Today In Charleston History: July 11

Pierce Butler

Pierce Butler

Pierce Butler was born in County Carlow, Ireland. His father was Sir Richard Butler, member of Parliament and a baronet. Like so many younger sons of the British aristocracy who could not inherit their fathers’ estates because of primogeniture, Butler pursued a military career. He became a major in His Majesty’s 29th Regiment and during the colonial unrest was posted to Boston in 1768 to quell disturbances there. In 1771 he married Mary Middleton, daughter of a wealthy South Carolinian, and resigned his commission to take up a planter’s life in the Charleston area


A Patriot mob led by Commodore Alexander Gillon started a riot against Tories sill living in Charleston, tarring and feathering several Loyalists.

1804- Duel

Vice-President Aaron Burr met former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton outside Weehawken, New Jersey, in a duel, at the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died in 1801. A letter Hamilton wrote the night before the duel stated:

I have resolved, if our interview [duel] is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire.

At dawn, the duel began. Hamilton’s shot broke a tree branch directly above Burr’s head. Burr’s shot hit Hamilton in the lower abdomen above the right hip. He died the next day.

Burr was charged with murder and fled to South Carolina where his daughter Theodosia lived with her family. 

Hamilton-Burr duel

Hamilton-Burr duel


St. John’s Lutheran – the first church hit by Federal fire – became the first Lutheran church to resume services after the War. 

Unitarian Church (left) and St. John’s Lutheran (right), circa 1865

Today In Charleston History: July 10


Captain Robert Sandford entered what is now Charleston harbor and sailed up river, which he named Ashley, for Lord Proprietor Anthony Ashley Cooper.


One day before his duel with Alexander Hamilton in New Jersey, Vice President Aaron Burr wrote a long letter to his daughter, Theodosia, in Charleston:

Theodosia Burr Alston by John Vanderlyn - New York Historical Society

Theodosia Burr Alston by John Vanderlyn – New York Historical Society

Having lately written my will, and given my private letters and papers in charge of you, I have no other direction to give you on the subject but to request you burn all such as, if by accident made public, would injure any person. This is more particularly applicable to the letters of my female correspondents.

I am indebted to you, my dearest Theodosia, for a very great portion of the happiness which I have enjoyed in this life. You have completely satisfied all that my heart and affections had hoped or even wished.

Burr then wrote a letter to his son-in-law, Joseph Alston, explaining the reason for his instructions about his property:

Joseph Alston

Joseph Alston:

I have called out General Hamilton, and we meet to-morrow morning. Vanness will give you the particulars. The preceding has been written in contemplation of this event. If it should be my lot to fall … I shall live in you and your son. I commit to you all that is most dear to me – my reputation and my daughter.

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.”


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.


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.


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 7


Lt. Gov.William Bull reported that 3000 wagons came to Charlestown in one year from the backcountry carrying produce.


Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr, in the early 1800s

Former vice-president Aaron Burr left America on a British mail packet Clarissa Ann from New York under the alias Mr. G. H. Edwards. Although his trial for treason had ended in his acquittal, and he was never charged with murder for the illegal duel with Alexander Hamilton, he was unable to pursue any political or business ventures, so he headed to Europe.

He would never see his beloved daughter Theodosia Burr Alston again. He spent his last night with her working out an elaborate system of codes they would use to correspond. He was being watched constantly and there was a long line of creditors seeking him out.

1818-Slavery. Religion.

Rev. Richard Allen

Rev. Richard Allen

Rev. Richard Allen and a delegation from Philadelphia arrived in Charleston at the invitation of Rev. Morris Brown to support the local A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church.

In 1794 Allen had founded the A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia, the first independent black denomination in the United States.  In 1816 he was elected the first bishop of the AME Church.

1862-Bombardment of Charleston

 The vestry of St. Michael’s met and passed a resolution for “the removal of the bells to a place of Safety.” They was real concern that the city may be taken by Federal troops, and burned. The bells were placed in the care of Mr. J.K. Sass, president of the Bank of Charleston in Columbia. Advertisements were placed in local papers for bids to remove the bells from the church.

Today In Charleston History: May 14


General_Monck, by David_Loggan, 1661, National Portrait Gallery, London

General Monck, by David Loggan, 1661, National Portrait Gallery, London

With the military support of General George Monck, governor of Scotland and Duke of Albemarle, Charles II was proclaimed king of England. For his service, Monck was named one of the original Lords Proprietors of Carolina in 1663.

1729 – Royal Colony

King George bought out the Lords Proprietors, finalizing South Carolina’s transformation into a Royal Colony. The agreed payment was £2500 sterling ($250,000) and £5000 sterling to cover incidental expenses.

1802 – Aaron Burr

Vice President Aaron Burr dined at the Carolina Coffee-House at 120 East Bay Street in the company of Captain John Blake. Eighteen toasts were drunk during the evening. Burr was in Charleston to visit his daughter, Theodosia, on the occasion of the birth of her son. 

1838 – Marriage

In Philadelphia, Angelina Grimke of Charleston married Theodore Weld, editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Emancipator.  The ceremony was attended by eighty mixed race guests. Their wedding cake was made by a Negro confectioner, using only “free sugar” – sugar not harvested and manufactured by a slave system.

1863 – Abolition

 Angelina Grimke Weld attended the national convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society. She gave a speech titled “Address to the Soldiers of our Second Revolution” and stated:

My country is bleeding, my people are perishing around me, but I feel as a South Carolinian, I am bound to tell the North, go on! go on! Never falter, never abandon the principles which you have adopted. 

Angelina Grimke Weld

Angelina Grimke Weld


Today In Charleston History: May 6

1766-Stamp Act. American Revolution – Foundations.

News reached Charlestown that Parliament had repealed the Stamp Act. The city celebrated by ringing church bells and burning bonfires. Lt. Gov. Bull hosted “a very elegant entertainment” at Dillon’s Tavern for the Council and Assembly.

The Assembly voted £1000 sterling for a marble statue of William Pitt in gratitude of his exertions for the repeal of the Stamp Act. They also voted to appropriate funds for portraits of Gadsden, John Rutledge and Thomas Lynch to be displayed in the Assembly room in recognition of their service during the Stamp Act Congress.

Liberty Tree marker on Alexander Street

Liberty Tree marker on Alexander Street

They also learned that Parliament passed the Declaratory Act which stated that Parliament’s authority was the same in America as in Britain – their laws were as binding on the American colonies as in England. That night, Christopher Gadsden gave a speech under the great oak tree in Mr. Mazyck’s cow pasture. He:

harangued them at considerable length on the folly of relaxing their opposition and vigilance, or of indulging in the fallacious hope that Great Britain would relinquish their designs and pretensions.

Gadsden cautioned not to rejoice in the repeal of the Stamp Act, because the Declaratory Act was a threat to the liberty of all Americans. From that night onward, the oak was called the Liberty Tree. At the end of the meeting the men gathered hands around the tree and swore resistance to future tyranny. 

1780-The Seige of Charlestown

Knowing of the extreme conditions within the city, Sir Clinton was frustrated by the American resistance. He wrote, “I begin to think these people will be Blockheads enough to wait the assault.”


May 6, 1791

Washington toured the town on horseback for most of the day, riding up and down most of the principal streets. Sometime during the day Washington stopped to observe the work on rebuilding of the State House and talk with the supervising architect, James Hoban.

Charleston  courthouse- Old  _large

Charleston County Courthouse, formerly the State House.

Washington had recently been given the duty by Congress to build “the President’s House” (later called the White House) in D.C. Hoban was given the job by Washington to design and supervise the construction of the White House. 

The evening meal was at Sen. Pierce Butler’s home and then a party at Gov. Pinckney’s home.


the alstons

Joseph Alston and Theodsia Burr Alston

Vice-president Aaron Burr arrived in Charleston for the birth of his grandson. His daughter, Theodosia, was married to Joseph Alston. His carriage was floated across the Cooper River from Mt. Pleasant to Charleston. The Charleston Times wrote,

“The Vice-President of the United States is expected in town, this evening. The Federalist Artillery Company have orders to salute him on his landing.”


On a Saturday afternoon, David Ramsay strolled down Broad Street, on his way home. He passed William Linnen who was standing behind the columns of St. Michael’s Church. Linnen stepped out and “took a large horseman’s pistol … and shot the doctor in the back.”

According to one source:

Having been carried home, and being surrounded by a crowd of anxious citizens, after first calling their attention to what he was about to utter, he said ‘I know not if these wounds be mortal; I am not afraid to die; but should that be my fate, I call on all here present to bear witness, that I consider the unfortunate perpetrator of this deed a lunatic, and free from guilt.’

Dr. David Ramsay

Dr. David Ramsay

One month previously, Dr. David Ramsay had been appointed by the court to examine William Linnen, a tailor known for serial litigation and nuisance suits against lawyers, judges and juries.  After Linnen had attempted to murder his attorney Ramsay examined Linnen and reported to the court that he was “deranged and that it would be dangerous to let him go at large.” After apparently regaining his sanity, Linnen was released. Though he had threatened Ramsay, the doctor did not take the threat seriously.