa known as Bunce Castle. Laurens contracted to receive slaves from the “rice coast” of Serra Leone, catalogue and market the human product by conducting public auctions in Charles Town. His company Austin and Laurens, in the 1750s, handled was responsible for the sales of more than eight thousand Africans

1754-Slavery. Executions

Two female slaves of Mr. Childermas Croft were burned alive for setting fire to their master’s main house and several plantation outbuildings in Charleston.

1766- Arrivals

 New royal governor, twenty-five year old Charles Genville Montagu, Duke of Cumberland, arrived. He presented a petition directing the Assembly to pay former Governor Boone’s salary for two and a half years. Montagu Street and Cumberland Street in Charleston are named after him. 

While in Charlestown, Montagu lived in the home owned by Charles and Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who were living in England at the time. The Pinckney’s house was located at the present corner of East Bay and Guignard streets (now Molly Darcey’s Irish Pub). It was destroyed by the 1861 fire.  

Ruins of the Pinckney mansion

Ruins of the Pinckney mansion, looking west from East Bay up Guignard Street.

1788-Executions

Five men and one woman – Robert Stacy, Josiah Jordan, John George, Edward Hatcher, Thomas Smith, and Ann Connely – were hanged for the robbery and murder of Nicholas John Wightman.

1818 –Slavery. Religion

“Black Priests” appeared before the City Council asking for permission to “allow them to hold their meetings in the way they wished.” The Council denied the request, claiming that the “Missionaries” of the Philadelphia AME church were “fire-brands of discord and destruction.”

They did, however, allow daylight meetings as long as a “single white person” was present to monitor the service.

Today In Charleston History: June 10

1686

Sam Dodson, master of the ship Katherine lodged an official protest with Governor Robert Quarry. According to the document written by Quarry, Dodson:

proved by oaths of himself and others that appeared having dispatched all his business and cleared and taken out his dispatches for his return to London; Hon. Landgrave [and former governor] Joseph Morton not ignorant but maliciously intending to hinder the voyage prohibited the pilot William Watson to convey the ship and did send William Popell, Provost Marshall, with several armed men on board the vessel who broke open the hatches and afterward on 10 June did cut the hoops of several casks and carry away and damage goods and merchandise of several merchants ensuing much damage … and passengers who may suffer for the detaining of the ship.

1720-Slavery

“A wicked and barbarous plot” was uncovered which terrified the white population. A group of blacks outside the city were said to have plotted “to destroy all the white people in the Country and then take the town.”

More than a dozen slaves were captured “and burnt … hang’d and banished.” The town watch was given more power to deal with blacks. A well-armed force of twenty-one men patrolled the streets nightly to “Quell any … designs by Negroes.”

1811-Deaths

Martha Laurens Ramsay died.

As a child, Martha was thought to have succumbed to smallpox and was laid out for burial when an ocean breeze revived her. As a child Martha Laurens demonstrated great eagerness for learning. She could read easily at age 3 & soon learned French, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, & some geometry.  Her father approved of her studious habits but cautioned her that a knowledge of housewifery was the 1st requisite in female education.

Martha Laurens Ramsay

Martha Laurens Ramsay

Her father, Henry, a merchant and planter, was one of the richest men in America.  Their family supported the Revolution’s promises and struggled through its postwar uncertainties. During the American Revolution her father, Henry Laurens, was president of the Continental Congress and later, after capture at sea, languished in the Tower of London as Britain’s highest-ranking American prisoner. Martha’s brother, John Laurens, achieved legendary status for his military gallantry in the war and his controversial proposal that slaves be liberated and armed to help fight for American freedom from England.

During the war, Martha lived in France, caring for her ailing uncle, and then, caring for her father after his release by the British. After the war, in 1787, Martha married Dr. David Ramsay of Charleston, a patriot-politician, and one of the first historians of the American Revolution, Martha bore eleven children. After her death in 1811, her husband edited and published a memoir from her writings, including portions of her diary.

Eight of her 11 children survived childhood.

Today In Charleston History: June 4

1770

During the celebration of King George III’s birthday, Peter Timothy noted that, in comparison to the celebration over the John Wilkes affair and the arrival of the William Pitt statue:

few [houses] were illuminated because the People are not Hypocrites. They will not dissemble Joy, while they feel themselves unkindly treated, and oppressed.

1772-Slavery

The South Carolina Gazette, ran this advertisement: 

RUN AWAY: Dick, a mulatto fellow . . . a remarkable whistler and plays on the Violin.

1773

Henry Laurens was unhappy with the level of education available in England for his sons. He wrote about Oxford and Cambridge saying:

The two universities are generally, I might say universally censured. Oxford in particular is spoken of as a School of Licentiousness and Debauchery in the most aggravated heights.

1774-American Revolution

The First Provincial Congress adopted the American Bill of Rights and the Articles of Confederation. On that same date, the First Provincial Congress authorized the issue of £1,000,000 in paper currency for military defense of the Province, and appointed thirteen new members to the Council of Safety, with power to command all soldiers and to use all public money in the Province. No military person could now sit on the Council of Safety.

The Congress ordered that 1500 special troops be raised to

go forth and be ready to sacrifice our lives and fortunes against every foe in defense of the liberty outraged in the bloody scene on the 19th of April last near Boston.

1831   

The final route of the Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road was confirmed. It was designed with nine turnouts – a parallel track joined to the mainline, an amazing innovation at that time. There were also twelve pumps/watering places for the locomotives.

Map of the rail road route.

Map of the Charleston & Hamburg rail road route.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1924

The Francis Marion Hotel opened for business.  Named for the Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,”, it was built by local investors at a cost of $1.5 million from plans by noted New York architect W.L. Stoddard. when it opened the Francis Marion was the largest and grandest hotel in the Carolinas. The 1920s was the Golden Age of railroads, radio and grand hotels, and the Charleston Renaissance was in full bloom and the Francis Marion Hotel was “the place to be”.

evening post, june 4, 1924

Charleston Evening Post, June 4, 1924

Today In Charleston History: April 23

1672-England.

King Charles II bestowed upon Anthony Ashley Cooper the titles, Earl of Shaftesbury and Baron Cooper of Paulet.  

1780-The Siege of Charlestown.
Siege of Charlestown

Siege of Charlestown

The British were close enough to “easily throw a stone” into the American line trenches north of Boundary Street.  Rifle fire was added to siege, in addition to the artillery barrage. 

1782-Slavery

Capt. Joseph Vesey returned to Haiti with another cargo of slaves. He was informed that his former “pet”, Telemaque, was suffering from “epileptic fits” and a doctor had “certified that the lad was unwell.” His sale was “thereupon cancelled,” meaning that Vesey was forced to repurchase the boy, and was surprised to find that within a few months, the boy had become proficient in the French language.

Vesey put Telemaque back to work again as his cabin boy and miraculously, the epileptic fits ceased as soon as they sailed from Haiti. Vesey must have seen this as more proof of the boy’s intelligence and cleverness, and decided he would be more valuable as his personal servant.

1840 – Marriage

Mary Boykin Miller married James Chesnut, Jr., who was from one of the wealthiest families in the South. The Chesnut family owned 448 slaves and plantations totaling nearly five square miles.

james_mary_chesnut

Today In Charleston History: April 21

1704 – Births
Jeremiah-Theus-xx-Gabriel-Manigault-1757

Gabriel Manigualt by Jeremiah Theus (1757)

Gabriel Manigault was born in Charlestown, son of French Huguenot Pierre Manigault and Judith Gitton. He would become the city’s most successful merchant.

1759-Slavery.

A slave in Charleston:

who at the beginning of last Month most cruelly murdered several white People at the Congarees was hung in Chains … at the dividing Path between the two Quarter-House.

1768

The Commissioners of Fortifications called for bids to construct a more substantial seawall at White Point.

1775 – American Revolution – Foundations.

The “Secret Committee of Five,” seized the public gun powder at several magazines, including Hobcaw on the Charleston Neck, and the arms in the State House at the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets. In all they stole 800 guns, 200 cutlasses and 1600 pounds of powder.

1782 – Marriage
Eutaw

Eutaw Flag

Col. William Washington married Jane Elliott of Sandy Hill, South Carolina. Elliott and Washington met when she made his regiment a battle flag (the “Eutaw Flag”) that he carried into combat from Cowpens to Eutaw Springs.

1833Slavery.

William Turpin emancipated his slaves in his will. He left Jenny a two-story brick house on Society Street. He left a “brick house on Magazine Street to five slaves who were to collectively occupy it.” Sarah Gray, a white woman, was allowed to use “one tenement in the house on condition only, that She Shall Reside therein, and act as Guardian & protector to theses coloured people.”

 

Today In Charleston History: April 5

1739

The South Carolina Gazette announced festivities to honor James Oglethorpe:

Tuesday last being the day appointed for the Review of the Troop and Regiment of St. Philips Charlestown, the two following commissions of his Majesty were published at Granville Bastion, under the discharge of the cannon both there and at Broughton Battery the one constituting and appointing the Hon. William Bull Lieutenant Governor in and over the province, and the other [for] his Excellency James Oglethorpe, General and Commanders of his Majesty’s Forces in the provinces of South Carolina and Georgia … In the evening his Excellency … made a general invitation to the ladies to an excellent supper and ball so the day concluded with much pleasure and satisfaction. 

1740 – Slavery
Stono Rebellion

Stono Rebellion

In response to the Stono Rebellion, the Assembly passed a new Negro Act – placing high import duty on slaves, which effectively cut off new slave trading. Its stated goal was “to ensure that slaves be kept in due subjection and obedience.”

No slave living in town was allowed to go beyond the city limits; the sale to alcohol was prohibited and teaching slaves to read and write was prohibited. Only the Assembly could grant a slave freedom. Any white person who “shall willfully cut out the tongue, put out the eye, castrate or cruelly scald” a slave was subject to a fine. 

1765 – American Revolution–The Sugar Act 

The Sugar Act was passed by Parliament. The British government had increased its debt during the French and Indian War, and was looking at various means to raise revenue. 

1780 – The Siege of Charlestown
Siege of Charlestown

Siege of Charlestown – British batteries outside the city.

After dark Gen. Clinton ordered the British battery at Fenwick’s Point and the Wappoo Cut, across the Ashley River, to fire upon Charlestown. The cannonballs whistling through the dark sky over the city created a “terrible clamor” with “the loud wailing of female voices.”

One of the British cannonballs struck Mr. Thomas Elfe’s house at 54 Queen Street and two damaged Governor John Rutledge’s house on Broad Street. Rutledge wrote that he was appalled at “the insulting Manner in which the Enemy’s Gallies have fired, with Impunity, on the Town.”

Also, the British galley Scourge fired eighty-five times with “every shot … into town.” During the night three British soldiers deserted to the American side. One of the soldiers “paddled himself over on a plank from James Island.”

Siege marker on King Street @ Marion Square

Siege marker on King Street @ Marion Square

1839

Smalls was born on April 5, 1839, behind his owner’s city house at 511 Prince Street in Beaufort, S.C. His mother, Lydia, served in the house but grew up in the fields, where, at the age of nine, she was taken from her own family on the Sea Islands.  The McKee family favored Robert Smalls over the other slave children, so much so that his mother worried he would reach manhood without grasping the horrors of the institution into which he was born. To educate him, she arranged for him to be sent into the fields to work and watch slaves at “the whipping post.”

By the time Smalls turned 19, he was working in Charleston. He was allowed to keep one dollar of his wages a week (his owner took the rest). Far more valuable was the education he received on the water; few knew Charleston harbor better than Robert Smalls.

smalls

Robert Smalls

It’s where he earned his job on the Planter. It’s also where he met his wife, Hannah, a slave of the Kingman family working at a Charleston hotel. With their owners’ permission, the two moved into an apartment together and had two children: Elizabeth and Robert Jr. Well aware this was no guarantee of a permanent union, Smalls asked his wife’s owner if he could purchase his family outright; they agreed but at a steep price: $800. Smalls only had $100.

By 1862, Smalls viewed the Union blockade of the Charleston harbor as a tantalizing promise of freedom. Under orders from Secretary Gideon Welles in Washington, Navy commanders had been accepting runaways as contraband since the previous September. While Smalls couldn’t afford to buy his family on shore, he knew he could win their freedom by sea — and so he told his wife to be ready for whenever opportunity dawned.

planter-gun-boat

The Planter

Just before dawn on May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls and a crew of fellow slaves, slipped a cotton steamer, Planter, off the dock, picked up family members at a rendezvous point, then slowly navigated their way through the harbor. Smalls, doubling as the captain donned the captain’s wide-brimmed straw hat to help to hide his face. As they sailed out of the harbor Smalls responded with the proper coded signals at two Confederate checkpoints and sailed into the open seas. Once outside of Confederate waters, he had his crew raise a white flag and surrendered his ship to the blockading Union fleet.

In less than four hours, Smalls had accomplished an amazing feat: commandeering a heavily armed Confederate ship and delivered its 17 black passengers (nine men, five women and three children) from slavery to freedom. “One of the most heroic and daring adventures since the war commenced was undertaken and successfully accomplished by a party of negroes in Charleston,” trumpeted the June 14, 1862, edition of Harper’s Weekly.

On May 30, 1862, the U.S. Congress, passed a private bill authorizing the Navy to appraise the Planter and award Smalls and his crew half the proceeds for “rescuing her from the enemies of the Government.” Smalls received $1,500 personally, enough to purchase his former owner’s house in Beaufort off the tax rolls following the war, though according to the later Naval Affairs Committee report, his pay should have been substantially higher.

In the North, Smalls was hailed as a hero. He lobbied Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to begin enlisting black soldiers and a few months later after President Lincoln ordered black troops raised, Smalls recruited 5,000 soldiers himself. In October 1862, he returned to the Planter as pilot as part of Admiral Du Pont’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. According to the 1883 Naval Affairs Committee report, Smalls was engaged in approximately 17 military actions, including the April 7, 1863, assault on Fort Sumter and the attack at Folly Island Creek, S.C.

Two months later he assumed command of the Planter when, under “very hot fire,” its white captain became so “demoralized” he hid in the “coal-bunker.” Smalls was promoted to the rank of captain, and starting in December 1863 on, he earned $150 a month, making him one of the highest paid black soldiers of the war. When the war ended in April 1865, Smalls was on board the Planter in a ceremony in Charleston Harbor at Fort Sumter.

Following the war, Smalls served in the South Carolina state assembly and senate, and for five nonconsecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1874-1886).He died in Beaufort on February 23 1915, in the same house behind which he had been born a slave and is buried behind a bust at the Tabernacle Baptist Church.

“My race needs no special defense for the past history of them and this country. It proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.” — Robert Smalls

 

 

 

 

 

Today In Charleston History: April 2

1737- Slavery.

The disproportionate numbers of Negro slaves versus white settlers began to concern some citizens. In a letter to the South Carolina Gazette, a writer called “Mercator” argued about the danger of the “importation of Negroes.” He argued that in the four years past there had been imported 10,447 Negroes and in the four years before only 5153. He suggested that some method to prevent the large importation of Negroes must be speedily adopted or else there would be “the most fatal consequence to the province.”

1776
Seal of South Carolina

Seal of South Carolina

A state seal of South Carolina was authorized to be designed by Arthur Middleton and William Henry Drayton.

1783

Charles Pinckney returned to Charlestown and lived at 2 Orange Street, and helped his mother with his father’s estate. The will reserved property valued at £53, 000 and stipulated that “sixty of the worst of my plantation slaves” be sold to pay his debts. He left his mansion on Queen Street to his son, Charles. The remainder of his estate – three plantations, Fee Farm and Drainfield in St. Bartholomew’s Parish and Snee Farm in Christ Church – were to be divided equally among his wife and children.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston.

In a letter to his Aunt Janey, Gus Smythe wrote:

I have got the most responsible post in the Signal corps here & the most dangerous when they are shelling, for they avowedly make this steeple their mark when firing & have made some very close shots. To look down on them from here, all around the foot of the Steeple, in the grave yard, Streets, City Hall, Court House, Guard House & houses, it seems & is miraculous that so far they have missed. I only hope they continue to do so, for tho’ there may be some “glory” there will be little pleasure in tumbling down with the Steeple.

1902
roosevelt, expo

Pres. Roosevelt at the Expo

President’s Day at the South Carolina West Indian Exposition with President Teddy Roosevelt visiting the Ivory City. Thousands of people lined the streets while a parade of three thousand representing all branches of the military marched to the Exposition. The president gave a speech and attended a luncheon at the Woman’s Building.

Today In Charleston History: March 9

1686-Arrivals.  

Jean Boyd, a well-educated Huguenot merchant, arrived in Charles Towne and penned a lengthy letter to his sister back in London. He described various aspects of life and culture, and sketched a map of the town.

Here we are at last landed in this much longed-for country. In truth, I had imagined that I would find the town of Charlestown built differently and much larger than it is … The temperature of the air is here the same as in the southern provinces of France.  The English, in truth, who are not accustomed to hearing large claps of thunder in England exclaim in surprise at those in Carolina, but they would never scare a French person.

boyd map - 1687

Jean Boyd’s map of Charles Towne

The head of the rivers & principally the creeks are full of crocodiles so monstrous that we saw some that were 22 feet long. They do not hurt anyone and people fear them so little that several people who were bathing went swimming after them.

When one sells something here one must specify if it will be paid for in silver; otherwise they will pay you in silver of the country, which means in corn or animals & there is a great difference, least 25% for cattle to silver. Sometimes when silver is plentiful, that is to say when the buccaneers have come, livestock is worth a lot.

Aside from game one sees many wild beasts but a  little higher up in the  country, like wolves, wildcats, leopards,  tigers, bears, foxes, raccoons,  badgers, otters, beavers & a type of black and white cat which for its only  defense (urinates)  on people who pursue it, but its urine is so foul that it is  capable  of making one feel sick. The stench does not go away for two or three months even though one washes.

1738 – Slavery.

A writer in the Gazette addressed his concerns about the issue of Negro population:

I cannot avoid observing that altho’h a few Negroes annually imported into the province might be of advantage to most People, yet such a large importation of 2600 or 2800 every year is not only a loss to many, but in the end may prove the Ruin of the Province, as it most certainly does that of many industrious Planters who unwarily engage in buying more than they have occasion or able to pay for.

1779

Andrew Groundwater and William Tweed were hanged for treason. Both men had refused to take the oath of fidelity to the Patriot cause, and were arrested for carrying a message from a British prisoner of war to Colonel Archibald Campbell. According to Charles Pinckney:

some interest was made for Groundwater … he had been captain of a small vessel, and had been of service in the bringing in to us stores and many necessary articles which we were in want of … [but also] strongly suspected of being concerned with Tweed in setting fire to the town on Trott’s point … the inhabitants were so incensed against him, that he suffered, to appease the people.

Today In Charleston History: March 7

1737 – Slavery

A curfew act was enacted for blacks in Charlestown. Any black that appeared on the street after sundown without a lantern and written permission from their master could be apprehended by any white and taken to the Watch house overnight. They would be whipped in the morning and their owners could claim them after paying a fine.

1773 – Culture
Josiah Quincy

Josiah Quincy

Josiah Quincy visited Charleston in 1773. He was was an American lawyer and patriot from Boston. He was the principal spokesman for the Sons of Liberty prior to the Revolution and was John Adams’ co-counsel during the trials of Captain Thomas Preston and the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.

He kept a journal of his visit in the South and recorded his impressions of Charleston. He was not impressed with the church service at St. Philips. The small number in attendance shocked his Boston-Puritan ethic. In addition he noted the minister was:

A young scarcely-bearded boy … preached and prayed as to try an affect a gay air about the service. The sermon was only seventeen and a half minutes, a solemn mockery … … few women or men stood to sing … most people freely conversed with one another during the service.

1780 – Revolutionary War

British engineers constructed a bridge over the Wappoo Cut as preparations of their siege of Charlestown. 

Today In Charleston History: February 23

1915 – Deaths

Robert Smalls died, ending an extraordinary life. 

smallsSmalls was born on April 5, 1839, behind his owner’s city house at 511 Prince Street in Beaufort, S.C. His mother, Lydia, served in the house but grew up in the fields, where, at the age of nine, she was taken from her own family on the Sea Islands.  The McKee family favored Robert Smalls over the other slave children, so much so that his mother worried he would reach manhood without grasping the horrors of the institution into which he was born. To educate him, she arranged for him to be sent into the fields to work and watch slaves at “the whipping post.”

By the time Smalls turned 19, he was working in Charleston. He was allowed to keep one dollar of his wages a week (his owner took the rest). Far more valuable was the education he received on the water; few knew Charleston harbor better than Robert Smalls.

It’s where he earned his job on the Planter. It’s also where he met his wife, Hannah, a slave of the Kingman family working at a Charleston hotel. With their owners’ permission, the two moved into an apartment together and had two children: Elizabeth and Robert Jr. Well aware this was no guarantee of a permanent union, Smalls asked his wife’s owner if he could purchase his family outright; they agreed but at a steep price: $800. Smalls only had $100.

By 1862, Smalls viewed the Union blockade of the Charleston harbor as a tantalizing promise of freedom. Under orders from Secretary Gideon Welles in Washington, Navy commanders had been accepting runaways as contraband since the previous September. While Smalls couldn’t afford to buy his family on shore, he knew he could win their freedom by sea — and so he told his wife to be ready for whenever opportunity dawned.

planter-gun-boat

The Planter

Just before dawn on May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls and a crew of fellow slaves, slipped a cotton steamer, Planter, off the dock, picked up family members at a rendezvous point, then slowly navigated their way through the harbor. Smalls, doubling as the captain donned the captain’s wide-brimmed straw hat to help to hide his face. As they sailed out of the harbor Smalls responded with the proper coded signals at two Confederate checkpoints and sailed into the open seas. Once outside of Confederate waters, he had his crew raise a white flag and surrendered his ship to the blockading Union fleet.

In less than four hours, Smalls had accomplished an amazing feat: commandeering a heavily armed Confederate ship and delivered its 17 black passengers (nine men, five women and three children) from slavery to freedom. “One of the most heroic and daring adventures since the war commenced was undertaken and successfully accomplished by a party of negroes in Charleston,” trumpeted the June 14, 1862, edition of Harper’s Weekly.

On May 30, 1862, the U.S. Congress, passed a private bill authorizing the Navy to appraise the Planter and award Smalls and his crew half the proceeds for “rescuing her from the enemies of the Government.” Smalls received $1,500 personally, enough to purchase his former owner’s house in Beaufort off the tax rolls following the war, though according to the later Naval Affairs Committee report, his pay should have been substantially higher.

In the North, Smalls was hailed as a hero. He lobbied Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to begin enlisting black soldiers and a few months later after President Lincoln ordered black troops raised, Smalls recruited 5,000 soldiers himself. In October 1862, he returned to the Planter as pilot as part of Admiral Du Pont’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. According to the 1883 Naval Affairs Committee report, Smalls was engaged in approximately 17 military actions, including the April 7, 1863, assault on Fort Sumter and the attack at Folly Island Creek, S.C.

Two months later he assumed command of the Planter when, under “very hot fire,” its white captain became so “demoralized” he hid in the “coal-bunker.” Smalls was promoted to the rank of captain, and starting in December 1863 on, he earned $150 a month, making him one of the highest paid black soldiers of the war. When the war ended in April 1865, Smalls was on board the Planter in a ceremony in Charleston Harbor at Fort Sumter.

Following the war, Smalls served in the South Carolina state assembly and senate, and for five nonconsecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1874-1886).He died in Beaufort on February 23 1915, in the same house behind which he had been born a slave and is buried behind a bust at the Tabernacle Baptist Church.

“My race needs no special defense for the past history of them and this country. It proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.” — Robert Smalls