Today In Charleston History: July 4


Captain Joseph West complained that several of the settlers were “so addicted to Rum, that they will do little but whilst the bottle is at their nose” and “grand abuses that prophanely violate the Sabbath.”   

1776-American Revolution

The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. The ideals of individual liberty, first espoused by John Locke (partially in his Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina and Two Treatises of Government) were now clearly expressed by Thomas Jefferson.

John Hancock signed the document that day, and it was sent to John Dunlop’s printing shop where 200 copies were printed. Copies were sent across the country to all major cities in America.

South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence

South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence

All four South Carolina delegates voted for independence.

  • Arthur Middleton, thirty-four years old
  • Thomas Heyward, Jr., twenty-nine years old
  • Thomas Lynch, Jr., twenty-seven years old
  • Edward Rutledge was the youngest signer of the Declaration, twenty-six years old

declaration with SC delegate signature

1778-American Revolution

Dr. David Ramsay gave a public address in celebration of American independence. He stated that “our present form of government is everyway preferable to the royal one we have lately renounced.”


Members of the Union Party “marched sedately to Scots Presbyterian Church” for an Independence Day celebration. The Nullifiers met at the Circular Church and reassembled for an outdoor rally:

Under a splendid Pavilion … from which mere boys of 8 to 12 years old were carried on the backs of servants, completely insensible from drink, while dead drunk seniors staggers and swore up and down the public streets … a complete exemplification of that depravity which the foul doctrine of Anarchy and Nullification is calculated to end in.

Today In Charleston History: June 14


Charlestown was divided into two Anglican parishes: St. Michael’s, south of Broad Street and St. Philip’s, north of Broad.

1774-American Revolution

Christopher Gadsden wrote to Sam Adams in Boston, assuring him that South Carolina would stand firm with Massachusetts, reminding him that South Carolina was the last to desert the non-importation agreement in 1770. He wrote:

For my part I would rather see my own family reduced to the utmost Extremity and half cut to pieces than to submit to their damned Machinations. 

(L) - Sam Adams. (R) - Christopher Gadsden

(L) – Sam Adams. (R) – Christopher Gadsden

1775-American Revolution – Continental Congress 

Edward Rutledge was appointed to a three-member committee to draft George Washington’s commission and instructions as commander of the Continental Army.  

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion

George Wilson informed his master, Major John Wilson of 106 Broad Street, about the plot to kill whites, related to him by Rolla Bennett.

8:00 p.m.

Major Wilson informed Intendent (mayor) Hamilton that the governor’s slaves were involved in an insurrection planned for two nights hence – Sunday June 16. The story Wilson told was so similar to that of William Paul and Peter Prioleau that Hamilton and Governor Bennett had no choice but to believe it.

Just before midnight, Gov. Bennett ordered the arrest of ten slaves including Peter Poyas, Mingo Harth, and his own personal slaves, Rolla and Ned Bennett.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston  

Captured Union officers purposely placed in range of Federal guns at 180 Broad Street in an attempt to stop the bombardment of Charleston. The Charleston Mercury announced:

 For some time it has been known that a batch of Yankee prisoners, comprising the highest in rank now in our hands, were soon to be brought hither to share in the pleasures of the bombardment. These prisoners we understand will be furnished with comfortable quarters in that portion of the city most exposed to enemy fire. The commanding officer on Morris Island will be duly notified of the fact of their presence in the shelled district and if his batteries still continue at their wanton and barbarous work, it will be at the peril of the captive officers.’ 

The Charleston Daily Courier wrote:

We do not confine these prisoners in a fortress or a walled town or city, or thrust them forward in our battle as the Yankees do with the unfortunate negro … We place them in our city of Charleston, among and near our own wives and children …

Two views of the O'Conner House, 180 Broad Street, where Union officers were imprisoned within range of Federal guns.

Two views of the O’Conner House, 180 Broad Street, where Union officers were imprisoned within range of Federal guns.

Today In Charleston History: May 3

1672- Fortifications.

A fort was completed at Albemarle Point. Even though plans were well underway to moving the colony to Oyster Point, security against the Spanish was still a major consideration.

Charles Town, 1671

Charles Town, 1671

1690- Politics. Religion. Slavery

Using his power as Proprietor, Seth Sothell called a Charles Town Parliament which voted to banish Governor Colleton. Citing the Fundamental Constitutions which stated “it is provided that the eldest proprietor that shall be in Carolina shall be governor,” Sothell then claimed the office of governor.

Sothell’s banishment of Colleton tempered his governing style. His administration in Charles Town was marked by substantial positive events.

  • Established just treatment of disliked foreigners (Huguenots).
  • Forbade supplying Indians with liquor and firearms.
  • Required licenses for all liquor retailers.
  • Provided for an organized militia and town watch.
  • Provided a store of gunpowder.
  • Granted a patent for a rice-husking machine.
  • Enacted a slave code, heavily based on the Barbadian. It included a provision for punishment of anyone who killed a slave.
1718-Bloodless Revolution

 Francis Yonge arrived in London to meet with the Proprietors. Yonge, a member of the Assembly, was sent to press the Colony’s case of grievances in person before the Lordships. He delivered a packet of letters written by Governor Johnson, Nicholas Trott and William Rhett. And then, Yonge waited for three months for a reply.

1780-The Seige of Charlestown.

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge, brother of Gov. Rutledge and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was captured by British cavalry with two other officers east of the Cooper. He was attempting to sneak out of the city with letters and communications to his brother and other officials.


Tuesday, May 3, 1791

The president had breakfast with Elizabeth Grimke Rutledge at her home on Broad Street (John Rutledge House). Mr. Rutledge (Chief Justice of the S.C. Supreme Court) was on the Circuits and not in the city.

116 broad street - john rutledge house

John Rutledge House, 116 Broad Street. Library of Congress.

Later in the day, at his lodgings, he

was visited about 2 oclcock, by a great number of the most respectable ladies of Charleston – the first honor of the kind I had ever experienced and it was flattering as it was singular.


Septima Poinsette Clark was born in Charleston, the second of eight children. Her father, once a slave, encouraged her to get an education. Clark attended public school, then worked to earn the money needed to attend the Avery Normal Institute, a private Charleston school for African Americans.

Septima_Poinsette_ClarkShe qualified as a teacher in 1916, but since Charleston did not hire black teachers, Clark was forced to take a position at a school on John’s Island. Three years later, she was teaching at the Avery Institute and joined the NAACP in an attempt to convince Charleston to hire black teachers.   Later, she moved to Columbia, and through the NAACP chapter there worked with Thurgood Marshall in a 1945 case that sought equal pay for black and white teachers. She described it as her “first effort in a social action challenging the status quo.”

Septima Clark’s work was commonly under-appreciated by Southern male activists. She became known as the “Queen mother” or “Grandmother” of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. commonly referred to Clark as “The Mother of the Movement”. Clark’s argument for her position in the Civil Rights Movement was one that claimed “knowledge could empower marginalized groups in ways that formal legal equality couldn’t.”

To read more about her remarkable life and career as a Civil Rights pioneer, go to her page on the King Institute @ Stanford University.

Today In Charleston History: March 19

1778 – Politics

Rawllins Lowndes

South Carolina President Rawlings Lowndes approved changes to the state constitution that changed the title of South Carolina’s chief executive’s office from president to governor, although he was called “president” until the end of his term. It also disestablished the Church of England in South Carolina.

1785 – Education

The Legislature granted a charter for College of Charleston to “encourage and institute youth in the several branches of liberal education.” The founders of the College include three signers of the Declaration of Independence (Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward, Jr.) and three future signers of the United States Constitution (John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney).

The Act also granted the college almost 9 acres of land bounded by present-day Calhoun, St. Philip, Coming and George streets; three-fourths of the land was soon sold to pay debts,  In 1837 CofC became America’s first municipal college in the country.

Randolph Hall, College of Charleston main campus

Randolph Hall, College of Charleston main campus

Today In Charleston History: March 1

1711 – Religion
St. Philips Church, 1723

St. Philips Church, 1723

At the urging of Rev. Gideon Johnston, a law was passed for “Erecting a New Brick Church,” a new St. Philip’s on “the east side of Church-street, a few poles north of Queen-street.”  The Assembly realized the true entrance of the city was not by road (Broad Street) but by ship, so it was determined to build the new church closer to the harbor.


The new State House at Broad and Meeting streets opened. It was the largest and grandest building in South Carolina described as a

“two-story, large, commodious Brick Building … of about 120 by 40 feet … decorated with four … columns.”

1771 – Slavery

Edmund Jones and Joseph Jordan were hanged for “aiding runaway slaves.” Jones, the master of the schooner Two Josephs, and Jordan, a sailor, allegedly had stolen the schooner, taking with them several slaves. Several slaves who had run away on the Two Josephs, were hanged together with Jordan and Jones.

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge married Henrietta Middleton, daughter of Henry Middleton, one of the wealthiest and most influential men in South Carolina with 50,000 acres and 800 slaves. This marriage solidified many alliances with other prominent South Carolina families that would play important roles in the coming Revolution. 

Today In Charleston History: January 23

1800 – Deaths.

 Governor Edward Rutledge died “with perfect resignation, and with perfect calmness.” He was buried in the family plot in St. Philip’s graveyard. He was replaced as governor by John Drayton.

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge

Born to an aristocratic family, Edward Rutledge spent most of his life in public service. He was educated in law at Oxford and was admitted to the English Bar. He and his older brother John both attended the Continental Congress and unabashedly supported each other. Edward attended Congress at the remarkable age of 26 and was the youngest man to sign the Declaration of Independence.

During the Revolution he served as a member of the Charleston Battalion of Artillery, and attained the rank of Captain. The colonial legislature sent him back to Congress in 1779 to fill a vacancy. During the defense of Charleston, Rutledge was captured and held prisoner until July of 1781.

In 1782 he served in the state legislature, intent on the prosecution of British Loyalists. In 1789 he was elected Governor.

1861 – Secession.

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was appointed superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was the shortest term in the post ever. Six days later his commission as superintendent was revoked, the day after his native Louisiana seceded from the Union. The Federal powers-that-be did not trust Beauregard’s Southern sympathies. One month later, Beauregard resigned his captaincy in the U.S. Army Engineers and offered his services to the Confederate government being formed in Montgomery, Alabama.

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beuaregard

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beuaregard

Beauregard was born into a prominent Creole family in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana and raised on a sugarcane plantation outside of New Orleans. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1834 at age sixteen and became a popular cadet, earning several nicknames including “Little Napoleon” and “Little Creole,” due to his slight statue – 5’7”, 150-pounds. His favorite teacher was his professor of artillery, Robert Anderson. He graduated second in his class in 1838 and remained at the school to serve as Anderson’s assistant artillery instructor.

During the Mexican War he serving under Gen. Winfield Scott and during the 1850s served as a military engineer clearing the Mississippi River of obstructions. He also spent time as an instructor at West Point before becoming the school’s superintendent for less than a week.

On February 27 in Montgomery, Alabama, Beauregard was appointed the first brigadier general of the Confederate Army and sent to Charleston. On April 12, he ordered the first shot of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter, commanded by his former West Point instructor, Major Anderson.

Today In Charleston History: January 10

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge returned to Charlestown on the ship Magna Carta, after completing his law studies in England. He was given a 640-acre plantation on St. Helena Island by his mother. He and his brother John, became Patriot leaders during the years of the Revolution. Edward was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1798 Rutledge was elected Governor of South Carolina – his last public office. His health declining, he was barely able to complete his term as Governor. 


Edward Rutledge suffered a severe stroke and died a few days late at age 50. 


The Charleston Courier began publication, the present day Post and Courier. It is the oldest daily newspaper in the South, and one of the oldest continuously operating newspapers in the United States.

1815- Deaths

Rebecca Brewton Motte died on her plantation. 

Rebecca was the daughter of Robert Brewton, a wealthy resident of Charlestown. She married Jacob Motte in 1758, a plantation owner and involved in politics. Rebecca’s brother Miles Brewton, was one of the richest men in the South; he owned eight ships and was South Carolina’s largest slave dealer as well  owning several rice plantations including Mt. Joseph. He and his family were lost at sea on their way to Philadelphia.

Rebecca Brewton Motte

Rebecca Brewton Motte

Upon his death, Rebecca and her family moved into her brother’s lavish mansion on King Street. In 1780, Charlestown surrendered to the British forces and her home was used as quarters for Gen. Clinton and his staff.  Her husband, Jacob, lay ill on the second floor and the Mottes were crowded into a small area, while the British lived in comfort in the large rooms. Rebecca divided her time between the invaders, her invalid husband and her three young daughters, who were not allowed out of their rooms while the British were in the house. 

In the fall of 1780  Rebecca left Charlestown and moved to Mount Joseph Plantation on the Congaree River with her three daughters and niece-in-law Mrs. John Brewton, However, the British forces, led by Lt. Donald McPherson, seized the plantation mansion and made it it a military post. They threw up earthworks and dug a deep ditch around the house, and called it Fort Motte.

Once again, the Motte family was crowded into a few rooms in their own home while British officers occupied the remainder. Lt. McPherson finally moved the family to the overseer’s house on the property – a rough structure, covered with weather-boards, and only partially finished.

When General Nathanael Greene returned to South Carolina with his Continental Army, he reinforced General Francis Marion’s brigade with Lt. Col. Henry Light Horse Harry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) and his Legion. The task of this combined force was to capture and destroy the line of British forts that protected communications and supplies between their Charlestown headquarters and the interior of South Carolina, one of which was Fort Motte.

Fearing that British reinforcements were on the way, Marion and Lee decided to attack at once, deciding to set fire to the mansion house and burn the British out. When they informed Rebecca of their plan to burn the house she responded, “Do not hesitate a moment, I will give you something to facilitate the destruction.” She handed General Lee a quiver of arrows from the East Indies which, so she had been told, would set fire to any wood.

The combustible arrows were fired from a musket; two of them sputtered out, but the third one hit its mark and set fire to the roof of the house. The British, coming out of the attic dormer windows to put out the flames, were easy targets for the riflemen and six-pound cannon. They were quickly driven back inside, and the British captain ran up the white flag, fearing they would be blown up if the gunpowder stored in the house were set on fire. Together, British and American soldiers put out the flames.

Mrs. Motte directing Generals Marion and Lee to Burn Her Mansion to Dislodge the British. By John Blake White.

Mrs. Motte directing Generals Marion and Lee to Burn Her Mansion to Dislodge the British. By John Blake White.

Today In Charleston History: December 31


By the end of the year the city had completed a hospital on “an acre of … Land called the old Burying Ground, lying on the back Part of Charles Town” – along Mazyck Street (now Logan). The hospital would also serve as a “Workhouse and House of Correction.”  

1781 –England, Tower of London

Henry Laurens was released from the Tower, in exchange for Lord Cornwallis and the payment of £12,000. Edward Rutledge had forcefully argued against Cornwallis’ release. Most South Carolina patriots blamed Cornwallis for the wholesale murder and plundering across the state. Rutledge wrote that Cornwallis should be “held a Prisoner for Life … because he was a Monster and an Enemy to Humanity.”

On the day of his release Laurens wrote:

On the 31st of December, being, as I had long been, in an extreme ill state of health, unable to rise from my bed, I was carried out of the Tower to the presence of the Lord Chief Justice of England, and admitted to bail “to appear at the court of king’s bench on the first day of Easter term, and not to depart thence without leave of the court.

Laurens immediately sent for his daughters to join him from France in London. He then went for several weeks to recuperate with the waters of Bath. 

Tower of London; Laurens marker. Photo by author.

Tower of London; Laurens marker. Photos by Mark R. Jones.

1799 – Slavery, Denmark Vesey Rebellion

On the last day of the 18th century, Denmark Vesey handed over one-third of his earnings from the lottery. In return he was handed his manumission papers, signed by Capt. Joseph Vesey. To Denmark the future looked bright. As Archibald Grimke, a Charleston mulatto and Denmark’s first biographer, wrote, Vesey was:

In possession of a fairly good education – was able to read and write, and to speak with fluency the French and English languages … [and had] obtained a wealth of valuable experience.  

At that time, the total free black population in South Carolina was 3,185, the majority of them being of mixed race ancestry – called Browns.  After being a dark-skinned slave for seventeen years in Charleston, Denmark, at thirty-three years of age, entered the 19th century as a free black man.

1864 – Civil War    
pgt beaureard

P.G.T. Beauregard

Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard left Charleston to inspect what was left of Gen. Hood’s army in Georgia. Gen. Hardee’s Georgia troops withdrew into South Carolina. Beauregard ordered:

You will apply to the defense of Charleston the same principle applied to that of Savannah – that is, defend it as long as compatible with the safety of your forces … The fall of Charleston would necessarily be a terrible blow to the Confederacy, but its fall with the loss of its brave garrison would be still more fatal to our cause.

      Gen. Willliam T. Sherman communicated with Admiral Porter off the North Carolina coast, “The President’s anxiety to take Charleston may induce Grant to order me to operate on Charleston.”


Today In Charleston History: November 23

1730 – Births

wm moultrieWilliam Moultrie born in St. John’s Berkeley Parish.

1749 – Births.

Edward Rutledge, last child of Dr. John and Sarah Rutledge was born.


Langdon Cheves

Vice President Elbridge Gerry died. The office of President pro tempore of the Senate was vacant which meant Charleston’s Langdon Cheves, Speaker of the U.S. House Representatives was next in line for the Presidency. This ended two days later, when Senator John Gaillard was chosen President pro tempore.

1864 – Bombardment of Charleston.  

Army chief of staff, Gen. Halleck, ordered the suspension of the Charleston bombardment.

“This is not to prohibit the throwing of occasional shell into Charleston, if circumstances should require. The object is to economize ordinance stores.”

Today in Charleston History: September 26


The Assembly ratified the proposal that allowed Carolinians to pay their taxes in rice, as well as other goods.

rice field

1775 – American Revolution – Continental Congress

Edward Rutledge

 Edward Rutledge proposed that Gen. Washington “discharge all the Negroes as well as Slaves and Freemen in his Army.” Rutledge was concerned about the example that armed black men would furnish to South Carolina’s large slave population. The resolution was defeated.