Today In Charleston History: February 19

1865

A 100-gun salute fired by the Union fleet off the harbor and a 38-gun salute from a land battery celebrated the capture of Charleston. Union photographer began to take pictures of the ruins across the city while Federal troops began a systematic looting spree throughout the city, stealing furniture, pictures, mirrors, statues, pianos, books and silverware. The black population of Charleston freely paraded through the streets carrying a coffin which read “Slavery Is Dead.”

Lt. Colonel Augustus G. Bennett had accepted the city’s surrender the day before. His troops were met at the intersection of Broad and East Bay Streets by  city councilman, George W. William who handed the colonel a note to from Mayor Macbeth which read:

The military authorities of the Confederate States have evacuated the City. I have remained to enforce law and preserve order until you take such steps as you think best.

exchange 1865

Exchange Building (c. 1866.) View from East Bay Street. Courtesy of the Library of Congress