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,

Major, First Artillery, Commanding.

Today In Charleston History: December 30

1738 – Charleston First

Lewis Timothy, editor of the Gazette, died of an “unhappy accident.” According to the franchise agreement with Benjamin Franklin, the Gazette contract passed to Timothy’s son, Peter, who was fourteen-years old. His mother, Elizabeth, decided to carry on her late husband’s work in order to keep the contract in force for her son. The announcement of her husband’s death read: 

Whereas the late Printer of this Gazette hath been deprived of his life by an unhappy accident. I take this Opportunity of informing the Public, that I shall contain the said paper as usual; and hope, by the Assistance of my Friends, to make it as entertaining and correct as may be reasonable expected. Wherefore I flatter myself, that all those Persons, who, by Subscription or otherwise, assisted my late Husband, on the prosecution of the Said Undertaking, will be kindly pleased to continue their Favours and good Offices to this poor afflicted Widow and six small children and another hourly expected.


Bottom of the front page of Elizabeth Timothy’s first edition of the South Carolina Gazette, announcing the death of her husband (lower right) and her assumption of his duties. Author’s Collection


Lewis Timothy Print Shop plaque by gregobc

She published the weekly issue of the South-Carolina Gazette starting with January 4, 1739. The masthead said “Printed by Peter Timothy” but was controlled and managed by his mother. Timothy made an announcement in the first issue she edited that she was now publishing the newspaper. This made her the first female editor and publisher of a newspaper in America.


1820 – Religion

Bishop John England

Religion. The Catholic Church in Rome created a new Archdiocese out of the Carolinas and Georgia. The newly consecrated Bishop John England arrived in Charleston.  He discovered that conditions were most uninviting and unpromising in the new diocese, with Catholics scattered in little groups over these states. Most of the few in Charleston were very poor immigrants from Ireland or ruined refugees from San Domingo and their servants.

1874 – Births

Future mayor John Patrick Grace was born in Charleston. He grew up on Society Street and attended the High School of Charleston. All four of his grandparents were natives of Ireland.

mayor grace

John P. Grace

His most lasting accomplishment as mayor was the construction of the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, which spanned the Cooper River to connect Charleston and Mt. Pleasant. It replaced the ferry system had been used to that point and opened in 1929.

John P. Grace Memorial Bridge

John P. Grace Memorial Bridge